Deciding to start a business is an unusual decision. It’s often considered irrational and yet for many it’s the best decision they’ve ever made. So we asked folks to think back to when they were starting their businesses and to tell us about their decision making process.

A Wine Journey | Exclusive Wine Club and Customized Wine Experiences

We love how every bottle of wine has its own story and how it creates this magical way of bringing people together and making once in a lifetime memories. That is how it has always been for us. Wine has created so many amazing experiences and continuously takes us on these incredible journeys. Not just the wine itself but the people behind the wine…the winemakers, the winery owners…they all have these fantastic, inspiring stories that not everyone knows or gets an opportunity to hear about! During the pandemic, we started seeing all of these small businesses struggling and it was heartbreaking. Read more>>

Justin Brooks | Director, California Innocence Project

I was living in Michigan and teaching law school in the 1990s when I heard about a young woman on death row in Illinois who was sentenced to death on a plea bargain. It made no sense to me that someone would plead guilty and get death. In other words, why give up your right to trial, where you might be found innocent, just to plea out and get the most serious sentence. I went to meet her on death row and she told me she was innocent. I investigated the case with my students and found out she was innocent. Read more>>

Gabrielle Arvanitis-Dalpe | Ballet Teacher and Social Activist

I started Ballet and Balance to inspire young dancers to disrupt the current trends held in dance. Many of these trends include unrealistic body standards, gender discrimination, unequal pay, racial discrimination, and height discrimination. The dance world is brutal. You have to have a lot of grit to make it. Many dancers quit, leaving years of practice behind and feeling very empty afterwards. I started Ballet and Balance to connect those dancers. Read more>>

Tobore Oweh | Owner/Creative Director of The Petal Effect

Starting my own floral business is something that I always had in mind. I literally came up with my company name all the way back in 2011 but always put it to the side because I just never fully felt confident enough to venture out on my own. I was always thinking that I had so much more to learn before I could say that I was an actual business. Read more>>

Devin Reeve | Actor, Producer, Writer

After years of working in the bar and restaurant industry as a backup plan to my entertainment career, I finally decided that I needed to take a chance on myself and take control of my career as an Actor, Producer and Writer. Once I made that decision and put 100% into my dreams and goals my path changed for the better. Sure I had my ups and down in the beginning, but persevering and staying consistent with my work ethic, especially during the tough periods, paid off in the long run. When I was younger my father gave the some great advice, he said “It’s better to make $200k working for yourself than to make $500k working for someone else, because you have freedom.” Read more>>

Priscilla Chong | Graphic Designer & Food Person

The quick answer is: I want people to get excited about food and indulge in my creations! But here’s the full story. As a graphic designer, I’ve always struggled with my intentions as a creative. I ask myself questions often, like why am I doing this? What is this for? Who is this for? And does that serve my goals for my work? Most of the time, the answer doesn’t even matter, I just have to do the job. I’m so grateful to get to work as a graphic designer, but unfortunately, this job doesn’t always serve me. So while my love and practice for graphic design has grown over the years, so has my love for food, cooking, and my culture. Read more>>

celine ikeler | Owner/Founder

Actually very little thought went into starting Karma Baker. It was more just pure inspiration and fulfilling a need out there. I was a home baker for many years. I baked just for fun and my kids. After mastering a gluten-free flour blend for my neighbors daughter, I began creating gluten-free vegan baked goods that were truly head and shoulders above the rest. We’ve been in this allergy and food restricted world for about seven years and honestly everything tasted horrible. It was bad, if you were missing dairy or gluten for a while from your diet, somethings out there might satisfy you but if you knew what the real thing tasted like, forget it. There is no way you wanted to partake in some of the vegan gluten-free birthday cakes i came across. Read more>>

Mario “Wizzo” Fernandez | Grammy Nominated Recording Engineer and Entrepreneur

Ownership. Building your own brand, The power to live my life on my own terms. Being able, and willing to start your own business is not an easy feat, but Its all about consistency and patience. Trust the process. Read more>>

Dawn Foster | Owner of D. Foster Marketing

The thought process behind my business is all centered around my WHY. I’ve been in the marketing and branding industry for over 15 years. I absolutely love what I do. So having a marketing and branding business was a given. But my why, was the main driver that really got the ball rolling. When I started my business, I knew without a doubt, that I wanted to support and help other women and BIPOC grow their business. I knew wanted to serve my community. Even though my business has evolved over the past 3 years, serving my community has always been the north star for my business. Everything I do supports that goal. Read more>>

Laura Oceane | NASM-Certified Personal Trainer and Weight Loss Specialist

Independence, mostly. I’ve always been the kind of person to lead and run with my own creative ideas. I work well with other people, but I knew that I’d thrive and reach my own potential if I started my own business. And the thing is, I didn’t feel intimidated by the idea of working for myself. I wasn’t scared of the hard work that comes with it. In fact, I was excited and went all in. I’m naturally an independent and hard-working person, so it just made sense for me to challenge myself and aim to reach my full potential. Read more>>

Charles Chan Massey | Entrepreneur, Small Business Owner, and Non-Profit Executive

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. My paternal grandfather and his brothers inherited what was essentially a general store from their grandfather and built it into a business that spanned an entire block in the small town of Waxhaw, North Carolina. My father and uncle went to work in that same business and relocated it to a larger town, ultimately building it into a retail hardware store that eventually became a multi-state industrial supply business. It wasn’t the type of business I had much interest in but it made me well aware that I had the entrepreneurial gene, so it was only natural that after years of working in various customer service and hospitality jobs I decided to start my own conference and event planning consultancy. Read more>>

Charlie Briggs | Massage Therapist & Sound Healer

Before I started my own business, I was the type of employee that would never call out, always showed up early, and never asked for what I deserved. There was a moment where I was exhausted and miserable, and in the back of my mind, I knew that I was getting closer and closer to resigning. Read more>>

Windsor Dalton | Digital Marketing

My thought process behind my business came after working with a small men’s brand in Boston for a few years. We collaborated with stores & other brands frequently and I realized that everyone had a similar need for digital marketing content. Most of these people didn’t need or have the capacity to have someone doing social or email marketing full time, but they wanted their name out there in a way that felt true to their brand. So, I did my best to be a one stop shop for small businesses. From photo, video, social, email, to ads – I could help them with it all! Read more>>

Kalvin Peary | Entrepreneur, Concert Promoter, & Touring Artist Travel Agent

When I was in the 7th grade, I borrowed $150 from my mom to throw a backyard party. I promised to pay her back. I bought boxes of candy, popcorn, blank CDs to make a playlist for the night, and a few decorations. I charged all of my friends from school – $5 for girls and $7 for guys to party in my backyard. Ultimately, I made about $35o and was able to pay my mom her money back. That night I asked my mom if I could throw another and before she could answer, I told her “I made $200.. I can use my own money this time”. Read more>>

Felisha Eng | Former Fashion Professional & Current Food Entrepreneur

Hmm. The thought process behind starting my own business….I think it would help if I first framed my response with some background. I spent 12+ years of my life working in the high-end/contemporary market of fashion. I’m 32 years old now, but started in the industry one month after I turned 18. While I worked at what felt like a very serious job for a teenager, I also attended school at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. After 2 years of experience, I opened and co-owned a full-package garment manufacturing company, that ran for 4 years. Read more>>

KELLY Furano | Founder, Investor, Board Member

For as long as I can remember, my father, a successful entrepreneur, has encouraged me to identify my dreams, say them out loud, and go for it! In my teenage years, I wanted to be an actress. I landed a top talent agent and was auditioning weekly for film and TV roles. My dad, while still proud, encouraged me to take matters into my own hands. He gave me a video camera and Final Draft software so I could write my own scripts and avoid being at the mercy of random directors and casting agents who had different dreams from my own. I was sort of always worried my material would never be good enough so I didn’t fully embrace this advice. Read more>>

David Bowles | Photographer & Filmmaker

Honestly I was tired of working for someone else. You are always working for someone else’s dreams, So I decided to build my own. Now I work with people, and not for people. Read more>>

Selena Gibbons | Master Financial Life Coach & Master Hair Stylist

I am the Founder/CEO of The 800+ Financial Freedom Club LLC. I started my company to teach financial literacy to the youth, young adults, single mother’s, married couples, and entrepreneurs find peace and structure as they build and organize a plan towards financial freedom. Read more>>

Alessandra Manias | Production Designer – Art Director

I’m an Architect but I don’t like waiting too long to see a project realized, so I worked 15 years in Italy in advertising , set design, commercials etc…. I had a lot of experience and I did very interesting projects but my dream was working in Film Industry. So I came here in Los Angeles with the idea to be Production Designer and Art Director and I did it pretty fast. Read more>>

Amber Sharp | Filmmaker (Writer/Director/Producer)

During the time In 2006, I created A.Sharp Productions (ASP) an independent film company, to shine light on the struggles people face every day such as love, loss, change, and family. But rather than a static representation of our daily problems, I work to introduce new characters that will challenge and enlighten our normal ideologies. ASP is committed to developing honest and compelling depictions of underrepresented communities that can be understood and felt by all. I’m devoted to creating equality through authentic storytelling which captures universal emotions and encourages positive change. Read more>>

Felicidad De Lucas | Photographer and Entrepreneur

Ever since I was very young I’ve been looking for autonomy. I’ve always disliked being told what to do and how to do it, even at school. Plus, I was influenced by watching my mum who has always been her own boss. As an adult, I knew that starting my own business/es could be risky. But deciding what I work on and how I work, is important to me. Read more>>

Maggie Chui | Co-Founder & COO of Asian Hustle Network

When I had first started Asian Hustle Network (AHN) with my co-founder, Bryan Pham, we only knew that we wanted to create a positive impact for the Asian community. We weren’t sure what we were going to do, but we were determined to help uplift others somehow. The inspiration behind starting our own business came from two instances. Read more>>

MJ Cunningham | CEO of The Redhead Solutions

I had been doing freelance bookkeeping for a few clients over the past few years and when Covid happened I knew it was the time to step out on faith and create The Redhead Solutions. I wanted to create a business that allowed my employees to work remotely and create opportunities for stay at home moms. I also knew that in the midst of Covid being able to provide a service to small & medium sized businesses that would allow them to reduce their expenses and save time would be vital. Read more>>

Katherine Quigley | Founder and CEO of Sustain by Kat

When I was pregnant with my son, I started to become more careful about my choices, realizing that every choice I made now affected the little guy growing inside me. I initially started with food – being diligent to eat more organic, non-processed foods. But after some research I began to realize that what I put on my body could also have a serious effect on my health. While I found options for chemical-free lotions and safe sunscreens, what I learned about clothing startled me. Read more>>

Abby Farley | Yoga Instructor & Wellness Enthusiast

My idea to start my yoga business started during quarantine in 2020. Basically everything I had planned to do with this next chapter of my life had fallen through due to COVID-19, so I had to look into other options. I made a few lists of creative hobbies I enjoy and wrote down the pros and cons of each one. Most of the options on the list were on the artistic side like offering graphic design services, continuing photography, starting a small shop with handmade goods, like ceramics or jewelry. None of these sounded very sustainable for me. I knew that any of these paths wouldn’t have satisfied me for long before I wanted to try something else. Read more>>

Lindsey Klein | Founder & Designer of Liberated Society Fashion

Shortly after graduating college and starting my first fashion design job in DTLA, I knew I wasn’t meant to sit behind a desk and work 40 hours a week. I felt unfulfilled because I had always dreamed of directly impacting women through fashion. So I started my own e-commerce women’s fashion brand called Liberated Society because I deeply desired to influence women powerfully and positively through fashion. Liberated Society’s mission is to inspire women to live their dream life while looking and feeling their best! Liberated Society is more than a fashion brand but a community of women empowering women to live their dream life, whatever their dream life is! Everyone’s dream life is so unique and different from one and another and Liberated Society is here to inspire you to go after yours. Read more>>

Syl Messi | Studio Engineer, Recording/Performing Artist, Songwriter & Producer

There are thousands of recording studios in this world. I don’t find myself to be the greatest engineer ever, but a lot of studios milk money and time out of clients. I feel like a great service doesn’t only benefit the customer, or the server individually. It’s a balance of product when working on music. The mix/master belongs to the engineer and the song belongs to the artist. Together they have to mesh each other’s skills, to better their visions. So I wanted to create a space that feels more personal and private. Read more>>

Nancia Music | CEO/Owner of Queen Merch

My thought process was ” I wanted a way to empower women”. I wanted something that had meaning to it. My heart holds dear to helping other women. Growing up in a single home my mom was able to get through because women helped her along the way without any strings attached. They knew the struggle and challenges of being a single mom. It was strong women who made a difference. Strong women who empowered her, strong women who could relate & connected because they themselves understood without question. Therefore I created a business that would make other women strong! And Queen merch was the result of this. Read more>>

Sofia Hernandez | Founder & CEO

Two years ago, while in business school, I started working on Josefa as my master thesis with four amazing friends. During this time, I focused on the development of the brand while still contemplating other opportunities after business school. But the more time I spent working on Josefa and learning about my family’s history of cajeta making and their legacy, the more excited I became about starting my own business. The way I saw it was that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I had to seize it. Opportunities like working for a big-tech or e-comm company would always be there, but this one wouldn’t. I had the support of my husband, family, and friends so I went for it. Read more>>

Danielle Martin | Soap Distillery Owner and All Doer

When I first began Soap Distillery, my immediate thoughts were that it could be a fun hobby that kept me busy and kept my mind activated. I could use my creativity to create fluid projects for myself (i.e. make an all natural blue soap that smells like peppermint. Next week, make a green natural soap that smells like eucalyptus. Etc.). Once I came up with my scent theme, it was just a matter of creating as much as I could. I only wanted to sell them so that I could at least break even with the cost of my supplies! Once I could see how happy it made my customers, I decided to spend more time focusing my thoughts on how to grow and find more customers to share my products with. Read more>>

Pierre De Angelis | Architect

I would say that the ambition for most working in a creative field, is to eventually establish one’s own firm. This was always the trajectory for me. Prior to starting Good Project Company, I was deliberate in only working with studios where there was a shared alignment in terms of approach, values, and ethos. This afforded me an opportunity to develop, test, and refine my own ideas on some remarkable projects, At a certain point, the ambition to develop these ideas independently gave me the push to establish my own office Read more>>

Nassir Ward | Photographer

The thought process of starting and running my own business has went through multiple stages over the years. During my junior year in high school I picked up the family camera in my house, so I could do something productive with my time when I was not participating in athletics. I always found photography interesting as it has been used to capture moments in history and how photos can tell stories. I played around with the camera for a year and decided to stop sports to solely focus on bettering myself in photography. Read more>>

Terryne Love | Skin Care Enthusiast

The thought process behind my business, started with my own insecurities with my skin. A month before I graduated college, I got very sick and after that my skin went through so weird changes. I never experienced skin issues in my adult years and always was complimented on my perfect skin. Once I moved back to Los Angles, my skin never recovered and began to get worse. I started to become very insecure and self conscious about how I looked. I would avails going certain places where I had to see new people, or just stayed home. Read more>>

Mary Leingang | Web Designer and Small Business Consultant

It started from a place of service and connection, volunteering to help friends launch and build websites for their own businesses. I built my first site in an evening and learned the basics of CSS in a weekend. It just clicked for me. I loved it. I found a creative “zone” that I never had before, where I lost time and everything else disappeared. My creative and intuitive side collided with my technical and business consulting background, and it was all over. I just kept learning and practicing from there and followed that gut instinct of “yes…this is it”. Read more>>

Shayne McGuire | Professional photography/instructor

I have always had a camera in my hand. I remember at my dad’s funeral, there were only 2 photos there that I didn’t take, and that was because, they were before I was born. I had a neighbor one day, look at some of my images and say, ‘ you have a great eye, now, we need to get you off that point and shoot and get a real camera in your hand. So, I was handed an all manual camera, it did nothing for you, you had to do it all. Read more>>

Fritzi Horstman | Founder, Compassion Prison Project (non-profit organization)

It wasn’t a thought process, it was an overwhelming mandate. After spending eight hours volunteering inside a maximum-security prison with 75 incarcerated men, crying the entire time, I knew I couldn’t just leave them there without bringing them resources, trauma awareness and a path to hope. I wrote in my journal: “I have an obligation to help.” I found a way back into the same prison (Kern Valley State Prison) and three months later I brought a curriculum focusing on kindness, compassion and trauma awareness. Read more>>

Dana Graham | Multi-Disciplinary Social Curator + Founder/Creative Director of Scripted in Black

My thought process was rooted out of the frustration due to lack of authentic representation of Black stories, culture, and lifestyles as well as wanting to see a change in how the arts is socially enjoyed and provided in underserved communities. I wanted to create a platform and space where all creative mediums of arts, culture, wellness, and entertainment were fused into feel good experiences for Black + Brown identities to feel seen, heard, loved, and celebrated. Read more>>

Erin Angelo | Non Profit Executive Director

I’ve always been a leader and gravitated towards taking leadership roles. I spent my 20’s in occupations where I worked for someone else and constantly thought to myself “I could run this business better.” In the span of 10 years I had shifted my career from elementary school teacher to non profit director to professional ballroom dancer. I found success in each of these jobs and kept thinking to myself “If you can find success in every role you take from teacher to dancer, why not try business owner?” And that was that. Read more>>

James Christian | Founder/CEO/Motivational Speaker/Former Pro Basketball Player

My thought process was how do I achieve MY DREAMS instead of working for other people and helping them achieve theirs? How do I leave a legacy not just for my kids but also for black people as a whole, something ALL can be PROUD of. So let’s create something that society is missing or that society already has that I can contribute to. Read more>>

Milica Krstic | Psychologist & Life Coach

It’s a very interesting story. So, I did BA in Psychology, MA in Digital Marketing and Social Media, at the same time I was running my fashion & lifestyle blog and I was helping my parents in their family company, we produce paper bags. After psychological studies, I did an internship in Military Medical Academy and at that time I was 22 years old. To be honest I was scared when I realized that I am too emotional and I was not able to separate my feelings from the patient’s feelings. Because of that, I decided to continue my education in digital marketing. After all, at that time I thought that I am not able to work as a psychologist because I am too emotional and sensitive. Read more>>

Rene Cornejo | Fellow Creative

It’s been a dream of mine to purchase a building to provide something I wish I had as a young teen; a safe creative workspace to explore various creative outlets. A place where the youth could be invested into by presenting opportunities to utilize their creativity. That would include hosting free workshops and classes in a variety of arts, such as Screen Printing, Designing, Photography and much more. Read more>>

Kimberly Howse | Nutrition and Fitness Coach

My story is a little different from the norm. Even though fitness has been a part of my life since childhood, it hasn’t always been easy for me to maintain. I learned from an early age what discipline, hard work, and dedication looked like from my Mom. My Mom would run around Circle Park on 83rd St and 5th Ave in LA with my best friend’s Mama on a daily basis. There I sat and watched them run around in circles and bond through fitness, accountability, health, and dedication. I admired that!😍 My mom was always heavy in the gym and so of course when I became old enough to join, there I was following in her footsteps soaking up all there was to know about that life. Read more>>

Esthepany Rodriguez | CEO, Entrepreneur, Designer, Business Owner & Daughter of Christ

It was 2019 and I was about to graduate from college and its such an exciting and fulfilling time but it’s also such a life changing time. I’ve always been someone who really plans out her life, and dreams and I always work hard to follow Gods will in my life, and I really just sat down and had a moment in class where I was in my own little bubble really putting everything into perspective and having a full on convo with God. Read more>>