Many of us who are from the Inland Empire often suffer from identity crises when traveling abroad. Overshadowed by Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County on the world stage, the Inland Empire has very little name recognition. Even I have been guilty of claiming Los Angeles residency for the sake of conversational ease while away from the area. Well, Justin Hudson is on a mission to change all that!
When Justin found himself claiming to be from Los Angeles while visiting a friend in France in 2012 (his first time out of the country), it just didn’t sit well with him.
“The Inland Empire is huge and has so much to offer,” he said. “People should know about it.”
Plus, Justin truly loved his hometown. Growing up in Riverside, he and his friends gave themselves the unofficial titles of “chairmen” and “dean” of Riverside and often found themselves acting as gatekeepers and protectors, defending their town whenever they heard someone speak ill of it. He told himself that he was going to devote his life to serving his community and giving back any way that he could.
Justin attended Amelia Earhart Middle School and Martin Luther King Jr. High School, where he played basketball and baseball. He was always very entrepreneurial — he sold candy in junior high so he could drop $100 on a pair of sneakers if he wanted to, something his parents refused to do on principle alone.
When Justin decided to take it upon himself to build a brand for his hometown, he was in his last semester at Cal State LA. He drew the 1Love IE design freehand in his notebook and had a graphic design friend clean it up and make the final rendering. He then made hats with the design and started selling them out of the trunk of his car.
The first place he posted up was the Chick-fil-A parking lot on Central Avenue. The manager soon took notice. He understood what Justin was trying to do and the message he was spreading and offered to allow him to sell his hats inside. Justin would also post up outside of graduations, pool parties, barber shops and the Riverside Artwalk downtown on the first Thursday of every month.
He opened his first location in Rancho. In 2016, he was able to secure a spot at Victoria Gardens and opened another location at the Galleria Tyler mall in 2018.
Justin grew his business on the side while working full time at Kaiser Permanente. Because he enjoyed the work he did for Kaiser, he juggled both careers until 2020, when the pandemic gave him enough time to pause and realize how much he was running himself thin.
Devoting his full effort to 1Love IE, Justin secured partnerships with Footlocker and Champs to sell his products, and as a sneaker aficionado, that was a dream come true. He was recognized as California’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2021 for small business, and the Riverside Chamber of Commerce recognized him as Innovator of the Year.
This year, Justin is about to fulfill a personal goal that he set out to accomplish from the very beginning: to open a storefront at the Ontario Airport.
His ultimate goal is to be respected as a worldwide brand. He explained that 1Love IE not only stands for 1Love Inland Empire but also 1Love In Everything. He also wants to use the heart in the logo to emphasize the importance of taking care of our health.
“If you take a step back and look at what’s killing people, it’s heart disease, stroke, heart attack, etc. We are a lifestyle brand, but if our logo is a heart, why not use it for something more? That’s the push next year. We’re also looking for more philanthropic opportunities to be involved in,” he said.
In addition to running 1Love IE, Justin teaches entrepreneurship at Riverside Community College and finds it extremely rewarding to inspire the next generation to strive for bigger and better things.
To new residents just moving into Riverside, Justin leaves us with the following: “Be active, be vigilant and connect with your city council members. There are so many tribes in the community looking for new people and new energy. Find your tribe. We only have one Riverside. It's important to care for it. And take pride in where you live.”