HOW I MADE IT

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SUCCESS STORIES: HOW I MADE IT

  • A lifetime of listening, a voice for business interests

    A lifetime of listening, a voice for business interests

    The gig: Tracy Hernandez is chief executive of the Los Angeles County Business Federation, a nonprofit business advocacy group that she helped get off the ground in 2008. BizFed is a coalition representing more than 160 business groups, 325,000 employers and 3 million jobs. Members include chambers...

  • The boy with rock star dreams now heads Fender electric guitar company

    The boy with rock star dreams now heads Fender electric guitar company

    The gig: Andy Mooney, the son of a Scottish coal miner, couldn’t afford the Fender guitar he longed for as a child. Now 61, Mooney is chief executive of Fender Musical Instruments Corp. The company, based in Arizona but run from Los Angeles, makes the iconic Stratocaster and Telecaster electric...

  • She built a career on killing bugs without poison

    She built a career on killing bugs without poison

    The gig: Pam Marrone, 60, heads Marrone Bio Innovations in Davis, Calif., a leader among start-ups competing for a slice of the market in natural pesticides. Unlikely start: Feeding worms was Pam Marrone’s first job at U.S. agrochemical giant Monsanto Co. That may seem like an inglorious assignment for...

  • How I Made It: Ellen Chen and Mario Del Pero built Mendocino Farms by learning from mistakes

    How I Made It: Ellen Chen and Mario Del Pero built Mendocino Farms by learning from mistakes

    The gig: Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen are the husband-and-wife team behind Mendocino Farms, a fast-casual restaurant chain specializing in gourmet sandwiches. The Studio City company has 13 locations in Southern California, with another two slated to open soon in La Jolla and Tustin (the latter...

  • How I Made It: Lisa Sugar grew a blog into a global media empire

    How I Made It: Lisa Sugar grew a blog into a global media empire

    The gig: Lisa Sugar, 40, is the founder and president of PopSugar, the global media company headquartered in San Francisco whose eponymous lifestyle website attracts more than 100 million visitors a month. Sugar oversees strategy for the business, which has expanded to include e-commerce website...

  • Kirstin Harper-Smith is helping build downtown Los Angeles

    Kirstin Harper-Smith is helping build downtown Los Angeles

    The gig: Kirstin Harper-Smith, 32, is senior project manager at Boston-based Suffolk Construction, where she is supervising the building of a 525-unit apartment tower on Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles. The 888 Grand Hope Lofts project by L.A. developer CIM Group will eventually rise 34 stories,...

  • How I Made It: Dogged determination took Jacob Jaber from top video gamer to Philz Coffee CEO

    How I Made It: Dogged determination took Jacob Jaber from top video gamer to Philz Coffee CEO

    The gig: Jacob Jaber, 29, is chief executive of Philz Coffee. Jaber took over the coffee business from his father — the “Phil” in Philz Coffee — in 2005, and expanded its footprint from the original coffee shop in San Francisco’s Mission District to more than 30 locations across California and...

  • How I Made It: Stephen Cheung went from cutting threads in a sweatshop to cutting global trade deals

    How I Made It: Stephen Cheung went from cutting threads in a sweatshop to cutting global trade deals

    The gig: Stephen Cheung, 37, is president of World Trade Center Los Angeles, which is charged with promoting local businesses overseas and attracting foreign investment to the region. Before that, Cheung worked as director of international trade for the Port of L.A. and served as an aide to two...

  • How I Made It: Jess Lee's unlikely path to running Polyvore

    How I Made It: Jess Lee's unlikely path to running Polyvore

    The gig: Jess Lee, 33, is the chief executive of the social e-commerce site, Polyvore. Unlike most CEOs, who are usually part of a company’s founding team or brought in specifically for the job, Lee was hired as Polyvore’s first product manager before being promoted to the top. In her eight years...

  • Building furniture and community

    Building furniture and community

    The gig: Francisco Pinedo, 53, is chief executive of Cisco Bros., a fast-growing manufacturer known for environmentally friendly design and practices in its home furnishings business. Carrying the Cisco nickname that Pinedo has answered to since his childhood in Mexico, six Cisco Home stores operate...

  • Cooking his way to better health — and a restaurant empire

    Cooking his way to better health — and a restaurant empire

    The gig: Young Lee, 56, is chief executive of the Flame Broiler, a Santa Ana-based fast-casual restaurant chain. Lee opened the first Flame Broiler restaurant in 1995. More than two decades later, the company has expanded to 180 locations — nearly all of them operated by franchisees in five states....

  • How I Made It: Ernest Wooden Jr.

    How I Made It: Ernest Wooden Jr.

    The gig: Ernest Wooden Jr., 66, is president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. He took the position in January 2013, to replace retiring chief Mark Liberman. Before starting his current position, Wooden worked for nearly 50 years in the hospitality industry, starting...

  • O.C. bank's young CEO has long resume, stellar credentials

    O.C. bank's young CEO has long resume, stellar credentials

    The gig: Steven Sugarman, 41, is chief executive of Banc of California, an Irvine lender that’s one of the largest and fastest-growing banks in Southern California. He became CEO of the bank’s holding company, Banc of California Inc., in 2012, at age 38 — young for any chief executive, especially...

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

    '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...

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