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HOW I MADE IT

SUCCESS STORIES: HOW I MADE IT

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,...

  • Before Lazy Dog, years of toil

    Before Lazy Dog, years of toil

    The gig: Chris Simms, 40, is chief executive and founder of the Huntington Beach-based Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar chain. The casual dining company, founded in 2003, has 16 locations, with plans to open three more by year's end. Simms employs 2,000 people and aims to increase profit and revenue about...

  • Glasstile president builds success piece by piece

    Glasstile president builds success piece by piece

    The gig: Sean Gildea, 48, is president of Oceanside Glasstile. Since its founding in 1992, "before recycling was really happening," Gildea said, the firm has used large amounts of recycled glass to make tiles for kitchens, baths, swimming pools and fireplaces. A Tijuana factory employs 290 people,...

  • How I Made It: Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol

    How I Made It: Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol

    The gig: Since Jan. 1, Brian Niccol has been chief executive of Taco Bell Corp., the Irvine-based fast-food chain known for menu creations such as Doritos Locos Tacos and Crunchwrap Supremes. Since the first restaurant opened in 1962 in Downey, Taco Bell has expanded to about 6,000 locations and...

  • Sushi pioneer Noritoshi Kanai is ambassador of Japanese values, traditions

    Sushi pioneer Noritoshi Kanai is ambassador of Japanese values, traditions

    The gig: Noritoshi Kanai, 92, is chairman of Mutual Trading Co., a distributor of Japanese foods and restaurant supplies based in downtown L.A.'s Little Tokyo. But more famously, Kanai is widely credited with introducing sushi to the U.S. more than 50 years ago. Founded in 1926 by several small...

  • How an unhappy electrical engineer became a thriving furniture designer

    How an unhappy electrical engineer became a thriving furniture designer

    The gig: Michael Amini, 58, was an unhappy electrical engineer who went from designing circuits to designing furniture. His Pico Rivera company, Amini Innovation Corp., also known as Aico, sells products through more than 3,000 retailers in more than 80 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle...

  • Lakeshore chief learns on the job

    Lakeshore chief learns on the job

    The gig: Bo Kaplan, 40, is chief executive of Lakeshore Learning Materials, which has more stores than any other retailer of educational products. The Carson company expanded from a single store in San Leandro to 60 stores in 29 states, as well as an international network of distributors. The firm...

  • He's a good fit at Lucky

    He's a good fit at Lucky

    The gig: Carlos Alberini, 59, is chairman and chief executive of Lucky Brand, which has positioned itself as "accessible premium" in the hot-today-gone-tomorrow world of premium denim jeans. Its prices ($99 to $149) undercut rivals such as True Religion, Frame and Diesel. Lucky Brand also competes...

  • Architect builds a career on huge projects

    Architect builds a career on huge projects

    The gig: Michael Hong, 56, is the founder and senior principal designer of Michael Hong Architects in Culver City. Hong was the master planner of the $3.5-billion Baha Mar project, a 1,000-acre resort, casino, hotel, convention center and beachfront entertainment venue in the Bahamas. His 12-person...

  • For Arnie Rubin, selling toys has been all fun and games

    For Arnie Rubin, selling toys has been all fun and games

    The gig: Arnie Rubin has worked in the toy business for half a century, starting as a grunt who unloaded railroad cars and working his way up to chairman of Funrise Toy Corp., a Van Nuys company that manufactures Tonka trucks, Gazillion Bubbles and other popular toys. Rubin, 68, notes that he's...

  • Bernice Ledbetter helps turn women into leaders

    Bernice Ledbetter helps turn women into leaders

    The gig: Bernice Ledbetter, 57, is a faculty member at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management. Ledbetter was recently awarded $150,000 to start the university's Center for Women in Leadership, which will open in the fall semester. One of the center's aims is to help...

  • Melissa Kieling, CEO of insulated bag maker PackIt

    Melissa Kieling, CEO of insulated bag maker PackIt

    The gig: Melissa Kieling, 38, is the co-founder and chief executive of PackIt, which makes foldable, freezable bags to keep food and beverages cold. Last year, PackIt was named one of the fastest-growing privately held companies by Inc. magazine. The company is headquartered in Westlake Village...

  • How I Made It: Advertising veteran Jimmy Smith

    How I Made It: Advertising veteran Jimmy Smith

    The gig: Advertising veteran Jimmy Smith, 53, has orchestrated award-winning work for brands including Nike and Gatorade, the latter involving the adoption of the more edgy "G" in packaging and marketing the sports drink. Since 2011, Smith has been chief executive and chief creative officer of...

  • How I Made It: Co-founder of Rubio's chain got hooked on fish tacos

    The gig: Ralph Rubio, 59, is the co-founder of Rubio's, a fast-casual chain known for its burritos, bowls and beer-battered fish tacos. Anchored in Carlsbad, Rubio's locations extend up the California coast to Sacramento and outward to Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The company has 193 restaurants...

  • Early on, head of Karl Strauss Brewing Co. had a taste for craft beers

    Early on, head of Karl Strauss Brewing Co. had a taste for craft beers

    The gig: Chris Cramer, 53, is chief executive and co-founder of Karl Strauss Brewing Co. Started in 1989, it is one of the oldest craft breweries in Southern California and a pioneer in San Diego's renowned craft beer industry. Baccalaureate bartender: Cramer, a fourth-generation San Diegan, got...

  • Jordan Cohen scores as real estate agent for professional athletes

    Jordan Cohen scores as real estate agent for professional athletes

    The gig: Jordan Cohen, 48, is the estate director for RE/MAX Olson & Associates Estate Brokerage in Westlake Village. He has one employee, longtime assistant Kristi Dougherty. Last year, he entered the world of men's high fashion as a founding partner of the underwear company Kings & Jaxs. Former...

  • Craig Underwood grows the peppers that go into Sriracha sauce

    Craig Underwood grows the peppers that go into Sriracha sauce

    The gig: Craig Underwood, 72, is a fourth-generation farmer who grows all the chili peppers for Irwindale-based Huy Fong Foods, which makes the wildly popular Sriracha in the signature green-capped bottle. Underwood, a Navy veteran and graduate of Cornell University, farms land from Bakersfield...

  • Beatrice Springborn hopes to change the conversation about Hulu

    Beatrice Springborn hopes to change the conversation about Hulu

    The gig: Beatrice Springborn is the head of original programming at Hulu, one of the top video-streaming services. She joined Hulu last summer and oversees development and production of original series. She arrived as the company looked to strengthen its position in the streaming landscape. Working...

  • The man behind the brands

    The man behind the brands

    The gig: After cheeseburgers and doughnuts, it was time for coffee and tea. Stints at McDonald's and Dunkin' Brands led John Dawson to his first chief executive position in January 2014. Dawson, 51, runs one of the nation's oldest and biggest privately held specialty coffee chains — Coffee Bean...

  • How I Made It: Joanne Kim, CEO of CBB Bank in Koreatown

    How I Made It: Joanne Kim, CEO of CBB Bank in Koreatown

    The gig: Joanne Kim, 60, has been president and chief executive of CBB Bank in Koreatown since April 2011. The bank has less than $1 billion in assets and specializes in Small Business Administration lending and mid-size commercial and industrial loans. Previously, she was president and chief executive...

  • John Karevoll finds success mining real estate data for news nuggets

    John Karevoll finds success mining real estate data for news nuggets

    The gig: John Karevoll is a noted data miner for CoreLogic DataQuick, a San Diego information service that generates housing statistics and custom reports for builders, developers, banks and public agencies. Take off: Karevoll, 63, was born in Minneapolis but moved as a preteen to Norway, where...

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