Where you grew up and your background can often have surprising effects on our lives and careers. We’ve asked folks from the community to tell us about how their background has affected them.

Nancy Caruo | Marine Biologist & Founder

I am from Alexandria, Virginia. I did not live near the ocean. I had never even seen the ocean when Mrs May, my 4th grade teacher, taught me about oceanography. She was explaining the relatively new theory of plate tectonics (1982) and how these plates moved around under the deep ocean. I asked “what kind of people study these things?” and she said, “Oceanographers”. It was then, that I was hooked by the sea. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I would actually visit the ocean but I had already dedicated my life to it. This idea was not supported by both my parents but my mom helped fight the battles that got me to Florida Tech and a B.S. in Marine Biology. To make it through college, there were a lot of obstacles including my dad, who wanted me to be a nurse in the army. He was fearful I would never find a job. Read more>>

Anita Bennett | Candymaker

I grew up just east of Los Angeles in a much slower time. My father owned a small corner drugstore and I remember playing with our toys in the backroom as a child, and then helping out in the store as a young teenager until I was in my 20’s. I learned that owning your own business can be hard work but also extremely rewarding. I learned the important lesson that genuine and personal attention to our customers was the cornerstone of our small business. I’ve always loved to bake and make goodies in our kitchen. My mother, sister and I would make the family toffee as well as baked treats to give to family and friends for holidays, gatherings or just little thinking of you gifts. I learned that something delicious and handmade from the heart can be very powerful. As an adult I have always tried to bring these values to everything I do. Read more>>

Lori Perri | Architect & Designer

We are a husband and wife team with a background in architecture. Our love for design & travel, brought us to this adventure! We formed our company in 2009 during a recession and decided to reinvent ourselves and become creative with the skill-set we learned from the design world. During a year sabbatical, we decided to travel off the beaten path in South America. We fell in love with the textiles and culture of the people, aiming to develop a distinct apparel/accessory line that specializes in natural alpaca fiber! Ethically sourcing silky smooth Alpaca wool from hundreds of artisans, we seek to focus our designs between stylish, modern detailing and Alpaca wool’s impressive, literally ancient heritage. Read more>>

Will Holder | Photographer & Coffee Roaster

I’m from Southern San Diego (raised in Imperial Beach/Coronado) and currently live in Imperial Beach. I’ve always felt there’s something calming about being in the ‘corner’ of the country. Not much of a crowd guy, places like Borderfield State Park, Tijuana River Valley and the TJ Sloughs have always been a place of quiet and beautiful nature that’s a quick escape away to. I’d like to think the isolation and quietness can be found in my photos. Read more>>

Alex West | Founder & Managing Director

I was born in South Africa and lived in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho to American Expatriates. My father, a Vietnam Veteran was working for the World Water Project, with the mission of bringing clean water to one billion impoverished people. My mother was a schoolteacher, teaching at a local Lesotho elementary school. During the workweek, I was looked after by a nanny who was a member of the Zulu tribe. My language development as a child was problematic. During the evenings and weekends, my parents spoke English. During the week, Sofia spoke to me in Zulu along with all of the child tv programming being in Afrikaans. When I was five, my family moved in-between living in Cairo, Egypt, and Edinboro, Pennsylvania. In Cairo, I went to an international school that was attended by embassy kids from around the world. Read more>>

Corinne Cotereau | Encaustic & Mix Media Artist

I was born and raised in France, and moving to San Diego changed my life forever. I grew up in a working class environment where art, culture and even entertainment were not the primary concern. I have 3 brothers, my parents divorced when I was 1 year old. My childhood was sort of bohemian… I had to cope with new homes, new step fathers, new schools and never spent more than 3 years at the same place, but my mom’s love always remained the beacon of my life. My escape room was nature. As my mother worked long hours, and I was the youngest, I was often on my own. At 10, I would spent hours walking in the Alps with my dog. As I grew older I enjoyed bicycling in vineyards when we lived in Burgundy. Then my mother got cancer. At some point we had to move to my father’s place in Paris where he died when I was 18. City life was suffocating and I sought a way out. Read more>>

Sandy Vuong Tobin | Owner Operator

I was born and raised in San Diego, CA as the oldest daughter of 3 girls. My parents come from a Chinese ancestry but were born in Vietnam and immigrated to CA in 1979. My dad, Phat Vuong is the one that has had the biggest impact on who I am today. My parents were divorced so my father raised us a single father for a few years until he meet my step mother, Kim Dang. For many years while my sisters were young my dad was the only source of income. He would work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. During the majority of the day he was a chef, then a janitor late at night, and a paper delivery guy in the early morning. His fortitude support our family foster a strong family unit is what laid the foundation for me to be as involved as I am today in my business. It’s not just a job or a business for me and my family its for our staff as well. Read more>>

Alejandra Phelts | Visual Artist & Educator

I was born and raised in Mexicali, a desert city in Baja California, where the weather is extreme, sun downs are beautiful and where the light is privileged. I was raised by my parents as the youngest of five sisters. My mother, who was a sewing artist, taught me how to love and appreciate the art, she also taught me how to cherish everything that was handmade and to worry about perfection. My father, Teacher and founder of CETYS University, a wild booklover, shared with me his knowledge and passion for art history and traveling. -Experience that changed my vision When I was eighteen I traveled to France to study Philosophy, and there was where my vision of the world changed completely. I took Art History classes, I’d visit museums, galleries, artistic shows regularly. Read more>>

Lisa Yee | Health Coach, Personal Trainer & Yoga Teacher

My grandparents came to America – opened up a laundry mat, owned an apartment building and raised eight children in Los Angeles, CA. I lived with my grandparents for a year and never witnessed my grandmother sleeping. I recall falling asleep to the sounds of a sewing machine and waking up to the smell of food cooking. Her energy to get things done effectively and efficiently has stuck with me. My father owned an automotive mechanic shop pretty much through my entire childhood. He had always been passionate about cars and innately talented when it came to diagnostics. I would help him out with bank runs, errands and simple tasks. I saw the immense work and the amount of pride he took in being a small business owner. Read more>>

Dr. Alisha Bhatia | Naturopathic Doctor

I was born in raised in Portland, Oregon to a 16 year old single mom. While growing up, my mom worked her way through college. She explained that everyone was to go to college, and it was not an option to not go, so that was my reality. My mom also strongly encouraged me to become a lawyer or doctor. In high school, I joined the mock trail team, and after a court hearing experience, I decided law wasn’t for me. I then looked into medicine. However, intuitively I knew that a white coat and prescription pad wasn’t the answer for wellness. I was fortunate to take an “Intro to Pre-Med” class at PSU and was introduced to a Naturopathic Doctor, who was one of an array of various professionals who came to speak to us. Read more>>