Watch out, 2023 — the following groundbreaking entrepreneurs are coming for you!
From serial entrepreneurship and investing to trauma-informed therapy and women’s rights, their specialties span a wide range of industries, but they all have one thing in common: these founders and CEOs are cutting-edge leaders and innovators in their respective fields. That makes them the top names to watch as this year unfolds.
1. Harry Maugans, Founder of Privacy Bee
Serial entrepreneur Harry Maugans is a business visionary and savant who has attained massive success by founding, scaling, and exiting cutting-edge startups.
Maugan’s illustrious career started when he was only 14 years old when he started his first company, which not only attracted major clients like CompUSA, Travelocity, Chevron-Texaco, and Marathon Petroleum, but also employed a staff of over 24 people. It should come as no surprise, then, that he won the Association of Corporate Growth’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, as well as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Cup.
It took Maugans only 15 years to found, scale, and exit from three more startups in a wide range of industries. Each sale resulted in windfalls to the tune of seven or eight figures. ZoomInfo acquired the last of these, Clickagy, in 2020.
Maugans’ latest venture, Privacy Bee, has quickly grown into the fastest-growing company in the industry, helping businesses decrease their risk of a data breach by effectively managing their External Data Privacy. With Privacy Bee, there’s finally a way to combat the exploitative data industry and protect one’s employees from hackers and bad actors.
Many companies reactively invest in cybersecurity, waiting for an attack they try to defend themselves against. Privacy Bee, on the other hand, is proactive, disrupting spear phishing and social engineering while attacks are still being crafted. Even though Privacy Bee only launched about two years ago, it has already attracted thousands of clients, including many of the Fortune 100, and earlier this year it became the first (and only) privacy company to ever be awarded a US federal government contract.
Maugans’ mantra is to challenge the status quo through relentless innovation, and his long track record of success proves he’s extremely good at it. All this has made him an easy choice for our Top Entrepreneurs of 2023 list.
2. Ken Collis, Founder of TLK Fusion
Ken Collis founded the innovative concierge marketing firm TLK Fusion in 2009 at the urging of major celebrities like The Kardashians, Jenni Rivera, and Vicki Gunvalson. For the past 14 years, his company has given brands a cost-effective way to raise their profiles, boost sales in the retail space, and burnish their reputations.
As a family-owned and operated business, TLK Fusion specializes in retail servicing and marketing, being the first national company to secure retail relationships and then move the product off the shelves with strategic marketing. Due to Collis’s many contacts in the worlds of pop culture, retail, and entertainment, the agency also offers valuable celebrity alignments including licensing and endorsements.
TLK Fusion also helps brands secure product distribution to leading retailers, assisting with every step of this critical yet complicated process — from identifying retail partners that would be a good fit through initiating communications all the way to negotiating purchase orders. For these reasons and more, major brands like Pepsi, L’Oreal, and GUCCI trust TLK Fusion.
Part of Collis’ business success may stem from his childhood, which he spent working in his family’s businesses. After earning a Business degree from Cal State Northridge, he helped Bankcard Processing create Authorize.Net, the payment processing company, and take it public. The financial industry came calling next, followed by Clear Channel Communications (now iHeart Radio).
Collis is also a renowned philanthropist who regularly donates large sums to Race to Erase MS, Cure Addiction Now Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Donate Life California, and Feed the Children. He demonstrates his generous spirit by mentoring young entrepreneurs, inspiring and guiding them to start their own ventures and scale up successfully.
3. Cameron and Nilou Ajdari, Founders of Currents Management
Currents Management was only founded in 2019, but has already become one of the foremost digital-first talent management firms in the world. This is due to the visionary leadership of co-founders Cameron and Nilou Ajdari, a husband-and-wife team with 10 years of experience in digital marketing.
Currents Management helps influencers and other content creators build and monetize their online followings through merchandising, licensing, publishing, and partnering with brands. They also assist with developing content, growing brands, and handling public relations. Their deep expertise, personalized guidance, and unique approach have launched the careers of dozens of popular influencers in a wide variety of industries, including technology, lifestyle, family, and comedy. Their clients include top creators such as Alex & Jon Bouffard, Krystal Lora, and The Cordle Family. With the help of the Ajdaris, content creators achieve long-lasting success, turning into business moguls with annual revenues of more than seven figures.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to see our clients grow and develop as artists and know we played a role in their success,” Cameron says.
“We believe creators are the present and future of the entertainment industry, and we’re dedicated to helping them reach their full creative potential,” Nilou adds.
Currents Management works with content creators on a wide range of platforms, from social media sites like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, to podcasts and blogs. For more information, please contact [email protected].
4. Alex Hormozi, Founder of Acquistion.com
You might already know celebrity entrepreneur Alex Hormozi as the burly hunk on YouTube who dispenses advice on winning in business and life. Hormozi mesmerizes his 1.25 million followers on topics from creating passive revenue streams to leveraging artificial intelligence (AI).
Alternatively, you might already know Hormozi from his books. His 2021 publication, “$100M Offers: How to Make Offers So Good People Feel Stupid Saying No,” is the #1 best seller on Amazon’s Sales & Selling list. In it, he explains how to charge more money for the same products or services, reduce overhead, and boost conversions. The book is full of proprietary tools, including the “value flip,” “God-mode guarantees,” and “scarcity stack,” that help businesses become more successful than ever.
Or you might know Hormozi as the founder of Acquistion.com, which partners with businesses to help them scale up their operations. Having successfully built and exited seven startups — one of which netted $46.2 million — he founded Acquistion.com in 2020 in order to invest his own massive wealth.
Acquisition.com recruits promising businesses in the service and digital products industries and deploys Hormozi’s unique expertise in monetization and customer acquisition to help these partners achieve new heights. The company’s core values include “sincere candor” combined with “unimpeachable character,” as well as “competitive greatness.”
Hormozi is passionate about mentoring entrepreneurs from underprivileged communities. Accordingly, Acquisition.com offers a free course based on “$100M Offers.” According to the business’s website, future free courses are forthcoming on lead generation, money models, and real-world sales.
5. Emiliana Guereca, Founder of Solita Productions and Women’s March Action
Post-Covid, Emiliana Guereca returns to her roots as an award-winning event producer, taking the helm of her successful event production company, Solita Productions. With a wealth of experience and accolades in the industry, Guereca’s comeback comes at a time when the events landscape is reawakening.
Solita Productions, known for its outstanding concerts, festivals, and multicultural experiences, has always celebrated diversity under Guereca’s leadership. Collaborating closely with organizations and communities from different cultures, the company creates authentic and inclusive events that foster a sense of belonging for all attendees.
For Guereca, this return is not only professional but deeply personal. As a first-generation Mexican American, she understands the power of connecting diverse communities and the importance of cultural representation. Her background infuses every project Solita Productions undertakes, ensuring an authentic and meaningful experience.
Beyond event production, Guereca is an advocate for women’s rights and social justice. Her role as the founder of Women’s March Action demonstrates her commitment to empowering women and increasing female representation in government. In recognition of her exceptional contributions, Guereca was awarded “Woman of the Year” by LA County in 2023.
Emiliana Guereca’s return to Solita Productions signals a new chapter for the company and the industry. With her expertise and dedication to inclusivity and social change, she is poised to make a significant impact in the post-Covid entrepreneurial landscape. As events regain their vibrancy, Guereca and Solita Productions are set to create remarkable experiences that redefine excellence.
In a world craving connection and memorable experiences, all eyes are on Emiliana Guereca and Solita Productions as they shape the future of event production in a post-Covid era.
6. Elizabeth Power, Founder of The Trauma Informed Academy
Elizabeth Power, founder of The Trauma Informed Academy, is a Fulbright Specialist in Trauma Informed Care, a faculty member at Georgetown University Medical Center, and one of the foremost experts in the world on trauma-informed care. However, her success did not come without struggle.
“I started out repairing shoes for famous singers and musicians in Nashville,” Power says, explaining how her own path in life was far from easy. “I’ve survived many different life- and sanity-threatening situations. I’ve ‘failed’ therapy numerous times,” she says, “because the system wanted me to give my power away even more than I already had. I needed collaborators who could see my strengths and help me learn.”
Power couples what she learned recovering from traumatic experiences with over 30 years of research across multiple disciplines. This gives her precisely the wisdom and practical skills to help others overcome their own challenges. “I teach what I’ve learned and what the research supports,” she explains. “I went from being homeless, committed to my failure and maladaptive behaviors, to becoming prosperous and successful. That’s the journey I help others complete, too.”
The Trauma Informed Academy’s research has shown that the skills in emotional intelligence align perfectly with skills people miss when they experience trauma and with trauma-informed care. Power harnessed that knowledge to create a trauma-responsive model of emotional intelligence that helps survivors and those who work with them. An online platform with short-form, engaging videos and reusable downloads, the Academy uses gamification to surprise and delight. But that’s not all — the Academy offers students live training calls on a weekly basis.
Power’s clients — from individuals, nonprofits, and clinical organizations to governments — benefit as a result. Power helped schools in Africa boost students’ test scores by over 20 percent by incorporating trauma-responsive tools and also helped the nation of Japan develop a culturally appropriate national model. Every year, thousands turn to her to transform their lives for the better.
“We help our clients shift their culture from toxic to life-affirming,” Power says. “People grow their emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, and learn to put out fires while they’re still small, before they rage out of control. They do this through a trauma-responsive lens. As a result, they retain talent, boost morale, forestall crises, and meet criteria for their settings that require trauma-informed care training. All around, there’s just less drama, more success, and more healing.”
7. Dennis Weiss, CEO and Founder of IPQS.com
Dennis Weiss, a first-generation American, draws unwavering motivation from his hardworking immigrant parents’ remarkable journey. Their struggle ignites his entrepreneurial spirit, guiding him to fearlessly pursue innovative ventures. He aptly summarizes his approach with the quote, “Don’t read the book, write the book,” emphasizing the importance of practical experience.
As the founder of IPQS.com, Dennis and his team have transformed fraud prevention. Utilizing proprietary technology, they verify the authenticity of IP addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers for lead generation data. “Internally, we built what IPQS is today,” Dennis proudly states. Their comprehensive approach empowers Fortune 500 businesses, leading the way in fraud prevention.
Drawing inspiration from his family’s distilling heritage in Slovakia, The Weiss Distilling Company redefines excellence in beverages. Its hidden speakeasy serves remarkable in-house cocktails, highlighting organic ingredients. Crafted with 100% organic wheat and purified with care, Dennis’s exceptional gin, vodka, absinthe, and moonshine embody his unwavering commitment to quality.
Weiss’s third venture, Sabbath Coffee Roasters, showcases the art of roasting, allowing each bean’s unique story to unfold. Ethically sourced, small-batch specialty coffees in Metro Detroit exemplify his unwavering drive.
Dennis’s achievements thrive on teamwork, as he selects talented staff members, prioritizing both business and family. “Time with family is priceless,” he emphasizes. In leisure, he explores technology, and embraces the outdoors, drawing inspiration from his upbringing. Through triumph and determination, Dennis inspires entrepreneurs, showcasing the power of scripting one’s path.
8. Harshada Bansal, Founder of The Tea Heaven
Harshada Bansal, founder of The Tea Heaven, was born and raised in a tea-industry family. In high school, she understood that she would not be allowed to take over the family business due to her gender. That’s when she started envisioning starting her own tea company — one that would help both women and the environment.
To learn how to build a business, Bansal studied brand management at Emlyon Business School in Paris. She also spent time in London and Shanghai to learn about tea culture in the United Kingdom and China.
Combining her family’s knowledge with her studies, Bansal launched The Tea Heaven in 2019. A sustainable brand of authentic whole-leaf teas, The Tea Heaven delivers the freshest possible tea worldwide while also empowering women in the tea industry. The company employs underprivileged women in India, and one percent of its revenue is given back to the women tea workers on top of their normal wages. “Women are the backbone of the tea industry, spending 8 to 10 hours each day picking tea leaves,” Bansal explains.
While other teas spend 8 to 10 months after harvest just getting to store shelves, The Tea Heaven’s products reach there in only 1 to 3 months because each tea is sent directly from tea estates, rather than passing through middlemen. All of the herbs and spices of The Tea Heaven’s blends originate from the highest quality regions, such as saffron from Kashmir, spices from Kerala, and lavender from Albania.
While other tea companies use powder or dust teas, The Tea Heaven’s products are exclusively made up of whole-leaf tea. Their teas are entirely pure and made from all-natural ingredients, with no flavors or additives, meaning they not only smell and taste great, but also provide health benefits. Additionally, their compostable muslin cloth tea bags are as beautiful as they are sustainable.
Since its founding, The Tea Heaven has established a presence in over 7 countries, generated more than 5,000+ 4.5-star reviews, and has sold over 8 million cups worldwide.
9. Sydney Schmall, Influencer and Founder of Flossy Dental Marketing Agency
As a first-generation college graduate and a young Latina female founder, Sydney Schmall has overcome no small amount of adversity in life. She had humble beginnings, is 100% self made, and has built multiple 7-figure brands. Now, she’s on a mission to reform the medical marketing space and help other female entrepreneurs create their own 7-Figure businesses.
In 2017, Schmall launched Flossy Dental Marketing — an innovative Dental Marketing firm that helps dentists outshine their competition on social media — because she wanted to help dentists attract high-end clientele through sophisticated marketing and branding strategies. In 2023, Instagram has become the #2 most utilized search engine, and many prospective customers use social media when choosing their local dentist. This is why Flossy focuses on polishing their clients’ Instagram presence and making them into local authorities to beat their competitors and increase their new patient numbers.
While other dentists and doctors blast stock footage on their social media feeds, Flossy helps clients create original content that attracts thousands of local followers and increases clients’ case acceptance. As an expert on neuromarketing and entrepreneurship, Schmall marries branding with psychology in order to transform her clients into the most popular doctors on social media. This is done organically through engaging with local accounts and creating lead generation through Instagram.
“Our dentists become influencers in addition to doctors,” Schmall explains. “This raises their social proof and helps them build rapport with prospective clients before the clients even decide to pick up the phone to schedule. We increase case acceptance by making our clients into a local authority — the #1 dentist in their region — on Instagram, so they always crush their competition. Our photoshoots also help our clients reconnect with their ‘trendy side,’ taking them outside of the ‘just a dentist’ box which allows them to regain their power and increase their internal sales confidence. We make you into a ‘cool dentist’ because you are, and deserve to be seen as such. This humanizes your brand and allows us to attract more people organically to your campaign.”
Schmall is also a self-made thought leader, influencer, and model herself, as well as an investor and serial entrepreneur. She enjoys using her experience and expertise to mentor other women, helping them become financially independent and succeed in any career. Believe it or not, she is only 28 years old and, in her words, “is just getting started.”
10. Dr. Cliff Han, Founder of Allerpops
When preeminent biologist Dr. Cliff Han developed chronic allergies three years ago, he turned to his 28 years of research experience to find a solution. Using himself as a test subject, he cracked the code of allergic reactions for the first time in history.
“The immune system goes haywire, erupting with allergy symptoms, when the body’s systems are out of alignment with nature,” Dr. Han explains. “By bringing the body back into balance, allergic reactions can be calmed and even eliminated. No more sneezing, no more respiratory problems, and no more irritation.”
To help bring this discovery to the public, Dr. Han developed AllerPops, prebiotic lollipops that cultivate beneficial strains of bacteria in the mouth and airways. “These good bacteria serve as peacemakers between you and your environment,” he explains.
Unlike other allergy treatments, AllerPops don’t just relieve the symptoms of allergies temporarily. Instead, they address the underlying causes of discomfort. Since they solve the actual problem, their effects are long-lasting. For some people, completing a course of AllerPops wards off allergies for months or years, while for others, the effects can even be permanent.
Dr. Han is also the author of “Nothing to Sneeze at: The Journey from a Small Village in China to Finding a Natural Solution for Allergies,” in which he explains the science behind allergies and tells the story of discovering the solution that AllerPops brings to market.
In his previous career, Dr. Han served as a leading biologist for the Human Genome Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory for 22 years. During this time, he not only led his team to complete hundreds of bacterial genomes successfully, but also authored over 300 scholarly articles. Before that, he spent many years in a hospital working as a medical doctor. His Ph.D. comes from Fudan University.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.