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Cover Story
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2007 HOTTEST 25 PEOPLE IN ORANGE COUNTY

Hot, hot, hot! It’s the only way to describe OC METRO Business Magazine’s 18th annual list of the Hottest 25 People of Orange County!

 Published: October 25, 2007

Our entire list sizzles with jaw-dropping accomplishments by OC’s hottest in business, medicine, sports, finance, art and fashion.

What’s more, many on our roster are living and working green. Their efforts are noted throughout our story.

Tracy Caldwell
Hometown hero
NASA mission specialist, space shuttle Endeavour
AGE: 38

RESIDENCE: Houston, Texas
FAMILY: Single

RESIDENCE: Houston, Texas
FAMILY: Single

Tracy Caldwell is literally one in a million. The former Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine student reached this lofty position Aug. 8, when she and 6 others blasted off aboard the space shuttle Endeavour and docked with the International Space Station.

Of the last 5 competitions for shuttle astronauts, only 53 were selected from an estimated 2,000 to 8,000 applicants; of these, few are civilians.

In 1993, Caldwell received her bachelor’s degree at CSUF and earned a doctorate in physical chemistry at UC Davis 4 years later. NASA contacted her about an out-of-this-world job as mission specialist while she was conducting postdoctoral work in atmospheric research at UCI.

While aboard the Endeavour, Caldwell videotaped the jettisoning of the external fuel tank after launch, monitored sensors while the shuttle docked with the International Space Station, maneuvered the shuttle’s robotic arm to inspect the spacecraft for damage – and celebrated her 38th birthday.

Caldwell had her eyes on the heavens as a child, when she’d lie outside on her back and gaze up at the stars. This fueled her desire to excel at a very early age.



Like virtually all high achievers, Caldwell doesn’t dwell on the negatives; she accepts the inherent dangers of space flight and even sees it as less dangerous than driving a car. Selfless by nature, she believes that what she can give to NASA, and scientific knowledge in general, is far more important than any risk involved.

When not wearing a space suit, Caldwell speaks Spanish and Russian, and is fluent in American Sign Language; she’s also an expert mechanic. However, Earth’s gravity can’t hold down this astronaut: She also has a private pilot’s license.

—Larry Urish


WYLAND
Blue-green giant

CEO/president, Wyland Worldwide; founder, the Wyland Foundation
AGE: 51
RESIDENCE: Laguna Beach
FAMILY: Single


“I’ve been committed to conservation since I first saw the ocean in 1971. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world, meeting world leaders, educators and scientists. We can find solutions together.”


Wyland has promoted green living for 35 years by being “blue.” As the Official Artist for the U.S. Olympic team at the ’08 Olympics, Wyland will complete his 100th Whaling Wall in Beijing as part of the international festivities. His artwork is featured on Aloha Airlines planes and he is in the 4th year of his 5-year “Wyland Clean Water Challenge” national tour.

Called a “marine-life Michelangelo” by USA Today, Wyland has a passion for sketching whales and dolphins that began before he ever laid eyes on the ocean. Born in Detroit, he was 1 of 4 boys raised by a single mother who worked as a forklift driver at a Chrysler plant. His aunt brought him to Laguna Beach in 1978, where he first saw the Pacific Ocean at a point near where his original studio and gallery still stands. It was love at first sight.

He now has 40+ galleries worldwide, and more than 500,000 people collect his art. Over 30 major companies have licensed his work, from Aloha Airlines to Disney to USAopoly (for a Wyland-themed Monopoly game). He has published numerous books on the subject of water conservation and education, painting how-tos and classroom teaching tools.

His recent enterprise as a hotelier began with the opening of Wyland Waikiki this year; properties in Miami, San Diego and Sydney are also slated.

It is Wyland’s devotion to inspiring and educating children, eliciting their energy for his fight to save the planet, that is his foremost passion. “I consider myself a ‘gentle environmentalist,’” says Wyland. He spreads this message with his foundation’s “Clean Water for the 21st Century” traveling interactive classroom. Clips of an IMAX film he collaborated on are part of the multimedia exhibit. “Water connects all people and all countries,” says Wyland. “And young people just get it.”

“We have to work together to solve these problems,” he says. “And by making small, real changes – I believe we can.”

—SUSAN BELKNAPP


BARCLAY BUTERA
Visual virtuoso
CEO and president, Barclay Butera, Inc.
Family: Single


“Sustainable living is the future. I plan to persist in making responsible choices when it comes to the home furnishings industry.”

Despite his meteoric rise in the interior fashion industry, Barclay Butera maintains stringent quality and creative control on all products that bear his name. He has a national reputation and has been featured in TV news programs, design shows and national publications.

The Barclay Butera brand has grown to a national corporation that includes 3 retail showrooms (Newport Beach, L.A. and N.Y.), in which he sells his own line of home furnishings, bench-made upholstery, case goods and accessories alongside products by other top designers. “I believe there is still a very large market that wants products made in the U.S.A.,” says Butera. “I am concerned with maintaining values that serve lifelong clients.”

His brands are distributed to over 300 retailers and showrooms throughout the U.S. He has nationally licensed products in many facets of the home fashion industry, including lighting, bedding, bath, art, home fragrance, etc.

Barclay started in 1994 with a modest 1,600-square-foot showroom on Westcliff in Newport Beach. It has since been expanded 5 times. His 2-story L.A. showroom “offers designers and members of the entertainment industry a unique and exclusive design experience.” The Manhattan showroom is located in the prestigious Design & Decorating (D&D) building. He owns and operates the manufacturing plant for Barclay Butera Home, which employs more than 100 people.

Selected as one of House Beautiful’s Top 125 designers, he has been showcased in design and home interiors publications. “I want to develop clients for life,” says Butera. “If you come into my showroom to buy a candle for your mother, you still get the whole experience.

“Then as you move through the phases of your life, you will find something for every level – whether it’s your first amazing piece of furniture or a complete home renovation. We will be there to provide personal service.”

A fan of old Hollywood, Barclay restored Lucille Ball’s former home to its original grandeur, a project Desi Arnaz Jr. did not award lightly. A devotee of many classic styles, Butera once owned Bette Davis’ old Laguna bungalow and Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms estate in Palm Springs.

He recently became the toast of the Hampton’s elite. His clients include such notables as Barbara Streisand, Renee Zellweger, Reese Witherspoon, Sharon Stone, Josh Groban and NBC’s “Will & Grace,” to name a few.

Butera has been named the creative director for the redesign of Hotel L’Auberge del Mar, in Del Mar, which he plans to bring back to the sumptuous 1940s atmosphere.

Butera has recently partnered with the Children’s Action Network, (CAN) and auctioned off a redesigned 19-foot Bambi Airstream trailer, with all proceeds going to CAN, which works with foster families, among other children’s issues.

—SUSAN BELKNAPP



RALPH GRIPPO
King of the Hill
President of The Irvine Co. Resort Properties
AGE: 43
RESIDENCE: Newport Beach
FAMILY: Married, 2 kids



“My daughter is constantly reminding me to recycle. I strongly believe we should all do our part…”


Ralph Grippo was perfectly content living in Shanghai with his wife and 2 children, overseeing the development of 7 Ritz-Carlton hotels in China. Grippo had enjoyed a globe-trotting 17-year career with the Ritz, growing the brand from 4 hotels to more than 65 worldwide. His kids were learning Mandarin, his wife started a jewelry-making business…life was good in the Far East.

Then The Irvine Co. came knocking – “They found ME!” – dangling an opportunity that was too tempting to pass up: president of the company’s resort properties, which includes The Resort at Pelican Hill – a 5-star golf resort on the Newport Coast due for completion in fall 2008. With 16th-century-inspired architecture and 180-degree views of the Pacific, Pelican Hill is being touted as a masterpiece in luxury-resort living.

“I could never have imagined leaving for another hotel company,” since he was already working for one of the best. “But I started to research The Irvine Co. and was blown away! Their values are very aligned with mine – how you care for each other and the environment, how you care for the quality and product...this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” explains the 43-year-old hotelier, who started his hospitality career as a night auditor at Howard Johnson’s while attending the University of Massachusetts.

Grippo learned early on from his first job in the luxury-hotel business at New York’s Essex House that employees are the key players who create the experiences, good or bad, for guests. “People thought it was odd when this 21-year-old salesperson came in at 7 a.m. to say ‘Good morning!’ to the housekeeping and room-service staff. But I realized they were part of my success...and they’d take care of the guests I brought in a little better.”

These days, Grippo is laser-focused on recruiting the ideal staff for Pelican Hill. “It won’t be the cheapest place, but it will be special in its location, unique in its design and the service will rival anything on the planet.” Will it be better than the Ritz? Grippo diplomatically replies with a half-smile, “I have no comment.

—Lynn Armitage


José Mota
Voice of the Angels
Bilingual TV and radio broadcaster, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
AGE: 42
RESIDENCE: Glendora
FAMILY: Married, 2 children


The son of legendary pinch-hitter Manny Mota, José Mota spent much of his childhood at Dodger Stadium. The other half of his life was with his extended family in the Dominican Republic, but he knew by age 6 that he wanted to live in the U.S.

He fulfilled that dream and so much more. He recently won an Emmy for voiceover on “Before the Bigs: Vladimir Guerrero,” called his 1st national play-by-play for FOX and is the resident go-to guy for interviewing and translating for the Spanish-speaking players on the Angels.

Like his father and many other Dominicans, Mota had a passion and talent for baseball. When it came to choosing a college, he received encouragement from his dad’s boss, Tommy Lasorda, a Fullerton resident. Mota decided on Cal State Fullerton and played 2nd base for the CSUF team that won the College Wold Series while majoring in Communications. In 2001, 10 years after his Major League debut as a player, he did his first national broadcast for FOX and has been an integral part of the Angels organization ever since.

Once a year his family returns to the Dominican Republic to help with his father’s nonprofit foundation to provide food, clothing, blankets, pre-natal vitamins, etc., to families. Asked why there is such Dominican dominance in baseball, he says, “There is such passion there – it’s unbelievable; they live and die for baseball.”

—Susan Belknapp

Azmin Ghahreman
Rock star chef
Executive chef/co-owner Sapphire Laguna Restaurant & Pantry
AGE: 47
RESIDENCE: San Juan Capistrano
FAMILY: Married, 3 children


“My cooking philosophy has always emphasized fresh, local ingredients; I’ve been lucky enough to cook around the globe, implementing this core belief.”

Azmin Ghahreman dazzled international royalty and heads of state when cooking for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. This Iranian-born, French-raised, Swiss-educated chef is truly representative of the world’s new penchant for “global cuisine.”

Ghahreman has lived, worked and studied throughout the world, serving most recently as executive chef at the St. Regis Monarch Beach and, prior to that, at Four Seasons properties, including Malaysia, Istanbul, Singapore and several Hawaiian locales. But when it came time to open his dream restaurant, he chose OC.

Scoring a location coup by taking over the landmark Pottery Shack, a Laguna Beach fixture for over 60 years, designers paid homage to the distinctive building by maintaining its architectural style.

“I am phenomenally happy with how things have turned out here,” says Ghahreman, who recently learned that Sapphire Laguna was honored as Best Bistro in the Western U.S. in the only peer-judged restaurant competition in the nation.

— SUSAN BELKNAPP


James Saccacio
Tracking Titan
CEO, RealtyTrac, Inc.
AGE: 45
RESIDENCE: Coto de Caza
FAMILY: Married, 2 children


The tanking real estate market – and a skyrocketing number of home foreclosures nationwide – is one of 2007’s most important news stories. And when it comes to foreclosures, there is no better-known name than RealtyTrac, the Irvine company that James Saccacio built.

The leading online marketplace for foreclosed homes, RealtyTrac is the nation’s go-to source for foreclosure trends. The Federal Reserve, U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee and FDIC all rely on its statistics when they make public policy. And since the real estate bubble began to burst, Saccacio’s team is busier than ever.

It’s quite a moment for a firm that had just 5 employees and $500,000 in revenues in 2000, when Saccacio came on board.

Early on, Saccacio partnered with Yahoo! on a foreclosure website. The move paid off. Today, RealtyTrac has some 200 employees and revenues topping $40 million, and the online tracker Hitwise ranks it the No. 2 real estate website behind realtor.com.

Saccacio – formerly with Bank of America – says investors used to ask the bank for a list of its foreclosed properties. He saw an opportunity to collect that information for the public. “Our objective is to help people buy real estate,” he says, “and help people who are in trouble to sell their real estate.”

—KELLY ST. JOHN


Wende Zomnir
Urban beauty
Founding partner and executive creative director, Urban Decay Cosmetics
AGE: 37
RESIDENCE: Newport Beach
STATUS: Married, 2 children



“We just built a new house and tried to implement several green and healthy house elements.”


You’ve got to be crazy to even consider starting a cosmetics company that would compete with such well-known brands as Estée Lauder and Revlon, right? Don’t tell Wende Zomnir and company, the team that did just that a decade ago, when they decided that the cosmetics industry needed a makeover.

“Ten years ago when we started this,” Zomnir says, “it was a sea of red, pink and beige…There was nothing out there that catered to the ‘alternative’ customer who wanted a high-end cosmetic item in a funky color.”

So, along with partners Sandy Lerner (co-founder of Cisco Systems) and David Soward, Zomnir formed Newport Beach-based Urban Decay and painted the industry with new colors like “Deviant” and “Acid Rain.” The company won the International Package Design award and began to influence the products of cosmetics giants such as Avon, Lancome and other top brands. When the beauty editor of Vogue wrote about the offbeat cosmetics line, makeup junkies flocked to the product.

Not long after, so did the cash. “We were approached by Moet-Hennessy Louis Vuitton (the French luxury goods conglomerate),” says Zomnir, who, along with her partners, sold the company in 2000. Zomnir remains executive creative director.

—Kimberly A. Porrazzo



Sean Francis
Party purveyor
Owner, Slidebar Rock N Roll Café, The Continental Room and Sky Lounge; promoter/organizer, OC Earth Day Festival
AGE: 35
RESIDENCE: Fullerton
FAMILY: Single



“I am working on a music festival with South Coast Air Quality Management District called ‘Spare the Air,’ which will be in July ’08.”


History is being made on OC’s nightlife and music scene, and Sean Francis is a major force, bringing Fullerton into center stage.

Slidebar, in downtown Fullerton, has become the hangout for famous OC bands like No Doubt, Lit, The Offspring and other local bands and celebs. Also, talks of one in Huntington Beach with partners No Doubt is planned for next year.

“It’s great doing business in a county I grew up in with such a diverse blend of cultures and so many talented people like Leo Fender…and great bands like Agent Orange, Lit, Avenged Sevenfold, Berlin, Coldwar Kids, the Righteous Brothers, No Doubt, The Vandals and Jackson Brown, to name a few,” says the 35-year-old Fullerton resident.

Owner of The Continental Room, Slidebar Rock N Roll Café and the Sky Lounge (opening next year), Francis is also promoter and coordinator of the OC Earth Day Festival and is working on another music fest, “Spare the Air,” for next year.

— Ashley Eliot


Yvette Mandell
Diva by design
President/owner/designer, Yvette Mandell, Inc.
AGE: 41
RESIDENCE: Newport Beach
FAMILY: Married, 2 children



“At Yvette Mandell, we are now expanding our line to utilize ‘organic cottons,’ using environmentally sensitive processing.”


Yvette Mandell clearly recalls her first taste of success. It came when Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s ordered her line of distinctive shirts for women.

“I knew how hard it was to get into a department store,” says Mandell, “but after receiving those orders, I knew that I had developed a line that appealed to a broad range of customers nationwide. To this day, I still get a feeling of success whenever I receive an order from stores, because it’s a testament to my hard work and dedication.”

Mandell’s line was catapulted when Carrie Underwood wore an Yvette Mandell shirt on the finale of “American Idol,” triggering a flood of phone calls from celebrities requesting pieces from her collection.

Today, Yvette Mandell apparel is sold throughout the country and around the world, an impressive accomplishment for a woman who studied engineering and finance at USC but followed her passion for design.

“I would see things and think, ‘I can do that’ or ‘I can create that,’ so I did,” says Mandell.

She began her fashion career by designing jewelry and accessories, then took it a step further by combining sparkling jewels with fashionable apparel. Oddly enough, the concept was not an instant hit.

“I took my bag of clothes from store to store and people would say, ‘This is too trendy for me,’ but that just pushed me harder,” recalls Mandell.

“The challenge is to continue to make a fabulous product,” says Mandell.

— CHRIS TRELA


Joe Adams
Creativity cubed
President, Discovery Science Center
AGE: 39
RESIDENCE: Laguna Niguel
FAMILY: Single



“The Science Center has been a leading organization in implementing green changes – our cube has more than 400 solar panels, which generate 10% of our electricity.”


It’s been called everything from a “playground for the mind” to “that place with the giant cube out front.” You can now add “overwhelming success” to that list, thanks to Joe Adams, president of Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana.

“Earlier this year, we found out that Discovery Science Center was ranked 7th in the nation among science and technology centers for education outreach, which means we’ve now become one of the big guys,” says Adams. “It’s exciting to realize how far we’ve come, and that we’re making a difference in the lives of children.”

Since Adams assumed his position 5 years ago, Discovery Science Center – which opened in 1999 – has seen its annual attendance jump from 170,000 to 420,000. The annual budget has also increased, from $2.5 million to $8.5 million. Membership has skyrocketed from 2,500 to 16,000, which Adams says is an indicator that more people see the value of repeat visits to the Center.

It’s no surprise that Discovery Science Center’s current formula for success melds entertainment and education. Adams has a mechanical and nuclear engineering degree as well as an MBA, but prior to his role at the Center, Adams managed Disney’s California Adventure project.

“I thought that Discovery Science Center was a really intriguing opportunity to take my engineering and business experience and combine it with the Disney focus on guests, and figure out how to run an entity that is both education and entertainment,” explains Adams.

Discovery Science Center has long been a proponent of alternative means of power. The iconic 10-story-tall black cube along the I-5 is covered by more than 400 solar panels, which generate about 10% of the power needed to run the Science Center. The concept behind solar power is explained at one of the Science Center’s 120 hands-on exhibits.

“When we do member surveys, the environment and how to protect it stands out as being very important,” says Adams.

Fun is another important component of Discovery Science Center. Seasonal events such as BubbleFest in April and Spooky Science in October help put the fun in learning, as do the Science Center’s themed areas, where visitors can do everything from experience a simulated earthquake in The Shake Shack to recline on a real bed of nails.

“You have to be creative with exhibits, and with your business plan,” says Adams. “You have to figure out what the community wants.”

And what the community wants is Discovery Science Center.
“We have a lot of people who want to be involved with us and be on our Board of Directors. That’s what happens when you’re playing for a national championship with a great team.”

— CHRIS TRELA


William Wang
Televisionary
CEO, Vizio, Inc.
AGE: 43
RESIDENCE: Newport Beach
FAMILY: Married, 1 child


“My greatest passion right now is keeping Vizio No. 1!”

It would be an understatement to say the past 3 years have been golden for William Wang, CEO, Vizio, Inc. If it isn’t enough that his company has hurdled industry competitors, Vizio TVs have been lauded everywhere from ABC News to the Wall Street Journal. Vizio recently topped Inc. Magazine’s 500 List.

The company’s revenue has grown from $17.3 million in 2003 to an astounding $676.6 million in 2006. And, if you don’t own a Vizio flat-panel TV, know that hotshot celebrity athletes, such as the NFL’s 2006 MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, do. Why shouldn’t he? He signed an endorsement deal with the quantum leap of a company in July.

But that’s just one of many moves Vizio has made to brand itself within the Hollywood athletic world with its name all over the ESPY’s “Extreme” pre-party event. William Wang is not just hot. He’s on fire.

Creating a top-notch product is only 1 step in Wang’s huge strategy toward success. Wang has managed to keep his prices low without compromising quality by selling them through warehouse club stores like Sam’s Club and Costco. By doing this, Wang has managed to avoid a 30% price hike to his products, which is an add-on rate at electronics retailers.

In the second quarter 2 years ago, Vizio was the 15th-largest flat-panel TV seller in the country. When Vizio rose to the top spot in the second quarter of this year, it took 12% of the market – more than 4 times its share from 1 year earlier.

Refusing to rest, the understated Wang, who survived a horrendous plane crash in the ’90s, keeps the setbacks of his past front-of-mind while navigating his future.

He also runs a lean operation, with most of his 85 employees doing double duty as tech support. That assemblage of personnel is on pace to do $2 billion in revenue this year – which equates to about $23.5 million per employee.

While outshining the competition in terms of sales is everyone’s ultimate achievement, Wang says his proudest moment has been seeing his company break its own record.

—Judy Asman


John Speraw
Master Motivator
Head coach of the UCI men’s volleyball team
AGE: 35
RESIDENCE: Irvine
FAMILY: Single


How did John Speraw, head coach of the UCI men’s volleyball team, become only the 2nd person in sports history to win a national volleyball championship as a player, assistant coach and head coach? Talk with Speraw for only a few minutes, and the answer is obvious: his focused determination, stellar leadership skills and technical mastery of the sport.

Thanks to Speraw, UCI’s meteoric rise to national attention was capped with the 2007 NCAA Championship. “One of my proudest moments was watching our guys dog-pile on the court after they won the title,” says Speraw. “We came close the previous year, so this year’s championship was really gratifying.”

Speraw was voted the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year after taking a 9-20 team and transforming it into a team that went 27-5 in 2005-06 – the biggest turnaround in NCAA history. “The most important thing for me,” says Speraw, “is about constantly communicating to our players about positive values and about who we are and what we can do as a cohesive group. The key is to develop players who accept these values.”

Success is nothing new to Speraw. Along with his impressive NCAA track record – as a middle-blocker at UCLA, the Bruins won national championships in 1993 and 1995 – the 6-foot 5-inch Speraw is working as an assistant coach of the U.S. men’s volleyball team and will travel to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games.

While at UCLA, he says, “I got a degree in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics while playing volleyball and working full time.” Incredible...

Speraw’s focus, dedication and a can-do attitude – traits found in successful businesspeople – can pay off for his athletes in a big way. “Our guys learn about leadership through volleyball,” he says. “And there’s definitely a great carryover from athletics to the business world. They learn so many lessons that lead to success.”

—LARRY URISH



Bob Becker
Fearless founder
President and founder, Fearless Records
AGE: 43
RESIDENCE: Garden Grove
FAMILY: Married, 2 children



While rock band Plain White T’s tops the Billboard charts and their hit song “Hey There Delilah” serenades listeners and goes platinum, Bob Becker, president of Fearless Records in Huntington Beach, doesn’t have too much time to celebrate while tending to more than 20 artists on the label.

An independent record label, known for bands Sugarcult, Rock Kills Kid, A Static Lullaby, At The Drive-In, the “Punk Goes” compilation series and Plain White T’s, Fearless Records was established in 1994 by Becker, who is partner with SmartPunk.com. Even though it took a few years for the PWT’s to gain their deserved recognition, their Fearless single “Hey There Delilah” made their Fearless/Hollywood Records 2006 album, “Every Second Counts,” gold.

Becker, 43, of Garden Grove, finds new artists to sign, sends them to the recording studio and then works with the rest of the Fearless team on marketing and promoting the record. In the music business for 14 years, Becker says he is involved in “basically every aspect of developing the artists’ careers.”

While the music industry enters the Digital Age, adapting to the increasing use of the Internet and downloading, Becker continues to expand the business.

“We embrace digital,” he says. “The one thing I don’t like is sometimes it seems like music is being devalued because it is so easily available, but a good record and artist will overcome that.”

Known for having a diverse roster of artists, Fearless recently added Mayday Parade, Every Avenue and The Maine to the Fearless family.

— Ashley Eliot



Michelle Kremer,ESQ.
Surf savior
COO, Surfrider Foundation
AGE: 41
RESIDENCE: Laguna Beach
FAMILY: Single


“As cliché as it sounds, ‘Reduce. Reuse. Recycle’ is a good way to live your life.”

Give a hoot – don’t pollute! “I still remember that slogan from when I was a kid,” laughs Michelle Kremer, COO for Surfrider Foundation, the nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, coasts and beaches.

“It’s a basic mindset we need to have in our society – don’t leave litter on the beach, pick up after your pet, storm drains go right to the beach. Everything you do impacts the coast.”

It’s a lesson that Kremer – born and raised in Laguna Beach – has imparted to countless people during her 14-year tenure with Surfrider. The lesson is hitting home. Recent reports show a decrease in local beach closures due to pollution, but Kremer knows her organization can’t slow down.

“We’re like the postal workers of the environment. Issues keep coming and we keep delivering,” she says.

Kremer, who holds a B.A. in print journalism and a B.A. in political science from USC, as well as a J.D. from Western State University, has been with Surfrider since 1993 and is responsible for all general council duties as well as myriad administrative and financial programs. The organization has some 50,000 members, with 80 chapters around the world.

Describing Surfrider as “a way of life,” Kremer says she’s always thinking about doing more.

“It sometimes leads to sleepless nights,” she admits, although Surfrider’s lofty goals are being met. “Last year, we passed a strategic plan. We want to have 150 coastal victories by 2010. So far, we’ve accomplished 57 victories.”

Those victories range from initiatives designed to protect our coastline to educating schoolchildren on beach ecology and pollution.

“I love what I do and the challenges it brings,” she says. “This truly is the best work someone can have.”

—CHRIS TRELA



Marc Maiffret
Cyber Sleuth
CTO/co-founder, eEye Digital Security
AGE: 26
RESIDENCE: Aliso Viejo
FAMILY: Single



“I do not drive an OC limited edition gas-guzzling Hummer (no offense), nor do I have air conditioning – maybe I’m just a sadist.”


At 26, Maiffret has already run the gambit of computer security, from notorious hacker to FBI consultant. He has testified before Congress 3 times and found the first Microsoft Worm.

While most teens were either cramming for the SATs or getting ready for prom, Marc Maiffret was decoding complicated and confidential information – infiltrating your computers. Before he could drive, Maiffret was an accomplished hacker. Before he could vote, Maiffret was raided by the FBI. Before he could drink, Maiffret straightened out his ways and opened an international digital security company.

That is pretty impressive for a man who is only in his mid-20s. What’s more, Maiffret never finished high school. He dropped out after a short stint in the 11th grade and ran away from home. However, his sabbatical did not last long, Maiffret returned home and started working for a technology company.

He has no formal training and has not received any certificates. His wizard skills are self-taught through books, the Internet and hands-on learning.

Maiffret is the co-founder and chief technology officer for eEye Digital Security, a global network security company based in Aliso Viejo. eEye works to protect software attacks on your computer. These attacks can occur through programs such as iTunes and Adobe. Besides his company, Maiffret is largely involved in governmental affairs.

He has testified 3 times before Congress discussing matters of national security. He does free consulting for the FBI on issues of local security. Last year, he worked with agents to locate the forerunners behind the UCLA identity scandal. In 2001, Maiffret discovered the first computer worm in Microsoft. This virus, called Code Red, infected and killed production in over 350,000 computers.

Maiffret does not pride himself on his accolades and remarkable intelligence. What he enjoys most about his job is being able to help others find success in their career. He recalls a former employee: ” The first time I felt successful in business was when I hired a young hacker who, at the time, had been working as a technical support person at an Internet company. After a while, he went on to become one of the top hackers in the world. Success is happiness, and in business my happiness is helping others grow as individuals and professionals.”

Aside from securing the world’s computers, Maiffret is passionate about music. He has a small studio in his house where he works on music and listens to his favorite bands: Nine Inch Nails and Tool.

While Maiffret has secured his roots in Aliso Viejo, he prefers dining in Costa Mesa at 118 Degrees, a raw food restaurant. His meal of choice is the zucchini noodle basil pasta accompanied with an ice-cold chocolate shake. Not the average

dining experience. But on the other hand, Maiffret is not exactly conventional. You have to hand it to him, though – this guy is one heck of a cyber connoisseur.

—KATHLEEN CRAIN




Sylvia Mendez
Civil rights icon
Civil rights activist
AGE: 71
RESIDENCE: Fullerton
FAMILY: 2 children



“My proudest achievement was being honored by the president at the White House for my contribution to civil rights.”


The Mendez story may someday carry equal weight with Brown v. the Board of Education as civil rights history. The story of Sylvia Mendez and her family celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, though in many ways the chapters are being written more quickly at this moment than in any other.

For example, in September, a U.S. postage stamp – the ultimate national nod to historical significance – was released, honoring the Orange County family. A few weeks ago, Sylvia, the voice of the Mendez family, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National PTA in Washington, D.C. Filmmaker Sandra Robbie, who is carrying forward the message, co-wrote a book, “Mendez vs. Westminster: For All the Children,” last year and won an Emmy with her documentary about the case.

Robbie is helping to promote a campaign to make the family’s story a part of California’s school curriculum, and she is putting together a board of advisers in hopes of opening a civil rights museum in Orange County. Mendez family recognition began gathering steam in 2004: President Bush put the case on the national scene by pointedly telling the story, with both women in attendance, during the Hispanic Heritage Celebration in the East Room of the White House. “My tears came down,” Mendez says.

Just a dozen years ago, before an upwelling of understanding, before Robbie’s help, Mendez was begging to speak before schools and universities. Today, she is an icon.

During World War II, Mexican immigrant Gonzalo, a farmer, and his wife, Puerto Rico native Felicitas, moved from Santa Ana to Westminster to tend a farm. The two Westminster schools were segregated, not an unusual scenario in 1943. Sylvia, then 8, and her brothers, Gonzalo Jr. and Jerome, were attending Hoover Elementary. Their father decided that the whites-only 17th Street Elementary school was a better choice. The trio was barred, setting forth a court case that won on appeal in 1947 and was a precursor to the famous Brown v. the Board of Education in 1954.

Sylvia, now an educational advocate, became an RN, spurred on by her opportunity to learn. “When you see the stamp,” she says, “you see 2 children reading in the dark, looking to the light. This will inspire Latino children to go to school. It was education that made my American Dream.

“My parents fought for me to have this wonderful life that I wouldn’t have had without their perseverance.”

Today, her message resonates: “I tell (students), get good grades, go to college, and work hard at whatever it is you want to be.”

—CRAIG REEM



Hans Keirstead
Stem Cell Scientist
Associate professor, UCI; chairman of Scientific Advisory Board, California Stem Cell, Inc.
AGE: 40
RESIDENCE: Irvine
FAMILY: Married



Hans Keirstead knew from the age of 11 that he wanted to work on spinal cord injuries. After completing his first year of medical school, he realized research was the best way to do this and switched from an M.D. program to a Ph.D. When interviewed on “60 Minutes” in February 2006, it was said, “If paralyzed people will walk again – it may be because of him.”

What an endorsement.

After receiving his doctorate from the University of British Columbia, he did 4 years of postdoctoral research at Cambridge University. He came to UCI in 2000 – 2 years after the isolation of the human stem cell in ’98 – and has since been published more than 30 times. He currently he holds 17 worldwide patents (though he’s developed many more).

The Keirstead Lab in the Reeve-Irvine Research Center has 32 staff members and is completely independent of federal funds. It specializes in “investigating the cellular biology and treatment of spinal cord trauma. In order to bring his treatments to clinical trials, he has founded or partnered with biotechnology companies to fund and conduct pre-clinical and clinical development,” according to the Reeve-Irvine website.

Keirstead has lobbied on Capitol Hill to promote an education campaign and clarify the misconceptions attached to embryonic stem cell research, including the myth that the donated cells would ever become anything else. “The cells come from fertilized eggs that have already been given the destroy order,” says Keirstead. “If they don’t go to us, they go in the trash. Doesn’t it make sense to use them for something potentially lifesaving?”

Lifesaving is an understatement. The National Institutes of Health estimates that stem cell technology can be the basis for treating and curing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, heart disease and paralysis, to begin with.

“This research is damn important because it has the potential to repair every single human disease,” says Keirstead. Once the benefits of donation are explained to the “parents,” the vast majority agree to informed consent donation.

Adult stem cells cannot proliferate without differentiating like embryonic stem cells, which can regenerate for a year, creating millions of new cells without needing to “become” a specific cell.

“Everything we try with these cells works,” says Keirstead. “It’s amazing, but it can be really dangerous to be the one surfing at the front of the wave.” The first human trials begin this year.

The Keirstead Lab has a 3-tiered project to study and treat traumatic spinal cord injury that deals not only with the regeneration potential of these cells, but also the prevention of the secondary degeneration that occurs directly after trauma.

For down time, Keirstead escapes the minutia of the lab by taking to the expansiveness of the skies while further developing his skills as a helicopter pilot.

—SUSAN BELKNAPP



Cheril Hendry
Automotivator
CEO, HLF Brandtailers
AGE: 47
RESIDENCE: Newport Beach
FAMILY: Married, 3 children



“Green cars, hybrid cars and alternative fuels are all moving in the right direction, but we know it will take years to change the auto industry into a pure green environment.”


In a society in which playing with cars is often caricatured as being “a guy thing,” one might expect to see a bumper sticker on Cheril Hendry’s car boasting, “Silly boys, automotive marketing is for girls.”

Hendry’s 25-year industry background includes working at factory, regional and local levels for makers such as Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, BMW, Honda and General Motors. Today, she leads an Irvine-based team of consumer behavior experts in the automotive buying cycle.

With a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in business, Hendry is a gutsy risk-taker with a flair for turning unpopular decisions into the latest trend.

Her company brags on having a creative staff that is not only “genuinely nice” but also the “antithesis of ‘ad types,’” meaning a team that has industry depth without being jaded.

Emphatic about selling her own company as something more than just an ad agency, Hendry decided to change the company name and omit the word “advertising” to match the branding direction of her business. But in the world of branding, that’s a huge risk. “It was gutsy,” Hendry says. “A lot of people thought I was crazy.” Two years later, Hendry is being called visionary with tremendous industry foresight. “I’m proud I stood firm, even when it felt lonely.”

In a county where Hendry was once celebrated as having the largest ad agency solely owned by a woman, Hendry loves OC because of the intelligent and ethical people with whom she works. “There are individuals and businesses with true hearts and people who work hard to live balanced lives.”

Balance is something Hendry appreciates most about being a seasoned professional. If she could have done one thing differently, she would have believed in herself a lot earlier in her career. “I guess confidence is a blessing that comes with time, age and maturity,” she ponders. “But it sure helps to lessen the sleepless nights of self-doubt and worry.”

Her greatest passion now is helping the automotive industry become a well-marketed, well-respected business before she retires.

On being green: “It’s really more of what our agency can contribute to consumers’ knowledge base,” says Hendry. “There are things consumers can do now to make a difference. And we’re aggressively pursuing new methods of communicating this information in the future.”

—JUDY ASMAN




Stacie Parker Shonfeld
Vodka vixen
CEO and founder, 267 Infusions
AGE: 40
RESIDENCE: Laguna Beach
FAMILY: Married, 2 children



“I was committed to making this product green throughout the entire design and product development.”


The $49 billion U.S. spirits industry, which, during the past 2 years has seen the introduction of more than 75 flavored vodkas and rums, has a new player. Like a rookie who earns a Gold Glove during his first year in the major leagues, Stacie Parker Shonfeld is the kid everyone is talking about.

Founded in 2005, 267 Infusions is the first-ever all-natural fruit-infused ultra-premium line of vodka, rum and tequila.

Not only did Parker Shonfeld’s company create an entirely new product category (no other line used only fresh fruit to flavor their spirits), 267 sold more cases of white spirits alcohol (vodka, rum and tequila) than any other white spirits brand has sold during a first year. Projected sales for 2007 are double that of 2006.

If that’s not hot enough, consider that Parker Shonfeld is the first-ever female owner of an alcohol company, and you’ve got heat that rivals that company’s chili pepper-infused Blue Agave Tequila.

A serial entrepreneur, Parker Shonfeld’s earlier business ventures, which included both retail and manufacturing, earned her honors such as Silicon Valley Entrepreneur of the Year, a place on the list of fastest-growing companies in the U.S. by Entrepreneur Magazine, and No. 23 on Inc. Magazine’s “500 List.” She was a finalist for Orange County’s Entrepreneur-of-the-Year in 2005.

267 Infusions is turning the heads of consumers as well as peers. The alcohol industry named 267 Infusions the Best New Product of 2006.

— KIMBERLY A. PORRAZZO



Jodi Rolland
MEGA MANAGER
Regional managing director, Merrill Lynch
AGE: 40
RESIDENCE: San Clemente
FAMILY: Married, 1 child



“I recognize the importance of preserving our natural resources and how it will impact the lives of future generations.”


As a child in rural Minnesota, Jodi Rolland didn’t have a lot of role models. “Being from the little town of Thief River Falls, I didn’t see a lot of people with huge aspirations,” she says.

Rolland didn’t let that stop her from dreaming big. “People would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she recalls. “Most kids would say a fireman or teacher. I wanted to work in a skyscraper and have a big window office.”

Today, Rolland is living her childhood dream as regional managing director at Merrill Lynch. She oversees 16 offices and more than 700 staffers in SoCal.

“We’re in the hopes and dreams business,” Rolland says. “For me to have the opportunity to guide over 400 advisors help their clients achieve the life they envisioned is nothing short of awesome.”

Rolland’s success didn’t happen overnight. As a freshman in college, Rolland discovered her career destiny. She was working full time and taking evening classes. For Christmas, she received a $5,000 bonus, which she invested.

Unfortunately, her investment turned sour. “The stockbroker took advantage of me, and I lost all my money,” Rolland says. “I felt there had to be honest people who wanted to help me with my money. That’s when I knew what I wanted to do.”

After graduating from the University of North Dakota with a bachelor’s degree in financial management, she started her career at Merrill Lynch in Minneapolis.

Rolland built her clientele the old-fashioned way: by networking and earning trust. By the time she was 26, she was managing $125 million in people’s wealth.

Rolland attributes her success simply to “hard work and the ability to build great relationships based on trust with employees.”

—KARI WILKINSON


RandyBarth
Nonprofit prophet
CEO and founder, THINK Together
AGE: 40
RESIDENCE: Santa Ana
FAMILY: Married, 2 children



“I have become much more thoughtful about recycling and reusing, the use of water and incorporating more environmentally sensitive materials.”


Randy Barth is passion personified. This former businessman started THINK Together in 1994. Revenues for the program have grown from $3 million to an expected $25 million by the end of fiscal year ’07. Today, the program serves more than 20,000 students daily in 4 counties.

It all started after a gang shooting occurred in Costa Mesa’s Shalimar neighborhood. Together with church leaders, Barth met with Shalimar mothers who organized in response to the violence. At those meetings, Barth learned that what the children needed was a safe, quiet place to go after school to get tutoring and moral support.

Thirteen years later, THINK Together is a bustling after-school provider to more than 180 sites in Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

THINK stands for Teaching, Helping, Inspiring and Nurturing Kids. For Barth, this nonprofit organization is both a career highlight and a life cause wrapped into one.

One might look at the sincere largess of Barth and wonder how he does it – especially in the nonprofit world, where fundraising can often be an uphill battle. While some might call Barth’s forthright approach to building this organization a flaw, others would call it a high-voltage trait required to be successful in community service.

Either way, Barth is doing something right, having seen more than 100 THINK Together Shalimar students go on to college, many of whom graduated.

Keeping the momentum going, Barth is working on ways to expand the program into other areas.

—JUDY ASMAN




Richard Ham & Chris Keller
Five-Star Renovators
Managing partners, Casa Resorts
AGES: Ham, 40; Keller, 36
RESIDENCE: Ham, Irvine; Keller, Laguna Beach
FAMILY: Both are single



“We will be implementing our ‘Go Green’ program and have already reduced electricity usage.”


As Richard Ham and Chris Keller were spending their early careers in the hospitality industry at large corporate chains, they saw a segment of the industry morphing into stylish boutiques by providing a more personalized level of accommodations, services and facilities. Known also as “design” or “lifestyle” hotels, boutique hotels began to capture the imagination of the sophisticated traveler – and the interest of Ham and Keller.

Once they secured an equity partner, they drove the SoCal coastline with a list of properties in hand. When they reached the La Casa del Camino on PCH in Laguna Beach, they saw what they wanted.

What their vision has brought is an elegant property with its renowned rooftop bar, and the well reviewed k’ya restaurant downstairs. The duo made certain that the renovation preserved the hotel’s character.

After realizing their first success, they began seeking other opportunities. They were drawn to a submarket completely contrasting Laguna Beach: the Disney Resort in Anaheim. They had both worked at the Anaheim Hilton and recognized the prospects available to innovators in that market. They acquired the Holiday Inn at Ball and Harbor Boulevards and changed the name to Hotel Ménage, (French for “household.”) Ménage combines the ambiance of a South Beach boutique hotel with a hip club vibe. They kept the branded k’ya as the restaurant and incorporated a lobby bar adjacent to a poolside palapa-style bar.

“This facility allows us to create larger themed events like the recent charity poker tournament that drew 300 people over the weekend,” says Richard Ham, who is currently managing the Ménage. “The travel industry has responded very favorably to the difference we offer; our occupancy numbers are above our projections.”

—JOHN NOLAN


Sanford Edward
Master developer
President, Headlands Reserve LLC
AGE: 53
RESIDENCE: San Juan Capistrano
FAMILY: Married, 3 children



“Our projects have always incorporated state-of-the-art water quality infrastructure improvements (i.e., cutting-edge clean-water technology to eliminate storm drain runoff), and we’ve included more parks and open space than required.”


When Sanford Edward acquired the former Chandler Family Trust property bordering the Pacific in Dana Point, he knew the development process was going to be long and arduous. What he didn’t know was that he would come to symbolize so much to so many.

Because the parcel was the final undeveloped oceanfront property in Orange County, Edward became a virtual lighting rod for the numerous opinion holders and issues surrounding his venture: The Strand at Headlands. The fact that it was located just south of the Ritz Carlton and included the landmark Headlands promontory only increased the obstacles.

Sanford’s many years in the real estate business taught him that community stakeholders often misplace their passion and vilify the object of their opposition. “I knew that those who opposed this project would be fervent, so we made The Strand a project that the vast majority could support.” To that end, Edward spent the first year gathering community input and ultimately set aside 68 of the 121 acres for parks and open space reserves.

Sanford the man has an engaging personality, a quick wit and an intellectual curiosity about many topics, including history, design and, of course, real estate.

After growing up in Van Nuys, Edward completed his education by receiving a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, which he credits for leading him down his professional path. He started his land development firm in 1991, and has entitled more than 4,000 residential lots.

Sanford plans to build a personal residence in The Strand at Headlands. “Like everyone growing up in Southern California, I’ve always dreamed of living on the beach.” He won’t have to wait much longer, because his beachfront community that has already set a number of Orange County land sales records nears completion.

—JOHN NOLAN



Jim Liaw & Ryan Sage
Race rebels
Co-founders, Formula Drift Holdings LLC
AGES: Liaw, 32; Sage, 27
RESIDENCE: Liaw, Huntington Beach; Sage, Tustin
FAMILY: Liaw, married; Sage, single



“We try to promote and incentivize companies within our industry that are taking the initiative and integrating green changes into their business plan.”


Jim Liaw and Ryan Sage have brought the tire-smoking, high-octane underground sport of drifting into the American mainstream. Now, with a new partnership and media contract with ESPN2, they are poised to make it a phenomenon.

Their company – Formula Drift – runs the Formula D racing series, which capped off its fourth season with a championship event at Irwindale Speedway in October. More than 700,000 people turned out to see their events this year.

“We’re definitely on the cusp of something,” says Jim Liaw, who first met Sage when they were working in marketing for Vision Entertainment. “We knew that the potential was there, but seeing where it’s gone, and where it can go, every year it amazes us.”

Born on the streets of Japan, drifting is a motor sport that is fun to watch. Drivers gun their 200- to 600-horsepower cars as they slide sideways at high speeds, their tires smoking and engines roaring. Drifting is similar to rally racing, except drivers are on a closed course and are judged on style and execution.

Sage likens drifting to spinning out in an “icy parking lot, only imagine doing that at 100 miles per hour, and they’re doing it on purpose.”

Hollywood has taken notice of the sport, bringing drifting to the big screen in “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.” That film featured some of Formula D’s top drivers as stuntmen. Computer game company EA Games – a Formula D sponsor – has also added drifting components to its popular racing franchise, Need for Speed.

Liaw and Sage first teamed up to found a marketing company, Slipstream Global Marketing in 2002, when they both were in their early 20s. In August 2003, Slipstream produced the first professional drifting exhibition outside of Japan to Southern California, to a sell-out crowd of 10,000.

“That was in 2003, when I was 23 years old. The combination of manual labor and office hours was astronomical, but in hindsight doing that event was the catalyst for our business today,” says Sage. “We had worked over 8 months to establish the event, and we figured – why let it go to waste?”

Convinced that drifting could have a future in the U.S., Liaw and Sage launched their sister company, Formula Drift, to run the first drifting series in North America. They lined up lucrative sponsors attracted to drifting’s demographic audience: ethnically diverse young men ages 18 to 35.

In the 4 years since, Formula D has increased revenues 350%, Liaw and Sage say. Today, the series has lined up sponsorships with 8 tire manufacturers, more than any other motor sport in the world.

Starting in its 2007 season, Formula Drift partnered with IMG, the sports and entertainment giant that represents Tiger Woods, Jeff Gordon, and Roger Federer, as well as the U.S. Open of Surfing and Fashion Week.

Now, this November, ESPN2 will begin broadcasting an hour-long show of their events, bringing Formula D action into 90 million homes nationwide. Liaw and Sage hope the exposure will introduce their sport to new fans across the country, who can’t help but get drawn into drifting’s excitement.

— KELLY ST. JOHN





LIVE GREEN
HOW GREEN IS YOUR COMPANY?


My biggest passion right now is trying to figure out how I can make Urban Decay more sustainable, greener and less impactful on the environment. Ditto for my own family. My friend Maia Andersen, a local eco-fashion designer, and I spend hours dissecting the topic and working out new ideas and strategies.
WENDE ZOMNIR
Urban Decay Cosmetics



I earned a master’s degree from Harvard, which instilled a very profound sense of how successful businessmen should feel responsible to the communities in which they work. As a developer, this resulted in a commitment to lower density (i.e., less traffic), parks, open space, habitat preservation and clean-water technology that we’ve been implementing over the past 15 years. We focus on the quality of the developable areas, not the quantity, when it comes to land planning. From an entitlement perspective, nearly all of our projects have been “downzones.”
SANFORD EDWARD
Headlands Reserve LLC



I was committed to making this product green throughout the entire design and development process. I insisted the bottle be environmentally friendly; it has a paperless label and is 100% recyclable. All of our packaging is made from recycled paper. Also, the artful infusion process in which the fresh fruits and spirits merge together is kosher-certified and low-energy since everything is bottled by hand. 267 Infusions’ most respectable feature is that it is 100% natural, with no artificial or chemical flavors.
STACIE PARKER SHONFELD
267 Infusions



With my new pillow collection, the inserts are made of feathers and corn by-products; the inner-covers, made of unbleached cotton, are biodegradable. I will continue making responsible choices when it comes to the home furnishings industry - using water-based stains, glue with no off-gassing, pure alderwood from replanted forests with no chemical processing, and pure linens, raw silk, and raffia- and bamboo-based textiles.
BARCLAY BUTERA
Barclay Butera, Inc.

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