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Running a Business and Making Their Mark, These Ladies Do it All

Written By: Allie Moreno Wells Fargo Presents San Diego’s Leading Ladies in Business
Photographed By: Arielle Levy Women that are making major marks in San Diego

When you find someone who inspires you, there’s a spark that ignites. Deep down, the things you were once afraid of suddenly seem more attainable because someone you know and admire has done it. When you find several women—in your own backyard, nonetheless—who are doing incredible things, it’s hard not to feel like you can take on the world. These San Diego women are entrepreneurs and leaders who are kicking major butt in the fitness, tech, design and mobile app industries.

 

Leslie Fishlock, Geek Girl Founder & CEO

Q: Can you tell me how you started Geek Girl?

Leslie Fishlock: I had been working in the tech industry for several startups for the last 18 years. My friends would ask me for help with technology. It started with small groups, then evolved into workshops and conferences. Geek Girl is about education, about a hands on experience. We offer workshops from programming to design and Photoshop.

Q: What makes you stand out from others in your field?

LF: We are different because we work with other organizations, there is no sense of competition. We’re peer to public when it comes to our audience. We aren’t focused on younger girls necessarily—anyone can come to our events.

Q: What brought you to San Diego?

LF: I came to San Diego because of work I was doing with a startup. To me, San Diego is about bringing people together, about people reaching out. It may never be Silicon Valley and I think that’s a blessing—but a lot of startups are coming here and growing. I’d love to see more of that happen.

Q: What is the best advice you ever received?

LF: There are diversity issues in tech—there are less women working in the industry and for less pay. But I say it’s all about performance when it comes to funding or getting promoted. There’s a hierarchy, a cutting off at the knees. But it’s also a time where there’s no limit to what you can do in tech.

Q: What does making a difference mean to you?

LF: Now, I think the biggest disparity is education (and that doesn’t necessarily mean college). It’s about creating a prepared workforce, about providing people with skills so that they have more opportunities in life.

Geek Girl Camp
3539 Curtis St
San Diego,  CA  92106
774.269.9222

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Zlata Sushchik, Founder & CEO of Sexyfit

Q: What is the story behind Sexyfit?

Zlata Sushchik: I moved to the U.S. from Moscow when I was 16 and started entering and winning fitness competitions. I wanted to pass on my knowledge to other women and start something that would promote confidence and inner strength. From that I built a community focused on training women who help and support each other.

Q: What is unique about SexyFit?

ZS: It’s really a community of women helping each other. The community aspect breaks barriers and makes things less intimidating. There is no judgment here.

Q: What are the biggest challenges in running your business?

ZS: That there’s not 36 hours in a day. But honestly, I didn’t think it was going to be this hard. You constantly need to be keeping your clients entertained and happy. It’s kind of like Tetris; the problems keep coming but the bottom ones disappear as you start to solve things.

Q: If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?

ZS: Pay less attention to what people think about your decisions. Listen to your customer. Listen to your heart and your soul.

Q: How do you stay grounded?

ZS: You have to be willing to get enough help. Ultimately you need to build a team or burn out.

Q: What does it mean to you to make a difference?

ZS: I make a difference by breaking through my fears and helping other entrepreneurs do the same. I’m also involved in the community as a Big Sister and I make donations and give back.

Q: What do you like about the San Diego business community? What brought you here?

ZS: It’s very community focused and close-knit. I moved here on a whim when I decided to be a wellness coach. What it really came down to was listening to my heart.

 

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Ana Bermudez, TAGit App

Q: How did you get the idea for TAGit?

Ana Bermudez: I was working in finance and had come home late one night. I saw these awesome shoes on TV that I had to have but of course it was 11:00 p.m. I did a Google search and what I found were other women looking and asking the same questions. It was a personal problem that became a business.

Q: What types of skills or experience did you apply to building your business?

AB: As a finance major, we looked at many case studies about business and in my work had experience in wealth management. I also had a partner in a former business; we had started a company together. He was like a big brother and mentor to me and eventually became my business partner. We grew a business in Latin America and that experience definitely gave us a competitive advantage.

Q: What is the best advice you ever received?

AB: I had a client from Guatemala who had come from nothing and was now working in a huge office. I asked him how he did it, how he made the shift and he said, “It’s not a shift. It’s about not quitting, not having fear. You don’t have to be a genius to succeed, but you do have to be fearless. You have to have the confidence to go to someone and say here are my ideas.”

Q: What is something you’d go back in time to tell your 13 year old self?

AB: You know, I have a young niece and nephew and I tell them these things all the time. And my niece in particular, I tell her it’s a little more difficult for women out there. It’s not impossible but it’s difficult. You have to be patient, persistent and prepared. You always have to give them your best.

Q: What does it mean to you to make a difference?

AB: I grew up in Logan Heights, a San Diego community that is underserved. I help by giving speeches and donating money to schools, helping students in need afford college. I use my career to help my family. It’s important to me to not turn my back on where I come from.

Q: What makes the San Diego community unique?

AB: San Diego is a special place, the community here is supportive. The people here would give you the shirt off their back. For many of us who are immigrants, it inspires the entrepreneurial spirit. We strive to succeed personally and professionally.

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Anna Gamboa, A7D Creative Group

Q: Tell me about your company and how it came about.

Anna Gamboa: I had reached a point in my job where there wasn’t much more growth I could do within the company. My husband and I turned our spare bedroom into an office, working our full time jobs while A7D Graphic Design came into play. We have grown our business into a boutique agency that offers branding, website design, collateral design, social media marketing and printing.

Q: What makes you stand out as a leader in your field/business?

AG: The ability to see things differently and striving to be the best we can be as a team and as a representation of our clients and their brand image. More than anything I truly care about each project we take on as a business and won’t take on a project if I feel it’s not a good fit.

Q: What’s the best advice you ever received?

AG: When I worked at Mesa Distributing, Mark Lindner the VP of Sales saw that my creativity wasn’t being challenged to its full potential and assigned me to a new project of designing a new themed bar at the San Diego International Airport. The project was out of my scope of work and after many nights of sketching out concepts, I felt that I just couldn’t do it and I’m not sure what scared me more, failing or going into Mark’s office and letting him know that I couldn’t come through for him. We met, I expressed to him that I just couldn’t do it and his response was “You can do this. I believe in you, ” and that was that. With no other choice than to figure out a way to get this project done—I did just that.

Q: What’s one of the most common misconceptions about running your own business?

AG: That running a business is easy, especially a creative business. I wear many hats in a day and have to be on point with each of the roles and responsibilities that come with running your own business. The hardest part is not letting the business workings interfere with my creativity.

Q: Do you have any role models or other females in business that you admire? Who?

AG: Goldie, my grandmother she and my grandfather owned and operation Hopkins True Value Hardware in a small town in Missouri. In ways the working relationship I have with my husband now reminds me of them. They were the community and the hub of that small town and in ways the relationships and respect their customers had for them reminds me a lot of the business my husband and I have today. She was a strong, inspirational woman and would be so proud of who her grandchildren are today.

Q: What does it mean to you to make a difference?

AG: It means more to see the difference A7D has made. In North Park, for example, our entire team has contributed to grow the brand of North Park as a destination. Our business district is thriving with the most dedicated and caring business owners who have truly dedicated so much time and energy in making North Park what it is today.

Q: What is unique about running a company in the San Diego community?

AG: How can you not love this city! The weather, the arts, the food and most of all of for me the business owners and clients I work with are inspiring, creative and vested in providing their customers with an overall exceptional experience. San Diego small businesses believe in keeping it local and supporting those within their community which harvests a personal relationships and a more successful business community.

A7D Creative Group
2867 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92104
619.574.6878

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Kellyn Timmerman, Founder of feNa designs

Q: Tell me about your company and how it came about.

Kellyn Timmerman: feNa started to take shape in my mind 5-6 years before launching, while I was still thriving as an architect. I was given a gentle nudge to follow my passion when I was laid off in 2008. The fact that it was so disheartening to have the fate of my job be decided by someone else sparked the idea to start my own business.  

Q: What makes you stand out as a leader in your field/business?

KT: I would say my unique background in architecture combined with my personal use and absolute love of my products makes me stand out. I excel at balance and proportion and use my architecture background to hand draw all of my bags to scale and carry them around on paper and tweak them before going to production. I make sure that the function is equally as important on each bag as the design.

Q: What’s one of the most common misconceptions about running your own business?

KT: That you have loads of free time to do whatever you want. Even if you do get to do errands or other things at odd hours of the day, you are also most likely working when everyone is enjoying their free time at nights and on the weekends. The benefit is you get to figure out the best schedule for yourself and when you are most productive. Oddly, one of my most productive and creative times is often 5 p.m. on a Friday.

Q: What’s the best advice you ever received?

KT: That there are no experts. Once you start your own business, everyone has an idea of what you should be doing and how you should be doing it. But no one else has walked in your shoes, has your exact same ideas or vision for what you want to accomplish. Trust yourself and your instincts.  

Q: How do you approach obstacles or challenges?

KT: It’s really easy for me to see the big picture and immediately panic and get overwhelmed. Following that, I just break things down and have to take small steps and tackle one thing at a time. Take a task, set a time to have it finished, check it off the list, then on to the next one.

Q: What is unique about running a company in the San Diego community?

KT: I find San Diego to be incredibly supportive; it feels very collaborative here. You’ll be surprised at how many people are willing to share their expertise if you are seeking it and also to pair up with you to see if you can both grow your audiences together and help each other thrive and cheer each other on. It’s an incredible city full of opportunity if you’re open to it.

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