Steve Segner Interview: Pet Biz Exec Reinvents Himself, Builds Luxury Hotel
Diana Landau | May 10, 2023
This week Carl interviews Steve Segner, a man of boundless energy. At 74, he's a long-time entrepreneur with no plans of slowing down. "I have no intention to retire!" Steve says--and we believe him. He has successfully run a newspaper distributorship, owned pet stores, developed lines of all-natural dog food, other related businesses and an amazing hotel and so much more.
Steve grew up in Burbank, CA in a neighborhood of blue-collar families right across the street from Lockheed and Disney Studios. He says the area was almost rural back then. From an early age, Steve remembers being fascinated by his parents' friends' stories, who were inventors and people who created things. "I just wanted to run a business," he tells us. "I thought I'd be good at it. I wasn't good in school--they didn't know what to do with dyslexic kids in those days."
Right out of high school he worked for a brokerage firm that suddenly closed. He decided right then he would never work for anyone else again. At age 21, he charted a course to become a life-long entrepreneur. He took a job as an independent distributor of the Pasadena-Star News, where he eventually met his wife, Connie.
Always eager to jump at a new opportunity, two days after they got married Steve decided to buy a nearby pet store. "How hard could it be?' he thought. He and Connie always had a strong work ethic, working at the newspaper in the early morning and then at the pet store until the evening.
Along the way, Steve and Connie developed an all-natural, healthy pet food line, a delivery service, a birdcage company and bought more small pet stores. Then Steve got involved in the World Wide Pet Supply Organization and as their Board President convinced them to relocate and expand their annual trade show to Las Vegas, NV. "Super Zoo" is now America's largest marketplace for the pet industry.
FUN FACTS: You'll have to listen to the podcast to hear the story about natural dog food, actor Abe Vigoda (of Barney Miller and The Godfather fame), NBC's Today Show and the advertising that went viral before things "went viral."
After years in the pet biz, Steve started thinking about doing something new--again. He wrote down goals for himself, including starting a completely new business by age 55. He wanted to learn something entirely new, something different, something more meaningful. (It turns out Steve is living proof of what we always talk about on the podcast.)
Steve knew he loved retail and they had purchased a vacant lot in Sedona. He set out to build an Arts & Crafts, hacienda-style adobe hotel. The El Portal, a gorgeous Sedona Inn, became the new vision. Steve worked with the architects and designers to build an adobe inn in 2003 that looks like it was built around 1900. Guests from all over the world have stayed at El Portal, including Supreme Court Justices, actors and record producers.
Steve's next act was to build a "Greene and Greene" style Pasadena Estate and a new high-rise condo in Scottsdale with curved glass walls circa 1960's. Their homes and inn have been featured in architectural style magazines. In addition to running El Portal, Steve loves developing new projects, working with local government, mentoring, speaking, still passionate about his pets and gardening. "I always want to be curious and excited about new projects and opportunities!"
Steve Segner's entrepreneurial life tips:
• "Sometimes it is OK to stay in your lane, what you're good at. And it's OK to fail--just try to fail small."
• "You are always missing opportunities, so you always have to be actively looking for them."
• "Moving forward into unknown territory is where the path to success lies."
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” blog.