When Life Gave Me Lemons, I Made A Company Out Of Them.

April 19, 2018


By Kalika Yap, founder of Citrus Studios(opens in new tab), Luxe Link(opens in new tab), The Waxing Co(opens in new tab) & Orange & Bergamot(opens in new tab)

In short:

  • I’m a four-time startup founder, but my road has been far from easy.
  • My boyfriend dumped me shortly after I moved cross-country for him. That triggered me to start my first company.
  • My advice to entrepreneurs is: do what feels RIGHT. Choose to make lemonade out of the lemons you’re dealt.

Hi, I’m Kalika. 

I'm a serial entrepreneur & inventor with three thriving businesses (Citrus Studios(opens in new tab), Luxe Link(opens in new tab), and The Waxing Co(opens in new tab)). My latest startup is Orange & Bergamot(opens in new tab), a branding agency and community for female founders. We have a vibrant tribe of more than a thousand entrepreneurs, and more than a hundred clients have signed on in the six months since our launch.

I am a mom with two amazing girls, ages 9 and 11, and I’ve been married to my wonderful husband & business partner Rodney for 16 years.

The most important ingredient in my recipe for success is my family, particularly Rodney for his steady stream of support. Professional success is hard to build and manage, but the right partner by your side makes those rough days more tolerable and the great days more worth celebrating. 

Family is a funny ingredient. They're the ones who keep you grounded and the ones who allow you to soar. “Grounded” is when you realize that nothing else matters in this world except taking care of your baby at 3 a.m. when she has a 102-degree fever.

A loving, supportive family also gives me the inspiration to move. Move to create and build. Move to better myself. Move to start not one, not two, but five companies. All I do is for the good of the family.

Most entrepreneurs say they've been entrepreneurs all their life -- dreaming up apps at three years old, franchising lemonade stands at four. 

My story, though, is more about making lemonade out of lemons.

I named my first company Citrus Studios(opens in new tab) (“branding with a twist”) as a nod to that fact.

As a kid, I immersed myself in old books, biographies, poetry and stories, so I thought a career in journalism would be a natural fit. 

I left my home in Hawaii, trading the trade winds and a mixed-matched swimsuit for an NYU backpack, woolly socks and layers. Fish and poi were replaced with bagels and baked ziti. 

When I arrived at LaGuardia Airport for my first year at college, I was bright-eyed, with a native tan and bikini lines. My friend JoAnn knew I had arrived when she saw a security guard decked in tuberose leis.

Living in Manhattan armed with a B.A. in journalism, it was relatively easy for me to get a job. My first was at Bloomberg -- a great one, by industry standards.

But in the darkest of nights, internal whisperings told me something didn't feel right. At work, I spent most of my time behind a computer taking dictation. I was documenting interesting lives rather than LIVING one.

I lumbered on because my family had spent over a hundred thousand dollars on a private college education.  

And if you push yourself hard enough, surely you can wedge a square peg into a round hole. Right?

Fast forward: My long-time college boyfriend got a job at Frank Gehry in Santa Monica. After a year of long-distance, I moved to California too.

Three weeks later, he dumped me for the receptionist. I had:

  • No place to live
  • No friends
  • And no job.

Before he dumped me, he took me to CyberJava, the West Coast’s first Internet cafe, on Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

There, I was introduced to the World Wide Web. The Internet! I was hooked.

Modern me, working on my non-1990's laptop.

After we broke up, I didn’t know where else to go so I would head daily to CyberJava and became part of the tribe of computer geeks, early adopters & engineers.

The owners of the cafe became my best friends and my new boss. I learned how to make cappuccinos and zucchini bread during the day -- they paid me $6 an hour under the table -- and I learned how to code, did power yoga and trained for marathons at night. 

My mom and grandmother were teachers and said if you want to learn something fast, teach it.

So I put together a curriculum and taught Internet workshops on the second floor of the cafe sponsored by what was then a little-known company: Yahoo!.

This new life felt RIGHT, even though everything on the outside seemed so WRONG.

My illustrious journalism friends thought I had lost it. I don't blame them: at one point I was living on a boat. Two years after I started Citrus, they admitted that a prior visit of theirs was intended as an intervention to coax me back to New York. Maybe they changed their mind after seeing my sparkly enthusiasm over HTML. Or maybe it was my mean vanilla latte. 

Whatever the case, I’m glad that I stuck to my guns. 

Citrus -- with the help of an amazing team of designers, account directors and programmers -- celebrated its nineteenth anniversary this year. Since its founding, I’ve started two other thriving companies.

All because I chose to make some lemonade.

Kalika Yap is the founder of four companies: Citrus Studios(opens in new tab), her first digital marketing agency; Luxe Link(opens in new tab), the original purse hook; The Waxing Co(opens in new tab), Honolulu’s first luxury waxing salon; and Orange & Bergamot(opens in new tab), a branding agency & community for female founders. Connect with her(opens in new tab) on LinkedIn to keep up with her growth story.

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