HOW I MADE IT

SUCCESS STORIES: HOW I MADE IT

'Bad Moms' producer Suzanne Todd learned to follow her instincts

The gig: Film producer Suzanne Todd has received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, and her movies have grossed more than $2 billion worldwide.Todd has produced films for almost every major studio, with credits including “Alice in Wonderland,” “Memento” and the “Austin Powers” trilogy. Early in...

  • How I Made It: Clarke Miyasaki turned Stance into official sock-maker of NBA and MLB

    How I Made It: Clarke Miyasaki turned Stance into official sock-maker of NBA and MLB

    The gig: Clarke Miyasaki is executive vice president of business development for Stance Socks. He has helped the venture capital-backed San Clemente firm reach a national audience by securing deals with the NBA and the MLB to become the leagues’ official sock-maker. Upbringing: Miyasaki grew up...

  • How I Made It: Elena Grewal leads Airbnb’s data scientists

    How I Made It: Elena Grewal leads Airbnb’s data scientists

    The gig: Technology companies collect data about the pages people look at, the links they click on, and the things they search for. At Airbnb Inc., it’s Elena Grewal’s job to figure out what all that data means. Grewal, 31, is the interim lead for data science at the $25.5-billion San Francisco...

  • How I Made It: Event planner Tony Schubert gets the party started

    How I Made It: Event planner Tony Schubert gets the party started

    The gig: Tony Schubert, 44, owns Event Eleven, an event production company he founded in 2001. Schubert’s company produces large-scale events, including designer fashion shows, blockbuster film premieres, celebrity weddings, product launches, awards show after-parties and dinners. Among Event Eleven’s...

  • How I Made It: Susan Kresnicka, cultural anthropologist at Troika Design Group

    How I Made It: Susan Kresnicka, cultural anthropologist at Troika Design Group

    The gig: Media companies can be caught by surprise by the immense cultural appeal of their fiction. That's where Susan Kresnicka enters. The 48-year-old cultural anthropologist, who works at Troika Design Group in Los Angeles, has brought social science in to figure out why something becomes popular...

  • Racing into a motorcycle design empire

    Racing into a motorcycle design empire

    The gig: Motorcycle entrepreneur Roland Sands was a boy racer who broke a few track records riding — and broke a few bones crashing. He retired at 29 and went to work full time for his father's motorcycle parts business. When that enterprise got sold, Sands opened Roland Sands Designs, creating...

  • How Clif Bar's Thao Pham found community — and came to help others

    How Clif Bar's Thao Pham found community — and came to help others

    The gig: Thao Pham, 44, is the vice president of community at Clif Bar & Co. and the executive director of the Clif Bar Family Foundation. Her team of eight people works with non-profits, organizes volunteers and ensures that the Emeryville, Calif., food company gives back to the communities from...

  • How I Made It: Eva Ho of Susa Ventures

    How I Made It: Eva Ho of Susa Ventures

    The gig: Eva Ho, 44, is a general partner at Susa Ventures, a technology fund she started that invests mainly in data-focused start-ups. Susa raised $25 million as a seed fund in 2013 and is aiming to raise an additional $50 million. In March, she became one of two entrepreneurs in residence at...

  • How I Made It: Jaclyn Johnson of Create & Cultivate

    How I Made It: Jaclyn Johnson of Create & Cultivate

    The gig: Jaclyn Johnson, 31, is founder and chief executive of Create & Cultivate, an online platform and conference series geared toward women entrepreneurs in the digital world. She is also the founder and CEO of No Subject, a digital marketing and events agency. Both companies are based in Los...

  • SunPower chief executive sheds light on his company's transformation

    SunPower chief executive sheds light on his company's transformation

    The gig: Tom Werner, 56, is president and chief executive of SunPower Corp., one of the top U.S. solar companies that designs, manufactures and installs products for residential, commercial and utility customers. Werner has held the position since 2003. On the move: Werner was born in Buffalo,...

  • Steve Fifield rides the ups and downs of real estate development

    Steve Fifield rides the ups and downs of real estate development

    The gig: Steve Fifield, 68, is co-founder and principal of Century West Partners, a Los Angeles developer that has nearly 1,500 luxury apartment units under construction across the region. Century West is particular active in Koreatown, a neighborhood awash in new apartments, restaurants and bars....

  • Steve Fifield rides the ups and downs of office, condo and apartment development

    Steve Fifield rides the ups and downs of office, condo and apartment development

    The gig: Steve Fifield, 68, is co-founder and principal of Century West Partners, a Los Angeles developer that has xTKx luxury apartment units under construction across the region. Century West is particular active in Koreatown, a neighborhood awash in new apartments, restaurants and bars. Before...

  • Toni Ko's next fortune could be made in shades

    Toni Ko's next fortune could be made in shades

    The gig: Los Angeles entrepreneur Toni Ko, 43, was just 25 when she founded NYX Cosmetics. She started out small, with makeup pencils, but still had sales of $2 million in her first year. Ko sold the brand to L'Oreal in 2014, reportedly for nearly $500 million. Ko's latest venture is called Perverse...

  • Jennifer Febre Boase is brewing up beer and career in Van Nuys

    Jennifer Febre Boase is brewing up beer and career in Van Nuys

    The gig: Jennifer Febre Boase took up a new hobby in 2003 — playing the bagpipes. Her piper friends liked beer, and tours of local breweries led Boase to the notion that she should jump into the business herself. So she sold the house, cashed in the IRA and in 2012 founded MacLeod Ale Brewing Co....

  • He's joined the upper crust at California Pizza Kitchen

    He's joined the upper crust at California Pizza Kitchen

    The gig: G.J. Hart (the initials stand for Gerard Johan) heads California Pizza Kitchen, the restaurant chain based in Playa Vista. As chief executive and executive chairman, Hart, 58, oversees a company with nearly 300 eateries and 14,000 employees around the world. Hart has been in charge of...

  • She's made HelloGiggles a serious success

    She's made HelloGiggles a serious success

    The gig: Former TV producer Sophia Rossi, 34, is chief executive of downtown Los Angeles-based HelloGiggles, an ad-supported destination online for news and entertainment aimed at girls and young women. Time Inc. bought the start-up for around $30 million in October, allowing for more than 30 new...

  • GitHub's Nicole Sanchez leads the charge for diversity

    GitHub's Nicole Sanchez leads the charge for diversity

    The gig: Nicole Sanchez, 43, is vice president of social impact for software building platform GitHub. She joined the San Francisco start-up, which has a $2-billion valuation and nearly 500 employees, in 2015 to help the company evolve into an inclusive workplace that also has a positive effect...

  • A circuitous route to the L.A. World Airports police force

    A circuitous route to the L.A. World Airports police force

    The gig: Ethel L. McGuire is assistant chief of the Los Angeles World Airports police force, in charge of homeland security and intelligence. Los Angeles International Airport is the sixth-busiest airport in the world, a major gateway to Asia and host to traveling dignitaries from across the globe....

  • He's blazing a Web trail for hikers

    He's blazing a Web trail for hikers

    The gig: Casey Schreiner, 34, is editor and founder of Modern Hiker, the most-trafficked hiking blog in California. The site offers guides, maps and photos of hundreds of trails throughout Southern California and the West. 'An indoor kid': Growing up in Connecticut, Schreiner was the opposite of...

  • He's the creative force bringing 'Star Wars' to Disney's theme parks

    He's the creative force bringing 'Star Wars' to Disney's theme parks

    The gig: Scott Trowbridge, 50, is creative portfolio executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, which makes him the innovation guru assigned to expand the $4-billion "Star Wars" franchise throughout the Disney theme parks. That assignment includes devising new "Star Wars"-inspired merchandise, food...

  • She has grand designs on how interiors should be

    She has grand designs on how interiors should be

    The gig: Leura Fine, 29, is founder and chief executive of Laurel & Wolf, which specializes in residential and commercial interior design. Fine is also one of Forbes' 2016 selections for "30 under 30," young entrepreneurs who are rapidly climbing the ladder in their business sector or completely...

  • Modesto farmer has blossomed into a tulip peddler

    Modesto farmer has blossomed into a tulip peddler

    The gig: John "Farmer John" Bos, 44, is owner-operator of Dutch Hollow Farms, an agri-tourism business on 65 acres on the northern edge of Modesto, across from a Best Buy and a Home Depot. He runs a popular pumpkin patch in the fall. In spring, he defies the scorching heat of the Central Valley...

  • Meiji Tofu's president spills the (soy)beans

    Meiji Tofu's president spills the (soy)beans

    The gig: Koki Sato, 33, is president of Gardena-based Meiji Tofu, the only Japanese tofu maker in Los Angeles County. Together with his father, Shogo Sato, the son has helped build the nearly 40-year-old tofu company into a staple at Southern California Japanese supermarkets. In addition to its...

  • Making a connection in telecom

    Making a connection in telecom

    The gig: As senior vice president of the Southwest region for T-Mobile, Sam Sindha oversees a large area that includes Southern California, Bakersfield, Las Vegas, Arizona, El Paso and New Mexico. He directly manages about 4,400 employees and is responsible for all aspects of sales and operations...

  • Turnaround specialist turns to hedge fund

    Turnaround specialist turns to hedge fund

    The gig: Brendan Ross, 42, is founder and chief executive of Direct Lending Investments, a La Cañada-Flintridge hedge fund that invests exclusively in small-business loans made by online lenders. Early ambition: Ross grew up in Bethesda, Md. He studied economics and sociology at Brown University...

  • Writer-producer Martha Williamson has the right touch

    Writer-producer Martha Williamson has the right touch

    The gig: Writer-producer Martha Williamson is best known for the hit "Touched by an Angel," which ran for more than 200 episodes on CBS. Williamson, 60, is now working on four movies that will run on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel in 2016. They build on her "Signed, Sealed, Delivered"...

  • For investment banker Lloyd Greif, deal-making makes his world go around

    For investment banker Lloyd Greif, deal-making makes his world go around

    The gig: Lloyd Greif, who rose from grocery store box boy to Wall Street deal maker, is founder and chief executive of the investment banking firm Greif & Co. With headquarters on the 65th floor of a downtown Los Angeles skyscraper, Greif specializes in serving entrepreneurial, midsize companies,...

  • Belinda Johnson steers Airbnb through regulatory and legal turbulence

    Belinda Johnson steers Airbnb through regulatory and legal turbulence

    The gig: Belinda Johnson, 48, is chief business and legal officer at short-term home rental company Airbnb. She joined the San Francisco firm, now valued at $25 billion, in 2011 as its first general counsel and one of its first executives. In July, she became Chief Executive Brian Chesky's right-hand...

  • For Raul Anaya, BofA's top man in L.A., a gift of gab is a key asset

    For Raul Anaya, BofA's top man in L.A., a gift of gab is a key asset

    The gig: Raul Anaya, 48, is Bank of America's market president for Greater Los Angeles, making him the bank's top local executive and one of its most public faces in town. He's held that post since 2012 and this year added a new role: head of global commercial banking for the bank's Pacific Southwest...

  • She leads the solar industry's expansion push in California

    She leads the solar industry's expansion push in California

    The gig: Bernadette Del Chiaro, 43, is executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Assn., the industry group pushing expansion of solar power in California on rooftops and with power plants in the desert. The native of Sonoma Valley has held the post since July 2013. Yosemite's...

  • Christian Navarro of Wally's Wine and Spirits is 'sommelier to the stars'

    Christian Navarro of Wally's Wine and Spirits is 'sommelier to the stars'

    The gig: Christian Navarro, 48, is president, chief wine taster and partner of Wally's Wine and Spirits in Westwood and Wally's Beverly Hills. The latter store opened last year and holds 2,500 wines, 200 cheeses, meats, caviar, chocolate and truffles. L.A. icon: Wally's was founded in 1968 as a...

  • MannKind's man with a mission

    MannKind's man with a mission

    The gig: Hakan Edstrom, 65, is chief executive of MannKind Corp., which developed an inhaled insulin drug that could replace injections for people with diabetes. The Valencia biotech company began selling the drug, Afrezza, in February under a partnership with French pharmaceutical company Sanofi....

  • Developer Michael Marini has big ideas for small lots

    Developer Michael Marini has big ideas for small lots

    The gig: Michael Marini, 49, is chief executive of Planet Home Living, one of the leading developers of small-lot subdivisions — clusters of townhome-like single-family houses that are only inches apart from each other. The sleek, modern developments have proved extremely popular among Los Angeles...

  • USC professor brings computer animation to life

    USC professor brings computer animation to life

    The gig: Animator Hao Li, 34, is an assistant professor of computer science at USC, running a small, newly renovated lab with five graduate students at the university's school of engineering. His team is working on cutting-edge graphics and animation, including what Li described as "dynamic shape...

  • At revamped Playboy, he works to build the brand

    At revamped Playboy, he works to build the brand

    The gig: Since 2009, Scott Flanders, 58, has been chief executive at Playboy Enterprises, the privately held company founded by Hugh M. Hefner in 1953. Playboy has made a comeback recently, capitalizing on one of the world's most recognizable brands. Last year, products bearing the Playboy name...

  • An insider and trailblazer leads Universal Music Publishing

    An insider and trailblazer leads Universal Music Publishing

    The gig: Jody Gerson is the chair and chief executive of Universal Music Publishing Group, representing songwriters such as Demi Lovato and Big Sean. UMPG is part of Santa Monica-headquartered Universal Music Group, the world's largest record company. Early days: Gerson, 54, grew up in Philadelphia,...

  • Ronald Wong helps businesses and others reach out to people of color

    Ronald Wong helps businesses and others reach out to people of color

    The gig: Ronald W. Wong, 49, is the founder and president of Imprenta Communications Group in Pasadena. Imprenta surged this year into the Inc. 500 list of the nation's fastest-growing privately held companies, at No. 413, from well back in the 1,000s the previous year. Wong is passionate about...

  • CEO of Quixote Studios keeps Hollywood rolling along

    CEO of Quixote Studios keeps Hollywood rolling along

    The gig: Mikel Elliott is co-founder and chief executive of Quixote Studios, the entertainment industry's premier studio and equipment rental company, presiding over a fleet of Hollywood's most elegant talent trailers and motor homes as well as more than 1 million square feet of movie, TV and music...

  • Entrepreneur Rohan Oza focuses on 'better for you' products

    Entrepreneur Rohan Oza focuses on 'better for you' products

    The gig: Serial entrepreneur Rohan Oza, 42, is founder and chief executive of Idea Merchants Capital. Oza's investment venture, with offices in Los Angeles and New York, is "focused on 'better for you' consumer lifestyle products," he said — and making life uncomfortable for established brands....

  • Architect breathes new life into L.A.'s historic core

    Architect breathes new life into L.A.'s historic core

    The gig: Wade Killefer, who has always liked building things, has become one of the go-to architects for developers who want to convert historic buildings in downtown Los Angeles to new uses such as housing or hotels. Among his most prominent residential conversions are the Art Deco-style Eastern...

  • A childhood dream ferments into an award-winning winery

    A childhood dream ferments into an award-winning winery

    The gig: At 65, Robert Reyes is living his childhood dream of running a vineyard and winery. Reyes owns Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce, situated on a 17-acre hillside near the Angeles National Forest in northern Los Angeles County. His reds and whites, which sell for $18 to $35 a bottle, have won 62...

  • She brings Latin music's top acts to the stage

    She brings Latin music's top acts to the stage

    The gig: Rebeca Leon, 40, books some of the world's top Latino musicians at venues around the country for AEG Live's concert promotion arm, Goldenvoice, as its senior vice president of Latin talent. That title didn't exist before Leon joined AEG more than eight years ago. Leon convinced her bosses...

  • SoulCycle founders are peddling fun in the gym

    SoulCycle founders are peddling fun in the gym

    The gig: Julie Rice, 45, and Elizabeth Cutler, 48, are co-founders of SoulCycle, a chain of indoor cycling gyms that has pioneered a new generation of pay-per-class luxury studios where the exercise is only part of an experience (think candles and stylish gym wear). The company has 46 locations,...

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