There are countless individuals making a huge difference in Los Angeles, tirelessly shaping the city (and world) to be a better place than it was yesterday. And on the SBP team, we’re big on positive entrepreneurship—after all, it’s what got us to where we are today. That’s why we’ve decided to kickstart the SBP Epic Awards and recognize several citywide moguls for not only killing the game in their respective fields, but improving society all the while. Someone’s gotta do it, and we’re so thankful that the following honorees are spearheading such epic agendas.
Creative Entrepreneur: Ara Katz
Co-founder and Co-CEO of Seed, a science-backed microbiome company that’s disrupting the probiotics industry, Ara Katz is amongst the most intelligent and entrepreneurial-spirited individuals not only in the start-up world, but also the ever-evolving wellness sphere. Prior to establishing Seed (which has now broken into the $38 billion probiotics industry—yes, you read that right), Katz founded BeachMint, a social commerce company, then went on to serve as CMO of Spring, a mobile marketplace. By and large? Ara Katz is a start-up tycoon who’s now vastly improving human and planetary health with Seed—all while educating individuals to take agency over their wellness. Our biggest takeaway from her success? Always trust your gut. And in this case, Katz literally did.
Top Techie: Andy Puddicombe
Monk-turned-tech-mogul, Andy Puddiocombe is the co-founder of Headspace, an internationally acclaimed meditation app with various programs designed for specific ailments (like insomnia and anxiety) and everyday activities (from exercise to mindful eating). Not only has the meditation magnate positively affected the lives of more than 35 million people around the world, but he has also raised over $75 million from investors. Talk about high reward. But, perhaps the most laudable aspect is that the techpreneur isn’t even in it for the numbers. In an interview with Bon Appétit, he shared: “I see it as our job, all of us as a team, to turn up each day with selfless drive, with a courageous heart, with a curious mind, and just to be present, doing the best that we can.” Hats off to you, Andy.
Master Innovator: Jaclyn Johnson
By the time she was just 28, Jaclyn Johnson had sold her first business, (No Subject), invested in multiple female-owned startups and launched her second multi-million dollar company, Create & Cultivate. Can you say powerhouse? A wildly popular media platform and nationwide conference that helps women build the career of their dreams, Create & Cultivate has become a pop culture phenom with Jaclyn Johnson leading the worldwide discussion on workplace equality. Not only has she been ranked amongst Forbes 30 Under 30 and named an Adweek Disruptor, Jaclyn is a bubbly, contagiously-happy innovator who’s using her platform to create real, positive change. And, well, that’s something we can all applaud.
Arts Activist: Jeff Vespa
Not only is Jeff Vespa a dear friend of ours (and the man behind the killer In-N-Out burger photo in our office), but he’s also an incredibly talented photographer and director who’s flexing his stature in the art world to raise awareness for social causes. Most recently, Vespa curated an exhibition of portraits featuring more than 50 Parkland, Florida shooting insiders, including survivors, teachers and family members. All proceeds from the exhibition were donated to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in an effort to flip the switch on gun laws in the U.S. and shine a light on the courageous kids and families in Parkland. We’ve always been a huge fan of Vespa’s art, but now? We’re bowing down.
Environmental Crusader: Chad Nelsen
Environmental activism comes in all shapes and sizes, but in Los Angeles? We’re all about saving our oceans and beaches. The ever-acclaimed Surfrider Foundation is leading the charge with CEO Dr. Chad Nelson at the forefront, fighting the fight for our coasts by engaging environmental experts to create solutions, unite local and national resources and leverage the local chapter network’s knowledge. And while it’s certainly a group effort, Chad—who served as the organization’s Environmental Director for the last 16 years and was recently named CEO after an exhaustive national search—is utilizing his proven track-record of leading high impact campaigns to build Surfrider’s extensive reach. To sum it up, our 75 miles of coastline in LA are in incredibly good hands.
Architectural Pioneers: Angela Brooks & Lawrence Scarpa
When it comes to innovative, thoughtful architecture, Brooks + Scarpa (spearheaded by Angela Brooks and Lawrence Scarpa) is undoubtedly leading the way. Not only does the Los Angeles-based duo have hundreds of international accolades under their belt, including the 2014 Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award, but they’ve essentially redefined architecture as we know it, approaching design with a holistic slant that produces sustainable, iconic buildings and urban environments. The Solar Umbrella House in Venice? That was them. Passive and active solar design strategies render the residence 100% energy neutral, marking an entirely new era for modernist architecture.
Real Estate Icon: Rick Caruso
Los Angeles’ premier real estate developer is, without a doubt, Rick Caruso. The mogul, whose net worth is a whopping $4 billion, has built some of the country’s most successful shopping centers, including The Grove—which, believe it or not, gets an average of 49,000 visitors each day (that’s more than Disneyland). But, Rick’s impact on Los Angeles reaches far beyond the borders of his commercial enterprises. Rick’s team works hard to weave each Caruso development into the fabric of its community and have a positive, lasting impact by contributing to economic, social and environmental well-being. Overall, the icon exhibits a deep sense of social responsibility and civic investment across LA, which we all think is pretty darn epic.
Culinary Greats: Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer
Los Angeles is a foodie mecca without innumerable renowned chefs evolving the culinary landscape day by day. But, who’s really making a difference in the restaurant world? Enter Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer from Kismet in Los Feliz. Beyond dishing out some of LA’s best modern Middle Eastern flavors, the female duo is revolutionizing an otherwise male-driven culinary industry. At Kismet, they’ve created a diverse work environment that aims to uplift women while not alienating men. Inspired by the #MeToo movement, Hymanson and Kramer are consistently working to encourage staff to speak up and be an agent for change. So, when it boils down to killer food and cultural advancement? We’d say this duo is as impressive as it gets.
Standout Media: Sarah Harrelson
The modern age’s seemingly infinite media outlets can be daunting, but Sarah Harrelson of LALA Magazine is making it easy for Angelenos to educate themselves and be inspired. Dubbed as Los Angeles’ new zeitgeist, LALA Magazine is dedicated to the people driving the city’s cultural conversation, from the burgeoning tech industry to the wealth of free thinkers, doers and insiders. Harrelson, whose background exudes powerful female entrepreneurship, is committed to uncovering new voices around Los Angeles, giving today’s creators an unrivaled platform to share their truth, whether that be through art, music and beyond. In an industry frequently driven by misrepresentation, Harrelson is being her most authentic self—and that’s something we should all emulate.
Local Heroes: Woolsey Fire First Responders
The most epic individuals in Los Angeles are, without a doubt, the Woolsey Fire first responders. The incredibly destructive wildfire, which ignited on November 8, 2018, destroyed nearly 96,949 acres of land in Los Angeles, requiring more than 295,000 people to evacuate. Yet, had our remarkably brave first responders not entered the trenches, the consequences would have been far worse. Firefighters from far and wide in Los Angeles flocked to the scene to heroically risk their lives for us—and, for that, we all remain eternally grateful. Donations to the LAFD are forever appreciated, so please consider supporting our courageous first responders here.
Most Daring: Elon Musk
Every generation needs a disrupter and, well, Elon Musk is this era’s ultimate renegade. The 47-year-old CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and cofounder of OpenAI is worth nearly $23.6 billion, but—want to know something insanely epic? He’s never accepted a paycheck from Tesla, and even refuses his $56,000 minimum salary every year. Remarkably driven and undeniably genius, Musk worked from the ground up, teaching himself to code at the age of 12 in South Africa, hustling jobs to make cash and ultimately turned his rags into riches with Zip2, PayPal, SpaceX and beyond. The man is an absolutely revolutionary, serving as the driving force behind the world’s greatest sustainability efforts, and we’re just here taking notes on how to gain a sliver of his brilliance.