By Christopher Nagy
Entrepreneur Transforms Dream to Reality
Watching others reach for their dreams helped inspire Alayna Wesener to grasp her own.
After serving as a graphic designer for more than a decade at agencies in the Great Lakes Bay Region, Wesener received the encouragement to take command of her own destiny as a business owner in not one but two industries. She is the owner and creative director of Chevron Creative in Saginaw and the owner and marketing director of two Sushi Remix restaurants, located in Saginaw and Bay City.
“I ended up getting recruited to work for a company, Central Michigan University Research Corp. (CMURC). They are a business incubator and accelerator, and the role of CMURC is to help entrepreneurs’ dreams become realities,” Wesener said. “I was recruited to help these entrepreneurs with their marketing, not to start my own business. I just kept watching these entrepreneurs and was so inspired by them every day as they were following their dreams. I started to realize that if they could do this, why couldn’t I do this?”
The experience rekindled an idea Wesener had been toying with for years. Craving sushi after running a half-marathon in California, Wesener ended up at a poke bowl eatery and was so taken by the concept that she immediately wanted to transplant the business model back in Michigan.
“Then about a minute later I said, ‘Wait a minute, I’m broke and I’m a graphic designer. I have no entrepreneurial experience.’ So, I kind of just kept it as a pipe dream,” she said. “For four years, it just kept coming back to my mind.”
While the idea of what would become Sushi Remix needled her through the years, it was a mentor who finally gave Wesener the push she needed to act on that dream; however, the mentor also suggested she not completely give up on her design background.
“He had said to me, ‘Alayna, I love this idea, but I’m only going to support this if you open up a creative agency at the same time.’ … It was honestly the best advice I ever took because I was able to completely finance our Saginaw location, which opened up in June (2018),” Wesener said. “It went over so well that we were able to open our second location less than six months after our first.”
While the dining public has been enthusiastically supportive of Sushi Remix, Wesener has also triumphed with Chevron Creative. The full-service graphic design agency performs everything from brand development and custom publication design to social media management and hand-painted murals.
Juggling two vastly different companies has provided Wesener with plenty of learned lessons as a business owner: hire good people and treat them well, give customers and clients an exceptional experience and never settle for anything but your best.
As for sharing what she’s learned as advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Wesener’s message is simple.
“Take the leap,” she said. “Of course, it is going to be intimidating at first, but believe me, it’s worth it. You will stumble along the way, but the lessons you will learn are completely invaluable. I also recommend you find at least one mentor and other entrepreneurs to talk to on a regular basis. Do yourself a huge favor and set up a meeting with the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) and CMURC. There are so many free resources out there whose mission is to help you succeed.”