From fresh-pressed juice to sustainable fashion, an increasing number of startups have sprung up to form a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in the City of Angels. On Tuesday at the Inc. iCONIC conference in Los Angeles, the founders of Los Angeles -based companies TrueCar, FuHu, Pressed Juicery, and Style Saint shared their advice for succeeding in the startup world. Moderating the panel, called "L.A.'s All-Star Innovators," was Lindsay Blakely, Inc.'s Los Angeles bureau chief.
1. Find Your Story
"We stand out from a very noisy industry," said Allison Beal, co-founder and CEO of Style Saint, a socially and environmentally conscious fashion company. The business makes all of its clothing in the L.A. area and tracks the labor, water use, and sustainable yards of fabric that go into each garment.
"It's a story that's bigger than just a dress," Beal said. "Customers are going to tell their friends and broadcast it on our behalf, because it tells a story." She explained that without that unique hook, she would have been just another voice in the world of contemporary women's fashion.
Hayden Slater, co-founder of Pressed Juicery agreed, advising entrepreneurs to always "stay true to what it is you've created." In the early stages of his business, he said, he turned down a deal with Whole Foods for fear of losing the authenticity of his product. That's why Pressed started its own juice stores, with a custom design and "spa-like" feel. "When you're limited to just a bottle sitting on a shelf, there's a tendency to feel story-less," he said. "The product is our story, and I want the product to tell [that] story."
2. Choose the Perfect Partners
Jim Mitchell, CEO and retail chief of Fuhu, a company that makes tablets for children in El Segundo, California, offered this advice for entrepreneurs: Seek out partners already entrenched in your industry.
Fuhu's best decision was "partnering with the moguls in L.A., the Disneys, Dreamworks, Warner Bros.," he said. "The more we're tied into the fabric of the entertainment industry, the better off we are." Mitchell also recommended finding investors who are already involved with your product and will have a vested interest in its success.
3. Keep the Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive
Finally, Scott Painter, founder and CEO of TrueCar, reminded the audience to remain inspired in their work--regardless of how successful they become.
TrueCar has had luck with employees with previous entrepreneurial experience because they are always curious, passionate, and eager to solve new problems. And it's important to keep that fire going, Painter said. "To keep them around, you have to inspire them," he said. "It's not just a job. They [have to] believe in what they're doing."
Slater started Pressed as a passion project, and said he never wants that to change. "This was a product that completely changed my life, and I wanted to share my experience with others," he said. "I think it should be the same in business. We work hard, we play hard, and we give back."