#5

Hardcore Fitness Inc.

HEADQUARTERS: Santa Clarita

CEOs: Larry and Nadia Nolan

BUSINESS: Ownership and management of fitness training centers.

2018 REVENUE: $5.3 Million

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 26

EMPLOYEES: 150

NOTABLE: The Nolans are professional athletes, competing for titles.

Growth: 287%

When Larry Nolan started Hardcore Fitness Inc. in 2007 as an outdoor boot camp, his only two clients were his then-girlfriend, now wife Nadia Nolan, and his mother, Vicky.

Since then, the Santa Clarita location has grown from a small 1,800-square-foot indoor facility to its current 11,000-square-foot flagship.

The key to the company’s success dates back to his earliest days in the venture, improving the workout experience for his customers. When the business was just getting off the ground, Nolan noticed that most other boot camps asked people to bring their own weights to training sessions. Instead of having people haul their own gear, he loaded up a U-Haul truck with weights and other gym equipment and provided it for his customers.

“A lot of people look at other businesses to mimic what they’re doing. But in my mind, I was thinking, ‘Where are they falling short and how I can offer more for my clients?’” Larry Nolan told the Business Journal in 2018.

Hardcore Fitness is not pitched at the average gym-goer but for accomplished exercisers and bodybuilders. As for the Nolans, they walk the walk, having competed in fitness and bodybuilding competitions.

Like the muscle mass of its customers, the company’s growth has rapidly expanded, with 17 franchised locations and about 200 employees. Going forward, the Nolans want to top 1,000 locations in the United States.

– Michael Aushenker

#6

Lief Labs

HEADQUARTERS: Valencia

CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Adel Villalobos

BUSINESS: Vitamin and dietary ingredient supplement manufacturer

2018 REVENUE: $50 Million

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 4

EMPLOYEES: 200

NOTABLE: Company plans to relocate – again – in the next six to eight months.

Growth: 257%

Valencia’s Lief Labs prides itself on a company culture that attracts the right talent to fuel its growth.

Lief is a relatively small player in the $40 billion-plus nutritional supplement industry, in which it manufactures for other brands. It has roughly 200 employees and $50 million in sales for 2018, but for Chief Executive Adel Villalobos, smallness gives him more room for innovation.

Location has helped the Valencia firm too. “Santa Clarita Valley has a nice mix of different skill sets required to run a manufacturing company that, at its core, is innovative,” he said.

A fast-growing company isn’t without its bumps along the way. The team at Lief had grown from one facility to seven from 2008 to 2015 and Villalobos learned too late that an 80,000-square-foot facility was about half too small.

The company signed a lease for a new location, nearly 112,000 square feet, in October 2018 with enough space for manufacturing and distribution of its powders, flavors, ingredients, capsules and tablets used as nutritional supplements; the company now has the capacity to make 5 million capsules a day. The actual move from 28510 W. Industry Drive to 28903 Avenue Paine will happen in the next six to eight months.

Ahead, Lief plans more technology to impact manufacturing. In particular, ERP systems, or enterprise resource planning software, will automate back office functions and free up workers for other work.

– Amy Stulick

#7

Raw Sugar Living

HEADQUARTERS: Sherman Oaks

CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Ronnie Shugar

BUSINESS: All-natural bath and beauty products

2018 REVENUE: $25 Million

EMPLOYEES: 15

NOTABLE: Company started with a 100-store test program at Target.

Growth: 237%

Raw Sugar Living in Sherman Oaks sells bath and body products to consumers seeking natural ingredients.

Co-founders Ronnie Shugar and Donda Mullis saw explosive growth soon after founding the company in 2014. Distribution expanded from a 100-store test at Target Inc. to 1,800 stores nationwide.

“Almost overnight, we needed to fund hundreds of orders,” Shugar said. “We funded a lot ourselves, asked family for a loan, and finally, a small bank believed in us.”

During its first four years in operation, Raw Sugar tripled its workforce, saw 1,000 percent revenue growth, increased product options to 100-plus, and placed its products in 13,000-plus retail outlets in three national chains.

“Fast growth can cause companies to lose sight of who they are and the core values they represent; therefore, we continually make sure our values of always leading with love, purpose, and by example are reflected in everything we do,” he said.

Raw Sugar’s products, from shampoo and body wash to lip balm, are all-natural and eco-friendly. It keeps products free of chemicals or artificial fillers with ColdPress Technology, a method that uses a hydraulic press but no extra heat to extract juices and oils from fruits and vegetables.

Raw Sugar’s presence on social media has rocketed alongside sales, with 100,000-plus organic social followers, meaning the company didn’t pay to have people notice and post about its products on Facebook or Instagram.

– Amy Stulick

#8

Freight Right Global Logistics Inc.

HEADQUARTERS: La Crescenta

COO: Robert Khachatryan

BUSINESS: Shipping services

2018 REVENUE: $11.1 Million

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 1

EMPLOYEES: 23

NOTABLE: At one point, the company had to purchase a safe to keep documents secure from Khachatryan’s baby.

Growth: 209%

Freight Right Global Logistics Inc. caters to technology-centric companies, including freight marketplaces, international freight forwarders, ecommerce shippers and enterprise customers. The company has a network of agents in 166 countries and specializes in international door-to-door shipments.

Chief Operating Officer Robert Khachatryan told the Business Journal that access to funding is one of his challenges.

“We did not seek venture funding, choosing instead to remain independent. Being a non-asset-based company means there is no physical collateral for banks to secure credit. As a result, we are a fully self-funded company,” he said.

Khachatryan started the company, now located in La Crescenta, in his bedroom. “We had TSA inspectors come out to inspect the premises only to find a two-bedroom apartment,” he recalled. “At one point, they made me buy a safe to secure some documents because my newborn baby had no security clearance and technically had access to confidential documents. Looking back, it was pretty hilarious.”

Khachatryan advises other entrepreneurs to look at the Valley’s strengths to build a company.

“People have started businesses and have become billionaires throughout the Valley history,” he said. “As long as you are ready to take on the great challenge of entrepreneurship, you need not look elsewhere.”

– Mark R. Madler

#9

Uptime Energy Inc.

HEADQUARTERS: Van Nuys

CEO: Ben Kim

BUSINESS: Energy drink and supplement manufacturer

2018 REVENUE: $21 Million

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 1

EMPLOYEES: 57

NOTABLE: The company’s mission is to make a “better-for-you premium energy” drink.

Growth: 200%

Uptime Energy Inc. makes its energy drinks available nationwide through retailers including 7-Eleven Inc., independent stores and Amazon.com Inc. Founded in 1985 as a supplement company, Uptime was purchased in 2012 by Ben Kim and Carrie Kim, who reintroduced the beverage line two years later with a sleek, stylish new package design.

Chief Executive Ben Kim describes the company’s mission as providing consumers a “better-for-you premium energy” drink.

“When it comes to managing growth, my biggest challenge has been people and capital,” he told the Business Journal. “To do it right, we need to ensure that we scale at the appropriate cadence to ensure we meet key business milestones specific to consumer engagement, distribution and sales.”

Ben Kim said revenues at the company skyrocketed from $58,000 in 2014 to $12.8 million in 2017.  “And we’re still growing,” he noted, as confirmed by the company’s No. 9 ranking on the Business Journal’s list.

“Our location in the San Fernando Valley is ideal for growth in that we are strategically located close to the 405 and 101 freeways,” he added. “This allows us great access to various parts of the Los Angeles metro, which is one of our key consumer markets. Additionally, we can enjoy the best of what the Valley has to offer with lease rates much less than what businesses typically pay on the Westside.”

– Mark R. Madler

#10

CBDfx

CEO: Ali Esmaili

BUSINESS: Retailing vape products

2018 REVENUE: $5.3 Million

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 1 (online retailer)

EMPLOYEES: 100

NOTABLE: The company underwent a name change after it was fined by authorities for selling and marketing to minors.

Growth: 173%

Chatsworth-based CBDfx calls itself “the nation’s premier online CBD retailer,” offering more than 50 cannabidiol products derived from wholly organic hemp plants. Products range from vape juice formulas to topical creams.

Ali Esmaili, chief executive and co-founder, said the company focuses on selling ake pure, high-quality CBD.

“For us, becoming the third largest privately-held CBD company on the planet wasn’t just a business accomplishment. More than anything, we passionately believe in CBD’s ability to improve the quality of life for many, many people,” he said.

The recently formed company has not existed without controversy. In September, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced that his office had entered into a four-year statewide stipulated judgment with a couple of vape enterprises, including CBDfx (then known as NEwhere Inc.) over allegations that the companies “illegally marketed vape products to minors and sold vaping products over the internet without following state-mandated age verification requirements,” according to a press release. In addition to a $350,000 penalty, CBDFX must adhere to regulations to ensure the company will not advertise or sell to children in California.

For now, Esmaili’s biggest challenge is time management.

“There’s only 24 hours in a day,” he told the Business Journal. “We have so many opportunities, ideas, and potential partnerships, it becomes a challenge to decide which ones to engage.”

– Michael Aushenker