We asked some of the city’s rising stars to reflect on what made a difference in their journey.  We asked them to tell us about what they think the most important factor has been behind their success.

Laura Erlich, LAc, FABORM | Holistic Fertility Expert, Acupuncturist, Herbalist, Author and Educator

I would say that the most important factor in the success of my brand (which is really just an extension of me and my private practice) is a combination of heart/passion for what I do, stamina, and resilience. Building a business and sustaining its growth over a long period of time is profoundly challenging, and equally worth it! For me, loving what I do and feeling like this work is my absolute calling is what gets me up every morning, and what drives me to keep moving my business forward, seeking new avenues of growth, and serving my patients in a heart-centered way. It isn’t always easy, and having the courage to keep moving forward when things go sideways, along with having the tenacity to move through challenging times, is key to success. Hard times do always eventually end, and after going through my fair share of them pre-2020, I feel confident that that universal rule still holds. Plus, difficult periods teach us grit and resilience, which is, in my estimation, the most important character trait one can possess when life hands you lemons. Read more>>

Josh Shaw | Founding Artistic Director of Pacific Opera Project

I think the word “brand” is key here. That’s something you wouldn’t have associated with an opera company a few decades ago, but in today’s world of social media and immediacy, it is unavoidable. So putting on top-notch operatic performance is just the baseline at Pacific Opera Project. We are always going to have quality singers, creative productions, and an overall high level of artistic excellence. What we did, perhaps earlier than some other performing arts organizations, was to cultivate a brand. You can see it in our loud colors, our Hipster Puccini logo, and in most of our production concepts and settings. From the beginning, we wanted to scream “we are not like everyone else.” Fans know that if you are coming to a POP production, it is going to be something more than just a glorified concert. It could be the unique venue (a cemetery, a moving production at a church that concludes on the roof, a drive-in, a warehouse, etc), it could be a costume contest for the audience, or it could be the singers unexpectedly moving into the audience. Read more>>

Jeremiah Klein | Fine Art Photographer

The most important factor behind our brand’s success has been inviting people into what we are passionate about. It is such a simple truth yet it took a few of our early years in photography to truly believe it. When you are excited about what you do, people want to be a part of it. Understanding the values we hold dear as a wedding photography brand has helped shape the details of how we operate. One of those big umbrella values is treating people the way we want to be treated. Consequently, we want to be treated like a guest so we dress like a guest. We keep things positive and fun so couples can enjoy their day. We love capturing those real moments so we create a comfortable environment for people to be themselves. All this to say, it took us a while to clearly spell out our personal values which blended into our brand identity. The closer those things line up the more our company has celebrated success. Read more>

Parham Khorsandi, Esq. | Tax Attorney

The most important factor in running a successful business is QUALITY. You can spend so much money on advertising, and infrastructure, and employees and sales–BUT, if you do not provide the quality of service to back it up, you will have nothing at the end. Yes, you can get by with mediocre quality, and be profitable. However, if you want to have a sustaining business, quality starts at the top. You should not have to sell yourself, or your product or service, they should be able to sell themselves. The quality and level of service need to be so good, that there is no other option. Simply put you are the best, and it needs to show in your work. At my office, we strive for perfection. We obviously don’t attain on every level, but we work for perfection. It shows in our service, it shows in how we pick up the phone, and how we onboard clients. If its not perfect, then its not right. That’s the model. Read more>>

August Vilella | Artist

I think there are two points behind my success. In one hand it was very important to be myself, I mean… in my case I have never tried to imitate to anyone… actually I never went to any art school or academy so I learned to paint by myself and in consequence, I feel that I didn’t have any external influences to create my style. Thanks that I have found my special intuitive and improvised method of painting without any previous ideas or sketches. Using this method each painting becomes unique and unrepeatable… and have more open meaning. This point helps people to connect with my art easily… and becomes a very interesting point for art collectors because they know that they will have and exclusive piece of art that will never be repeated again. Definetely, for me each person is unique and in consequence can make something unique… we just have to learn to listen to ourselves. The second important point in my opinion is the work discipline and the attitude. I knew very well my target and I was 100% focused in it. Read more>>

Piper Ferguson | Photography + Director

I think the most important factor behind the success of my career/work is that I started it from a place of wanting to be around something that I love; Music! I ran a weekly mod/indie dance club for 15 years and I just surrounded myself by the people that were like me and that organically led to my success by simply wanting to document it. I I carried my photos around with me in a pile of prints to show people because it made them happy and gave me the opportunity to share my pictures as there was no phones or internet yet. That led to people asking me to shoot for them because they liked what I did. Without even realizing it I stuck with what I knew and wanted to have in my life constantly around shows, bands, clubs, record labels, management companies, festivals, etc. I became the brand I am by knowing what I liked and immersing myself deeply in the scene in order to photograph it and experience my escape in life, and then get paid for it which was the bonus. Read more>>

Eric Lombart | Cinematographer

Success, in my experience, comes from a combination of many converging factors: research, practice, experimentation, personality, networking, luck, etc. Before I ever made a single dollar as a cinematographer, I laid a lot of groundwork through years of honing my craft. Even now that I’m working professionally, I spend a good percentage of my downtime researching and experimenting with new techniques as well as refining my image-making through still photography and personal projects. It’s important to stay sharp and be prepared for any opportunities that come along. The opportunities, however, don’t just appear out of nowhere. Once I built up my skills to the point of having value for other people, I realized they were useless unless I was connected with the people that needed them. I started attending workshops, screenings and lectures to ingrain myself more in the filmmaking community. Those things haven’t always led directly to paid jobs, but it’s good to get some real-life face time. Read more>>

Boris Ackerman, M.D. | Plastic Surgeon

The success of any enterprise is based on a few important factors, such as visibility and marketing, clear business plan, financial stability, etc. For me as a Plastic Surgeon, the most important factor for my success was delivering excellent surgical results on consistent bases. This basic principle applies to all businesses. The prospective patient/consumer wants to know that the past performance is a great predictor of future results. This type of a track record takes time to develop, and can not be replicated simply with marketing. I adopted the following phrase on all my marketing material early in my career- “In the pursuit of excellence…” This has been my guiding philosophy ever since. Early in my career, I invested significant amount of time visiting talented Plastic Surgeons around the world; learning, adopting and occasionally modifying their techniques. They were kind enough to share with me their life lessons, their failures and successes. Over the years I have also systematically analyzed my surgical results trying to discern the best methods to produce safe, consistent and aesthetically pleasing outcomes. Read more>>

Jamie Tian | Real Estate Agent

The most important factor behind the success of my business is my commitment and accountability each and every day. As a real estate agent, I don’t have anyone to report to on a daily basis, a set schedule, or someone to assign me tasks so it’s easy to get distracted from my short and long term goals. I make a commitment to myself and my clients each morning to be accountable and efficient with my time so I can help each client to the best of my ability. Read more>>

Carrie Lau | Ceramicist and Art Director

It has been a journey to run both a design and a ceramics studio. It is challenging and frustrating but also surprising and fulfilling. It has taught me that learning from experience is my best and most important tool. When I started making ceramics I didn’t really have an intention to start a business. It was more of a creative outlet that I found happiness in. Even though it is now a business i still keep my original intention intact. Working with clay grounds me to a quiet place where I feel connected with myself. It is my meditative tool; It is also a outlet for me for expressing and motivating myself. Creating my own collection and collaborating with different artists and brands enriches my experience and I am so appreciative of all these opportunities and the people that I meet. Read more>>

Lauren Bolanos | Newborn, Family, and Maternity Photographer

Easily, the most important factor to a successful shoot,is to listen to what my client needs and then under promise and over deliver. I do a pre-consultation to learn about their likes and dislikes, their budget, and how we can best collaborate on making beautiful memories together. The most successful shoots are a team effort, where everyone is working together to have fun to create the most authentic smiles. Of course, I always love when my clients take my recommendations, which are based on what does and doesn’t work form previous shoots, but their feedback and cooperation is what takes a good shoot to a great one. Read more>>

Kevin Opos | Certified Fire Safety Professional

Being transparent with customers by taking the time to educate them about how their fire protection systems work. We strive to be a trusted resource for any fire prevention necessities. There are many systems, codes, and requirements so by helping customers understand what we are doing and why, they’ll understand fire-life safety more thoroughly in regards to their properties and own homes. Read more>>

Jeff & Karen Prugh | Coffee Purveyors

More than anything, we strive to be as friendly and hospitable as we can, in each and every interaction. Also, doing all things with a genuine passion is key not only to repeat business but also to enjoying the day-to-day work. Read more>>

Meagan Sargent | Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Identify LA & Publicist

The most important factor behind my success has been the ability to form genuine connections and taking risks. I’ve found that forming genuine connections is crucial for any businesses regardless of the level. With every stage of your life, both personally and career-wise connections are not only what carries you from one venture to the next, it’s what sets you apart. It can also lead to new business opportunities. As a publicist and running the lifestyle-entertainment site, Identify LA, having genuine connections has, and always will be, the foundation of my personal brand as well as any brand I’m affiliated with. After all, it’s not ‘who you know,’ it’s truly ‘who knows YOU. Read more>>

Josh Rose | Artist/Photographer

I think the most critical question that creative people have to ask themselves is, “what won’t I do?” There’s a thing that happens to creative people in creative fields where they become generalists. It’s an outcome of needing money and not being able to say no to things. We reserve the right to be choosy for when we’re more established and have made a name for ourselves. But I believe that’s a slippery slope and that life doesn’t turn out that way. We don’t do everything until we get the opportunity to only do what we like. More often, we set a pattern for ourselves, as either people who do a lot of things well, or a few things great. And breaking that pattern becomes difficult or impossible. If I’ve had success as a photographer, it’s come with incremental growth and then some form of a leap. The incremental growth comes from doing things over and over again. But the leaps seem to come with I say no to something. When I’ve turned down a certain kind of job, or lost a job, or pared my work down. Read more>>

Huyen Dinh | Lettering Artist & Pink Specialist

I believe as a freelance artist, it is still important to build your personal brand. The success of my brand is that people can relate to my art. They feel like the messages are personal made for them. My audience feels inclusive and more comfortable to embrace their inner weird. Read more>>

Tammy Horton | Wedding Photographer

I think the one thing that has helped with my success and the success of my brand the most is just staying true to myself, my creative vision and what truly interests me as an artist. It’s easy to get distracted by what everyone else in your industry is doing, especially now with so much imagery and information available on so many different platforms. And the temptation to stray from your vision or follow other molds when you have insecurities creeping in about your business can be very real, especially when you’re first starting out. But I have to say, it’s when I’ve really listened to my heart and kept things honest and true to me is when I’ve had the most success. And in an industry that’s relationship driven, that type of honesty and passion goes a very long way. My couples see and feel that in my work, they value it and they want to be a part of it time and time again. Read more>>

Julie Festa de Lagarde | Acupuncturist & Breathwork Creator

The most important factor behind my success is about showing up and getting out of my own way. I look at success as things going the way I want them to and my business growing in line with my vision. If success happens when I show up day after day, sometimes year after year, for my business, my work, and my goals, then the set-backs and the failures, or the non-successes, are really just the moments I didn’t show up in the same way. They’re times I either lost something I’d achieved, or I didn’t get something I was after. And really, these moments happen all of the time. It’s when I show up anyway, and when I don’t let the setbacks define me – when I can grow from the lesson, and when I keep my eye on the bigger vision – that’s when things keep growing and successes come. My successes have derived from a sense of being about something bigger than myself. That’s what keeps me showing up. I have to be in touch with a bigger vision than the next step, even if I don’t know how I will get there. Read more>>

Eric J. Smith | Documentary Photographer & Director

The most important factor in my success is a total symbiosis of my craft and who I am as a person. My camera is my constant companion and i see the world in terms of frames. I’m always scanning for the good light, a beautiful moment, or a wild surprise. I have also had the opportunity to travel extensively for assignments. My senses are always heightened in a new place and those experiences, as well as the photographs from them, have enriched my body of work. Read more>>

Ricky Sencion | Artist

I love this question because it brought up my different definitions of what I consider success. Am I successful in terms of being a human being. YES! I love that no matter what, I’ve lived life on my terms. It’s never been in the pursuit of fame or money, but rather real life experiences. It’s been important that I live by being the example.  As an artist, it’s a different story and a question that’s been in my thoughts for the past couple of years and more so now. In some odd way, I don’t feel successful in that I don’t have the ‘name’ recognition that I see with some of my fellow artists. I don’t necessarily compare myself with other artists, but I see/use their successes as a point of reference to where I want to go and the opportunities I wish to explore.  In terms of the work I’m doing, I feel successful. I make sure to show up every day, 7 days a week. In the past 8 years since starting SHEƎP, I haven’t budged an inch. Instead, I keep pushing on the gas pedal. Putting up work on the streets is a daily thing. Read more>>

Mandy Bianchi | Event Designer & Producer

The most important factor behind the success of my brand is authenticity, both with myself and my clients. I’ve had to be honest with myself about the strengths I posses and the weaknesses I need support with. No one is great at everything. I’ve found that by sticking to what I do best, and bringing on partners and staff to fill in the gaps when needed, I’ve been able to deliver on promises and grow my business fairly well in a short amount of time. I have to be transparent with my customers about realistic expectations, especially when it comes to budget talks. Being practical but always optimistic has worked very well in earning the trust and respect of my clients and peers, they are confident I will deliver on my promises because they know I hold myself and partners accountable. It boils down to this: being authentic builds trust with your clients, customers and audience. Read more>>

Jamie Lebowitz | Pole Dance Videographer

The most important factor behind the success of my brand is a combination of passion, work ethic, and strategy. One facotr without the others would not have brought me the success I’ve achieved so far! Throughout my career as a photographer and videographer I’ve had varying levels of each because I’ve experimented with different kinds of subjects. Only when I really nailed down my passion did the three come together to make me successful. It felt like the natural order of things you could say. Read more>>

Blake Vaz | Producer & Director – Owner, VALAGARDO PRODUCTIONS

I think the most important factor behind the success of my production company Valagardo Productions, is that we make sure our efforts and decisions are always made with the project interest in mind. At the end of the day, the most important thing is the final product and being faithful to the vision our clients, filmmakers or partners had when they originally conceived the idea. We have a diverse and talented group of people that are passionate about what they do and are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure we are ultimately servicing the project. Most of us are willing to wear different hats, get our hands dirty and do what we must to get the desired results. Whatever it takes. I also believe we are different in the sense that we make sure that our crew and our people are being taken care of at all times. It is important to make sure we service the needs of our clients but just as important to me is making sure that my crew is always taken care of. Read more>>

Tracy + David | Photography and Directing Team

The most important factor behind our success and the success of our brand is that we know what is important to us, and we use this as a guide in nearly every area of our business. By knowing ourselves, and understanding what we truly care about, it makes it easier to stay on target. It gives us clarity when we need to make difficult decisions about where we are going, what clients to pursue, what projects to pursue, and how we want to run our business. As a result, we create work that we are excited about, and feel deeply connected to what we do. This results in the best possible outcomes for our clients, and we remain passionate and energized. Read more>>

SHARI AUSTIN | Owner and Founder of Honey Scrubbed LLC

The important factor behind the success of my brand, besides my amazing team, is keeping the ingredients minimal and allowing the company to slowly progress as it has. Not going too hard too fast has allowed the time to perfect the recipes, and to change the packaging many times until it was just right. Read more>>

Brett Stanley | Underwater Portrait Photographer

I think having a relaxed approach with my clients and always putting them first has been a large part of my success. Also not being scared to try new things and push the envelope a bit has really set me apart from similar businesses. Read more>>

Myron Rogan | Photographer & Creative Director

If I had to choose the most important factor it has to be my network. The people I became friends with, and met overtime connected me to amazing people that connected me to amazing projects that created a snowball effect to better things. Read more>>

Miss Mindy | Cartoon Folk Artist

Staying the course, despite all things… and listening to those whispers from the universe. You know, those gut feelings that we don’t always listen to? (wink) Taking risks and putting yourself out in front of the folks to find your audience… is also a huge part of it. It terrified me at first, but after getting a few art shows & comic cons under my belt, I started to build my confidence and hone my own style along the way. If you are an artist, you know what I mean… it’s no small task. You must create, listen, fight through those crappy drawing days, believe in yourself, and then start the process all over again to find what really makes your heart sing! Learning and loving your craft is everything. Putting my art heart on a plate on a gallery wall, painting live, or doing toy signings worldwide definitely took some getting used too. (Meaning, I had to grow some major cartoon balls to open myself up and get over the anxiety of being on ‘display’ and talking to large groups of people!) But now I enjoy it.. whew. Ha! For so long I undervalued my work, but was woken up by my main man, Rick O’Brien (who is an artist as well). Read more>>

Allison Madison | Succulent Arranger & Mother & Wife

So many words go through my mind when I think about what makes Beach Girl Succulents successful. LOVE, PASSION, DELIGHTING OTHERS. I feel like these 3 factors are the driving force behind why I arrange succulents. I love being outside, sun on my back, smelling fresh soil. I am passionate about making each arrangement unique and beautiful. When I’m doing a custom piece, I think about my customer and the bit of personality/character I may know about them. I like asking them questions about what they want to see, texture, cacti/succulents, simple or fully loaded with succulents. I incorporate all of this knowledge into my arrangements – making the piece fun and spunky or professional and simple or tall and bold. When I complete an arrangement and I get to see my customers’ delight – it makes me so happy! It fills my bucket over and over. Read more>>

Rey Bustos | Artistic Anatomy Associate Professor

My name is Rey Bustos and I have been teaching artistic anatomy, figure drawing, art in general since 1990. After graduating from the Art Center College of Design in 1989 I illustrated for many publications and through the years I have also had many fine art gallery shows. But all of that aside, I consider myself to be a teacher, first and foremost as far as my profession. I “liked” illustrating, I “liked fine art”, but I LOVE being a teacher. I am often asked by my many students through the years, “Professor Rey, what is the secret to your success?” I always say the same thing. Live in gratitude. Although this does not assure financial independence nor fame and it does not instantly alleviate pain nor struggle it does provide comfort when challenged, humility when rewarded or praised. I tell them that success is a self-defined term. For me it is being grateful every single day. Read more>>