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Female Founder Fridays | Sherry Villanueva

Female Founder Fridays | Sherry Villanueva
Meet Sherry Villanueva
Founder of Acme Hospitality


Acme Hospitality founder Sherry Villanueva is a Santa Barbara-area leader in both hotel and restaurant hospitality. With her hospitality group split between lodging and dining, her portfolio of concepts reflects her unique approach to entrepreneurship: Everything should be totally unique.



№1 — What drives you and brings you joy day to day? 

What drives me is the thrill of making connections between people and building community both in and outside the restaurant.  Our guests entrust us with some of their most precious memories which a responsibility I take very seriously.  I love being a catalyst for connection and it’s an honor to have the opportunity to be in service to others.  I love to take care of people and that’s what hospitality is all about.  It’s pure joy to watch people gather together around a table to celebrate and share the stories of their lives over good food and wine.  I’m also honored to work side by side with the most extraordinary group of hospitality professionals who bring their best to work every day.  The biggest joy in my life though comes from time with my husband and my two beautiful daughters (and soon to be baby granddaughter).  I am blessed beyond words.


№2 — Tell us a little about how you have gotten to where you are today. What contributed to your success?

My career journey has been long and varied and yet it’s amazing to see that everything I ever did previously has led me exactly to the place where I am now.  I was in marketing for 20+ years prior to the hospitality industry which provided me with a strong foundation to launch into a new direction.  When I started my company in 2011, I was a total rookie with zero experience in restaurants or even running a business.  I believe my strong work ethic and a relentless drive towards my goal were critical factors in my success but the key was staying rooted in my values and never wavering from them.  


№3 — What has helped you persevere through tough times?

The last two and a half years were extremely challenging for all of us and as a business owner in an industry hard-hit by the pandemic, I had to rely on resiliency I never knew I had.  Underneath all the fear and uncertainty was a deep sense of gratitude which is what helped me to persevere.  Our Acme family grew stronger through the adversity by caring for one another which in turn helped us to care for our guests and our community.  We received some of the most extraordinary gifts, from the most unexpected places, during the darkest of times which only reinforced our gratitude and kept us moving forward.


№4 — Sustainability: how do you implement sustainability through your businesses?

Sustainability is a crucial company-wide value that we work hard on every day.  Our restaurants are certified as Ocean Friendly Restaurants by the Surfrider and we are part of the City of Santa Barbara’s composting program which turns all of our green waste into compost that is used by local farms.  We only use compostable products for our takeout containers and recycle wherever we can.  We also try to source products that are locally and organically grown in season, often buying directly from the source.


№5 — What advice do you have for female business owners looking to make a difference in the world?

Find a problem that needs solving in an area you’re passionate about and dream big to create your best solution for it.  Go for it as there is no better time than now.  Define your core values and stick hard to them.  Share with your community.  Ask for help.


№6 — How do you encourage female empowerment? Are there any entrepreneurs that you admire/look up to?

There are so many female entrepreneurs that have inspired me along the way.  I grew up in the 60s, 70s and 80s when women were just finally coming into their own so it’s exciting to see so many success stories now.  My mom was a full-time working nurse with four kids at home so she was my earliest inspiration through the way she served her family, her community and her career.  The women I admire most are those who match their passion with their values – those women who are smart business owners and inherently good people.  In Santa Barbara, there are so many women entrepreneurs in hospitality but some of the ones I admire most for their sheer grit and determination are: Erika Carter of Dart Coffee, Cindy Black of St. Bibiana, Kim Anderson of Handlebar Coffee, Anne Pazier of Santa Barbara Gift Baskets, Julia Mayer of Dune Coffee Roasters, Nirasha Rodriguez of The Food Liaison, Kathryn Graham of Cheese Shop Santa Barbara and Magan Kunin of Kunin Winemakers. These women all have incredible companies that they built from scratch!