1. Jordan Roschwalb, founder of PINTRILL
I love pins and have always collected pins. I wanted to create a one-size-fits-all item that was also unisex, and pins were the immediate solution. Also, having a pin passion didn't hurt. The idea for PINTRILL came about after having lunch with a friend. We were discussing his accessory/jewelry line, and I had mentioned that he should add pins to the collection. When he said it wouldn't fit his collection, I thought I could just do it on my own. I really wanted a unisex one-size-fits-all item so that I, along with my product, could speak to everyone and not just a specific group of people. I started doing research on the internet, and before I knew it, I ordered my first collection of our pin designs (First Pack). I've always had a strong will to turn an idea into reality and take it as far as possible, so once PINTRILL began to exist, I knew I had to run with it and take it as far as possible. When I want to be inspired, I look to the world around me and the environment that I'm in -- whether I'm in New York City, or the suburbs, or upstate NY. I also always try to stay young and keep a young and creative mind; cartoons really keep me in that mindset.
I've always loved being creative and doing things with my hands...and I've also always loved to eat! When I was a little girl, I thought the idea of putting ingredients together to create something delicious was magical. Now, I not only get to share part of my own creations, but also my heritage, which is incredible. I can't say my business started with a single idea; it was truly more of a passion.I spent a year traveling around Mexico researching for my first cookbook, My Sweet Mexico, and upon returning I knew I wanted to open my own business...not so much for being a business owner, per se, but simply because it would give me the freedom to express myself. After finishing my book, I felt the idea behind it was bigger than a book — the whole experience made me realize I wanted to dedicate a big part of my life to sharing the sweetness of Mexico and its culture. I'm constantly inspired by things around me: nostalgia, smells, produce, and conversations. And as far as giving tips for creativity, I think it's important to create for yourself and to do so without the intention of being pleasing. After all, if you feel strongly about something you're doing, it will end up resonating with others.
3. Hannah Davis, founder of BANGS Shoes
The brand name BANGS comes from the Chinese character for the word "help." It's spelled B-A-N-G.BANGS Shoes are inspired by canvas shoes I discovered teaching English in China. Those were olive green all the way around, meaning the rubber sole was olive green to match the olive green canvas that covered the foot. I thought about the most popular canvas shoes in the U.S., and the rubber sole that touches the ground was typically white. The monochromatic vibe of the shoes I found in China gave them a sort of 'boot' feel, but they were canvas! And super unique. Once my teaching contract in China ended, the recession was still very present in the U.S. job market. I was 22 years old and had told myself I wouldn't come back to the United States until I had a plan of action for how to be an adult, and one day I literally sat up in bed and said out loud, 'It's the shoes!'After that, I didn't sleep for about three weeks while I tried to sort through what it meant to be in business, but one thing I knew was that I wanted to create a company that had a positive impact. So I built our business model to help other people start their businesses. Five years later, BANGS has managed to release two lines of shoes, launch an incredible Student Ambassador Program working with 300+ high schools and universities, cycling through 700+ students, and invest in entrepreneurs in 20 countries around the world, including the United States.
Read more about the way BANGS is giving back here.
4. Samuel Ware, founder of Manila Social Club
My brother Bjorn and I started Manila Social Club four years ago as a pop-up dinner club. We would find an excellent location, curate a great guest list of individuals, and design a unique gourmet menu consisting of eight to 10 French/Filipino courses for the season. After building a great following and repertoire of dishes, we decided to open up a brick-and-mortar location. One night, my siblings and I were sitting at dinner discussing investment opportunities when we decided to use our greatest asset: the ability to create incredible food and an amazing hospitality experience that was passed down from our mother and father. Our mother is an amazing cook and hostess, and the main inspiration for the restaurant. Without her teaching my brother Filipino cuisine, and my father teaching us all how to be loving, welcoming people, none of this would have been possible.Before opening the restaurant, my brother Bjorn was working as an art dealer; I was working as a nonprofit consultant in Indiana; and my sister, Cathy, was writing research grants. With my brother's unique cuisine, my sister's flair, and my sheer willpower, we decided to fully pursue what we love: cooking and entertaining people. My mother was only recently able to see the restaurant in operation because she lives in Indiana, and my father recently passed away in June. We hope Manila Social Club can be a long-lasting legacy that's a tribute to my mother, father, and family.
5. Matthew Ramirez, founder of WriteLab
I was teaching writing and realized that there were two kinds of feedback I was often leaving: 1) that which was intellectually engaging and had to do with larger issues of audience and context, and 2) the low-level syntactic and stylistic comments that I left on the papers of many students. I was spending so much time responding to the syntactic and stylistic issues that I had little time to address other issues. In fact, given the time constraints of a semester and the number of students in a class, it wasn't humanly possible to respond to everything I wanted to, nor was it possible to work through multiple drafts with individual students. I began wondering if there was a way to leave thoughtful comments on these syntactic and stylistic issues in a way that scaled, in a way that would leave me time to help students address the larger issues of audience and context. So I began writing algorithms to identify these features. What began as a research project ended up as a company, and two years later, WriteLab identifies almost 100 writing features, providing students actionable feedback on each draft they submit and modifying its feedback over time to adapt to individual students' writing styles.
6. James Khabushani, CEO/founder of next-gen production company SAV
While studying business administration at USC, I became friends with a lot of students in the film program. After a few conversations with some of them about what our post-grad plans were, I became fascinated with the problem they faced: Every single one of them literally had no place to go to work on their craft, or what they studied for four years. There were so many talented young directors, producers, editors, cinematographers, et cetera who I felt had so much value to add — but the way agencies and production companies were set up, these students could never get hired by them. I then had a huge 'aha!' moment after I read an article online about how 'video content' was on a big rise for brands and that they needed to create it more cost-effectively. So I got together with four directors I knew at the time and decided to create a spec ad for my favorite brand, TESLA, with hopes of getting their attention and doing more work for them. And it worked! The video went viral, helped launch the company, and now we have hundreds of young filmmakers who come in and out of our office working on branded content for Fortune 500 companies. I like to think I have the best recipe for getting creative (got this from Tony Robbins!), and it doesn't involved coffee or whiskey. And that is to increase your physical state/awareness by jumping up and down for two to three minutes to 'pump-up' music and just screaming. Works wonders for our team.