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.

Dajana Mitchell | Founder/Owner LIEBE Skincare & TV Editor

If someone would have asked me 3 years ago, if I could see myself owning a skincare line one day, I probably would have laughed about the question. My professional background has nothing to do with the beauty industry. I’ve been working in the entertainment industry for the past two decades. But as a single mother of a teenage son, the 10-12 hours days at work were a struggle. I started to think about an alternative way to make an income, but skincare didn’t come to my mind at first. It happened organically. I’ve always been very interested in natural beauty products, so when I tried several organic facial oils, not one of them blew me away. I looked at their ingredients and thought: I should try this myself! I started to research the benefits of oils, bought many different organic oils and made my own blends. My skin loved it, I loved it and when my friends tried it, they loved it. Read more>>

Todd Danforth | Wedding Photographer

As a child, I remember a particular photo album my Grandmother kept safely stashed away in her closet. The album felt special compared to all the others, with its peacock printed technicolor cover, each page a collage of black and white photographs from their wedding day in 1949. The kind of black and white photographs which appear metallic at different angles, microscopic silver particles suspended in time. I was enchanted with this album, seeing my grandmother in her gown of light taffeta, lace neckline and sleeves, long train and finger-tip length veil. And her prayer book with streamers of baby’s breath and sweet peas. With each turn of the page, I was brought back to my grandparents beginning, before they had children, before they started their lives together. Read more>>

Erik Fernandez | Accountant and Entrepreneur

My parents started there own business when I was young. It didn’t realize it at the time that this was a novel concept. My thinking had always been, find something you are interested in and build a business around that. I didn’t realize how naïve I was at the time but I believe that helped me by giving me the confidence to start a business. A job interview seemed more daunting to me then starting your own business. Read more>>

Harout Gulesserian | Musician, Sound Engineer, and Owner of Dharma Sound

I was born and raised in Los Angeles but always had a longing to live in a rural environment. In my early 20’s I had to have surgery and was put under anesthesia. While I was under, I had an out of body experience that changed my perspective on life. Here was where my purpose was shown to me. In this dream, I was living out in the desert and built a music studio. Since then I have been working towards that goal and have finally reached it. At my studio, Dharma Sound, I record bands live, instead of tracking musicians individually. I prefer live recordings because you can capture so much of the soul and energy of the performance. I had always been fascinated by the free jazz recordings of the 50’s and 60’s and was inspired to do so with modern and vintage equipment. Read more>>

Krizia Soetaniman | Creative Designer

The idea of starting my own design agency came to me way back in 2012, when I had my very first graphic design internship at a social media company in Los Angeles. I never would have thought that working there would be the starting point of my graphic design career. Though the initial scope of work I was assigned to revolved around the design aspect of things, I was exposed to so much more about social media management, which would serve me well in the early days of graduating college. One day, when I was drinking my coffee and snacking on a snickers bar, I was mesmerized by how amazing the design studio was. It was at that moment I promised myself that in five years, I will have my own creative studio! Read more>>

Jody Gonzalez | Salon Owner & Educator

Like most people, I wanted to be my own boss. I found that I never worked as hard as I could have when working for other people. I just figured I’d rather work hard to build something for myself, rather than work hard and build something for someone else. As a new mother when I started my business, I also wanted to be able to make my own hours and be able to raise my kids myself. Read more>>

Ayla Croft | Multi- Business Owner and Celebrity Photographer

As cheesy as this sounds, my ultimate goal is to save the planet through love. Crazy I know right? But it’s true. We live in a world where men can’t be kind to children or women without being attacked, women-hating themselves and even each other.. always in competition. We have politics, race, religion, sexual orientation. It is overwhelming! There needs to be changed and yet telling people what to do doesn’t work. We have to become vulnerable and be honest with ourselves as well as others. Through business, you can do that by how you market and really the overall how the product rolls out. Through time it will become the norm. So why not make pure love the norm. Read more>>

Katie Littlefield | Founder & Designer

After graduating from SMU in Dallas in 2006, I moved to Japan, which kickstarted my career and passion for gifting. Once the financial crisis hit New York in 2007, I knew my Asia adventure was just beginning. I moved to Shanghai in 2008 and my career quickly flourished, by 24, I was Head of Marketing for British financial services firm in Shanghai and enjoyed socializing with the leaders in China’s international entrepreneurial scene. To this day, I still believe that there is no better place to build a business than in Shanghai, the cities’ entrepreneurial spirit oozes, it is truly a place of big ideas. I quickly wanted in on the start up action and at the same time, to exercise my branding and marketing skills. The business started as an experiment in creating a brand. Read more>>

Amy Piper | Practitioner & Trainer | Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)

Starting my business as a practitioner of Emotional Freedom Techniques originated from a direct experience with this transformational work. I was a client for several years before pursuing training and certification in these techniques that can transform you with a quickness. Patterns, old belief systems, and obstacles can be released and cleared. My passion for this business comes from a desire to share these techniques with as many people as I can. Read more>>

Tannaz Santos | Fine Art Photographer

Being a photographer was always my dream so I followed my dream. I was lucky enough that I could stay home with my kids and do my dream job! Read more>>

Nikkolas Smith | Artivist / Author / Illustrator

I am grateful I got to work for a big company for a few years because it definitely helped me to understand better what I wanted in creating my own business. Eventually I wanted to tell my own story and create from my unique point of view. My mom growing up up used to tell me one day I will have your own business and that with that came a lot of other skills I had to better myself at, such as organization. Having you own business requires definitely organization, discipline, and commitment. Read more>>

Claire Powers | Founder & Creative Director, KINdom

The thought process behind creating KINdom was actually influenced by hormones. 🙂 I had just given birth, and instead of going back into the arms of fast fashion, of where I’ve been designing for over two decades, I struggled with the decision of continuing to pollute and contribute to a bad environment for my child to grow up in, or choose to do better and start a sustainable, slow fashion brand of my own. I chose the latter! Read more>>

Rachel Lopez-Bagan | Graphic Designer, Web Designer, and Creative Art Director

After working for multiple years in Architecture, the profession I went to school for, I had the realization that my passion was with graphic design. I had been working as a graphic design as a side hustle after work and on the weekends and one day realized that was what I wanted to pursue as a career as it was what I was really passionate about. I had gone into architecture because I knew I wanted to work in a creative field and architecture seemed like a really secure career but after working in the field I realized that my heart wasn’t in it. It took me a while to really get up the courage to even consider leaving that career to start my own business and become self employed. I had to deal with alot of fear and uncertainty around the idea and worked to lay out a plan that felt safe and well though out, rather than just jumping right into such a huge life shift. Read more>>

Amy Schneider | Beauty Photographer

I’d like to say it was a well thought out plan but I kind of fell into my business! I was managing social media in-house for luxury skincare brands and I constantly struggled to source enough content so I began creating my own. My background is in fine art, branding and graphic design so it wasn’t a huge stretch. I absolutely fell in love with the process of creating content and thought that if I was experiencing this struggle there were more people like me out there with a demand for branded content. Read more>>

Chef Kang | Chef / Owner

First it was passion for cooking, second love of seeing people smile after tasting my food and joy of doing what I love as a career. Read more>>

Jacob Tchamanian | Co-Founder

Starting this business was not a new thing for me. I always say that I only ever worked for another person once in my life. That was my first job when I was 17. It was very short lived because I realized, as early as then, that I would only ever work for myself. From that point on, that’s exactly what I’ve done. Read more>>

Mark Nicholas | Owner, Manhattan Beach Studios

I don’t think that I ever felt that I was starting a business. Rather I believed that I was just pursuing the work that I enjoy. For me, my business is the best of all of the things that I enjoy most – namely creativity, innovation, education and helping others. With all of that in mind, my background helping others as an attorney and strategist definitely made things easier for me in that I was familiar with the laws and rules, understood structure, business plans, marketing and utilizing technology and innovation. While this certainly provided an advantage to my own business, it all translated into a significant advantage for our clients. Read more>>

Jennelle Wax | Dance Instructor & Owner

I was excited to start Flawless First Dance because I love helping engaged couples get ready for one of the most important moments of their wedding: The First Dance! I saw that no other dance courses or programs catered specially to wedding couples. A couple getting married isn’t going to be dancing alone in their living rooms or even at a nightclub. They are going to be dancing in front of all of their closest friends and family! It was important to me that I create something special to make sure these couples getting married look and feel amazing on their big day. Read more>>

Mickey Kravitz | Musician and CEO MAK Hair Products from Mickey Alan Kravitz

Well I have always been a musician, I was in glam rock band HARLOW since I was a kid and I’m sure you know hair is a big part of being in a glam band. Most of my life people have come up to me and ask “what band are you in” but in 2012 I was kind of at a cross road and looking for something new to do and out of the blue people started asking me “are you a musician or hair dresser” and that was happening 2 or 3 times a day. I had always used lots of hair products, always had to combine things to get what I wanted so I decided to just start my own hair product line. I found a manufacturer and we started to develop my product line. When I start a venture whether it’s music, a restaurant, radio or my hair product line I first have to have the passion to do it and believe in the idea. Read more>>

Todd Westover | Artist

In 2013, I quit art directing magazines to become a stay-at-home dad, and would often paint with my two young daughters. The girls would mix their own rich colors, paint for a bit, and then lose interest. Instead of pouring the paint down the drain, I would pull out a new piece of butcher paper and do my thing. What turned into wrapping paper for presents soon had people asking if it existed on canvas. Seven years and more than 150 paintings later, it’s still my signature style. Read more>>

Tiare Rush | Photographer, Maker & Mom

I started my first business for the same reasons many people do. I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to do something that I loved, so I would never have to “work” a day in my life. Read more>>

Nie Samone | Trendsetter

I initially started brainstorming an idea to actually sell Human Hair Extensions, I had a name a brand & more it was called Elegant Tresses. I started pursing testing out hair vendors in march of 2019; Working as an overnight security guard at the time during those late nights my mind would race on making a bigger move, becoming an owner, one day owing my own business & hopefully in the long run be able to take care of me & my family like a 9 to 5 would. Doing something I had interest in as well as something I personally wear. It’s a good feeling finding some great quality human hair with reasonable pricing & that is who I wanted to become. Looking at the financial side of purchasing good quality human hair just didn’t turn out as best as I dreamed up. Read more>>

Sepand Samzadeh | Environmentalist, Musician/Composer/Producer

I wish there was a thought process. I wish I could with joy tell you that I had a bike shop with my brother and I developed the airplane. I wish I could tell you that I build this machines that computes in my garage. It was forced on me and I am glad it was forced. I didn’t listen to myself. I was afraid to make changes. Mostly, I was afraid of disappointing people. I believe they call that personality trait co-dependency. in 2013, 14…. My recycling company grew over 500% under my leadership. I was married with one child, another soon to come. The Mayor of Los Angeles was proud of my achievements and appointed me as a City Commissioner. I also had a band, and it hit #9 in the progressive rock charts worldwide. I knew this was what society wanted but the more I achieved in this manner the greater I feel into depression. Read more>>

Thomas Barsoe | Owner, Founder and Executive Producer

Thomas Barsoe’s Response: My vision was to create a safe, creative ‘music Mecca’ for artists, singers, songwriters and producers to collaborate and express their talent and art. I also wanted to be part of a culture and community and, unlike most recording studios, hidden away in a boring industrial parking lot somewhere, OC Hit Factory is part of a trendy, urban ‘boutique’ mall, where you get foot traffic and people can come sing and record as something accessible and fun to do, much like going to the movie theatre or the bowling alley! And that’s exactly how I believe this generation of aspiring, young artists, want a modern recording studio to be. And judging by OCHF’s success and popularity, it looks like I was right… Read more>>

Aaron Kappe | Mental Health Company Founder

My decision to start Prairie Health came down to the vision, the team and the timing. Vision: I left my great role at LinkedIn in marketing technology partnerships to attend Stanford’s business school, with a plan to find a role at the intersection of health and technology. I wanted to make an impact on more than just a company’s bottom line, but to improve people’s lives and provide hope that people can feel healthy again. Prairie’s vision for effective and accessible mental healthcare fit that bill and then some, especially since I’ve seen mental health and medication issues affect several people close to me. Team: I first met my co-founder Maurice over coffee on campus, and I was immediately drawn to this vision that he shared. Once I met the rest of the team, I knew there was something special happening, and had to join. Read more>>

Marshella Griffin | Owner of Chemoswagg.com, Artist & Survivor

In 2017 I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. I have always been an up beat person that loves Beauty, Fashion and making people laugh. I decided to tackle my cancer journey the way I lived my life daily, with Faith in God and finding joy in the middle of trials and tribulations. I lost my hair from chemotherapy and didn’t feel very attractive at first. I prayed and decided to change my attitude. I started researching to find stylish but comfortable clothes and beanies to wear. I started noticing that even throwing on my favorite shade of red lipstick boosted my moral! I knew others felt like I did so I decided to create something to help them too. Chemoswagg was created during a long 5 hour chemo session. I’ve been Cancer free for the last 2 years and I feel blessed to have gone through Cancer. Read more>>

Morgan Buster | Business Owner

The idea behind our event rental business came to me in late March of 2019, soon after I threw my first bridal shower for my cousin. All of the guests who came through, both family and friends alike, could not stop telling me how great a job I did putting it all together, and were amazed at the lengths I went to to perfect every little detail. This was such a compliment to me, because as I’m sure many know, hosting can be quite the stressful event! At the time I was also in school studying interior design, and so you can imagine how happy I felt to have so many guests from the event, the bride to be included, tell me how beautiful everything was and how special it had all turned out. Who I really have to thank however is my cousin Kym, who suggested the idea of an event planning business, saying how “right up my alley” it would be. Read more>>

Ty McBride | Full Time Homosexual, Full Time Shoe Whisperer

I had just been fired from my position as the Creative Director of Solestruck.com, and while I did not disagree with my termination, I decided that, at that point, I was tired of building other people’s brands, visions and dreams. I had just finished two long stints for two companies whom I worked very intimately for. After leaving that job, I decided, I needed to give it a go on my own, despite not fully being ready, not having enough start up funds, and being terrified. Here I am six years later….still under-funded, still not 100% ready, and still terrified. Read more>>

James Crist | Small business Owner

Our thought process on starting our own business is a bit different than most! I was working a production job on the Fox Lot, and my wife Jamaica was working in a coffee shop in Beverly Hills. She had worked at a bakery in the past, so we started making cakes for a few friends. She made a cake for the VP of Production on the Fox Lot, and the following Monday she said, “I have to talk to you about that cake…” and I was so scared, I thought something was wrong! However, she said that the cake design was perfect (it was a 2-D snail that matched the baby shower invitation). It was when they ate the cake, that 3 different people from the party said it was the best cake they’ve ever tasted, and they need to know where they got it from. So she apologized to me for giving out my number to 3 different people without asking me. Read more>>

Lia Saucedo Ulrich | Herbalist

I knew I had to get the word out that there are Superfoods & Herbs Native to the land that assimilate with the body and heal from within. A lot of people get used to aches, pains and diseases when they should be combating it with water and alkaline herbs. When disease was consuming my body and life I researched, studied and found herbalism. As I started practicing herbalism and feeling great, I started helping others and just knew I needed to reach as many people as possible so they can also feel better and heal. Read more>>

Ron Fitzsimmons | Founder, Alice’s Kids

I know from personal experience that when you live in poverty you suffer privately and publicly. When you have no heat, electricity or food, those are hardships that you can hide to some extent from the rest of the world. But when you wear the same shirt to school five days in a row, when you watch your friends go on a field trip that you could not afford, when you watch others sign the yearbooks that you don’t have, those are public embarrassments that affect your self esteem. Alice’s Kids pay for those seemingly “minor” items that can provide that child a much-needed lift. We believe a little help can go a long way. Read more>>

Heather Shenkman | Interventional and Preventive Cardiologist

It has been three years since I left my job at a large managed-care organization and started my own practice. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. I’m an interventional cardiologist — which means I perform invasive procedures to open blocked arteries, sometimes in the setting of a heart attack. And yet, I am a strong proponent of lifestyle medicine to prevent heart disease, including healthy diet and regular exercise. I’m unique among my physician peers. I’m a triathlete, and I have competed two Ironman races and running, cycling, and swimming events of all distances. I’m also an advocate for plant-based diets for heart health, and have been vegan for nearly 16 years. The best way to combine those passions, and to have flexibility to build my schedule and practice how I wanted, was to open up a solo practice. In medical school, we learn nothing about the business of medicine. Read more>>