Cobá’s Ventura Meets With Obama To Discuss New Small Business Initiatives

Coba co-founder Arnulfo Ventura

As the White House administration aims to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with small business representatives from a range of industries earlier this week. Cobá co-founder Arnulfo Ventura was one of those representatives and shared his ideas for change, in particular, skilled labor practices and reduced capital gains taxes.

Ventura’s upbringing aligns with his ideas for growing the economy. His father was a mechanic and his mother cleaned houses, both of whom immigrated from Mexico. Despite his family’s low income, he applied for a Pell Grant, attended the University of California, Berkeley and earned an MBA from Stanford University where he created Cobá (then known as Bonadea), a Los Angeles-based beverage company that produces a line of bottled aguas frescas.

As a small company, Cobá heavily relies on skilled labor to produce and distribute its line of aguas frescas. Skilled labor pools workers and resources from other companies, students and others to compensate for a fledgling brand’s usual shortcomings in capital.

Ventura mentioned the Obama administration’s recent efforts to foster apprenticeships. In September, for example, the administration granted $500 million to community colleges to create job training programs. Cobá hopes to employ many college graduates who have participated in these programs.

“I think about it in terms of investing in today’s young, promising talent,” he said.

To encourage greater investment for private businesses, Ventura also suggested decreasing capital gains taxes. This, he argued, would increase potential gains for angel investors, creating more companies and jobs to bolster the economy.

“What’s always on our mind is access to capital,” he said.

Ventura said that without concrete changes, he is concerned that the economy might fall back into a recession and that smaller companies like Cobá will feel the brunt of increased consumer frugality. He noted that at $2.49 per bottle, Cobá is “a bit more of an impulse purchase” and without the resources of a beverage titan like Coca-Cola, Ventura can’t yet afford to raise prices.

“If it doesn’t get resolved,” he said, “we’re all going to have a lot less money in our pockets.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story referred to “skilled labor” as “scaled labor.” For more on Ventura’s views on capital gains taxes, see his comment below.