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Men of the Moment 2018

Sarah Feldberg | March 28, 2018 | Feature Features National

These men aren't just fascinating and stylish: Their ideas, innovations and developments are changing the landscape of San Diego—and beyond.

Co-founder, I.D.E.A. Partners
Opened IDEA1, a mixed-use development with residential, office, restaurant and event space that’s a centerpiece of the burgeoning downtown I.D.E.A. District

Breaking ground on East Village Green, a 60,000-square-foot park that will fill an entire city block in the Upper East Village

“Eight years ago, I met Pete Garcia and we started I.D.E.A. Partners. Our feeling was that downtown San Diego had a lot going for it, but what it lacked were jobs and a job-creation engine. We really wanted to create a movement wrapped in a real estate project that could become a magnet for talent and the companies that wanted to attract it. We settled on the Upper East Village, and we called it the I.D.E.A. District, a neighborhood built on pillars of innovation, design, education and arts. The whole concept is getting people close together so that the distance between ideas is shorter. IDEA1, which opened a couple [of] months ago, is a mixed-use development with housing, commercial, restaurant and event space—all the elements that create that rich ecosystem. Now the district is coming together. FabLab, Urban Discovery Academy and 10 Barrel Brewing have moved in, and UC San Diego started construction on its urban hub. It takes a while for a neighborhood to evolve and emerge, but it’s started to feel like this is really happening. I can sense it.”

President, RAF Pacifica Group
what’s new
Created RAF Pacifica Group in 2015 and bought $80 million in land, with more than 1 million square feet of industrial and office space coming online this summer
what’s next
Breaking ground on mixed-use projects in Carlsbad and Solana Beach that will include restaurants, retail, residential and office space

“I did my first real estate deal at 19. Being a naive young person, I thought I could own a few buildings, do a couple [of] deals and retire at 35. I came to San Diego for college and started working right after. My first deal took six months, and I made about $250 dollars. It was kind of my awakening. In 2015, I founded development company RAF Pacifica Group. Since 2016, we’ve bought about $80 million in land, and we’re developing 1.2 million square feet that will come online this year. We’ve trademarked something we call ‘creative industrial’—industrial buildings with outdoor fire pits and bocce courts, amenities you’d see on creative office campuses. In 2018, we’re breaking ground on a mixed-use project we call Flight on Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach, which I’m really excited about. We’re going to have retail and a restaurant on the street, then high-end apartments upstairs and 8,800 square feet of office space. We’re trying to match neighborhoods with uses they don’t have yet. We’re here for the long run, and we’re really looking at being part of the community.”

CEO & Founder, COOLA Suncare
Expanding COOLA’s line of eco-conscious, SPF-enhanced beauty products and skincare at Sephora and Ulta

Partnering with the like-minded Surfrider Foundation to protect the world’s oceans, beaches and waves

“I moved to California for my MFA, and after school I was painting and playing online poker. I was looking for an organic sunscreen, but I couldn’t find anything I liked. Around 2004, I started what became COOLA. It took three years to get to market. My first lab made a sunscreen without any SPF active ingredients in it. The next lab used the wrong ink. On my third try, the warehouse burned to the ground. I thought, I’ve already committed so much money to this, giving up now would feel horrible. I rededicated myself with 100 percent focus. I was working out of my garage, but we kept growing and every year we doubled in sales. We’re now in Nordstrom, Sephora and Ulta. We’re in 40 countries, and we’re not just sunscreen. We call it “plant protection.” We use natural ingredients to boost the sunscreen’s efficacy, and we’re expanding our line of beauty products. Both of my parents had melanoma. They caught it in time, but it made me reassess the bad habits I had as a kid. We want to make products that fit easily into people’s lives so they can get outside and stay protected.”

Co-founder & CEO, Growth 1031 and The Collective Access
Founded Growth 1031 exchange accommodator company in December

Launching an externship program with The Collective Access and San Diego Workforce Partnership to give disadvantaged kids a way into the business world

“I was a state champion boxer in Connecticut. All I did was fight all morning, fight all evening, run, workout. One day, one of my mentors said, ‘I’m tired of seeing you always involved in athletics. If you apply to college, I’ll pay for it.’ That changed the entire trajectory of my life. I came out to San Diego in 2011 for law school, and in 2015, I founded a nonprofit called The Collective Access to teach kids about networking. I was raised by a single mom who worked two jobs. She didn’t have time to teach me about the business world, adulting, financial literacy. Kids from disadvantaged areas need to be taught the tools for success. We teach them how to network, and we have professionals from different industries come and network with them. In July, we’re launching an externship program with San Diego Workforce Partnership to get kids real business exposure and, hopefully, jobs. Part of the requirement of my mentor was, ‘You have to give it back.’ I hope he’s proud. He changed the direction of my life. I try to live up to his standards.”

CEO & Founder, Launchbox365
Created Launchbox365’s online leadership training program, which is being sought by colleges and universities

A new app offering on-demand coaching to help with that big job interview, sales presentation or conversation with your boss

“After running business after business and managing thousands of millennials in the workplace, I wanted to figure out a way to help youth grow up, learn relationship skills and integrate with experience in a big way. We started Launchbox365 in 2014, and through keynotes, workshops and coaching, we teach millennials to be their best selves in the workplace. Millennials are stereotyped as entitled and disloyal, and it’s just so not true. My experience in training 5,000 of them in the past year or so is that they’re amazing. And here’s the coolest thing about having this job: The other 10 coaches and I get positive feedback daily. I just got a thank-you note from someone who said, ‘Without you, I wouldn’t have found myself and gotten a job.’ That aha moment is different for everyone, and we push superhard to get it. I get teary-eyed and goosebumps all the time.”

CEO, Zephyr Partners
Opening The Park at Bankers Hill, an ultraluxury condo building overlooking Balboa Park

Developing Del Mar Resort on a 16-acre bluff overlooking North Beach that’s been closed to the public for 100 years

“I used to watch Baywatch and Beverly Hills 90210 when I was a kid, so when I graduated from school, I packed up a U-Haul and moved to California. I got a job working at The Corky McMillin Companies, which was one of the largest privately owned real estate development firms in the country. In 2008, I co-founded Zephyr Partners. The economy had just collapsed, and it seemed like there would be opportunity among the turmoil. At Zephyr, we have a pretty simple philosophy: We like to work on fun projects with great people. The Park at Bankers Hill exemplifies that. It’s a 62-unit, ultraluxury condo building located directly on Balboa Park, and it’s truly unique [in comparison] to anything that’s ever been built in San Diego. We’ve also got the Del Mar Resort, a new hotel on a magnificent piece of property overlooking North Beach that we hope will be a crown jewel of the area for everyone to enjoy—locals, tourists, residents, guests. We want our projects to be assets for the community, not just when they open, but 20 years later.”


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