What led you to start your own business?

When I learned about the impact food production has on the environment, I became interested in the concept of urban farming and local growing. Being able to grow my own produce in an urban area in a sustainable, low-impact way was an obvious and organic fit for me to pursue.

NIELS THORLAKSSON, 27

L.A. Urban Farms, a full-service urban produce grower utilizing sustainable technology

Employees: 10

Financials: Annual revenue of roughly $300,000

Where did you get the startup money?

It was a combination of money I had put into savings over the years and support from my family.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

It was just me for a long time, juggling all of the work myself. Then there was the challenge of putting together a core team of people I could count on who shared my passion.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

To always believe in yourself and what you are doing. It’s not worth it to allow anything to shake your resolve.

How many hours a day do you put in?

Between 5 a.m. seedling deliveries to afternoon meetings and calls, my typical work day is about 13 hours.

Has your youth led to any awkward situations, such as when you supervise employees who are older than you?

You take the same approach to everybody, regardless of whether they’re an employee or client. You have to build mutual respect and focus on your common mission and values. Then age does not become a factor because you share a common goal.

Would you start another company?

Yes, based on my experience I would, but it would have to be something I am passionate about.

Could you ever work for someone else?

I think so, as long as I could keep a certain level of independence.

What do you do to unwind?

Anything outside by the ocean. I ride bikes and travel with family.

— Amal Khan

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