Successful entrepreneurs usually have their hands full running one business, but Kalika Yap isn’t like other business owners. The self-described “serial entrepreneur” owns four profitable, distinct businesses with plans to launch a fifth in the near future.
“Being an entrepreneur, you learn something new every day,” says Yap, who was a journalist with Bloomberg and CNBC before she caught the entrepreneurial bug. “I meet so many people — it’s exciting. It can be crazy and nerve-wracking, but if you hang in there, it’s a huge learning opportunity.”
In 1999, Yap started her first business, Citrus Studios, Inc., a branding and digital agency that provides a wide array of services, from logo design, website development and content marketing to social media management. The Santa Monica-based firm and its 21 employees serve blue-chip clients including Hulu, Annenberg Foundation, Sephora, Dollar Shave Club, Sony, USC, UCLA, Stanford University and The Getty Center.
In 2005, she invented Luxe Link, a fashion accessory that keeps handbags off the floor and is sold online and in thousands of stores around the world. Yap, who holds patents in China, Hong Kong, Japan and Canada, has licensing deals with Cole Haan, Michael Kors and others.
Four years later, she launched The Waxing Company, the first high-end waxing salon in Honolulu. Last year, Yap founded Orange & Bergamot, which provides similar services as Citrus, but aimed at women-owned firms with smaller budgets. She plans to launch a brother company, Bergamot Brands, targeted at men business owners.
“I want to create companies that elevate business owners and help them succeed,” says Yap, who learned how to code in the 1990s before the technology boom. She honed her digital technology skills while working at the Getty, and after she left her job to start Citrus, the Getty became her first client.
“I did several projects for them, and as people left for other jobs at Norton Simon, USC and Huntington Library, they’d recommend me for other work. When you do good work, word gets around,” she adds.
Lessons learned and certification
With the Getty as a first client and others coming by word-of-mouth, Citrus didn’t face many struggles in the early years, although “back then, you had to convince people to get online,” Yap says. “Now, everyone knows they need to have a great online presence — your business won’t succeed without it. That’s how people remember you.”
Like most business owners starting out, she wasn’t selective about Citrus’ clients – taking any project that came her way. Then, she realized the importance of making sure her clients’ values aligned with hers.
Yap created the company’s core values, which include: Communicate kindly, Have heart, be All in, be Remarkable and Make lemonade out of lemons (CHARM). “When I work with a potential client or employee, I share my values and make sure we’re aligned,” she adds.
Citrus, which has been SCMSDC-certified for several years, has benefited from its minority business enterprise (MBE) certification, according to Yap. “We do a lot of work with L.A. county as a subcontractor and all the primes want you to be certified, so certification really helps.”
In addition to attending council events, including Minority Business Opportunity Day and the Leadership Excellence Awards gala, Yap was a featured speaker at CEO Academy, SCMSDC’s leadership program for MBEs, where she helped participants reveal their brand’s core essence and convey their brand to better connect with audiences.
Yap has received many awards, including the National Association of Women Business Owner’s Rising Star award, Deborah Awards by the ADL and Asian Business Association’s Technology Firm of the Year. She is also the first woman and minority to serve as president of the Entrepreneurs Organization Los Angeles, a global, peer-to-peer network of influential business owners with 173 chapters.
Tips for success
Her advice to minority entrepreneurs?
- “Don’t give up. A lot of times, business owners are almost there and throw in the towel too soon. Don’t let fear take over. I told myself that failing wasn’t an option.”
- “Have habits that will make you productive. I meditate twice a day and work out every day. I design my life the way I want it. My habits help me start off my day in a great mental state.”
- “Leverage technology. I use technology to streamline my work.”
- “Define what success means to you. Someone’s idea of success may be to sell a company, have a great family life or flexible schedule…define what it is and go for it.”