These Los Angeles Entrepreneurs Are Creating Some Cool Products, from 3D Printing to Gluten-Free Hot Sauce Hot Products by Hot People; 6 Pairings You Must See!
Written by: Amelia Wedemeyer Hot Products by Hot People; 6 Pairings You Must See!
Photographed by: Madeline Craig
In the Blue Room at the Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC) downtown, a group of LA’s hottest designers and inventors gathered to talk to LOCALE Magazine about their recent projects.
Accessible through a clandestine passage, the Blue Room itself emanates a refined feeling of the past with ornate decor and original photographs from back in the day at the LAAC. It was a fitting setting for the group of successful, ambitious entrepreneurs and inventors, as the Blue Room was once host to the inaugural meeting of the LAAC Uplifters Club, an influential men’s social club founded in 1913 by Harry Marston Haldeman. Members of the elite group included titans of the day, such as Will Rogers, Walt Disney, Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Busby Berkeley, Harold Lloyd, Darryl F. Zanuck and L. Frank Baum. While the Uplifters eventually moved out due to the scrutiny of Prohibition, the Blue Room re-launched the club in June of this year. The Blue Room is also offering a programming series that includes private access to the room for LAAC Medalist Members, guest bartender services, and space rental for social and corporate events. Those interested in the LAAC’s historic past, as well as anyone with a keen eye for design, can now experience the allure of LAAC’s Blue Room for their own.
CEO of Just Chill
A native of Southern California, Max Baumann said that he was inspired to create Just Chill, a beverage that promotes focus and relaxation, after a stressful experience at LAX airport several years ago. “I wanted to be a pro surfer, so I was traveling to surf in Australia, ” he recalled. “Going to the airport I was happy and relaxed, but then this hectic wave came over as I saw the long service lines, nervous first-time travelers and the LAPD handing out tickets.” Baumann also noticed that many people were drinking Venti Starbucks coffees and energy drinks, and he couldn’t help but think that what these travelers really needed was something to calm them down, but also keep them focused. “I came up with this concept, which is Just Chill, ” he explained. “It’s something that reduces stress and enhances focus. It’s the power of calm.”
So Baumann teamed up with some of his college friends to launch the first batch of Just Chill and form The Chill Group, Inc. In the beginning, Baumann and his friends sold the stress-reducing, focus-inducing beverage out of the back of a pickup truck, but as word caught on so did the attention of larger distributors. Now sold at a wide variety of retailers including Whole Foods, Bristol Farms and Amazon.com, Just Chill comes in three mouthwatering flavors, the original Tropical, as well as Rio Berry and Jamaican Citrus. A fourth flavor, Ginger, is launching soon and will be a zero-calorie option for those who are trying to cut out sugar.
Q: What is the primary function of Just Chill?
Max Baumann: I wanted to make a tool that would help you under pressure, to keep you loose when things get tight. We’re noticing a lot of consumers from the young urban professional, millennial generation, who are dealing with pressure from deadlines and work. The primary use of Just Chill is during work. We’ve also seen students who use it when they’re studying for midterm exams and finals.
Q: How did you decide what ingredients to use in Just Chill?
MB: Finding ingredients became my obsession. I had this Google Drive document and I literally researched every single herb, amino acid and functional ingredient that could help you relax. I came up with a list of about 100 ingredients and went to a food technician who told me things like, “This ingredient tastes like crap” and “This makes a beverage cloudy, ” and so on. We were left with the best ingredients of that entire list that reduce stress and taste good in a beverage. The most active ingredient is L-theanine, which is found in green tea and promotes relaxation without drowsiness. We use the only clinically proven form of L-theanine, suntheanine. Just Chill also has magnesium, complex B and vitamin C, which is the vitamin most depleted by stress.
Q: With the specialized beverage market as competitive as it currently is, what inspired you to have the confidence to try and put out your own product?
MB: I think I’m risky by nature. My dad was an entrepreneur who was in a band called Tangerine Dream, and he has always been a risk taker, so I think part of it is genetic. I just had this urge to try. I’ve learned that [starting your own company is] twice as fun and twice as hard as you think it is going to be when you get it going.
Q: What sets Just Chill apart from coffee and energy drinks?
MB: It’s the yin to coffee’s yang. If you need more energy, go for coffee. But if you need the other side of the spectrum — if you need to calm down and be focused, that is the best time to consume Just Chill for the functional aspect.
Chill Out: Baumann said that the laid back attitude of Southern California helped shape Just Chill.
Additionally, Just Chill is part of One Percent for the Planet, which means that at least one percent of their annual net revenue goes to environmental causes. Baumann admitted that he enjoys giving back to beach-related charities because of his experiences growing up as a California surfer. “Being a surfer from the beach, I’m a little biased to those, ” he said.
Owner of Mitchel Primrose
The sleek designs of Mitchel Primrose are wearable pieces of art saturated in some of the planet’s most luxurious materials. Created by the brother-sister team of Mitchel and Carmen Primrose, the brand specializes in handbags, jewelry and accessories made from a range of exotic skins that include lizard, American alligator, stingray, cobra and python. “Primarily, we are known for jewelry, and our handbags also do very well, ” Mitchel explained. “The styles in the bracelets are unisex and we recently introduced a men’s collection in New York.”
Since launching in 2012, Mitchel Primrose has been embraced by many high profile fashion publications, including Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar and Interview. Though stylish and modern, each piece, whether it is an intricate corset cuff or a linear key fob, has the type of timeless appeal that can be passed down from generation to generation. “Everything is general exotic leather, ” Mitchel said. “We dubbed it ‘precious leather goods, ’ and what we really want to do is bring the luxury and uniqueness of exotic leather goods to a younger demographic.”
Q: What is the process of creating one of your luxury pieces?
Mitchel Primrose: I work mainly in 3D and I carve all of the pieces that come to me using raw cowhide; it’s like sculpting, in a way. I’m very hands-on, I’m about motion. Sometimes pieces are fluid, wrapping and not stopping, while others are [standstill].
Q: What is your favorite exotic material to use?
MP: Alligator and lizard are our primary exotic leather, but alligator is my favorite. Alligator is the crown jewel for us; it’s the only distinctly American skin in the world. We work with a family business in Georgia where the alligators are farm-raised. We typically use Italian lambskin on the inside of our bracelets and we also work in American goatskin, which creates a good contrast to the exotic reptiles. We go to great lengths to source the best skins in the world.
Q: What are your main inspirations?
MP: People inspire me all the time, and it depends on whether I’m looking on my Instagram feed or walking down the street.
Q: How do you and your sister Carmen differ in terms of the company?
MP: Carmen handles the business [side] and structure, financials, the website and all the logistics that are with that, as well as customer service. She also plays a huge role in color selection and is [my] springboard—I send her a million picture texts per day. She lives in Nashville, where we both grew up. We usually have at least an hour phone call every morning and we touch base throughout the day. She also helps me bring in a woman’s perspective.
Q: How would you describe Mitchel Primrose?
MP: Some of our best supporting editors have told us that our pieces are classic, but in a modern way. Our pieces, even some that are bold in statement and color, are something you can wear your entire life. It’s fun and interesting and shouldn’t feel old lady. And depending on your price point there is something for everyone.
LA Living: Although he is originally from Nashville, Mitchel Primrose moved to Los Angeles and now calls the city home. “I always thought that I would move to New York, ” Mitchel said. “I go there for work and I love it but, I love LA. It’s been so great to start a business with a factory that supports us, as well as editors, stylists and everything else.”
Cofounder of Tabañero Hot Sauce
When is a hot sauce not just a hot sauce? When it’s also 100 percent all-natural, gluten-free, not vinegar-based, low in sodium and kosher. “Tabañero is more of a flavor enhancer with a kick than it is a traditional hot sauce, ” explained Tabañero cofounder Kevin Peake. The award-winning hot sauce blends a mixture of fresh ingredients that brings to life the passion of its founders, who are also adamant that Tabañero isn’t just a brand but an idea, or a lifestyle, even. “I’ve always loved spicy foods, ” Peake said. “[But] it’s not just about hot food, it’s about passion, living and breaking the rules.”
Tabañero Hot Sauce is available in three flavors: original, extra hot and agave sweet and spicy. It can be found online as well as in stores such as Sprouts, Lassens and many a hot sauce specialty store. The company has also released a spicy Bloody Mary mix. “We came out with the Bloody Mary mix because so many people were using Tabañero Hot Sauce to make their Bloody Marys, ” Peake explained. “It’s a healthy alternative, most Bloody Mary mixes are filled with sodium.” While Tabañero is currently focused on their four available products, fans of the hot sauces and Bloody Mary mix could see another savory seasoner in the future. “We’ve talked about a dry rub — we’re at the tip of the iceberg, ” Peake said. “But we want to stay focused on what we have now.”
Q: With so many hot sauces on the market, what sets Tabañero apart from the rest?
Kevin Peake: It’s not vinegar-based like most hot sauces are and that’s a big thing that people love, that’s our main differentiating fact. Vinegar is a very strong, pungent taste and smell, and because it’s not vinegar-based, you can actually cook with it. Another thing is that we are a pretty innovative brand; we do things that no other hot sauce companies do. We sponsor National Hot Sauce Day, which is an event in LA that has celebrities, fire performers, a year supply of free hot sauce [giveaway], etc. It’s an interesting industry, there are brands that have been around for hundreds of years and those brands dominate the market. We’re one of the few in the middle zone between the big brands and the mom and pop products. We’re trying to break into the ranks of the top five [hot sauce brands] and we’re doing it, we are making headway and people are excited.
Q: What difficulties have you faced in the making of Tabañero?
KP: We were in Tabasco, Mexico, about to start production when a [flood] came through and wiped out the entire region. All of the fields died, basically. That was a major setback, but we helped rebuild that entire region—our investors sent money and a local church helped spread out the money specifically for the region. It was a two-year setback, a long journey to get that first batch.
Q: What is your favorite Tabañero flavor?
KP: It’s hard to say that original isn’t my favorite, because that’s our baby, but the agave sweet and spicy—I could drink it out of the bottle, it’s that good.
Keeping It Local: Peake credits much of the success of Tabañero to the hot sauce’s LA origins. “We thought that if we can be successful here in LA, we have a fighting chance at this, ” he said. Soon after its well-received release, about 100 chefs in the Los Angeles area were using Tabañero sauce in their restaurants. “The thing that really did it for us was the chefs, who were incorporating it into menus, ” Peake explained. “Chefs began asking food reps for it.”
Co-owner of Brooklyn Grooming
Alfredo Ortiz and Mckenzie Santiago are bringing Brooklyn to the West Coast with their men’s grooming products, aptly named Brooklyn Grooming, which evoke a feel that is both reminiscent of the past and strikingly modern. “I have a background in graphic design and [Santiago] has her background in beauty, ” Ortiz explained. Together, the duo believed that they could make an impact in the way consumers think of male grooming products.
“I think Brooklyn has a really unique identity. It’s a very genuine look, ” Ortiz explained. “The industrial look of the city is very interesting, and to contrast that between California’s natural [imagery] is really cool.” With a chromatic color scale and an emphasis on high quality packaging, Brooklyn Grooming is quickly making a name for itself in the world of beauty and grooming, having been featured in publications such as GQ, Details, Men’s Health and The Huffington Post. “Most of the inspiration was nautical, ” Ortiz said of the packaging, which prominently features a beautifully hand-drawn octopus created by Ortiz himself. “We started with eight products and there are eight arms on an octopus, ” he added. In addition to the clever seafaring imagery, Brooklyn Grooming has added little touches to their products, such as the handpicked quote placed on packaging, that mesh together to create an overall experience. “It’s all inspired by the neighborhoods in Brooklyn, ” Ortiz added. “We wanted to bring some of the coolness from one side to the other.”
Q: Why did you want to create a line of products specifically for men?
Alfredo Ortiz: We noticed that there was a lack of men’s grooming products, which I’ve always been up on. [This] was before the revolution of the beard and mustache. There was the lack of products with a masculine smell, so we wanted to come up with something that doesn’t smell like flowers. We were also inspired by the whole experience about grooming in the old times. I believe that it is really important—how you present yourself really matters, it’s a polite way of showing up. We care about you and how you present yourself, that was the inspiration behind it.
Q: What was your inspiration behind the packaging?
AO: We manufacture everything by hand. We try to make it an experience; normally, products for men have to be subtle and boring, but boring can be elegant, so we wanted to make it classy, and I’ve always been fascinated with the past. I love what grooming was back in the iconic Victorian times with the barbershops, and the ’40s and ’20s. They took pride in their looks.
Q: Why do you believe it is important for men to keep up with grooming trends?
AO: I think when you look your best, you perform your best. When you are clean and presentable, everything you do is going to be better. If you grow beard you’re going to need more moisturizer. It’s a matter of health, it’s not all appearance related.
Q: Although you cater specifically to men, are there any Brooklyn Grooming products that women can also use?
AO: There are a couple products that we have for both, including shaving soaps, combs, tonic for hair and shaving oil. Women have told us that they love the smell [of the shaving oil] and that they use it to shave for their legs and underarms. We also have a chafing gel; we call it Machine Oil because, in order to have a machine, you have to keep it oiled.
Coast to Coast: While Brooklyn Grooming is based on the other side of the country, the company’s founders met in Los Angeles while they were both working as bartenders on the weekend.
Owner of good hYOUman
Although good hYOUman began four years ago inside the cramped bathroom of a Studio City apartment that founder Brett Novek shared with three roommates, the clothing company’s true origins can be traced back further. Specifically, the death of Novek’s father, David, to whom the line of inspirational clothing is dedicated to: “I loved my dad a lot, obviously, and I wanted to do something in memory of him, ” Novek explained. “So I ordered a screen printing machine off of an infomercial and started screen printing T-shirts with inspiring messages on them.” Soon after creating his first batch of tees, Novek found success at a trade show, with merchants and consumers impressed by the high quality as well as the story. “I went back [from the trade show] and I had to screen print a thousand shirts myself, ” he recalled. Thankfully for Novek’s sanity, good hYOUman is created with the help of his employees in downtown Los Angeles. “I really like producing in downtown LA, ” Novek said. “The guy I started with, Leo, he’s still manufacturing with us, so that’s awesome.”
Now sold in over 1, 000 speciality boutiques with worldwide distribution online, good hYOUman produces a variety of clothing for both men and women, from the brand’s luxuriously soft sweatshirts and lounge pants, to their activewear that boasts phrases of motivation and encouragement. As good hYOUman has expanded over time, so has its inspiration. “Every season we feature someone’s inspirational story, ” Novek explained, referring to the hangtag on every piece of good hYOUman clothing. “It’s inspired by my dad and the idea that everyone has a story.”
Q: Why do you spell it “hYOUman”?
Brett Novek: My whole look on life is how can I create this in a cooler, different way. So, What is good hYOUman about? It’s about you, about the person, about all of us. The company is for you, for good humans.
Q: How do you select the phrases that will be used on the clothing?
BN: The phrases are [thought up] with the idea that we want to evoke emotion and make you feel good. It’s a team effort coming up with cool, feel-good inspiring messages. I have a whole list of [possible] messages on my phone. And the clothes are named after people who are special to us. We name them after employee family members and friends who inspire us all the time. I don’t think of anything but good hYOUman!
Q: Some of the items you sell are done in collaboration with foundations, what exactly is that?
BN: We do something called good collaborations—we do it on a monthly basis and we usually team up with an individual or business, to come up with a cool, creative message. We’re working with new people and new foundations, and a portion goes to that charity. We recently did something with Paddle for Pink, [which is] for breast cancer, with Tracy Anderson. We’ve also supported the A21 Campaign [to end human trafficking] and right now we’re teaming up with World Adoption Day.
Q: Are you coming out with any new products?
BN: I’m excited for the unbelievably soft fabrics coming, and our activewear line is getting insanely good. We’re also going to launch a new updated men’s line. We’ll also continue to feature inspirational stories on our hangtags; we get emails [from customers] and choose which stories to feature.
Down(town) to Earth: good hYOUman is a company born and raised in Los Angeles, with all products currently made in downtown LA. “We do a lot of photoshoots downtown. We enjoy featuring the lifestyle of LA, ” Novek explained. “The whole brand is based around that—casual, comfortable, healthy.”
Vice President of Marketing at 3D Printlife (Enviro)
While most people might know Joel Rush as one of the stars of Tyler Perry’s If Loving You Is Wrong, the actor is also garnering acclaim for his eco-conscious line of ABS 3D printer filaments. His company, 3D Printlife, launched Enviro, which allows consumers to have the option of disposing their 3D prints. 3D prints refer to anything from bath accessories to desk accessories to kitchen tools and more, all of which are made on a 3D printer that uses plastic filament and a design template. “The objective was to be environmentally friendly, ” Rush explained. “So Enviro has a bio additive infused in the plastic that allows it to break down carbon dioxide and methane.” Another great part of Enviro is that it doesn’t just come in standard colors, but also is available in vibrant hues such as sky blue, lime green and hot pink.
Q: How did 3D Printlife/Enviro come about?
Joel Rush: My business partner was actually getting his teeth cleaned and was introduced to a guy who worked with biodegradable plastics and polymers. It was truly a godsend. We partnered with a company out of Boston and they did a testing, we got a patent and that was that! We signed a huge distribution [deal] this year with WYNIT Distribution. We’re in Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart, Sam’s Club, etc.
Q: What has been your role as VP of Marketing?
JR: I was very hands-on in the packaging, like making sure we used 100 percent recyclable spool and tin cap, and putting a wildflower seed in every packaging. It’s about giving back to the environment and that is why we partnered with Plant a Billion Trees. For every spool sold we sponsor a tree [through] Plant a Billion Trees, which is [an initiative] to build trees. We wanted to make sure we had a business model that promotes giving back.
Q: Did you have to sacrifice quality for the environmentally friendly aspect?
JR: No, and that’s been the really cool part of it. Every test group has given great reviews about the product, which is medical grade with a quality second to none. Not only are consumers getting great quality prints, but they simultaneously acting socially responsible in what they are doing. That’s the great thing about being VP, I feel good about the product I’m selling. I know it’s not a scam, it’s the highest quality product and it’s eco-friendly—the best of both worlds.
Q: Do you want to expand into additional environmentally friendly products?
JR: With the brand’s stance, we’re working on it. Right now we have additional colors that we’re coming out with, as well as baby powder and pine scented [versions] because printer filament smells bad.
True to Its Roots: Rush credits the company’s California roots as inspiration for creating Enviro. “[Living in California], you expect to have an environmentally friendly choice, ” he explained. “[In other states] it’s like, why is there not a green option? California is a huge part of why we brought this product to market.”