CASSANDRA MORALES, 28

Kitsch, a fashion company

making hair ties, headbands and jewelry, downtown Los Angeles

EMPLOYEES: Six

What led you to start your own company?

When I was 18, I started my first business with money my parents set aside for a wedding that I would have one day. After four failed business attempts, I started working odd jobs at clothing boutiques, cupcake shops and doing makeup for friends to make ends meet. I worked hard and continually learned to the point where I was finally ready to try business No. 5.

Where did you get the startup money?

I ate frozen burritos and lived in a two-bedroom apartment with five girls for much longer than I would like to admit, but during that time I saved $30,000 to start Kitsch. When I ran out of funds, my fiancé loaned me an additional $30,000. And credit cards; having an extra 30 days to pay for things made a big difference, too.

What was the biggest challenge?

When I launched the company, I tried to get as many orders as possible. Though initially, it didn’t occur to me that the more orders you have, the more capital you need to produce the orders. There was a year and a half of floating finances. There wasn’t much in the bank and checks would come in as quickly as they go out. There was little room for unexpected expenses and a lot of room for stress.

What was the most important lesson you learned?

Stay positive. I know that seems simple, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. Every individual and business will run into problems, but I think it’s how people deal with the problems that make them successful.

How many hours a day do you put in?

If I go to a basketball game, I’ll people watch and analyze trends. If I’m out to dinner with my friends, I’ll ask them inappropriate questions such as “Where did you buy it?” and “How much did you spend?” It can be a little rude at times, but I love analyzing how and why people buy. There is still so much to learn and you never know where or when you’ll learn something new or get inspiration.

Does your youth lead to awkward situations, such as when you supervise older workers or meet with clients and investors?

I think it is more of a surprise when I meet our big clients or factory managers in person as they expect me to look older than the image they get from phone calls or emails. People say I have a baby face, so frequently people think I’m younger than 28. But I always try to stay focused, treat others with respect and let my work speak for itself. Everyone seems to move past the age thing pretty quickly.

Will you start another company?

Absolutely. I talk about it all the time. I think my next route will either be in fine jewelry or in the health and beauty arena.

Could you ever work for someone else?

I work for my customers and my buyers. I think one thing that has led to my success is listening to what other people want and giving it to them. So, essentially they are my bosses.

What do you do to relax?

Every day my fiancé and I take our dog for a three-mile walk. We almost always end up talking about business the whole walk. We set goals and come up with new ways to help the business grow.

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