Meet the Dreamers Behind Newport’s Daydream Surf Shop

Daydream Surf Shop epitomizes California cool. Part store, part surf club, and part coffee shop, Newport Beach’s Daydream offers a little something for everyone — surfer or not. Founded in 2016 by partners Becca Mantai and Kyle Kennelly, the pair set out to create a space centered around community, good vibes, and delicious coffee. In addition to their unique selection of boards, Daydream sources locally made and ethically sourced ceramics, homeware, and vintage clothing.

We recently sat down with Becca and Kyle to learn more about the importance of mental health, how they made their passion project into their full time gig, and how (maybe?) college was a big waste of money.  

What were you doing before opening Daydream?

Becca Mantai — I was living in San Francisco going to the University of San Francisco getting a degree in design and fine art. I worked for an interior designer for years along with a handful of different retail jobs.

Kyle Kennelly — I moved away from home and into a storage unit which was all I could afford. I was a starving student at OCC, worked my ass off and transferred up to UC Berkeley. My goal was to hustle hard and get my PhD in Economics so I could go into academia or research but I hit a wall my senior year and couldn’t ace some of the upper division mathematics classes I needed to get A’s in in order to get into a reputable PhD program. I had to backpedal and fell back on a job with J.P. Morgan’s Investment Bank which sucked… 90 hour weeks drove me to insanity and fried my soul. While I was there Becca and I were dreaming up the concept of our shop. When I was fired from JP Morgan (one of the best days of my life!) I got a job working for our favorite surf shop in San Francisco, Mollusk. I had a great two years there and still do freelance work for them every week.

How did Daydream actually come about?

KK — We wanted to build a place where we could experiment with our passions. On the coffee side, we research deeply on the coffee we serve and are always tinkering with ways to perfectly extract the best espresso possible. On the surf side, we have built up a club of members that work to experiment with various types of boards to get to the crux of the design theories that act as the genetic makeup of all surfboards. And on the retail side, we give our friends and other artists a place to display their work and sell vintage clothing in an effort to give folks a sustainable option when it comes to fashion.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to start their own business?

BM — Reach out to as many people as you can and ask for advice. When we were first getting started I asked a ton of different business owners whom I respected for their advice on opening a small business. Some people weren’t that supportive, but others were beyond helpful and inspiring and gave us so many amazing tips and tricks to running a successful shop. It has been really cool to see it come full circle and now we have people who are inspired by us wanting to open a small business themselves, and we’re getting the chance to help them out with what we learned. We’re all about open source and want to do whatever we can to help out our fellow future small business owners. A rising tide lifts all boats.

KK — I guess it would depend on the business, but generally speaking I’d say that mental strength is probably the most important component to keep you from jumping off a building. Do whatever you need to do to build mental strength — whether it’s taking calculus to help you with problem solving or meditating to become more in tune with yourself. Find something that can help you stay centered and grounded through the crazy times because once you open your own business you’re in for some of the most unpredictable, stressful, and rewarding times of your life.

How do you “turn off” from working mode and unwind?

KK — I don’t. That’s my problem. Surfing is the best thing I can do for my mental health, but surfing revolves around waves and wind which are made up of factors that are out of my control. If I can work, then I will work… but then there’s wine which acts as a force quit.

BM — It’s really hard not to be in a “work” mindset all the time — especially when you work with your partner. We are together all day everyday so it’s very difficult to not bring work stuff home with us. The best way is to physically remove ourselves from the shop and go on a trip, hopefully to a place with no wifi or cell service.

What advice would you give to your younger self?  

BM — Don’t go to college, ha! I would tell myself to find internships in industries I am interested in to get real hands-on experience instead of spending a boatload of money on tuition for a degree that’s irrelevant.

KK — Learn to build mental strength starting at a younger age, learn to be kind to yourself, ask people to help you, read more, take more classes in sociology and philosophy, and get involved with more humanitarian groups.

What do you envision as the future of Daydream?

BM — We would love to have multiple locations and be able to offer a space for communities from all over. In the sort-of near future, we are thinking about opening something in Encinitas to the south and Mill Valley up north. We are also working on putting together our own collection of sustainably made and responsible clothing.

KK — Whatever it takes to get the world to drink quality coffee, learn how to undergo their own surfboard design theory research, and invest in sustainable fashion.

What are three things that you’re loving right now?

BM — My pug Penelope, our new vintage collection, and natural wines.

KK — Liddle displacement hulls, drinking and researching tiki beverages, and cooking.

What was the last thing to make you laugh?

KK — Uh, wow, I find that sadly hard to answer… I laughed last night listening to Marissa Ross’s wine podcast, Natural Disasters.

BM — Who is America? is this show on Showtime with Sasha Baron Cohen. It’s hilarious, but also kind of depressing at the same time. Sasha does such a fantastic job at exposing how insanely stupid some publicly popular people in our country are. You have to watch it!

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