A Serial Entrepreneur’s Recipe For Success

citrus studios

A self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” with a total of five businesses to her name, Kalika Yap can only be described as a powerhouse woman. Today, Kalika is taking us on a minitour of the Citrus Studios offices, plus sharing her own personal recipe for success!

I am a serial entrepreneur with a total of five businesses: Citrus Studios, Luxe Link, The Waxing Co, Tangerine Co and Lemonade Stand. I started two in January after my husband put a five-year embargo on my starting additional businesses. I am a mom with two amazing girls—ages six and eight—and, yes, I am still married to my ever-so-patient husband, Rodney. The most important ingredient in my recipe is family. Professional success is hard enough, but having the right partner by your side makes the rough days more tolerable and the great days even more worth celebrating.

Family members are funny ingredients. They’re the ones who keep you grounded, and yet the ones who allow you to soar. When your baby has a 102-degree fever at 3 a.m., you realize that nothing in this world matters except for taking care of her. Not that email from a panicked client or that status update on your Facebook page or that 7 a.m. breakfast meeting with a potential client. Nothing.

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

Most entrepreneurs say they’ve been entrepreneurs all their life—dreaming up apps at age three, franchising lemonade stands at four. My story is more about making lemonade out of lemons.

I have been asked to share my secret recipe for success, but I think it’s important to note that every person works with different “ingredients.” Each recipe will be unique. I hope that, in sharing my own recipe, I can help with parts of yours.

Define your idea of success.
“Success” is such a loaded word. I would like to define it as “the way forward,” because I believe that if you make incremental progress toward your goals—small positive changes every day—you are successful. Don’t define success (or the way forward) exclusively by your income or job position. Theodore Roosevelt said that the best prize in life is the opportunity to do work that is worth doing. Ask yourself: What work is worth doing? Personally, success allows me to take time off so I can be with my daughters at school activities and on field trips.

Define your core values.
When I defined my core values—probably around seven years into my first business—it transformed everything. I shared them with my employees (I hire and fire based on my core values!), my vendors, my partners. Doing so allowed me to make decisions more quickly, to stop micromanaging, to focus on the essentials and to start other businesses. Spend time discovering and understanding what your core values are, and write them down. Situations in which your core values are tested will undoubtedly arise, and you’ll want a reminder of where you stand and what you’re made of. What qualities do you value? A positive spirit? Passion? Inventiveness? I have slightly different core values for each of my businesses and my family, but “communicate kindly” is one that applies to all of the above.

Define your vision.
Mine is to leave a legacy of wisdom, inspiration and enduring wealth for my family, friends and community for generations to come.

Embrace your mistakes.
Your last mistake is your greatest teacher. Do small things to minimize inevitable stresses and to help get you through this funny thing called life. I always have at least $100 in cash hidden in my purse for emergencies (think: parking lots that only accept cash). After being late for an important board meeting because I was low on gas, I stopped letting my gauge go below the halfway mark.

Understand technology.
We live in a technologically advanced and constantly changing world. If you’re not in the know, you are in danger of being seen as obsolete and outdated. This isn’t about being “cool”; it’s about being current and relevant. Dedicate time to learning how to use different forms of technology, and then use them to your advantage. Social media and dependency on technology are here to stay—and there’s no time like the present to get on this train.

Feed your brain.
I’m constantly reading several books at a time. I can’t get enough. I’m in a continual state of learning, so I look for a wide variety of literature that will feed me intellectually, professionally and emotionally. It’s also really important for entrepreneurs to know their numbers. I suggest they read Greg Crabtree’s book, Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!

Change your password.
Change your password to a word or phrase that represents a goal you have, or a number that stands for a revenue you want to make. Each time you type in your password, you’ll be reminded of your vision. I saw that this was one of Sophia Amoruso’s tips when I read “#GIRLBOSS.” Great minds think alike!

Optimize your productivity and defend your time.
Remind yourself of your priorities. For example, on my computer I have a sticky note that says, “What are the three things I need to do to double or triple my revenue?” Everyone feels the pressures of time. I think the Rolling Stones lied when they sang “Time Is on My Side.” There is never enough time in the day, and it seems like every minute that something isn’t getting done, some opportunity is slipping away. Before we know it, the items on our calendars lose their status as priorities.

I prioritize my children’s schedule—it goes into my calendar first, and I defend it fiercely. Everything I commit to is important, but some things will always take priority. I make this clear to my staff members, with whom I share my calendar. I use Google Calendar. I love it. It’s easily sharable, and it ensures that no one will put me in the position of having to defend my time. One of my core values is commitment to my family—it’s chiseled into my schedule, and I defend it without hesitation.

In summary:
Nothing is accidental. I used to tell people that I was an accidental entrepreneur. Who in her right mind would start one business, let alone five? A few years ago, I found a journal I’d kept when I was 22. In it, I had written in great detail about how I was going to own several businesses, have a wonderful and handsome husband; a family and kids. I was going to work and travel to exotic places. I basically described, in detail, what my life is like today.

My last ingredient and parting thought is really about the big picture. It’s not a singular ingredient so much as a final product: your legacy. My mission in life is to leave a legacy of wisdom, inspiration and enduring wealth for my family, friends and community for generations. My recipe is a work in progress. If I’m lucky, it will continue to evolve and improve for many years to come. I thank you for allowing me to be a part of your growth. Time is the most precious and limited commodity we have, and I am grateful that you have shared yours with me.

Photography by Kimberly Genevieve

When did Citrus Studios launch? Why did you decide to break into the marketing world?
I started Citrus in 1999, a year before the dot-com bust. We have gone through two major recessions. It’s easy to have a successful business when the economy is great—but what separates you from the competition is the ability to outlast a recession (or two).

I decided to break into web design after my boyfriend broke up with me. He dumped me at an Internet cafe and said, “Go find a job.” I had moved from N.Y.C. (where I went to school and was a thriving journalist), and he broke up with me within three weeks of my arrival to California. I had no car, no money, no friends, no journalism job.

I became friends with the owners of the Internet cafe and learned HTML and CSS from several of the programmers who hung out there. After I had learned something, I turned around and put together Internet workshops for the community (which eventually were sponsored by Yahoo!). My mom and grandmother were teachers, and they always said, “If you want to learn something fast, teach it to someone else.”

I would go door to door on Abbot Kinney Boulevard selling web hosting and web design. My friends (all journalists) thought I was nuts and tried to intervene, but then they saw my enthusiasm for making lattes and programming, and they let me be. At one point, I was living on a boat.

I named my company “Citrus” because I made lemonade out of lemons.



In a nutshell, what does Citrus Studios offer? Who is the ideal Citrus client?
We are an interactive design agency. Our ideal Citrus client is a start-up or growing business who wants to make an impact online.



Tell us a bit about your company headquarters. We love the bold color scheme! Does your Santa Monica location influence the direction of your brand?
One of the perks of being a CEO is deciding where to have your headquarters. Because I grew up in Hawaii, I was naturally drawn to the beach and sunshine! I love Santa Monica—I can walk to my office from my home. My first office was in El Segundo, but I decided to take on the higher commercial rents of Santa Monica because I knew I could attract more talent here!


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  • I loved the insights that were shared but when the article started out with “I am a serial entrepreneur with a total of five business’s” I was very interested, and assumed that since this was the opening statement that at some point in the article I would read about what those five business’s were?

  • What an amazing feature! This is my favorite article I have ever read on this site. Thank you so much for sharing Kalika Yap’s story. She is such an inspiration to me!

  • There are a lot of wonderful tidbits of insight and inspiration in this article! Terrific.

  • Where are the successful tips? I didn’t see any of those. I wish you guys would actually give tips when you post these articles. Here is an example of what a list of tips are.

    Tips on How to be a successful blogger.
    1. Have great photos.
    2. Hire a photographer to take photos if you cannot take your own photos.
    3. Invest in a good blog layout.
    4. Comment on any and everything so that people see your name.
    5. Interact with brands on social media.

    These are tips. What y’all posted was just mumbo jumbo that can be found in a fortunate cookie. Give the people something they can use.

    • Hi Caitlin,

      Thanks so much for your comment! I just saw this post so I apologize for not responding sooner!

      Here are the tips from the article in a nutshell! Please feel free to email me if you want me to explain my tips kalika@citrusstudios.com

      Have a lovely day!


      Tip # 1

      Define YOUR idea of success

      Tip # 2

      Define your Core Values

      Tip # 3

      Embrace your mistakes. Your last mistake is your greatest teacher.

      Tip #4

      Understand Technology.

      Tip # 5
      Leaders are Readers

      Tip #7

      Optimize your productivity and defend your time

      Tip #8

      Nothing is accidental. Write down your goals

  • WOW, this is such an inspiration and has realy fuelled ny enthusiasm. I just love this “My mission in life is to leave a legacy of wisdom, inspiration and enduring wealth for my family, friends and community for generations.”

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