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A simple twist of fate

A change of scenery convinced Judi Lowenthal to start her own business.

By Jerry HicksPublished: September 01, 2008

Has thumbprint pad, will travel. Any time, day or part of Orange County. Judi Lowenthal’s office is her deep blue 2008 Mazda 3. She’s a Starbucks veteran – she detests coffee, but they are the best places to meet strangers – and she knows which FedEx Kinko’s stores are open 24 hours. But does anyone need a notary public at 3 a.m.? Yes, Lowenthal chuckles, it happens all the time.
   
Lowenthal is a one-notary operation – Newport Beach Mobile Notary Services – and business is booming. She’s almost doubled it in the past year. “Most of my business comes from the Internet,” Lowenthal says.
   
She’s handled official document signings at celebrity hangouts and nail salons; she’s been the notary public for the rich, the poor and the desperate.
   
“A call will come in before dawn from Texas; could I take care of something on the coast and have it sent back to Texas by the start of business?” quips Lowenthal. “Sure.”
   
She never knows when the phone will ring. But you can bet she answers. The overhead is low – gasoline, some ad space, paper and pens. And to think, she owes it all to the Irvine Co. for taking away her ocean-view office.
   
Canadian born, Lowenthal lived here and there, finally settling in Orange County in the 1990s. Her career started in early childhood services. But in 2002, she took an executive position with the Irvine Co.
   
“I had this fabulous office overlooking Fashion Island,” she recalls. “But then our division was moved to an industrial park. ... I got stuck in a cubicle. It felt like a jail cell, and I was handcuffed to a desk.”
   
That was in 2005. She qualified as a notary public and hung out her own shingle – on the Internet. Thank goodness, she says, for Yahoo Site Builder, where she learned how to build her own Web site.
   
“No more cubicle,” she laughs.


Initial investment: Under $500
Advice for others: “Use the Internet to market your business. Be professional. Show up on time.”
Best moments: “Working on my own and doing it in the California sunshine. I do most of my work mornings. Then, I’m by the pool when the phone rings in the afternoon. … I just love it.”