Where you grew up and your background can often have surprising effects on our lives and careers. We’ve asked folks from the community to tell us about how their background has affected them.

Sumi Siegel | Owner

I grew up in Pasadena, CA but was born in Helsinki, Finland. My mother, who moved back to Finland 25 years ago, is of a generation of European women who learned how to make things, not for fun, but because of necessity. She is a master knitter and sewer, just to name a few talents. When you got a hole in your socks, did your mom throw them away or put her darning skills to use? Guess which mom I had? It seemed to me that my mom could do everything, and not just things traditionally done by women. She had a garage full of power tools. Once she wrote a letter of complaint to a hardware store that had put an ad in the paper during the holiday season that said, “Get him a gift he’s sure to love”. She took great offense and I’m sure they never truly understood why. Read more>>

Nicole Navarro | Non Profit Founder

I was born and raised on a thirty-acre horse farm about 20 miles North of Pittsburgh, PA. I was the only child between my mother and father and had a very fortunate upbringing. My love of animals was definitely formed early on and has followed me throughout my entire life. Aside from horses, our neighbor was the county wildlife rehabilitation officer for our area so we always had a variety of native wildlife on our property being nursed back to health. Our community was a small, tight-knit one. No one locked their doors. We could walk down the road to get to each other’s houses. It was definitely a blue-collar working community and everyone respected each other. My father worked for my Grandfather in the family’s construction company. Navarro Corporation was a highly successful and innovative company for the time. Read more>>

Matt Dorado | Creator

I’m a rare native Angeleno, and have lived here my whole life (other than college, where I spent four years in Santa Barbara). Growing up a stone’s throw away from Hollywood, surrounded by theme parks and local attractions, and a vibrant performing arts scene, I was surrounded by “show business” from a young age. I was captivated by the magic of entertainment, and the worlds that people created to immerse audiences in. That, combined with an obsession with all things horror and fantasy as a kid, really set me on the path I’m on now. Read more>>

Patille Violeta | Reiki Master Practitioner & Shamanic Healer

I’m a proud Filipina-Armenian, born and raised in Pasadena. Lumpia, pancit, grape leaves, and shish kebab all on the same plate! Some Sundays I went to the local Apostolic Church and other Sundays, I attended Catholic mass. My dad, being the passionate Armenian that he is, fully immersed my brother and I in the Armenian community. We attended Armenian school from Pre-K to 8th grade, were members of AYF (Armenian Youth Federation) and Scouts. My Filipina mom welcomed the culture and learned how to read, write, speak, dance, and cook like an Armenian. She didn’t receive formal language lessons and describes it as a “Gift from God”. I belong to two distinct, yet similar cultures. Creative and entrepreneurial people with rich roots, deep faith, strong work ethics, and a history of being colonized. I sing, dance, play, pray, meditate, and move my body to lighten my journey and the journey of my ancestors. Read more>>

LaTonya Washington | Customer Marketing Strategist

I am originally from the Buckeye State of Ohio, now living in the State of California; I’m a long way from home. The way in which my background and upbringing yet impacts who I am today is one word…. STRUCTURE! My parents instilled in me, along with my 4 siblings, stability, balance and longevity. With that, it has given me the skill set to stick many things out, even though it looks dim and grim, to forge ahead, even though everyone else falls off the trail, and to lead others through valleys that seem unbearable. That structure has been the stepping stone of me going into business, going back to school is my latter years and opening up the gate to globalization. Life is messy and when you run an organization and/or business, people look to those who provide structure. Read more>>

Martin Cox | Artist, Photographer & Artist Residency Founder

I am an artists working mostly in photography. I grew up the a port city in the UK, the city was all about link with other lands and I think I picked up on that. Seeing huge ships leaving with people and cargo to far off places intrigued me about what lay beyond the shore of the UK. My Father had loved photography before I came a long, when I was about 11 or 12 and he loaned me his camera with slide film with the instruction that I could take only 3 pictures. I’d head to the docks on my bike and spend hours framing views trying to decide which composition, or light was the best. It taught me patience and looking, and pre-editing. He gave me my first camera, a Nikon, a brand I still use today. Another huge influence was the darkroom tech at Winchester School of Art who taught me tradition wet darkroom techniques of developing film and printing. Read more>>

Marco Flores | Music Producer & Guitarist

I am originally from Mexico City, Mexico and have been always passionate about music. I was raised listening to Brit Rock and always passionate about the guitar. I have been very fortunate to interact and work with people from different places around the world and that has definitely helped me shape my personal and creative style. Read more>>

Juanita Rivas-Raymer | Yoga and Garden Instructor

My mom was from Bogota, Colombia and my dad is from Tingo Maria, Peru. They immigrated to the United States in their mid 20’s. My mom wanted to just blend in and let go of her latinix culture so as to fit in. My dad on the other hand was very proud to be Peruvian. I grew up in Hollywood until i was 12 years and after that we moved around a lot. My parents split up pretty early on in my childhood and so my mom mostly raised us. I saw my mom go from not knowing how to speak english or working to learning a new language and finding a job. I don’t think i ever heard my mom complain. I think this is why no mater how hard life gets, i just know there is a way to get through it. When i was a single mom and i got fired from a job it was so hard to get out there and get another job but i did it. Read more>>

Grace Getzen | Intimacy and Relationship Coach & Reiki Master Teacher

My upbringing was centered around personal responsibility. I grew up in a tiny town in Massachusetts. Because our town was small and safe I had complete autonomy. As long as my responsibilities were met my parents trusted me to make good choices and fend for myself. I ran wild, played wherever I wanted, rode our horse all over town, and only came home when the street lights came on. I lived fully in these moments with an exquisite presence. These freedoms, among many others, fostered independence at an early age. I learned to take risks easily and to trust my gut before I even knew what intuition was. One other major influence in my background was having brain surgery to remove a tumor at the age of 15. The experience was traumatic and scary. It created a huge paradigm shift in my personal operating system. Read more>>

Steven Angel | Educator & Healer

I’m from New York. I was a child prodigy on the drums. I performed with the great Buddy Rich when I was 6 years old. At 12 I was on tour playing in front of crowds up to 25 thousand people and at 16 I recorded with Jimi Hendrix. My relationship with rhythm led me to the work I’m doing today where my company Drumming for Your Life is using rhythm to connect education, mental health, physics, eastern philosophy, neuroscience and music. Read more>>