Things are going swimmingly at Ultimate Aquarium, a tropical fish store located at 6565 Trigo Rd., after a lot of money and hard work on the part of the store’s new part-owner, UCSB student Raffi Arslanian.
Arslanian, a 22-year-old global studies major and entrepreneur, said he used his entire life savings to purchase half of the business early last month from Roehn Cham, who has owned Ultimate Aquarium for the past four years. Arslanian said he dedicated this past Winter Break to fixing up the store and working on his plan to revitalize its business.
“This place was really run-down,” Arslanian said. “It was unorganized and messy, and I knew that I could make it better.”
For the past month, Arslanian said he has been working nearly 12 hours a day cleaning, painting and reorganizing the store to provide better conditions for the animals and a better environment for customers. He said he has expanded the store’s selection to include exotic fish and new additions such as spiders, chameleons and snakes.
In addition to the money he had saved up – an amount Arslanian said he would rather not disclose – he managed to pay for his half of the ownership rights to the business by borrowing from friends and taking out a few small loans.
“Considering that I am a student, and I have no collateral, getting a loan from a bank was extremely difficult,” Arslanian said.
Serge Mehrabian, 24, who said he is a long-time friend of Arslanian, lent him $2,500 to encourage his entrepreneurial ambitions.
“I trust him fully,” Mehrabian said. “He’s extremely responsible, and if I had it, I would have given him more money. I knew he was good for it.”
Arslanian said he has reorganized the store’s business operations – lengthening business hours from four hours a day to 10 hours a day and making customer service a top priority. Arslanian said he has dedicated himself to establishing good relationships with all of his customers.
“You don’t just give a customer a pet and send them on their way,” Arslanian said. “I properly inform them how to take care of the pet from what I know from personal experience.”
Arslanian said he was compelled to buy half of the store and manage it to so he could obtain valuable business experience.
“There is only so much experience you can get in a classroom,” Arslanian said. “When you open up a store you get firsthand experience.”
This is not the first time Arslanian has pursued such a business endeavor. In 2000, he and Mehrabian started and independently managed Universal Decorating, a decorating business in Los Angeles that they ran for three years. The business decorated venues for weddings, birthday, christenings and other events.
“He is very business-oriented,” Mehrabian said. “He could turn anything into something useful.”
Arslanian said business at Ultimate Aquarium has improved over the last month thanks to his efforts, and he said customers have responded positively to the revamped store.
As a full-time student, Arslanian said balancing his business and classes at the same time has been a daunting task, but not impossible.
“Any student that sees an opportunity ahead of them should not be afraid,” Arslanian said. “They should courageously pursue it.”