We had the good fortune of connecting with Leslie Levito and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leslie, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Work plays a major role in our lives, it’s where most of us spend the majority of our time. Unfortunately, when it comes to work, many people feel stuck. Maybe they feel they are in a dead-end situation. Maybe they are barely able to pay bills. It’s hard to feel creative, worthy, or helpful when you are stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed trying to figure out how to make it.
Part of the issue is that most of us haven’t been exposed to conversations for success, what it takes to get results, or how to escape the whole rat race. Access to these conversations comes by chance because of the family you happened to be born into or if you were lucky enough to have met a mentor.
Cutclass is a secret weapon for people to have access to everything they want (and need) to know about professional development and business from a collective of MBA grads, entrepreneurs, and creatives. It’s a non-traditional approach to higher education that doesn’t require excessive amounts of time and money. I spent close to $150,000 on my degrees which took almost a decade. So many people could never invest this kind of time and money and many of us that do get stuck with the burden of student loans. What’s really nuts is that so much of what I have learned about performance and results weren’t even taught in my MBA! I had to learn it from the school of hard knocks.
The idea behind Cutclass is people can get information quickly. Most of our content is free and accessible to anyone with internet access. We also have flexible courses that can be done on any timeline. We are all so busy. Some people work more than one job, others are working from home as their kids do remote schooling. Besides work, we all have big commitments and priorities.
The more people who have access to information to build their lives and futures, the stronger everyone becomes not only as individuals but also as communities. Once there is a critical mass of people who are thriving and inspired, we will have more time to focus on what’s really important to us as a society. Then real, lasting change will happen.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am proud and excited to be a business owner who has reached a place where what I do for work is help other people’s vision come to life. It’s an incredible way to give back and contribute to others. There were so many very difficult challenges along the way that I had to overcome. It’s become an art learning how to reinvent myself during the last 30 years.
My first adventures of being a business owner were super fun. I went from a teenage balloon sculptor to a skateboard/snowboard shop owner in my 20s. Our skate team was killing it with Chris Cole, Tom Asta, Pete Eldridge, and others. Our crew was snowboarding all over North America and making tons of money as one of the top retailers in the United States. It was a total blast.
After 13 very successful years, we went out of business during the recession. This was an incredibly heartbreaking time. I was 35 and watched everything I had built fall apart. It felt like GAME OVER especially since I was 36 and trapped in this perception that I was middle-aged and washed up. Nothing was working. I had to file for bankruptcy and my house was going into foreclosure. As if all that wasn’t crappy enough, I was also getting a divorce and venturing out as a single mom with a toddler.
Looking back, it was the worst of times and it was the best of times. It was a crossroads where I really discovered how to parlay my past success into a whole new chapter. In 2010, I moved to Los Angeles where I rebuilt my foundation and future. My biggest lesson was how to get really intentional about my life. When I had the shop, I was in my 20s, hanging out, and having a good time.— I kinda got a little complacent. But when everything went down and I had my son, I HAD to figure everything out. My son Logan was my “why,” there was no other option.
I got super focused. I wasn’t looking to hit a home run or be some overnight success. There was something inside me that just knew that action-by-action, day-by-day, I could make it happen for myself and my son. It was really a really uncomfortable time because it felt like everything had fallen apart, but everything was really just falling together.
One day, I got the nerve to reach out to a professional skateboarder, Erik Ellington, to see if he knew any place that I could work. It turned out his company Baker Boys Distribution was looking for an International Sales Manager and they gave me a shot. I accepted it with everything I had. Over the next 3 years, I got promoted twice and completed my executive MBA. It was a crazy 3 years because I worked super hard, was in a new relationship and new city, and spent every moment I could with my son.
It was a real lesson in dedication and determination. I woke up at 5 am to get a couple of hours of work or studying before Logan woke up. I would get him to school and then work 8:30-5:30. I would spend a few evening hours with Logan and my partner Erik (a different Erik, not the skater). Once Logan was in bed, it was more studying from 9 to 11. And that’s how it went most days for almost 2 years.
2013 was a really epic year. I was promoted to Chief of Operations, my MBA completed, Erik and I got married, and we had our son, Niko. I came to realize that life as an executive would not give me the freedom and flexibility that I wanted as a mother so I resigned from my “secure” 6-figure income. Once again, I was in reinvention mode.
Instead of choosing my career OR motherhood, I was looking for a way to have a career AND motherhood. That’s definitely another lesson that I have learned along the way. I am not sure who said “you can’t have it all,” but I don’t entertain that conversation. There are alot of possibilities, many ways to create this AND that. I ended up consulting for the first two years after having my second child. Once again, I was action-by-action, day-by-day, steadily building. It’s really incredible what you can build with steady, consistent choices and actions.
In the past 6 years, I built and co-founded the branding agency, FaustLevito, which closed during the earlier months of COVID, This year, I am relaunching with a new partner, Shoghak Kazandjian, as Etcetera, which I am super excited about. As a branding agency, we get to work with people either during the inception or reimagination of what a brand or business can be as an experience. It’s incredible to be able to bring other people’s vision to life.
Along those lines, I also just launched a company called Cutclass, delivering online courses and coaching. I am totally inspired, on fire, and pumped about this brand. With Cutclass, I’ll get to work with professionals and aspiring business owners as they grow and develop themselves along their journey in building their future.
With all the different paths I’ve taken and all the obstacles that have come up along the way, there’s one thing I know… things always work out. It sometimes seems like everything is falling apart, but give it some time, be intentional about what you really want and you’ll find that in fact, everything comes together.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My favorite COVID hang out is definitely our back yard for BBQs…And once it’s safe to be out and about again, these are my go tos:
I always have food at the top of my hit list, especially for any out-of-town visitors. Some of my favorite places are also clients that we worked on their branding like Bestia, Bavel, Fingers Crossed, Redbird, Zinc Cafe & Market, and Superba, A day at the beach with The Rose Cafe for lunch or dinner is always a winner. Salazar or a rooftop bar is fun and Soho Warehouse is always a solid vibe.
The Row and the Grove are also fun for shopping but I also like going to the small boutiques in Atwater Village, Highland Park or across town to Abbott Kinney. The Broad Museum is one of my favorite experiences especially the Kusama Infinity Mirrors.
Perhaps the most unique thing anyone can do is go for it with a snow/surf day— Big Bear or Mountain High and then the beach.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
So many people have helped me along the way, it would take me a while to acknowledge everyone. My life and results really started to expand when my communities and collaborators started to expand.
Shoutout to Charles Lee and his book Good Idea Now What? Shoutout to those formerly known as The FaustLevitos. 100% huge shoutout to Scott Forgey and his company, Un, for all the executive coaching which helped me discover my purpose. Shoutout to KidRow, especially my music teacher Tom McGeoch. I never thought learning to play an instrument would give me a personal and business breakthroughs but it did!
Shoutout to the whole Cutclass team and business partners Rochelle Groh and Shoghak Kazandjian. You guys are brilliant, dedicated, and fun.
The biggest shoutout to my family… my mom and dad who nurtured my mindset and provided me so many opportunities. My sisters, brother, and relatives have all helped me along my journey. Shoutout to my 2 boys, you are my WHY. And of course my husband Erik. Your love, encouragement, and support are the bedrock for the amazing life I have that allows me to contribute to others.
Photos by Hovig Kazandjian; Projects with FaustLevito, Etcetera, and Cutclass