S.F.'s Rising Stars: 30 Under 30



You'd be hard-pressed to walk the streets of San Francisco and not get a contact high from the entrepreneurial spirit. It's like everyone has a steadfast game plan to shift the status quo — can you blame 'em? Our hilly enclave is flush with new ideas poised to change the way we live and interact, from photo apps connecting the (social) dots to car-sharing services revolutionizing transportation. Here in the Bay, success has no limits, and our proud denizens are getting a well-deserved shine in the national spotlight.

So, we’re extra pleased ecstatic to present Refinery29’s first-ever S.F. edition of 30 Under 30. And, considering our city’s track record, you better believe it's packed to the hilt with brilliant minds spanning an impressive roster of industries. From a charismatic climate-change advocate to a whip-smart tech writer, here are 30 visionaries you need to know now. Let the inspiration ensue.
30 Under 30Matt MullenwegRyan CooglerYoodoo ParkRachel KhongAmy SoderlindChris Kronner & Ashley HildrethJoseph BeckerJack CurtinEvelyn RusliTracy ChouJustin MorrisonCristina Palomo NelsonTristan WalkerJessica HischeEli ErlickMichael PreysmanJamie HennSusan KogerMeredith PerryBrit MorinAdam Myatt and Glenn JacksonAlice LeeLeo BeckermanCrystaldawn BellMaja RuznicMatt GalliganKarla Gallardo
01_MattMullenweg

The Wordsmith

Like the rest of us, Matt Mullenweg believes in free speech, but the difference is he's done something about it. The 29-year-old founder of open-web software WordPress has fought the good fight to democratize publishing, dedicating the last decade to the cause. So, you may be surprised to learn this Southern gent studied jazz saxophone at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston (he was dead set on becoming a musician) and that if he could trade lives with any other young buck, it would be Alexander Wang for his approach to design and the enviable "opportunity to express his aesthetic." Well, Mullenweg, you may just have to settle on being one of the tech industry’s crowning wunderkinds, though with charisma and savvy to boot, fashion could be your next calling…

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What's the best professional lesson you ever learned?
"It came from working alongside Toni Schneider at Automattic for so many years now: There's almost no problem that can't be solved through patient persistence and elbow grease."

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
"When I was younger I got migraines a lot and was often ill and missed school. This gave me plenty of time to read, and I fell in love with computers, but I've never been as terribly physically adventurous as I would like to be."

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
"Kanye West, because of his incredible humility."

A perfect day in S.F. always includes these three things...
"Reading something longer than a few thousand words, writing and re-writing something I care about, and warm tea."

What's your mantra?
"Do the work."

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, and Styled by Sheri Evans
02_RyanCoogler
The Eagle Eye

They say to write what you know. For filmmaker Ryan Coogler, that maxim has been his north star. Born and raised in Oakland, Coogler’s first feature, Fruitvale Station, is a true story close to his heart, based on the life of Oscar Grant, a young black man who was shot to death by a police officer at the eponymous BART station. To say that the Harvey Weinstein-backed film (developed and produced by Forest Whitaker and co-starring Octavia Spencer) has been well-received would be modest: It swept up the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and won Best First Film at Cannes, before it's lauded theatrical release earlier this month. The 27-year-old former St. Mary’s wide receiver and counselor at S.F.’s juvenile hall calls his movie a “love letter to the Bay Area” — and we can’t think of a better way to describe Coogler himself.

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What kind of projects do you want to work on in the future?
"I hope to work on stuff that resonates with me on a deep, personal level and that is important to me. And, to make projects about the human condition."

Did anybody teach you a valuable lesson?
"I had a chance to work with Forest Whitaker on this project and just seeing how many things he does and how much he's involved with is really moving. He showed [me] that you can be really successful and really humble as well. He told me that humility is really important; that's the last thing that I held on to."

What's been your most humbling moment?
"I would say meeting Oscar Grant's daughter for the first time. My film is about Oscar Grant, a young guy who was killed. He left behind a daughter, who was only 4 years old at the time. When I met her, she was 7 years old, but meeting her was probably the most humbling experience I've had in the last year or so."

What would you say is humbling about it?
"I was working on this movie based on this guy's life, and the most important relationship in his life was between him and his daughter. I met that person that he left behind. She was a really strong, supportive, beautiful little girl."

What did she think of you making a movie about her dad?
"She's got a complex feeling about it. She's young, but she's very smart. There's a lot of things that she understands. Her feelings are very complex."

What’s your mantra?
"Make every day count; make every moment count. It’s like in football — you just make every play count. I try to approach things like one step at a time and have one foot in front of the other."

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, and Styled by Sheri Evans
03_YoodooPark
The Class Act

Spend a few minutes with Yoodoo Park, and you may think he’s just one of the boys. An upperclassman at UC Santa Cruz, he professes to wiling away afternoons by watching reruns of Saved by the Bell and chasing after “girls, money, and honey” (his words, not ours). But, catch Park, aka GRMLN, at one of his Carpark Records-backed concerts — and he’ll blow your presumptuous socks right off. Born in Kyoto, Japan, and raised in SoCal, Park just released the breezy, surf-lite debut album Empire earlier this month, which is much more than what we can say we were doing at 20. His mantra? “Do something crazy all the time, ‘cause you can literally die any seco…” Funny and talented? That’s a win-win in our books.

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What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned and who taught it?
"I’ve never taken guitar lessons my whole life, which is probably the reason why I still don’t know how to read any chords. But my brother, Taesan (who plays bass in my band), was definitely a huge influence on my musical aspects of creativity. He was pretty much the one who introduced me to a lot of really cool music. I vividly remember feeling really jealous of him playing, so I asked my dad if I could start playing an instrument as well. So, I chose to play a bass guitar, just because I thought that I wouldn’t have had to compete with my brother if we played different instruments. Turned out that he was actually better than me at both of them."

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
"Growing up, I definitely feel like I was a really annoying Asian kid. A lot of teachers either really liked me or really hated me. I was also the second born out of three, so I definitely felt like I had the 'middle-child syndrome.' I probably craved attention more than a little kid my age should have needed."

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
"I always thought I would be a sample lady at Costco, wearing the red hats and asking the little kids whether they already asked their parents if it was okay for them to take the samples. But, that job is still open in my book."

What's been your most humbling moment?
"The most humbling moment was when I held the door open at a local Walmart for almost 30 minutes, because there were nonstop people coming in and out of the store. I would have just gone into the store, but I honestly had nothing to do, and people were really digging my bison shirt that I was wearing. And the attention whore that I am, I kept the compliments coming."

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, and Styled by Sheri Evans
04_RachelKhong
The Kitchen Confidant

When you think of the Momofuku empire, David Chang's knowing rictus comes to mind. But, as the age-old adage goes, “Behind every great man, there’s a great woman.” In this case, it’s Rachel Khong, the managing editor of the Chang-founded, Anthony Bourdain- and David Carr-lauded Lucky Peach quarterly. Powered by Bay Area-based McSweeney’s publishing empire, Khong, 27, has her work cut out for her as the only leading lady at the helm of the food journal (she calls Chang a “tiger mom”), but she’s taken on the task with stride, even saving room for acquiring and editing cookbooks (like the forthcoming Toro Bravo) and finishing her very own, food-centric novel. Best of luck to this talented polymath, but we’re pretty sure she won’t need it.

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
"I’m not going to be good at answering this question. One of my superpowers is that I can smell a cut cucumber from really, really far away. I fed a cow a hot dog for the cover of issue four. (It’s actually a veggie dog.) It was Dave Chang’s idea, and it was the week of deadline, which is always a harrowing time. I was calling nearby farms to see if they’d let us feed vegan hot dogs to their cows, and every farm turned us down. 'Too weird,' they all said. I kept calling farms that were farther and farther away until I found one near Mt. Shasta that agreed and actually loved the idea."

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
"Lucky Peach is getting better each issue. That’s the goal: To keep making it better and less bad. The travel issue is coming out in June and then our gender issue will be out later in the summer. It’s going to be divided into a men’s half and a women’s half. I’m also finishing a long thing I don’t want to jinx by calling a 'novel.' Let’s just say I’m writing a fictional, book-length thing. There’s a lot of food in it. I’m hoping to be done this summer. I’m really sick of looking at it."

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
"I had the good fortune of studying with one of my favorite writers, Padgett Powell, for three years. Padgett always said I should follow my strange obsessions. 'Yours is food,' he straight up told me. I was in denial for a long time, but he turned out to be right. (This is a guy who wrote a book entirely composed of questions.) Anyway, Padgett kept a document of quotes and advice from writers. There’s one from Flannery O’Connor that I love. She said: 'I am becoming convinced that anybody who gives anybody else advice ought to spend 40 days in the desert both before and after.'"

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
"Probably Walter Green. He’s so good at the Internet! Walter really knows how to do the Internet. The Internet does me."

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
"There’s no way my life could be a movie. It’d be way too awkward. It could be a puppet show. Or maybe a podcast."

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
"When I was 5, I was positive I’d be a marine biologist. I was really interested in plankton and krill, and I was a big fan of Rachel Carson. After that, the dream was to be a figure skater, after that rock star. But all I’ve ever wanted to do — since age 8 or 9 — was write and read. And to eat stuff. I guess I’m living the dream."

Hair and Makeup by Renee Rael, Styled by Sheri Evans
05_AmySoderlind
The Stylist

To call Sonoma-based Amy Soderlind your typical stylist would be a bold-faced fib; in fact, with her bohemian hallmarks and lively style, she may be the furthest thing from it. When we first spotted the 28-year-old flaxen-haired pro, we knew she was someone we had to shoot the breeze with. And, boy, are we glad we did — her free-spirited, West Coast-Zen take on fashion and life is infectious, bringing an air of kindness and humility to everything she does, whether it's traveling through Africa, stomping the grounds of local-music festivals, or recounting her thoughts on her lovely blog Refuses to Label.

Yes, this woman wears many (floppy) hats, and when she’s not constructing head-turning ensembles or acting as the Cali correspondent for Free People, she’s cuddled up with her hubby on their Sonoma farm (okay, can we have her life?). How Soderlind has truly mastered the art of work-life balance might have something to do with her life mantra of “striving to love everyone.” With an approach like that, how could we not adore everything this boho-loving babe does.

Tell us about what you're doing with your life and career right now.
“I work primarily as a stylist, secondly as my man's farm hand, and most recently as a jewelry designer. I could be in a studio for three weeks, on location shooting an editorial, or styling musicians for their next tour. My job is to understand how to put pieces together and create a story for a brand or an individual. I also have a close relationship with Free People as its West Coast correspondent. Alongside styling, I'm working hard on my own label right now with a dear friend slash design partner. This company is something I have been dreaming up since art school. I recently took a few months in Bali to start a jewelry line, the first capsule collection in a long series of traveling and teaming up with global artists. I want to be part of it all.”

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“I chilled in our home, sang to myself in the garden, made iced tea, read a book, and fell asleep at 10 p.m. This is rare. It was truly awesome.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“Respect. Always think before you talk, unnecessary words are just that. Find your purpose, fulfillment is the key to long success. Be kind, be generous, and always do what you can for others.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I had three older brothers, all of who had an enormous impact on my development as a woman, and I'm eternally grateful. We lived out in the redwoods on 70 acres with hippie parents who moved [there] to live off the land in the '60s. My father had been managing rock bands in L.A., and my mother was living on a commune and is a painter, dancer, and a singer. They raised four children on the same piece of land and [in the] home they are still in. I was driven, opinionated, and strong-willed. I was a kid who was taught at an early age to really look. Find what makes you happy, and be great at it. Live simply, eat good food, listen to good music, and fill your senses with tastes, sounds, sights, and feelings that make you better than you were before that experience.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“I would be elated if Daniel Day-Lewis took a crack at it.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“I had a moment while I was traveling through Africa — a moment I remember so vividly. The most genuinely happy people I have ever met surrounded me. They had been through the unimaginable, yet they still had the greatest capacity to love. I felt connected to people not through words or language but through a visible spirit.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“My man, our dog, and our garden.”

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
06_Chris&Ashely

The Burger Babes

Some people say there is no recipe for success, but if you were to ask Chris Kronner, 29, and Ashley Hildreth, 26, we think they might whistle a different tune — and let’s just say said tune involves the words “salty and rare.” Yes, once you sink your teeth into the incomparable patties served up at KronnerBurger, it’s easy to understand how practically the entire Bay Area is hypnotized by the meaty creations.

The buzzy pop-up has rapidly gained respect from foodie insiders, critics, and burger enthusiasts alike — Kronner and Hildreth are unstoppable. Between running the burger spot and opening a permanent Oakland locale, we’re surprised to learn the couple finds ample time to do totally awesome things like singing the Fugees to strangers or wanting to be reincarnated as their cat. Just try to top that. We definitely learned a few unique things about this cute culinary couple — read on for mega-inspiration and a few LOLs below.

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Tell us about what you're doing with your life and career right now.
“We operate KronnerBurger at a pop-up space on Mission Street. We are in the process of opening a permanent location for KronnerBurger in Oakland.”

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
“Our current goal and upcoming creative endeavor is the successful opening of the restaurant in Oakland. It's a pretty consuming process.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“Get it signed and in writing.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
Chris: “Precocious and full of wonderment. I still am.”
Ashley: “I had to get tough and learn how to read people quickly. It's a useful skill in our industry.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
Chris: "Michael Douglas circa Romancing the Stone or Alien-era Sigourney Weaver would play me. Ashley would be played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, duh.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
Chris: "I didn't really think about the future until I found myself in culinary school, at which point I realized I didn't have one. Ashley had hoped to be singing back up for Whitney Houston, and we all know how that turned out.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“Sex, food, a warm evening, good cocktails, and amusing company."

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
07_JosephBecker
The Shapeshifter

If anyone deserves a no-stress hiatus, it would be Joseph Becker. As the assistant curator of architecture and design of SFMOMA, Becker has helmed such honorific exhibitions as those on late architect, Lebbeus Woods, and seminal German designer, Dieter Rams. The 29-year-old attributes his current post to “a mix of serendipity and hard work,” but, allow us to chime in: His ability to curate provocative work that continues to plunge the worlds of architecture, design, and art is all thanks to a keen, gimlet eye and an ear to the ground. (Becker's older sister is none other than celeb-loved fashion designer, Rachel Pally, which makes us wonder if they trade secrets?) Don’t think that the three-year-long museum hiatus will see kid brother kicking back, though — he’s just getting started.

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Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
"I just spent three weeks in Marfa, Texas, which was pretty amazing. There are a handful of places in the world where works of art find incredible balance with their surrounding environment. Judd’s efforts and foresight have yielded a truly remarkable destination to immerse oneself."

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
"I’m working on a number of exhibition proposals for SFMOMA’s reopening and subsequent programs. Along with my colleague, Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, I’m working on an exhibition proposal focused on civic and social engagement with the urban environment, and how our perception, management, and innovation have shifted in recent history."

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
"Perhaps, the greatest lesson I’ve learned was just by observing my grandmother. She was an intrepid investigator and practitioner of anything that fascinated her, from poetry to botany to furniture. If I can manage a sliver of the energy behind her constant exploration and fascination, and her ability to find beauty in everything, I’ll be in pretty good shape."

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
"I’m a total grown-up version of my child self. I was constantly making things and then taking them apart. We didn’t really grow up with television, so I would usually be creating wild scenarios in my imagination or playing outside and getting dirty. I was infatuated with Legos and David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work. Everything was very hands-on. I’m the same way now, constantly fixing things like my ‘76 Honda motorcycle or building lamps for my house."

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
"Good coffee, good food, and fresh air. Likely, this means either sailing on the Bay or hiking in Marin. Dinner and a pint at Mill Valley Beerworks pretty much makes my weekend. San Francisco is a city that begs to be taken advantage of — there is an incredible amount of adventure and inspiration at your fingertips."

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
08_JackCurtin
The Skateboard Star

"If there’s one big-time bragging right S.F. can claim, it’s the origin of skateboarding — after all, it was an early ‘90s mecca and is still home to a slew of noteworthy influencers. And, one in particular, whose life we seriously envy, is skateboarder Jack Curtin. For the 29-year-old perpetual globe-trotter and skate star, riding around our hilly ‘hood is more than just a pastime. He’s built an impressive career with his skilled maneuvers and subsequently amassed a cult-like following, which has afforded him a bevy of rad opportunities one would hardly scoff at (underwater elephant rides — who knew?). Curtin attributes his worldly outlook to his childhood growing up in Jarkata, Indonesia. Go ahead and keep reading for the 4-1-1 on everything, from what he’s doing these days to what makes him tick. We dare you not to be inspired.

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Tell us about what you're doing with your life and career right now.
“I've been traveling a lot and filming for two different skateboard videos — The Fallen Footwear documentary-style film Road Less Traveled and a full-length LRG clothing video. I also joined the X-Games Select Series contest, which has four different stops throughout the summer.”

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
“My goals are to keep progressing with my skateboarding, hopefully do well in future contests, and eventually I would like to start up my own brand.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“I'd say I've been extremely influenced by my childhood hero, Michael Jordan. What stuck with me most was his philosophy on success and his work ethic. He is the best of all-time, but he put in the time and practice to make it happen, and it's the way he did it. It's not always about what you do, but how you do it.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I was a super-active kid — climbing trees, playing every team sport, and just loving being outside. I think that never left me and influenced who I am. I still feel like a big kid most of the time.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
“As a kid, I always imagined myself as a pro-basketball or baseball player, I looked up to those guys so much, so, I guess, I'm pretty lucky I found a sport I was able to go professional in. But, it’s better than a sport, because skateboarding is a lifestyle and culture within itself.”

A perfect day in San Francisco always includes these three things...
“Hanging out with my son, Grayson, a round of golf on a sunny day, and a good meal with my lady and some friends at my favorite restaurant.”

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
09_SahilJain
The Mad Man

In an era where hopeful social media start-ups are popping up left and right, 23-year-old Sahil Jain saw a gap in the market and ran off with a brilliant idea, one he dubbed AdStage. His in-beta company is an interface that lets companies create ad campaigns specifically targeted for publishing on high-traffic websites like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Pretty much, Jain is the modern-day version of Don Draper, spearheading the way advertising is done in the new millennium. At this year’s Launch Festival, he and his Adstage team walked away with the fest's highest accolade, garnering much-deserved press and recognition. And, it’s no wonder, considering that Jain literally negotiates deals in his sleep — more on that later. So, the next time you peep a tempting advertisement on your screen, more than likely, it will be Jain who helped make that happen. Read on to get the deets on his first trading deal made on the playground, why his dad nicknamed him “Freak”, and which sports star he’d swap lives with.

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Tell us what you’re doing with your life and career now.
“Right now, my life really revolves around my new company, AdStage. This is my second time being a founder, but my fist time being the CEO as well and I am a strong believer in leading and setting expectations by example. I literally dream about AdStage. In fact, I’ve been told that I talk quite a bit in my sleep and typically the context is me negotiating and making deals, practicing an upcoming pitch, or just chatting with various team members. I also argue in my sleep, but I see that as passion!”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned and who taught it?
“The best professional lesson that I have learned was to realize that many things are just not in my control. When you set your expectations appropriately that some things are just out of your control, you are able to stop wasting mindshare on pounding yourself into the ground if something goes wrong, and instead get back to focusing on what you can control. My dad actually taught me this lesson and it’s one of the only ways I can keep myself somewhat sane. Though, he’ll be the first to tell you that I am crazy —or a ‘freak,’ which is his gracious nickname for me!”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be? Why?
“It would be awesome to switch with a professional soccer player in his youth like Neymar of Brazil. I think it would fit my personality quite well with regards to being a bit OCD and meticulous with everything I try to do. Also, I love to travel, and showing up on a big stage with adrenaline pumping is just a feeling that cannot be matched.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I am told I negotiated absolutely everything. I was always on the prowl to get a good deal, whether it was trading Pokemon cards in third grade in Brazil on the playground, or conning my teachers into thinking I was working my butt off so they’d give me extra slack when I was really buying time to do a hundred other things that I was more interested in. When I was six, I’d get up in the middle of the night, head to the kitchen, plop myself on the counter with glue and tape to fix a tea cup that broke earlier in the day or to figure out why a door knob was not working as it should. All things considered, I still love to use my hands not just my keyboard and mouse.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life? Why?
"I'd choose Aziz Ansari. I feel like having him sit in a serious role while being able to be comical in any given situation is exactly how I see myself, for better or for worse. I pride myself on being clever, even when I’m really not…and I think Aziz would really capture that, as most comedians are highly intelligent and also exceptionally clever in their thinking. He is also, obviously, outspoken and brash, which matches my personality quite well.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“Amazing food, unrushed quality time with friends and family, and video games!”

What’s your mantra?
“Always set your expectations appropriately.”

Photographed by Winnie Au.

10__EvelynRusli
The Journalist

Veteran journalist Evelyn Rusli, 28, isn’t afraid to step into the midst of chaos to get a story. A whip-smart reporter (she graduated from Princeton) who lends a mic to those who don’t ordinarily have a voice, Rusli has reported on everything from the 2004 tsunami disaster in Indonesia to maids working in degrading conditions for the The New York Times. These days, her topics are more light at heart, staying on top of the tech scene right here in the Bay for The Wall Street Journal.

An East Coast expat still navigating our topsy-turvy city, Rusli spends most of her days sleuthing for clues on what the folks at Facebook, LinkedIn, and Groupon are up to. We turned the tables and interviewed her — finding out all about her out-of-this-world experiences, not-so-saintlike adolescence, and thoughts on which macho actor would best play her in a biopic. Extra, extra read all about her right here!

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Tell us about what you're doing with your life and career right now.
“Eight months ago, I packed up all my clothes, gave away my furniture, left a job at The New York Times, and moved out West to accept a position with The Wall Street Journal. I cover several Internet companies, such as Facebook, Zynga, LinkedIn, and Groupon for the paper and closely track mobile trends, venture capital, and the intersection of culture and technology. I loved my colleagues and job at The New York Times, where I primarily handled technology transactions, but I was hungry to dig deeper into technology companies, particularly Facebook, and I wanted to do it from San Francisco after spending several years in New York. And, well, The WSJ gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“While I was an undergraduate, I spent parts of my sophomore, junior, and senior years working for The New York Times’ Southeast Asian bureau in Jakarta, Indonesia. In December 2004, a major earthquake ripped through the Indian Ocean, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and injured, especially in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, which was near the epicenter of the quake. A few days later, while I was watching CNN in my pajamas in the living room of my parents' home, I got a call from my mentors at The Times asking, ‘How fast could I get to an airport?’ Soon after, I was on a flight bound for Indonesia and into ravaged Aceh. I navigated the destruction, speaking to people who lost dozens of family members, fisherman who saw their homes engulfed by the waves as the tsunami pulled their boats in, separatists who were still wary of the military and government, and children who were suddenly orphans. The time impressed upon me just how important this job is. Here, from the rubble, it was our responsibility to piece together and share the narratives of these people from the front lines.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“This story always trumps the ego. I remember my first trip with Jane, who was The NYT Southeast Asian bureau chief at the time. We traveled to Kuala Lumpur to talk to maids, many of whom came from poor families in Indonesia, who had been abused by employers. We spent the whole day traveling the city, interviewing these abused women and their advocates. After some 10 hours, long after the sun had set, Jane turned to me and asked if we should have a bit of food or water. She was so focused on pulling the strands of the story, she didn’t even think about her basic needs until the end of the day. I don’t think I’m perfect, but I do think one of the most common error of journalists is to forget the mission of their art, because they are momentarily blinded by the ego.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“A bit rebellious. That streak has shaped my appetite for risk, thus influencing many of my life decisions, such as my decision to hop on a plane to work at the San Francisco Examiner in 2003 (my first summer after freshman year of college). It didn’t have an internship program, and it was a paper in decline, but I wanted to cover local news in a major market, so, to my parents’ chagrin, I wrote a letter to the editor, told him I would write for free, and flew to San Francisco for the summer. I ended up covering a broad range of news events, from the Gay Pride parade to vehicular homicides to the state’s recall election. That willingness to do strange things my parents didn’t approve of has led me to hop on plenty of planes.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“Umm…Vin Diesel? It worked out for 'The Fast and the Furious' franchise, and I think he’s yearning to play a softer role, like a female journalist with a weakness for cute puppy GIFs.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
“I saw two different paths. One was to be a writer. I’ve always loved storytelling and fell in love with Jorge Luis Borges many, many years ago. Through Borges, I gained a deep appreciation for translations and the power of singular words, which have the authority to carry the baggage of not only the author but an entire culture. When I was young, I also fantasized about being an environmental lawyer: I initially applied to Princeton to go to the Woodrow Wilson School [public and international affairs], which I thought might be a logical stepping stone to law school, but I quickly wised up and embraced my real desire to be a starving writer. Best decision I ever made.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“While I was a writer for Forbes, I wrote a brief article that mentioned Bill Gates’ father and in my haste I unfortunately implied that he was deceased. Soon after, I got an e-mail from Bill Gates Sr., who essentially said, ‘Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.’ Lesson: It’s good to fact-check before you accidentally kill someone. I printed out that e-mail to remind myself of that.”

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
11_TracyChou
The Power Pinner

You can like it or you can love it, but it seems like the world is in a mad pinning craze, and wunderkind Tracy Chou is leading the surge. As a star software engineer at Pinterest, Chou, 25, sharpened her tools at Facebook, Google, and Quora before coming on board to the self-expressionist engine, with most of her days spent building out the users’ browsing experience and prototyping ideas to bring them to production in frictionless, scalable (ding ding! startup jackpot) ways. Aside from her day job, she also volunteers with a number of nonprofits focused on bringing minorities and women into tech (i.e. Hackbright Academy and Girls Who Code). Can someone whip up a “We Heart T.C. Board” stat?

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Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
"A couple months ago, I took a whirlwind weekend trip to Buenos Aires with five people I didn't know. We spent almost half the time in transit, but made time for some good Argentinian steak, Malbec, and partying with the locals ‘til four in the morning."

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
"The best professional advice I've ever received has been to lean into my strengths. Part of that is being more self-aware about what my strengths are, and the other part is finding and taking the opportunities where I can shine."

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
"I like my life! I respect and admire too many of my peers to even start naming them, but we each have our own paths, and I don't spend a lot of time thinking about what life would be like if I took any of theirs."

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
"I epitomized 'the bookworm.' I used to spend recess sitting in the hallway reading 'Nancy Drew' and 'Sweet Valley High' books. My mom even had to impose a book and page limit on how much I was allowed to read per day. I can't say any of that oh-so-fine literature changed my life goals or philosophy or anything like that, but I still love reading, and I am also a very fast reader from all that practice!"

What's been your most humbling moment?
"Reaching adulthood and realizing how much opportunity my parents have given me, and how much they've sacrificed for that. I'm very far behind where they were at my age, but only hope that I can live up to everything they've given me."

What’s your mantra?
"Everything will be all right in the end...if it's not all right then it's not yet the end."

Hair and Makeup by Renee Rael, Styled by Sheri Evans
12_JustinMorrison
The Waker-Upper

In case you haven’t looked left or right for a hot second, coffee is a big thing on the streets of S.F. Which is precisely why we can’t get enough of Sightglass, the SoMa-based hotspot for serious coffee connoisseurs. You can thank Oregon-raised, 29-year-old Justin Morrison for your daily cappuccino addiction — he, along with brother Jerad, opened up Sightglass with a simple goal: To source green coffee from, largely, Central and South America, where a good cuppa joe is a meticulous and hands-on craft. Thankfully, it seems like our fair city agrees (just take a look at the rave reviews on Yelp), enough so that the duo is in the midst of opening a second location in the Mission. We’re first in line.

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If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?

"I feel truly humbled and fortunate to say this, but I wouldn’t switch lives with anyone. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but the reality is that I am living out my dream. I worked extremely hard to get where I am and, as with every small-business owner, there are a number of struggles and challenges that one experiences daily, but these challenges are ultimately life lessons that I wouldn’t trade for anything."

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
"Bill Murray. Why? Because, it’s Bill Murray."

What's been your most humbling moment?
"My most humbling moment was the first coffee-sourcing trip I took to Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. It was like nowhere I had ever traveled to or bought coffee from before. It’s difficult to capture in words, but the kindness of the people and the energy of their culture is truly something special. That trip definitely put a new perspective [on] life for me and was beyond humbling to say the least."

What’s your mantra?

"If you’re near me, beer me."

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
13_ChristinaPalomoNelson
The Sole Searcher

For some, the smell of mom’s home cooking sparks an onslaught of nostalgic emotions, but for Cristina Palomo Nelson, 28, codesigner of cult-followed label Frēda Salvador, it’s leather hides and freshly produced shoes. Coming from a long lineage of shoemakers (her grandfather and father taught her the ropes), it’s almost like this pedi profession was in the cards for the El Salvador-born beauty.

Equipped with oodles of passion, a penchant for quality craftsmanship, and years of industry intel, it comes as no surprise she’s got San Franciscans chomping at the bit, vying for the brand’s streamlined booties and loafers. And, while Frēda Salvador’s local presence has been burgeoning at an unstoppable rate, the shoe designer is generating national buzz as well — WWD recently dubbed the brand “one to watch,” and it can be scooped up everywhere from Shopbop to Saks Fifth Avenue. We’d walk a mile in this lady’s (adorable) shoes, any day!

Tell us about what you're doing with your life and career right now.
“I am loving every minute of where my life is right now. I recently got married and am living in one of the best cities in the world. Starting a business has been incredible. Megan Papay and I founded Frēda Salvador in August of 2011. We are starting to design FW14 and are looking forward to expanding our distribution. We have our own online store as well and recently opened our first storefront.”

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
“My career goals are focused on growing Frēda Salvador into Frēda Nation. I really want the brand to be a household name! I’d love to do more community and local outreach as well and collaborate with talented artists, designers, chefs, and winemakers — continuing to do new inspiring things with new inspiring people.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
“Exactly what I am doing. I was born into a shoemaking family. My grandfather was a shoemaker and my father followed in his footsteps. This career path was inevitable for me. I feel very fortunate to have met my business partner Megan and have our visions aligned.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“We recently had our first-ever sample sale, and we had no expectations. We’ve been really lucky and have developed a strong following here in San Francisco, but we could have never imagined the turnout would be so great! People were lining up outside waiting for the doors to open; we sold out of all 200 pairs in 36 minutes.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“My father taught me to never just assume things are getting done. If you want them done right, you have to be present. He’s worked in the shoe industry for over 30 years, and there are so many factors that you rely upon to deliver the final product. So many things could go wrong. And, really, at the end of the day, the only ones really impacted are the brand owners, since we are the ones having to face our retailers and customers.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“I have an amazing husband and family, I live in one of the coolest cities in the world, and I am doing exactly what I want to be doing career-wise, so no one. Now, if the question was, if you could trade lives with anyone, just for a day, I would say Frida Kahlo. She is a big inspiration to me.”

A perfect day in San Francisco always includes these three things...
“An afternoon at the park, beers and oysters with friends, and a sushi dinner date with my husband.”

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
14_TristanWalker
The Entrepreneur

Whether he’s supporting minority groups by dishing out fellowships to techie youths or dropping beats as a record-spinning DJ, Tristan Walker aims to please. The entrepreneur in residence for venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and chairman for the nonprofit organization CODE2040, Walker admits to having a business-savvy mind frame since early childhood. Now, just a year shy of 30, the Stanford alum has titles like business developer at Foursquare under his belt and other start-ups in the works. We chatted up the webbie whiz to uncover his first career dreams, the wisdom he lives by, and what advice Tyler Perry whispered in his ear.

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Tell us about what you're doing with your life and career right now.
“Most importantly, I’m trying to be the best husband I can be to my beautiful wife. After that, I am working on the start-up I founded, which entails building a great product, brand, and team. I’m very (very!) excited about this new venture. I’m also working with the team over at CODE2040, a nonprofit I founded over a year ago. Our goal is to create access, awareness, and opportunities for top minority engineering talent to ensure their leadership in the innovation economy.”

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
“I’m trying to get my turntable skills in order. I want to DJ at a large event for a couple hours and have at least 10 folks come up to me and say it was the best party they’ve ever been to. Other words and phrases that can replace 'best': dopest, most fun, and coolest.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“I interviewed Tyler Perry for an event for small-business owners, and one lesson that he shared still resonates with me. He told us that the most freeing moment of his career was when he realized that 'The trials we go through and the blessings we receive are the same thing.’ He made it clear that entrepreneurs will always have to go through hardships, but those are things we can really learn from.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I was curious, introverted, entrepreneurial, and competitive for as long as I can remember! Not much has changed there. I would say the only thing that has changed over time is the introversion. Where I grew up was pretty tough and my mother was strict about my not hanging out all the time, causing trouble. So, I had to find ways to keep myself occupied; that definitely changed as I got older out of necessity. So, while a lot of my friends would consider me a pretty social person, there are still hints of my being introverted.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“Idris Elba. There’s a rumor that he’s going to be the next Bond. Badass. That said, I’m thinking more Idris Elba as Stringer Bell from The Wire — just swap out the drugs, extortion, and murder for legitimate business! He was the brains behind the operation, was always calm and clear, shunning popularity and celebrity, and was respected inside and outside the organization…and he wasn’t a jerk.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
“I thought I’d be an all-star point guard in the NBA. Not even close.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“My wife, an early-morning bootcamp with all my friends, and dinner and drinks with friends.”

What’s your mantra?
“You don’t get what you don’t ask for.”

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
15_JessicaHische
The Letter Lady

Not many folks can scratch working with Wes Anderson off their career bucket lists, but it’s a mind-blowing reality for illustrator and letter-crafting pro Jessica Hische, 29. The talented font aficionado produced typeface for the quirky film favorite Moonrise Kingdom — that’s right, those decorative credits were courtesy of Hische — and she's recently found herself completely engrossed in a handful of envy-inducing projects. And, while she likens some of her daily activities — the "manipulation of Bézier curves" — to "watching grass grow," she laughs in the face of 16-hour workdays.

Yes, the bicoastal (she spends time chilling out in Brooklyn, too) word nerd has a jam-packed schedule, which encompasses everything from traveling to far-flung conferences to working with publishers like Penguin — and she still manages to find time to enrich the lives of others through top-notch design on the reg. Can we get a resounding write on?!

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Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“Awesome is pretty relative. So, I’d probably tell you the last completely awesome thing I did was have crazy-good almond cake and espresso the other morning. But, the last big, awesome project I had, is a toss-up between the current one I’m working on — a 26-book classics series with Penguin — or doing the titles for Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Working with Wes was completely amazing!”

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
“My career goals change like the wind, so I try not to think too far in advance. At the moment, I’m trying to fit in more time to do type-design work, setting a goal of making at least three typefaces per year. Other than that, I just look forward to more partnerships with great companies like Paperless Post, which I just started making a line of wedding and baby cards with. I also always have a fun side project on the agenda that I look forward to producing in some way.”

Tell us about what you're doing with your life and career right now.
“My life is pretty bonkers right now. I never thought I would have a career that involved so much wonderful travel, but thanks to conferences and workshops, I’m able to take what could be a very solitary career on the road. I do lettering for a living, which is a little niche discipline somewhere between graphic design and calligraphy. Most people are familiar with calligraphy, because of wedding invitations, but not lettering — the difference is that calligraphy is writing and lettering is drawing. I’m hired by clients to draw words and phrases for books and campaigns. I absolutely love what I do and wish I could work 16-hour days every day of the week.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“I think the best professional lesson I’ve ever learned is actually a personal lesson — be yourself — which my parents encouraged me to do from before I can remember. It’s such an important lesson to learn, and, while it seems simple, it’s one of the hardest to implement in your life. I found a career that suits me. I say the things I think and feel online. I don’t take on work that makes me feel morally icky. It’s cheesy as hell, but the ‘follow your heart’ and ‘trust your gut’ statements really resonate with me.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I was a totally shy kid that was incredibly concerned about the happiness of everyone around me. I still have a lot of that people-pleasing DNA in my system, but the shyness melted away over the course of my teenage and college years. If you ask anyone that has met me in the last 15 years if they think I’m a shy person they would laugh.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“I’ve been told my celebrity look-alikes are Jennifer Aniston circa 1995, Mandy Moore, and Haley Joel Osment as a child. I think Tina Fey as Liz Lemon could easily play me though.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
“I thought I was going to ‘make art,’ but didn’t really have a clue what that meant. Drawing and making things with my hands were always the things that brought me the most joy in the world. I have to remind myself how lucky I am all the time that I’m basically doing exactly what I wished I would grow up to do.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“I have incredibly humbling moments as soon as I step outside of my little graphic-design bubble. When I see someone doing really important humanitarian work, it’s super-humbling. When I have a personal family emergency it gives me a new perspective about my priorities and life. When I see handmade lace and think about the countless hours that went into making something that we can make ‘more perfect’ with machines now, it humbles me to think about that person’s commitment to their craft.”

Hair and Makeup by Renee Rael, Styled by Sheri Evans
16_EliErlick
The Brave Face

We’re going way below 30 for this one, but, hey, exceptions have to be made for seriously precocious talent. We’re talking about the one-and-only Eli Erlick, who, at just 17, is the director of Trans Student Equality Resources, a youth-led organization that helps improve the educational environment for gender-bending students. In light of all the recent conversation around bullying, we’re tipping our hats to anyone who is helping alleviate a grave situation, let alone a senior in high school!

Erlick, who lives in Mendocino County, started TSER one year ago after being disappointed with how local schools were handling transgender studies. The youngest person to be featured on the Trans 100 list, R29 is honored to feature Erlicks on ours. To many happy returns!

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Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
"I spoke in front of the California Assembly Education Committee about the difficulties transgender students experience in schools. The bill, which will make much of my efforts on school safety and rights in California, was passed through the assembly, and I am hoping [it] will become the law of the land!"

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
"My goal is to create equal educational opportunities for LGBTQ students across the world, allow transgender youth to be themselves, and to help create a world that supports all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This summer, I will begin working with advocates from several states to pass transgender-inclusive educational policies that will significantly improve the school climate for the thousands of transgender students in our country."

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
"Learn to be flexible and listen carefully to your audience. Designing a website is hard, especially when it has to do with a new topic such as being openly transgender in school. Openness to the evolving language and concepts in regard to gender identity is crucial to promoting understanding and acceptance of transgender people."

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
I was an incredibly shy kid. I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone, I didn’t have friends, and my hair grew over my eyes. All of this was a direct result of the humiliation I faced after coming out as transgender at age 8. My teachers, former friends, and classmates didn’t include me in many activities because of my gender identity. And, because there wasn’t legislation relating to my participation, they were allowed to. When I was allowed to transition to female at age 13, my shyness went away."

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
"I thought I was going to be stuck living a lie about my life, having no friends, and barely being able to make eye contact with anyone around me. I wanted a life where I wasn’t visible, as I didn’t want anyone to see the male facade I had developed to retreat from the humiliation while going through elementary and middle school."

What’s your mantra?
"Never give up."

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
17_MichaelPreysman
The Simplifier

Nobody likes a pesky go-between, especially Michael Preysman, founder and CEO of Everlane. His vision? A light-footed clothing brand that doesn’t just peddle luxury basics rendered in the same mills producing designer wares, but that shakes up the retail model by bypassing middlemen to offer kinder prices. Three years later, S.F.-bred Preysman, 28, is at the helm of a burgeoning e-commerce site touting beautiful staples for both men and women (most items don’t top $100). Yes, it seems like this self-professed mischief-maker knows a thing or two about challenging the status quo; we’re just thankful he quit his day job (venture capitalism? so yesterday!) to create wear-with-all cashmere and silk basics that we — and our wallets — can feel good about.

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
"The trip to China this past January was incredible. We visited the factories where our products are made. There’s a common fear of Chinese factories, but we’ve managed to find some pretty great partners. The facilities were phenomenal — large open spaces with top-of-the-line machinery. And the wages, they’re paid very well."

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
"Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s about the team. The two pieces of advice I’ve gotten are to hire people you enjoy spending time with and make work feel like play. We’ve done that as much as we can at Everlane, and it’s helped create a community."

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
"I met someone yesterday who spent the last 10 months traveling the world. He has four more months of travel left before he gets started with his new venture. We get so caught up in work that we forget to escape. I’m hoping not to do that to myself."

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
"I had it all planned out from day one. Go get an engineering degree. Work in finance. Quit finance. Start a design company. Well, not really. I just wanted to get out of college and start building something. I’m happy that happened."

What's been your most humbling moment?
"The first year of starting up was pretty rough. It all looks glamorous now, but there were some lonely days. We had no idea if Everlane would work. We went through four separate ideas before launching what we have today."

What’s your mantra?
"Always ask why."

Hair and makeup by Renee Rael, Styled by Sheri Evans
18_JamieHenn
The Globe Changer

There are those who care about the environment, and then there are those who carry the planet on their shoulders. As the cofounder and communications director of 350.org, Jamie Henn belongs to the second set. Along with famed environment writer Bill McKibben, the Cambridge-born, S.F.-raised 29-year-old started the international climate organization back in 2008 in an effort to, quite literally, save the planet.

Since then, he’s collaborated on large-scale, global art projects with Thom Yorke, and, this past February he coordinated the largest civil-disobedience protest that the White House has seen in recent years. It was to oppose the Keystone pipeline proposal alongside the likes of Julian Bond and Conor Kennedy (getting The Washington Post and Perez Hilton to both cover a singular climate-change protest “made my communications heart happy," he says).

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
"My biggest dream is that the climate movement in this country will grow [to] the size and power of something like the civil-rights movement of the 1960s. We have all the technology we need to solve the crisis; what we lack is the political will. At 350.org, I get to constantly experiment with creative ways to try and motivate people to take action and come together to make an impact. Solar panels and wind turbines are important, but the real source of energy we need to tap is the human spirit. Luckily, it’s a renewable resource."

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned and who taught it?
"I’ve learned from my fellow 350.org cofounder, Bill McKibben, that the most important way to get a message across is by telling a good story. Bill wrote for The New Yorker in the 1980s — his ability to craft a compelling narrative helps make 350.org’s work unique: We don’t just run smart campaigns, we tell good stories."

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
"I dreamed that I’d be traveling around the world, climbing mountains and writing articles for National Geographic. At 350.org, I’ve been able to live some of those childhood dreams of adventure: We work with activists and young people in pretty much every country on Earth to try and build a global movement to stop climate change. That means I get to travel quite a bit, whether it's tracking down activists in Cambodia, attending a UN climate conference in South Africa, or heading off to Turkey for [a] global youth summit that we organized this summer."

A perfect day in San Francisco always includes these three things...
"Brunch with friends, a hike in the redwood trees, and oysters up on Tomales Bay."

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
SusanGreggKoger
The E-Tail Expert

If we could flash back to what we were doing as a teenager — um, let’s just say it didn’t involve perfecting the business plan for a future Inc. 500 company. Some people just have that entrepreneurial spirit pumping through their veins from an early age, and ModCloth founder and CCO Susan Gregg Koger, 28, is one of those few. Since starting her company with her then boyfriend (now husband), she’s quickly changed the landscape of community-driven online shopping and finds herself incredibly busy juggling three U.S. offices, 450 employees, an impending in-house line, and scouring around for her next sweet buy (she recently picked through a private collection of 50,000 dresses) — talk about exhausting. But, when it comes down to it, this imaginative, business-savvy lady is all about spending QT with her four-legged loves, Blue and Winston. Okay, cue the awwws.

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If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“I really respect Tavi, but I wouldn’t want to be a teenager again. I think what she’s doing is so cool. When I read Rookie or Rookie Yearbook, I wish something like that had existed when I was a teenager. Even though I’m not one now, I still really appreciate the work. Tavi certainly doesn’t apologize for her age, and I can’t wait to see what she does in the future.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“Well, I have an older half-sister who is 18 years older, so, effectively, I was raised an only child. The house I grew up in was pretty orderly and quiet, and that sort of describes me as a kid, too. I read a lot and enjoyed playing in my own imaginary world. At one point, I got really obsessed with the summer Olympics, so I made all my dolls leotards and hot-glued sequins and gemstones on them, so they could be Olympians. My mom said she knew I’d be into fashion because of that. I still appreciate being able to retreat into my own world at times, and my imagination has never left me.”

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
“Michelle Williams. She seems like a genuinely lovely person, and she partly inspired my short cut.”

Tell us about what you're doing with your life and career right now.
“As the chief creative officer of ModCloth, I’m responsible for everything we do as a brand — from the designers we carry to our marketing imagery, plus the look and feel of our site and mobile apps. My now-husband, then-boyfriend, Eric, and I cofounded the business together when we were teenagers. We now have over 450 employees in three offices across the country — Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and right here in San Francisco, where we live to be near ModCloth’s headquarters. I’m on the road about half of the time, but when [I'm] home I like to spend time with Eric and our two pups, Winston and Blue.”

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
“I work a lot, but it’s totally worth it, because I love what I do and consider myself very lucky to have a career I look forward to every day. We’ve come so far in the last five years, but, in a lot of ways, it feels like we’re just getting started. ModCloth is not just a retailer, but a social-shopping community with our customer at the center of everything that we do. We’re launching our first private-label brands later this year, so that’s a huge focus for me right now. I want our customers to have the same amazing shopping experience regardless of their dress size, and it’s very creatively fulfilling to be able to make that happen for our community.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“Never apologize for your age. Our lawyer told me years ago when we were raising institutional funding for ModCloth for the first time, and it’s always stuck with me. It doesn’t mean having a know-it-all attitude, but it’s about trusting your instincts. I’m a firm believer that creative and fresh perspectives can tip the scale.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“Being an entrepreneur has been a constantly humbling experience. Sometimes it feels like you’re always going three steps forward and then two steps backward. Not knowing what you don’t know can lead to incredible innovation, but can also lead to many mistakes that are extremely humbling in retrospect.”

Hair and Makeup by Renee Rael, Styled by Sheri Evans
20_MeredithPerry
The Scientist

Meredith Perry, 24, is the real-life version of Tony Stark. The founder of innovative company uBeam — which will soon wirelessly cast electricity into the air! — has even created a hologram of herself. Not to mention, she managed to simulate a floating 3-D head. No big deal or anything. Truth be told, she’s been conducting experiments since her days as a tot, turning her Fisher-Price kitchen set into a laboratory. But instead of envisioning herself switching lives with a scientific genius, she’d rather do a switcheroo with the comedic variety (you'll never guess who). In the future, don’t be surprised to see her donning a space suit, since she still aims to one day be an astronaut. After reading all about the scientific mastermind, you’ll see why making her your next girl crush isn’t exactly rocket science.

Tell us what you’re doing with your life and career now.
“I run a company called uBeam, which is developing a system to wirelessly beam electricity through the air to charge electronic devices. We’re heads down, building out our technology right now, and we’re really looking forward to the future when we can share this magic with the world. I also recently started a media lab with Shawn Fanning, Addison Hardy, and Tim Luckow. We’re building everything from brain-wave entertainment devices to high-speed transportation systems to simulating touch-over distance.”

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
“Aside from wireless power, there are a few things in life that I really care about: space exploration and acquiring a deep understanding of the multiverse (we’re alive, floating on a ball of mass in endless space, and we have no real understanding of how any of this is possible), life extension, and working on a cancer cure, and developing technology that can detect cancer early on. I would like to work on technology to find and destroy cancer before it destroys us.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“Lean into the pain. This is actually a blog post by the late Aaron Swartz. From the outside, running a company might seem glamorous, but it’s been one of the most painful and exhausting experiences I’ve ever had. By leaning into the pain, and looking at new, scary obstacles as opportunities for growth, I feel invigorated rather than unsure and scared to take charge and push forward.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“Larry David. I know he’s a balding man and in his ’60s, but he seems to be having a lot of fun.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“The truth is, I’m still a kid — and chances are I’ll say the exact same thing when I’m 80. When I was younger, I would do experiments: I made my own milky pens and light glasses, I would take bacterial cultures of my dog’s mouth and would grow green beans. It was a strange time. The only difference between then and now is that my toy kitchen set became a lab at NASA and my experiments can kill me if I screw anything up.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
“I never had any dream career plans like other kids did. I was sort of interested in becoming a veterinarian. When I was in high school, the goal was to become an astronaut. That is still the goal.”

What’s your mantra?
“I have two: Life is short, so JFDI, and [do] six impossible things before breakfast.”

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
21_BritMorin
The DIY Queen

If your idea of a homemaker is still the traditional ’50s-style housewife twirling in a poodle skirt, note that Brit Morin, 27, is reinventing the role for our generation with sophisticated flair. The founder and CEO of Brit + Co, a DIY haven for whipping up everything from friendship bracelets to tilapia burgers, Morin is meshing technology with craft-making, and the masses are logging on. While you may assume her idea of tools are more glue-gun than Photoshop, Morin tends to geek out with the Silicon Valley crowd after moving to the tech hub after college to work for Apple and Google. She even named her dog Pixel! And, in a world where most are using the Internet as a means of escape, Morin wants Brit + Co to be a destination for putting your hands to good use. “We’re all living jam-packed lives between our careers and personal lives, and technology can help us streamline our time while also freeing up some of it for creative play.” We could make crazy-cool crafts all our own, but we’d rather do it with Brit + Co.

Tell us what you’re doing with your life and career now.
“I can’t believe it, but I’ve finally come to terms with being an ‘adult.’ I’m at the point in life where I’ve settled down with an amazing husband [Dave Morin, co-founder and CEO of Path], have found my true inner passion, am mom to a ridiculously cute puppy, founded a company, and am embarking on being whatever today’s version of a ‘homemaker’ is called, all while we are building out a new home.”

What made you start Brit + Co?
“A little over a year ago, I realized that many of my friends were in the same boat: We want to be the rock-star chef, the happy hostess, the digital warrior, the fashionista, and the businesswoman. We want to excel at managing our homes just much as we want to excel at managing our home screens. And, yet, we are also yearning for a bit more simplicity and creative downtime in our lives as well. As I was dealing with my own challenge of juggling these things, I realized that, as we begin to build our lives as adults, these modern-day ‘homemaker’ skills have changed in a big way…they can now actually be simplified with the power of technology.”

How does your love for technology come into play?
“The thought that really sparked my passion was this intersection of technology and DIY, where digital meets analog. I realized there was no leading voice out there showing us how to merge home and making in the digital age. This, plus the need to follow an entrepreneurial spirit, led me to found Brit + Co. last year. Our goal is to support this community and help them make and discover beautiful things.”

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“I was honored to have the opportunity to speak at Maker Faire in San Francisco last month. More than 165,000 people attended this year’s event — it was a maker’s heaven! True fact: There was even a dude walking around with a 3-D printer attached to his back. Um, amazing.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“Knowing when to say ‘no’ can be extremely difficult. Sometimes this means turning down partners and opportunities that may fill a need in the short-term, but don’t match your long-term vision and goals. You never want to sacrifice your brand’s identity at the risk of being inauthentic.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“Growing up, I was extremely curious and crafty. Both my parents worked, so I taught myself how to sew, French braid, cook, and more. And no, I had no Google or YouTube at that point for reference, this was trial and error, folks! When I wasn’t making, I was learning more about technology: I was using email by age 9, had my first cell phone at age 12, and was truly obsessed with the Internet as a teenager. This addiction to knowledge and technology carried through college, when I became even more fascinated with the Internet and started spending time in Silicon Valley. To me, Silicon Valley is the most creative place in the world. My passion for creativity and technology has guided me since I was little.”

What’s your mantra?
“Create something new every day.”

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
22_Adam&Glenn

The Indie-Pop Duo

With album titles like Awkward Turtle, Bummer Pop, and This Isn’t the Beginning of Anything, Adam Myatt, 27, and Glenn Jackson, 26, aren’t afraid to not take themselves too seriously. The Oakland-based duo releases tracks under the self-proclaimed genre of “stoner pop” and recorded their first full-length record in 2012 under the label Velvet Blue, with another hot EP ready to hit our eardrums later this year. With the use of heavy synthesizers, James & Evander produce upbeat, softly sung tracks with profound lyrics, and chuckle-inducing videos that include laser-beam-pistol showdowns. All laughs aside, the duo has serious talent. We chatted them up to learn what they were like as youngsters, their hard-learned lessons in music making, and the three things they wouldn’t dream of living a day without.

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Tell us what you’re doing with your life and career right now.
“At this point, we're just focusing on what's directly in front of us — making good tunes with good people, having fun, paying rent…things of that nature. We're fortunate to have a really talented community of musicians here in Oakland and the East Bay who are willing to work together, help each other out, and generally have a good time together, and we're really just trying to do what we can to keep that growing and help each other succeed.”

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“The last completely awesome thing we did together was go floating in sensory-deprivation chambers. We had some friends who had done it before and recommended it, and it proved to be such a relaxing, eye-opening experience. There's a lot of interesting things that come to your mind when you are sitting in ‘nothing,’ and we're sure it helped us unlock some creative potential in the end.”

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
“Right now, we are all about our short-term goals, and the main one is just to keep making rad music. We want to keep improving, keep evolving in all the projects we are involved in, sort of just trying to beat what we did last. In the end, we'd like to be able to make music for the rest of our lives. Whether that is doing it as a hobby or as a career is something we're not really worried about at this point. We probably have too many creative endeavors on the horizon. After a long period of experimenting and just messing around, we are finally starting to zero in on some new James & Evander songs and will be recording an EP that will hopefully see a release before the year is through.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“Probably the two most important professional lessons we've learned are to finish projects and to know when to say no. Both of those were something we learned over time. When you are making "art," there is always something you could change or fix, but at a certain point, you just have to finish it! We've seen a lot of really creative people get lost in that stage of the process, just before something is finished, and then they just never push all the way through. You have to finish projects or no one will ever hear them! When we started out, we just said ‘yes’ to everything. Yes to any show, yes to any remix opportunity or meet-up, or chance to throw our name out there. After a while, we had to start saying ‘no’ and focusing on what made sense. We were spreading our creative energy a little thin, and now we've made an effort to focus our time and attention into things we truly want to do, or — let's be real — helps our finances.”

What kind of kids were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“Glenn was the kid with allergies and glasses that couldn't skateboard, so he listened to records and such. Adam loved cats, still does.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“It's sort of a cheesy answer, but the most humbling experiences we've had as musicians are when people from the crew we run with play us a track they are working on, and it's just amazing. There's been many times when we're just getting stoned in someone's living room, and they throw on some demo they've been working on or a song they just finished, and it just floors us. It's really humbling to know that the company we keep is so talented; it's just nice to feel challenged by your peers in that way.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“Weed, the sun, and coffee.”

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
23_AliceLee
The Out-of-the-Box Designer

Alice Lee can be found in the offices at Dropbox as the file-sharing site’s product designer, surrounded by a rainbow pile of color pencils and a touch-surface tablet for her sketches. Her past endeavors include intern stints at prime techie apps like Path and Foursquare, which came after her nonprofit work in Ethiopia. Not bad for a 21-year-old fresh out of college. But the for-web illustrator didn’t get her skills in the industry from the classroom per se, since she was an accounting whiz at the University of Pennsylvania. In a whirlwind period, she went from crunching numbers to digital doodling — no wonder re-branding is sort of her thing. “It’s hilarious to me that six months ago, I was reading through company 10-Ks for accounting homework, and now I illustrate and help make cool products,” she says. When she’s not making creative leaps, Lee likes to explore deserted buildings in the city, quote Mean Girls, and dip her pen into the ink of fashion sketching. Color us impressed!

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Tell us what you’re doing with your life and career now.
“I just graduated from Wharton, where I studied operations and information management. During the second half of business school, I started to delve into design for tech. I took a semester off to shoot for a nonprofit in Ethiopia (the entire project helped raise $40,000 to build schools in the country village of Girage). Then I interned at Foursquare, where I redesigned the developer site. After that, I did a lot of small tech- and art-related projects on my own, some of which went viral and some of which garnered press attention. I then spent the summer interning at Path and am now very happily a product designer at Dropbox.”

Where can we find you outside the office?
“In my spare time, I love to hike around the Bay and draw. I also really love hackathons (I’m usually one of the few designers at one), at which I fill the design and front-end role. Right now, I’m obsessed with lettering (hand-drawn 'custom' type), the TV show Adventure Time, and exploring unique parts of S.F.”

Tell us a true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“About a month ago, some friends and I found and explored this abandoned high school in the middle of San Francisco (in the Lower Haight). We ended up in what seemed to be one of the home-economics classrooms — it was neat, because it was basically as though the school just got up and left everything the way it was. We found someone’s 1987 planner that was filled with appointments, in perfect cursive penmanship, on top of a desk that was covered in graffiti of skulls and other odd things. I’d walked past that area a bunch of times prior but never realized that there literally was this piece of preserved history just sitting there beyond the gates.”

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
“I really love designing products that I know others will in turn love and use. In the future, I just want to keep working in the tech space and build out products that impact other people’s lives. Professionally, I want to make my impact that way, and, personally, I want to keep exploring art and make things that make me and other people happy! One exciting project that I just shipped was completely redesigning and illustrating the new Dropbox homepage, which is currently rolling out globally.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“It’s pretty ironic that I spent three years in what is probably the most well-established undergraduate institution that exists, and yet the best professional lesson I’ve ever learned was in the crumbling ruins of an ancient church in Lalibela, Ethiopia. I was sitting with humanitarian photographer Esther Havens (literally on this rock step, actually), and she was telling me about her journey as a photographer with self-taught roots. She summed up her experience in one sentence that I’ve carried with me since: ‘If you don’t know how to do something, figure it out.’ What’s awesome is that once you take this attitude and apply it to all the things you wish you knew how to do or did in your life, it really starts to feel like the possibilities are endless.”

If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
“Esther Havens or Austin Mann. They’re humanitarian photographers who have been immensely inspiring to me. If I weren’t a product designer, I would probably be pursuing some form of photography. In any case, their stories are incredible: They are both self-taught photographers who travel with nonprofits to capture their stories. If you point at any photograph that Esther has taken, she will be able to tell you the names, families, and stories behind the people in it.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
“When I was a kid, I would obsess about different career paths for a year at a time. For example, in high school I was into journalism. I lived and breathed the student newspaper — that’s where I learned how to lay pages out in InDesign, edit photos in Photoshop, and write copy.”

Hair and Makeup by Renee Rael, Styled by Sheri Evans
24_LeoBeckerman
The Deli Dude

You know you’ve got a good thing going when Woody Allen gives your endeavor his honorary stamp of approval (no small feat in the Jewish-fare arena). But, for Wise Sons Delicatessen co-owner Leo Beckerman, 29, it wasn’t particularly a fast and easy road to success, and he admittedly reveals it’s been "an all-consuming venture" and it "definitely doesn’t run perfectly yet." Well, our taste buds beg to differ on that one, and we firmly believe Wise Sons Delicatessen hits all the right notes with its now-famous rye-pastrami sandwiches that have garnered accolades from Bon Appétit and Food & Wine. What spawned from a local pop-up has blossomed into a full-fledged Mission staple — in large part thanks to Beckerman and his innate drive. But for the L.A.-born baker, it’s the humbling moments (like a man celebrating his 100th birthday at his restaurant) that make it all worthwhile. In case you’re left wondering what’s up next for Beckerman, read on for his ultra-inspiring future plans and admirable take on work and life.

What's the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“When we first started, I did all the baking myself. I was completely inexperienced and really struggling to keep it all running. After having some serious trouble, I received some advice from a fourth-generation baker. He told me that no matter the recipe, nor the baking schedule, this was my bread and I knew it best. He told me to trust in myself. This was invaluable advice and has extended far beyond the kitchen.”

Tell us about what you're doing with your life and career right now.
“For the past few years, I’ve been working to grow Wise Sons Deli from a pop-up to an actual brick-and-mortar restaurant. It’s really been an all-consuming venture, and it definitely doesn’t run perfectly yet, but my business partner [Evan Bloom] and I have a few new things in the works. The most immediate is the second location we’re opening downtown in the Contemporary Jewish Museum.”

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“A few weeks ago, some of the restaurant staff took a day to go salmon fishing together. We all work a ton, so it’s rare for us to get to do something like that. But, salmon season just opened, and everyone was really excited to go. It was a really remarkable day. We watched the sun come up over the water, just behind the Golden Gate Bridge. And, being able to catch your own fish and then turn it into a meal with friends the very same day always helps me remember the importance of fresh, local food and good company.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I was a picky eater and pretty skinny. I'm working hard to make up for those early years.”

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
“I like building or starting projects — getting them up and running — and then seeing them continue on their own. I think the mark of a successful project is when something can function without you. So, right now, I’m focused on bringing Wise Sons Deli to that point. We're also opening a second location downtown, which is a huge undertaking. Jewish foods are so diverse and delicious but can be hard to find, and they don't often get the attention and care they should. In the future, I’d love to open a Jewish bakery.”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“A coffee in the morning from Coffee Bar, a bike ride — even if it’s just a few blocks — and a stop at Bi-Rite for a bottle of wine and ingredients to make dinner.”

Hair and Makeup by Renee Rael, Styled by Sheri Evans
25_CrystaldawnBell
The Dancing Queen

What do you a call a ballet dancer who performs awe-inducing moves and buries her nose in "Batman" comic books? We call her Crystaldawn Bell. The tippy-toe twirler has been practicing her gift for ballet since the wee age of 3 and has since been trained by top choreographers. These days, Bell graces the stage under the direction of Robert Moses — cue the we’re-totally-impressed whistle. When she’s not astonishing audiences on stage, she’s hitting the gym as a personal trainer, helping others get svelte and fit. At 28, Bell plans to keep lacing up those ballet shoes well into her 60s. Even then, we bet she’ll continue to be a step ahead of the rest.

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Tell us the last completely awesome thing you did.
“My nephew came to stay with my fiancé and I for about a week this past November. We took him to the movies, the museum, shopping, and stayed up until four in the morning playing video games each night. Basically, we did everything shy of getting a tattoo — he’s 12, or else we would have. The smile on his face during his trip made my heart swell. He went home and asked his mom if he could come back to stay with us for his birthday. His birthday was 11 months away. We thought that was pretty awesome and funny.”

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
“My career goal is to be dancing and progressing for as long as I can be. I want to still be on stage in my 60s! I have also never been out of the U.S., so I think it would be awesome to travel to another country to dance.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned and who taught it?
“Robert Moses once said in his class, ‘Don’t try to do the thing. Just do the thing.' In dance, we often try to be an exact replica, to dance like the teacher or choreographer, whether the movement looks good on our bodies or not. What I got from Robert’s advice was that we should just dance, not try to dance, but dance. Teachers give you an outline to adhere by, but they want you to get the most out of it that you can get. Since learning that lesson, I have gotten much more enjoyment out of dancing.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
“By the time I turned 27, I thought I would be doing exactly what I’m doing now: dancing. Granted, I thought I’d have a couple of rug rats running around to make this life extra beautiful, but there is plenty of time for that to happen in the future — fingers crossed!”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“My most humbling moment was my first Robert Moses’ Kin rehearsal. Two of the people I look up to most in the dance world were in the room, Robert and dancer Katherine Wells. He would show a complicated movement phrase one time and Katherine would pick it up, just from having seen it once. I was blown away. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous or danced as hard in my entire life.”

A perfect day in San Francisco always includes these three things...
“Spending time with my fiancé, either playing video games or reading comic books. Also, doing something physical to tickle my heart rate — like taking a dance class, skateboarding, or going for a long walk.”

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
26_MajaRuzni
The Painter

One may believe that gracing the cover of New American Paintings would be the defining marker of success for an artist. But, for abstract painter Maja Ruznic, 29, her long-term goals are measured by much more than public praise. Hey, having your artwork front and center on the esteemed mag can’t hurt though. Emotional intensity permeating her work and following her intuition are just a couple of the core forces behind this babe's lauded pieces. However, Ruznic didn’t always know her path would point toward painting, as a child she wanted to be a model — and admired their “alien”-like qualities, which led her to stretch social boundaries. After fleeing a tumultuous life in Bosnia at age 9, this skilled gal has come to hone her craft and relish moments spent teaching children and creating multidimensional works of art that provoke curiosity and reflection with every brushstroke.

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Tell us about what you're doing with your life and career right now.
“About two years ago, I surrendered to the fact that making art is what I am meant to do. When I am not in my studio, I teach art to children. I see the impact that I make on children’s lives every single day, which fuels me with energy that I take to the studio. This year I started working with Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco. Also, I am working on some paintings for a three-person show at Galerie Vidal St. Phalle in Paris, which opens in October. I’ve never been to Paris and am beyond grateful to have this opportunity.”

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“I went to Bosnia with my younger sister, Alma, last year. She was born at a refugee camp in Austria and was one years old when we moved to the United States. Alma never had the chance to meet other members of our family. About three years ago, she started saving money for her ‘Bosnia trip,’ so that she could finally meet her grandparents. Being reunited with them and witnessing my sister meeting them for the first time has been the most emotionally intense moment of my life.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“Patch Adams, the incredible doctor and one of my collectors, once told me that I must keep painting because my work is important. He told me this at a time when I was not selling much work and ‘important art people’ did not seem interested in my work. The timing of Patch Adams’ encouraging words was crucial. If someone like Patch Adams, who is a true inspiration, believes that my work is important, I need to believe it myself.”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“I have never met my biological father. A couple of years ago I tried and got very close. My biological grandparents told me to never call again and that I should not disturb their family. They told me that he has a new family who knows nothing about me. That day I learned that I am a secret and that if it came to surface, it would destroy a man’s life."

What’s your mantra?
“The gut is a little brain. It has answers, but you’ve got to listen gently.”

Tell us a little about your career goals, including any creative endeavors on the horizon.
“I am beyond excited about my Paris show this October. Over the next year or so, I’d like to make a children’s book for adults. People have often asked if my small works on paper are illustrations of some kind. Given that they are small moments of a larger narrative, it would be interesting to attempt a nonlinear story. I’d also like to incorporate dance and performance into my 2-D work. It would be interesting to have dancers work on an improvisational piece inspired by my paintings. I would love to work on the makeup and costume design. Working with actual people would give me new insight into my work.”

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
27_MattGalligan
The Reinventer

Matt Galligan’s current Twitter profile readers: “Entrepreneur, musician, photographer, craft beer lover. CEO & Cofounder of Circa. Permanently Midwestern at heart. Temporarily San Franciscan for the coffee.” We couldn’t have written a better intro than his own, except to add that Galligan, 28, is shifting the paradigm on how we digest news with his new smartphone app, Circa. You'll have to try it to see what we mean, but when Galligan says, "Think Cliff Notes" — it's true. Whether you’re thumbing through that iPhone, enroute to the gym or kicking back at Dolores, Circa gives you the quick and dirty version of breaking news, all on one seamless screen. We have to say — it's a vision we can get behind, one that sees efficiency as the millenials' gold currency. Now, whether you’re doing that with a small-batch brew in hand is another story…

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If you could switch lives with anyone else under 30, who would it be?
"I'd have to say Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons. When I was in high school and college, I wrote a lot of music and performed in a few different bands. It's crazy to think that Marcus is just 26 and writes some of the most soulful and brilliant songs that I've ever heard. They're playing folk music in a world filled with pop and electronic songs with catchy riffs...it's a miracle they even took off. But, that's a testament to his talent and ability."

Which celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life?
"Ryan Gosling. Partially because my Halloween costume last year was his character in Drive (complete with scorpion jacket), and partially because, 'Hey girl'; he's just pretty bad-ass."

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be doing at this age?
"At age 10, I'd have told you I'd be an astronaut. At age 14, an aerospace engineer (I later learned how much math you needed to do that and wasn't particularly good at it, so...career change). At age 18, a computer scientist. At 20, a graphic designer. Funny how I'm currently none of those things, but my fascination for exploration and technology is still there; it just manifested in different ways."

What's been your most humbling moment?
"From 2004 to 2007, I went through a series of six surgeries that were quite difficult and embarrassing to fix a condition with my lower back. It was an incredibly difficult few years, because of the nature of the surgeries, and the fact that time after time they didn't work — until the last obviously. But this experience changed my life, and I wouldn't be who I am today without it. Recently, I wrote about the whole experience in a long article here."

A perfect day in San Francisco always includes these three things...
"Starting out with some coffee from Sightglass or brunch at Citizen's Band, grabbing a few of my friends and heading to a park somewhere in the city, enjoying the day with some tasty drinks. Bonus points if we're playing Cards Against Humanity."

What’s your mantra?
"Don't waste days thinking 'What if,' instead ask 'Why not?'"

Makeup by Renee Rael, Hair by Rebecca Butz, Styled by Sheri Evans
28_KarlaGallardo
The Minimalist

We kind of had a “say what?” moment when we first caught wind of S.F.-based e-tailer Cuyana’s humble philosophy. There’s something that really resonates with us when a business encourages you to actually shop less instead of more. This mantra has been the globally driven fashion site’s school of thought since day one, and thanks to cofounder and CEO Karla Gallardo, we can see why it's gaining heaps of accolades.

The Ecuador-born pro hopes to change the landscape of shopping one sustainably produced item at a time. “My goal is to create a lifestyle brand that changes consumer behavior and recognizes the work of those who make the products we buy." Using globally sourced craftsmen, Gallardo travels to awe-worthy parts of the country to ensure that Cuyana’s products are responsibly made. We have to give props to the super-admirable minimalist message Cuyana tosses our way.

Tell us about what you're doing with your life and career right now.
“I’m in the midst of creating Cuyana, the first e-commerce brand that believes in fewer better things; where quality and meaning should be chosen over quantity and impulse.”

Tell us the true-life tale of the last completely awesome thing you did.
“I recently traveled to Bodrum, Turkey, with a team of nine to shoot Cuyana’s summer campaign. I had no sleep, little time to eat, and 30 pieces of luggage and equipment. It was fabulous though — the highlight was working in a bikini.”

What’s the best professional lesson you ever learned?
“My mom taught me two lessons — practice makes perfect and perseverance makes success. Although I run a start-up and there is not much time to ‘practice,’ I practice the discipline of persevering.”

What kind of kid were you? How does that affect who you are now?
“I was a very introverted kid. Growing up in Ecuador and having the same 20 classmates for 12 years was the perfect excuse to never make new friends. Moving to the U.S. for college, however, was an awakening experience that allowed me to explore my extroverted side and develop my social abilities to their full potential!”

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be at this age?
“A pediatrician. Back then, I was taught there were only three good career options — doctor, lawyer, and a banker. Nobody told me entrepreneurship would be so incredible!”

What's been your most humbling moment?
“Traveling in Japan — I witnessed and discovered an entire new level self-discipline that I see myself far from achieving. Hats off to them!”

A perfect day in your town always includes these three things...
“Friends, sun, and exercise.”

Hair and Makeup by Renee Rael, Styled by Sheri Evans


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