Archive of Los Angeles Business Journal

Moving to Los Angeles a Blessed Event for Publisher

on August 30th, 2009 in Misc by | No Comments

Moving to Los Angeles a Blessed Event for Publisher

By SHARAREH DRURY
Los Angeles Business Journal

Hofite Huddleston said she learned the power of media, marketing and events at an early age. Her father owned a sporting goods chain, the Sports Zone, in the Maryland-D.C.-Virginia area, and she ran promotional events for the business throughout high school and college.

Huddleston, who recently became publisher of BizBash, a trade publication for event producers, became serious about a career in marketing and media while at Washington, D.C.’s George Washington University, where she took classes with a focus on entrepreneurship and small business management. After graduation in 2002, Huddleston moved to New York and worked at various marketing agencies. That’s when she first came across BizBash, which she describes as the events industry bible.

In 2006, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue career opportunities and to help her boyfriend – now husband – Chris launch an energy drink business. She was doing events and marketing for the beverage when she learned about an associate publisher position at BizBash in Los Angeles.

“I met with the company and felt like it was a perfect fit given my media and events planning background,” says Huddleston, who was hired in March and quickly promoted to publisher. Her responsibilities now include creating partnerships, growing distribution, expanding online offerings and overseeing the ad sales team.

Her most recent project was the BizBash LA Expo & Style Awards at the L.A. Mart, a shopping center for retailers and designers, which brought venue managers, vendors and event planners together. She is also part of a team working on developing a bicoastal L.A.-New York events industry publication.

“I finally feel like I’m an entrepreneur,” she said. “BizBash is a small enough company that we can take something from idea to inception very quickly.”

As far as her move West goes, Huddleston has enjoyed conducting her work relationships face to face in Los Angeles.

“Most business in New York was generally done over e-mail and phone,” Huddleston said. “I enjoy meeting new people every day.”

Huddleston lives in West Hollywood with Chris. She likes to travel and is a dessert enthusiast.

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Sales In the Bag for Eateries

on August 10th, 2009 in Misc by | No Comments

L.A. restaurants offer cut-price sack lunches to boost business.

by SHARAREH DRURY
Los Angeles Business Journal

Think brown bag, and the associations are immediate: construction worker, mom’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or perhaps yesterday’s best-forgotten greasy takeout.

Certainly not fine dining, right?

Not if some of L.A.’s better-known restaurants have anything to do with it. Try something like a roasted jidori chicken sandwich with olive tapenade, an iced tea and a gourmet cookie, all bundled up in a brown bag – and costing $14.

Sounds steep, but not really given that the jidori sandwich, which features free-range organic chicken, ordinarily goes for $13 alone at Ammo, a pricey Hollywood eatery that has started offering cheaper, brown-bag versions of its lunches.

Call it an obvious sign of the times.

Ammo, which was established in 1992 as a catering service before the restaurant opened in ’98, has survived slowdowns. But this latest recession has prompted more than the usual price cuts.

“We figure we’d make lunch more affordable and retain customers also,” said Benedikt “Benny” Bohm, managing partner of the Highland Avenue restaurant, which specializes in fresh seasonal fare and has been compared favorably to Berkeley’s famous Chez Panisse. “It’s a light lunch where they are happy after it.”

Among the other local eateries that have signed on to the brown bag trend are Little Dom’s, an Italian-American restaurant in Los Feliz, and Fig, a restaurant in Santa Monica’s Fairmont Miramar hotel that opened earlier this year to rave reviews.

Several lunch entrees top $20 at Fig, but the brown bag lunch deal averages $14 to $18 and include several of the restaurant’s signature dishes such as the merguez en baguette with spicy harissa sauce, cucumber and olives.

However, there are limitations to the concept. Bohm said some of the nicer sandwiches on the regular lunch menu, such as one with prosciutto, a delicate Italian ham, can’t be sold brown bag because it would mean taking a loss.

“I can’t offer a certain sandwich with a dessert and drink for $14 because that sandwich itself is $16,” he said. “There’s a certain limit to how far you can extend the deal.”

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Featured Newsmaker: Caroline Nahas

on August 10th, 2009 in Misc by | No Comments

L.A. native all business when it comes to United Way

By SHARAREH DRURY
Los Angeles Business Journal

For Caroline Nahas, helping others is something that was “instilled in me from the beginning.”

Recently named chairwoman of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Nahas feels she can take a leadership role in improving the L.A. community and inspiring other business leaders to do the same. She has a strong connection to Los Angeles: she was born and raised in North Hollywood and graduated from UCLA in 1971.

Nahas also has strong ties to the local business community as the Southern California region managing director of executive recruitment firm Korn/Ferry International. It was through a United Way campaign at Korn/Ferry that she was first exposed to the non-profit organization’s work, joining United Way’s board 11 years ago.

As chair, Nahas has the opportunity to oversee various projects that help less fortunate people – projects she believes in turn will help the businesses of Los Angeles.

“If I look at it from a business executive standpoint,” she said, “the stronger the community, the healthier we are – businesses, too.”

Among United Way issues of critical importance to her are increasing the availability and affordability of housing and health care, improving high school graduation rates and preparing youth for college and the work force, and adult job training and financial education.

All these issues have become even more important in the recession, making Nahas’ position ever more challenging.

“On the one hand, I was thinking this is going to be a really tough time given the economy. On the other hand, I thought if there’s even been a need for stepping up and (United Way’s help) for our community, it’s now,” she said.

One additional goal she has set for herself is to improve United Way’s outreach to young people in order to prepare them to be participants in the “next generation of givers.”

Nahas lives with her husband, Richard, in Toluca Lake. In her spare time, she likes ocean kayaking and reading.

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Not Shooting Blanks

on August 3rd, 2009 in Misc by | No Comments

Shutterbug in spotlight after Laker photo used for Dodgers billboard

By SHARAREH DRURY
Los Angeles Business Journal

When the Dodgers asked Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic for his photo, the Slovenian basketball star gave them one he really liked: It had recently been shot by Pasadena photographer Kendall Roclord.

Now, the picture is a prominent feature of the “This Is My Town” billboard campaign, designed to foster interteam fandom in wake of the Lakers’ latest National Basketball Association championship.

It’s turned into quite a calling card for Roclord.

“His PR people sent a photo from it to the Dodgers,” said the photographer. “Next thing, Sasha is up on Olympic (Boulevard).”

The success of the shot is a bit of a surprise given that Roclord’s primary subjects have little to do with sports. The photographer, who opened his studio in 2003, usually shoots families and children.

And while he’s proud of his shot of Vujacic, he takes more satisfaction in his charitable causes. He provides free headshots for actors with Down syndrome, such as Blair Williamson of “Scrubs” and “Nip/Tuck.” He said those actors are very candid.

“I enjoy when people I photograph are open,” Roclord said. “Its all about indulging in your fantasy and letting me capture that.”

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Featured Newsmaker: Josef Adalian

on August 3rd, 2009 in Misc by | No Comments

Journalist tuned in early to reporting on television

By SHARAREH DRURY
Los Angeles Business Journal

Although he has been covering the TV industry for almost two decades, television wasn’t always in journalist Josef Adalian’s big picture.

He originally leaned toward political reporting, and he didn’t alter his course until after he graduated from Boston University’s College of Communication in 1992 and was working as an intern at the Boston Herald. Adalian was offered the opportunity to cover the summer 1993 TV Critics Press Tour in Los Angeles. After meeting with celebrities and network executives, he decided to change channels and focus on TV journalism.

“The great thing about covering TV instead of politics,” Adalian said, “it is very transparent. The TV business puts it stuff out there and you can analyze it, see the trends.”

He now is analyzing the trends at TheWrap.com, which he recently joined as TV editor. He also will continue to write his blog on the TV industry, TVMoJoe, which he penned as part of his previous job, editor at online news site TV Week.

Santa Monica-based TheWrap is an Internet publication launched in January with the specific goal of challenging the coverage of the entertainment industry by trade papers Variety, where Adalian had worked for 10 years, and Hollywood Reporter.

“This was a big opportunity to be apart of something being built from the ground up,” he said. “We want to be a place that cuts the hype and lets Hollywood know what’s going on in the business in a respectable and fair way.”

And he has no regrets about giving up politicians for TV executives.

“It’s pretty easy when you write about TV and you love it. I watch TV as much as possible,” he said, singling out “Chuck,” “30 Rock” and “Lost” as among his current favorites.

Adalian, 38, is single and lives on the Miracle Mile. In addition to TV watching, he is a fan of the ’80s, and likes to collect music, magazines and newspapers from the era.

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Three-Ring Appeal for Kids

on July 27th, 2009 in Misc by | No Comments

Gymnastics instructor sets up shop to teach circus-style tricks.

by SHARAREH DRURY
Los Angeles Business Journal

Daniel Levi started gymnastics when he was 5 years old. Now 32, he’s turned his somersaults and cartwheels into two businesses that cater to those who want to teach kids gymnastics but with an emphasis on entertainment rather than Olympic-style competition.

He started Dan the Man’s Superduper Gym on Wheels in 2002, and five years later he bought a building to house Superkids Gym. Now he’s got employees – and profits.

The goal of both ventures is to teach gymnastics, dance and circus performance to kids under 12. Students at Superkids put on a circus show at the end of every season.

Indeed, more schools here are focusing on teaching noncompetitive forms of physical fitness.

“I definitely think it’s a movement,” said Ayn Gailey, co-owner of Cool Baby Place in Los Angeles. Her school also offers circus-trick training.

Stephanie Abrams, founder and director of L.A.’s Kinetic Theory, which offers similar classes, said circus-trick schools are still a “pretty new” thing.

Levi, who came west from New York when he was 25, used his savings and some backing from his family to launch Gym on Wheels, a big truck loaded with mats and balance beams.

But he figured he needed a fixed location, too. “There’s only so much equipment you can bring and move yourself,” Levi said.

So he sought a building with 15-foot-high ceilings so kids could jump on trampolines. In 2007, Levi found a $130,000 site on Sepulveda Boulevard and financed the purchase with a Small Business Administration loan that he’s already paid off.

After insurance, maintenance costs and pay for 10 teachers of the gym plus himself, the Superkids Gym has eked out a profit of couple of thousand dollars a year – money that he’s saving toward expansion.

“I started this from nothing,” Levi said. “It has grown into a huge business.”

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USC Looks to Clean Up

on July 20th, 2009 in Misc by | No Comments

Engineering school’s new master’s programs come with ‘green’ tint.

(Photo courtesy of USC Viterbi School of Engineering)

by SHARAREH DRURY
Los Angeles Business Journal

The world has always needed engineers. But does it need the same kinds of engineers?

USC is convinced that the economy of today – and tomorrow – calls for expertise in such disciplines as “green” technology that were not taught much in the past. So it has come up with four new master’s programs.

“We’re responding to what we perceive are needs and demands,” said Yannis Yortsos, dean of the Viterbi School of Engineering. “We offer an immediate way for engineers out there to specialize in these new areas of economic growth.”

The diplomas will be in “clean and green” technology, health care technology, power technology and financial engineering – which is related to math and programming. They will be issued by a new division of the Viterbi School that is headed by Kelly Goulis, associate dean.

Engineers who specialize in these technologies will be in high demand, Yortsos believes, and will have the opportunity to contribute to the creation of a healthier, sustainable world.

Since there aren’t enough engineers now with expertise in clean and green technologies, he said, companies aren’t able to develop many green products and processes, which in turn keeps them from creating the jobs of tomorrow.

“Behind every successful economic enterprise is some kind of engineering concept which is driven by innovation,” he said. “Innovation creates new companies. Particular areas – green, health care and so forth – are very important for the future.”

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Groovin’ On That Laser Show Again

on July 14th, 2009 in Misc by | No Comments
Observatory attraction moves down to star on Hollywood Boulevard .

by SHARAREH DRURY
Los Angeles Business Journal

Laserium is back.

And it’s come down from its perch at Griffith Park to help rock the Hollywood renaissance.

The music-driven laser light show, which was in its heyday during the hazy, pot-laden ’70s, recently reopened at a theater near the W Hotel and retail complex, set to open this fall.

For those who haven’t kept track, the local Laserium light show actually had a three-decade run and only went dark in 2002 when the Griffith Observatory, its longtime home, closed for an extensive remodel.

But when the observatory re-opened in 2006, the show couldn’t return because a grant used to partially fund the nearly $100 million renovation didn’t allow shows solely with entertainment value.

That prompted Ivan Dryer, who launched the show in 1973, and a friend, Stephen Wyle, now chief executive of Laserium, to look for a new location; they settled on the Vine Theatre – deep in the heart of Hollywood, where young hipsters are currently rediscovering all things psychedelic.

Funding for the new show came from Fourtress Development Group, which solicited small investments in the tens of thousands of dollars. Fourtress founder Jonathan Todd, now marketing vice president for Laserium, said the two companies formed a perfect fit.

“We wanted individuals to allow us to provide our vision of what was valuable over time without having to accept what a corporation was telling us they wanted to be done,” Todd said.

However, Laserium is still open to corporate sponsorship of its three shows: two-hour sets of laser shows set to the music of Pink Floyd, Beatles and Led Zeppelin – three mega groups that until recent times, at least, avoided cashing in on their fame.

Tickets are $12 for standard shows, and $18 for shows preceded by “Light Dance,” an interactive attraction that allows audience members to get on stage and change the music with body movements.

Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Entertainment District, which promotes development in the area, said Laserium is “a definite positive addition to that particular block. It adds a lot of life.”

Just remember: Times have changed. California law bars indoor smoking.

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Featured Newsmaker: Syd Dutton

on July 8th, 2009 in Misc by | No Comments

Studio artist’s movie career had Hollywood beginning

By SHARAREH DRURY
Los Angeles Business Journal

When Syd Dutton, 64, talks about viewing the silent film “Metropolis” as a boy in San Francisco, he uses the term “feverish” to describe the experience. Seeing the futuristic sets for the science-fiction classic, he knew that his passion for art could lead him to a career not just in painting but also film and TV.

“I realized that there was a whole world out there,” said Dutton, who recently joined Culver City digital effects maker Zoic Studios as art department lead and senior matte painter.

He earned a master’s degree in fine art from UC Berkeley in 1968. After graduation, Dutton lived what he called a hand-to-mouth artist’s existence, but always kept an eye toward Hollywood. In 1973, a story outline he wrote for a TV show caught the attention of an associate producer who got him a job at Universal Studios.

It was there that he learned the craft of matte painting. Mattes are painted landscapes used on soundstages to create background environments for filming. The landscapes can be fantastic, historical or contemporary. Dutton has created all types in an award-winning career that by his count already includes more than 200 feature films.

“It could be a great life if you’re lucky enough,” Dutton said. “It is luck: I am lucky to get the job I got.”

These days, matte paintings are mostly created on computers now and then digitally added into films.

Dutton’s relationship with the studio began when his firm Illusion Arts helped out Zoic on work for 2005 science-fiction film “Serenity.” He eventually decided to fold Illusion and work at Zoic full time. Dutton is happy with the move because it means he can get back to doing what he loves – painting. He also likes the atmosphere.

“People will jump into a job together; everything is very casual,” he said. “People aren’t afraid to say anything – if they have an idea, they speak up.”

Dutton lives in the Hollywood Hills with his wife, Laura, and has a grown daughter, Heather. Any free time is dedicated to his two grandchildren or to painting.

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Featured Newsmaker: Neil Huxley

on June 29th, 2009 in Misc by | No Comments

Comic books drew London boy into movie business

By SHARAREH DRURY
Los Angeles Business Journal

As a child in South London, Neil Huxley said that he constantly had his face in a comic book. He loved the way still moments were put together to create the illusion of a moving narrative.

Huxley would grow up surrounded by art, both his father and brother are painters, and film was a key interest as well.

“I always wanted to be a film director and thought by getting into (visual effects) design and title design that I could find a way into film production itself,” he said.

After earning a degree in design and communication at the University of Hertfordshire, Huxley moved in 2002 at the age of 26 to Melbourne, Australia, where he worked at Digital Pictures Iloura, a prominent visual effects shop. However, after several projects, he thirsted for something more.

That thirst turned into a drive to work in Hollywood, where he would hit the ground running.

“My first day in the country, I started to work,” he said. “I definitely made the right move.”

Huxley recently joined Frantic Films VFX as art director and motion graphics supervisor, overseeing various tasks such as leading a team of animators on a 3-D feature film.

When asked about his favorite projects, he singles out working at Hollywood firm Yu+co. on the title sequence for the film adaptation of “Watchmen,” a celebrated comic book series by Alan Moore that had a huge impact on Huxley as a teenager.

“I read the graphic novel when I was 14 and it really changed me and the way I thought about storytelling,” he said, “so getting to work on the film itself was a bit like a schoolboy dream come true.”

Huxley’s satisfaction from his work comes from seeing the end product and knowing he had a hand in it. “I love seeing the work on screen and being a part of that storytelling process. It’s corny, but that’s the magic of cinema for me,” he said.

Huxley is single and lives in North Hollywood. In his spare time, he works on a documentary about East London boxer-turned-actor Jimmy Flint as well as writing and film projects with his brother Philip S. Huxley.

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