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.

Vishal Munsif | Head of Production & Producer

Independence and Responsibility. There is no price on independence – “Independence of Mind” and “Independence in Fact..” As an entrepreneur you are responsible for your actions and yet you are answerable to no one. I want to run my business the way I want it. My decisions are charity driven. I am a capitalist with a socialist mindset. A conundrum for sure. But I felt, I could not achieve my goals working for someone. Hence, owning a business was my only option. And I am glad I picked the right option. Read more>>

Darrell Black | Visual Artist and Creator of Definism

Having your own business presents many challenges beyond the process of creating Artwork, the logistics and promotion of works of art can be very daunting since the field of art and design is so oversaturated, with many visual artists competing for the attention of Art Galleries, Museums and Art collectors. This competitiveness in my opinion, has empowered me to experiment more with my artwork practice which resulted in the use of found objects from yard sales, acrylic multi layering on canvas and wood and the incorporation of non toxic hot glue to give my images a three dimensional effect  that’s easily recognizable as my art style Definism. Read more>>

Kai Fujimoto | Hair Stylist & Educator

First and foremost, I’m extremely picky about the hair products I use, for my clients and myself. The best thing about having my own business is that I can handpick the best products in the world, and I get to use them everyday. I use Oway (Organic Way) products, Original mineral CØR Clean Hair Color Technology, Oway Organic Color, and other new color lines/products. I am always in search of the best hair products out there! I love having my own business because I can always be competitive with myself to evolve, be progressive, and give the best results to my clients through expert level product knowledge and technical skills. It’s like living in a dream!. Read more>>

Omobola Imoisili Entrepreneur & Storyteller | Founder/CEO, Teni & Tayo Creations

I started my original business because I was unhappy, but I started another side to my business because the pandemic forced me to get creative and innovate. Before I started my business 3 years ago, I didn’t really see myself as the type to start a business. I had always planned to climb the corporate ladder and I was successful at that until things started getting stale at work. I was bored, unhappy, and found myself unable to concentrate, and there didn’t seem to be a clear path to get out of it. I decided that my happiness was my responsibility to manage so I started working on a project that I felt passionate about and would bring me joy. Representation in kids’ products and media had been important to me ever since having children, so I started by writing a children’s book about an African Fairy called Feyi Fay who travels the world helping kids solve problems. Then, I added other products like toys and backpacks to my collection. Read more>>

Manny Espinoza | Los Angeles Makeup Artist

To be very honest, I never thought about having my own business. Why you may ask, well at the age of 16 I started working in fast food, then moved into retail which then lead me into cosmetics. When I moved into cosmetics, I realized that I found my passion – to help build confidence in others! So, at the age of 19 I started working for the #1 Cosmetic Brand which was a dream of mine since my mother was the one that introduced me to the makeup line. Fast forward 12 years with many relocations with promotions and reaching company targets with my teams as I was in a leadership role. I felt onto of the world – I was able to identify business problems and utilize my teams to ensure any obstacles became successes. This lead me to build relationships all over the US. Read more>>

Paolo Rosicarelli | Founder of PMSPrioritizingMySelf

PMSPrioritizingMySelf 2020. What a strange, difficult, and transformative year… With the devastating human and societal impacts of this year’s many challenges, I felt a transcendent need to plant a seed of positivity and hope for the future. For me, one of the paramount themes of 2020 has been the strength of women as well as their boundless and instinctual dedication to family and society. While last year has impacted all of us, women have been disproportionately burdened, prompting more than 25% to evaluate leaving the workforce. This exodus will likely have a lasting impact for future generations, could reverse some of the gender parity gains made in the past decade, and will have broader implications for overall social inequities.
That’s why I founded PMSPrioritizingMySelf, where the mission of PMSPrioritizingMySelf is to celebrate and honor women while lifting up those typically marginalized by social injustices. Read more>>

Francesca Ellana | CEO & Founder of Popfuzion TV

We started Popfuzion TV as a way to recreate pop culture. Instead of sharing gossip news, the idea was to fuse entertainment and positive news. We recognize, cultivate and honor celebrities, charitable organizations and leaders who are making a lasting, positive change in the world. Read more>>

Josh FIELDS | Music Video Director

After college I started working occasionally as a production assistant (PA) while my main source of income was waiting tables. At that time I was only getting one gig a month, my ultimate goal was to direct and I could see that was going to be a huge mountain to climb that would take a long time. After realizing that I thought it would be a better route to start my own small production company where I essentially started as a director among just about every other role from producer to DP to editor, you name it. I was able to learn while directing from day one slowly expanding my network and finding good crew, then the goal just became for my company to climb the ladder rather than my self alone. Read more>>

Tracy Dang | Teacher, Professional Bodybuilder, & Baker/Business Owner

If you would have asked me a few years ago about starting up a cookie business, I would have said, “No way!”. I am a High School Anatomy and Physiology Teacher in Watts, California and a Professional Bodybuilder in the IFBB Pro League. My cookie business came out of my love for eating cookies and sharing what I thought to be “to die for cookies” with my fellow bodybuilders. My dedication and discipline towards fitness is the keystone habit that has impacted many facets of my life. The irony is that I did not grow up dreaming about a career in fitness nor did I ever think I would start an E-Commerce Cookie business either. It all happened by chance or what I now know was fate. Training and dieting is my second full-time job. Read more>>

Nihaar Sinha | Screenwriter & Founder/CEO of Maiya

I’ve always felt entrepreneurial and that I have a “builder” personality. I wanted to create something that did not previously exist, and that mental wiring laid the foundation upon which my entrepreneurial journey followed. As for Maiya itself, I had watched the surging popularity of premium wellness as the fashion-forward athleisure trend really took off. I also saw yoga become incredibly popular during this time. As an Indian American, I was happy to see my heritage break into mainstream American culture, but was disappointed at the lack of representation. Indian faces were conspicuously absent from the large yoga brands, and in many ways the practice felt disconnected from its roots. The idea of designer yoga mats featuring authentic Indian prints addressed two opportunities: 1) the commercial opportunity in premium wellness, and 2) the social opportunity in re-connecting yoga to its cultural heritage with an authenticity that was often missing from the industry. Read more>>

Taysha Nacadia | Home Organizer

Growing up I was lucky enough to know my great-grandfather who was a two time business owner. At the time I didn’t understand the value of what it meant to run your own business, however this was learned once my father inherited one. From that moment on I was able to not only witness the journey of owning a business, but more importantly the significance of creating generational wealth. Within the black community generational wealth is not as common as it is within other races. Given my up bringing I was able to see what it means to live in a low income community and how inheritance combined with hard work, determination and passion can help you curate a life of financial knowledge & freedom. Read more>>

Yeva Babayan | Artist & Creative Director

Creative individuals always struggle working for other people as our vision is usually drowned out by the corporate world. After many years of working with prominent creative studios and companies, such as Kelly Wearstler, Anastasia Beverly Hills, DL&Co as well as being the original illustrator for the Juicy Couture stores, creating original art that was installed into all their stores worldwide… I was able to harness the intricate and practical aspects of various industries, which include architecture, interior, furniture and product design. Starting my own business was a natural step to realize my own creative vision without corporate filters. I know what I have to offer the world is truly unique, and people always want something new and original. Read more>>

Westside Blanco | Rap Recording Artist & Entrepeneur

As a recording artist in the music industry. It’s imperative to develop a clear cut understanding of what it means to be you. This brand identity is almost if not more important than even actual talent. One of the most major streams of revenue for a recording artist in the music business is merchandise. Not having a clear cut understanding of who you are and what you represent directly affects fans and potential fans ability to buy into you or from you. Most fans buy merchandise to feel connected to the artist. And or in most other cases, because they respect and admire the artists taste and personal style. Consciously or unconsciously choosing to adopt it as their own. So imagine a fans confusion. Being offered to purchase items from a collection of Athe-leisure clothing presented to them by an artist that they love for their UpScale, Business Formal style. The idea and ultimate creation of my new company “A Don’s Aura” is built on this. Read more>>

Diana Cortese | BCBA & Founder of South Bay Kids Connection

I created South Bay Kids Connection (SBKC) to address the need for a dedicated and welcoming space where kids could develop, practice and strengthen positive peer relationships. Something all parents have in common is that they want the best for their children. That best can mean different things to different families but at its core it almost always entails that child being happy, confident and a good person. Having worked with kids across all ages and developmental levels as a Special Education Teacher and Board Certified Behavior Analyst, I realized that the key to achieving these desired outcomes was to build healthy, positive peer social interactions. As a parent, raising young boys, I also appreciated that growing up in today’s world can be serious business. I was disheartened to witness how a culture of competitiveness seemed to increase in tandem with age. This makes developing healthy social skills even more challenging- especially for those that have additional needs. Read more>>

Eric Toms | Filmmaker and Host/Producer of The Night of Shorts Night

When I was twelve I was lucky enough to know multiple groups of kids who made short films. Every couple of months this community would get together and watch one another’s work. Although there was some mild competition (“Graham used special effects?!”) the whole point was to share our work and (hopefully) entertain our friends. That sense of community and camaraderie was never lost on me. Years later when I moved to Los Angeles with my then girlfriend (now wife) I felt very alone. The town seemed to run on the revenue brought in by the bright eyed kids who stepped off the bus every day. Everyone demanded a entrance fee to share work, screen films, or just be considered. Over the years I met the people I’m now proud to call my friends. They were all terrific filmmakers who struggled with the same problem. A filmmaker would spend all of their money on a short film only to have festivals and competitions ask for more money in order for their shorts to be seen. Read more>>

Nathan Cohen | Artists Director & Arts Educator

We started NCo Creations to create a space where a variety performing artists can have a space to confront their fears, needs, wants, questions, etc. in their art which will be shared. Sometimes artists just need space to collaborate and workshop without pressure. We’re also by artists, for artists. We make it a comfortable place to be with lots of love and fun at all times! We also want to engage an audience who isn’t the typical “theatre” goer. Art should be accessible and appreciated by the mass, and not exclusive. We create works for our audience that feel familiar and slide in something new that they may not know, but end up loving! One of our largest components of NCo is our EDU programming. We offer virtual classes that are donation based making it accessible to all communities. The teaching artist also a very larger percentage of the donation – again, by artists, for artists. Read more>>

Tawney Allen | Social Media Marketer and Mindset Healer

Typically marketing company’s are charging $500-$1000 just for their time and expertise then tacking on a budget of let’s say $500 for ads to actually grow the business. This is a huge expense for small businesses that are just starting or are a mom and pop, where most profit is needed to be funneled back into the business or take care of personal expenses. I would see the vicious cycle over and over again: need to spend money to make money but need to make money to spend money. I went back to school to focus on marketing and social media marketing. I was being taught the same thing, run ads. So, I started my own marketing company to fulfill on one question, “How can I grow a business with the least amount money possible?” 4 years later, we have now created our own way to grow a business on social media organically and authentically. A client is paying us just for our time and expertise. We do everything by hand, so it keeps the cost down for the client and we have the ability to focus more on being the extension of the client. Read more>>

Amelia Butler | Learn Māori Abroad Founder & Teacher

I wanted to start my own business but I wasn’t sure what kind of business to start so I began thinking about what I was good at. Something that came to mind was being able to speak the Māori language. (Māori is the indigenous language of New Zealand.) I decided to purse this idea and posted in a few Facebook groups of New Zealanders living in the US to see if anyone would be interested in learning Māori. From those posts I got 4 responses from people who were interested in learning so I created a Māori language curriculum and started teaching Māori via video chat. My first 1-on-1 student was a Kiwi guy living in Seattle, WA. My first group of students was 10 kiwis living in New York!. Read more>>

Azael Perez | Fashion Design

It all started back in 2018 and I bought $50 worth of rhinestones and a pair of retro looking sunglasses. I stoned all night and when I saw the final product I said to myself “well what else can i stone”. I stoned then shoes, jackets and all sorts of knick knacks and had it all on my Etsy page and then I eventually took my designs and switched the over to my very own website. throughout this journey I met several creative individuals, some even became close to me. From these connections I was able to work on unique projects, some that i am very proud of and continue to impress myself with. The goal for me with Azael Apparel is to introduce my eye for fashion in a unique way, so fast forward to now, I am working with my new business partner and designer Richard Parada in a refreshing Spring/Summer collection that we can wait to share with the public. Read more>>

Marsh & Jan Mokhtari | Co-Founders, Gray Whale Gin

We’ve all had those thoughts, usually they occur outside of our 9-5 jobs, when the pull of making money is out of the window for a moment. When we talk about what truly matters to us. Starting a business was high on our priority list.. That conversation happened with my co-founder and wife, on a camping trip to Big Sur, CA. We talked about what was truly important to us. Obviously our two girls, the majestic Californian coastline and animal conservation where all high on the list. But what would we create to support all those worthy causes? Cue the Gray Whales, on their annual migration. Seriously, they literally went past at that moment. We all watched in awe as mom and baby headed north.. Looking back, that was the inception point. Thats where this fun journey to start Gray Whale Gin all began. Read more>>

Tyler Gutowsky | Music Publisher & Vice President, Handle With Care

Handle With Care was formed over a Sunday brunch. John Santos, Kellan Martz, Ted Morales and myself were having brunch in January of 2018 and the topic of giving back to our community arose. We bounced around ideas of what we could do give back for a bit before we landed on doing something for the homeless. unhoused and under served population across our city. We felt there was not as much focus on those around West Hollywood and we knew we wanted to start there. Giving back to those who are less fortunate has always been very close to my heart. I grew up with very humble beginnings. My parents divorced when I was little and I moved to a small rural town with my Mother. We didn’t have very much at all. Luckily, we always had a roof over our head but I recall times of having to use food stamps to get our groceries. Everything was a luxury. We scraped by and we didn’t have much. My Dad later became self made and successful but growing up wasn’t the easiest. Read more>>

Paulina Karpis | Cofounder and CEO of Brunchwork

I actually never planned to be an entrepreneur. I got a degree in Finance and then took a job at J.P Morgan as an analyst. I stumbled across a major problem in business education that hadn’t been solved and it drove me to start brunchwork. I was looking into MBA programs, and was underwhelmed by my options. They were overpriced, outdated and an unrealistic time commitment. Nothing innovative had been done within business education for many years. So I built brunchwork based on what I wish I had access to early on in my career. I wanted to offer access to a network of peers, top industry leaders and relevant education and skills. Getting an MBA might have been the norm for our parents generation, but it really doesn’t make sense anymore. Not when there’s so many great MBA alternatives. I feel fortunate to be able to provide modern business education to tens of thousands of millennial professionals each year. Read more>>

Birkley Wisniewski | Dance Instructor & Studio Owner

I really wanted to see this dance style, Lindy Hop, grow. It requires a partner, and it’s more fun when more people are in the same place, doing it all together. The more people who do it, the better the dancers become, and the more fun it gets too!. Read more>>

Parker Edison | Multimedia Artist

I wanted to organize what I was doing. I had a tight network that I was consistently working with and putting a name to it made it easier to promote. Read more>>

Christa Janine | 500hr RYT | 200 E-RYT Yoga Instructor & Life Coach

The rationale that led me to commit to starting my own business was my last corporate position. The last position I had as a content producer was literally the ideal job scenario. I had an amazing boss, a great team to work with, and the freedom to be as creative as I wanted to be. However, even in that situation, I was still miserable. I continuously felt as though I was being pulled towards something else, something more. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mentality, but settled for traditional roles because it was “safe”. I settled because it was “the smart thing to do.” Yet, after this epiphany in June 2020, I knew it was time for me to put all of my time and energy into creating something of my own that was more in line with both my purpose and my passions in life. Read more>>

Nicole Peltier | Founder, Nico’s Small Market

Nico’s was built on the idea of wanting to share the best wine with all our friends and family. We were sitting outside one day, sipping an amazing Pét-Nat and just knew we wanted to bring that wine to people in a special way. Wine for us has always been about community and bringing people together, and what better way to foster community than through events! We set out on the mission to find the perfect mobile bar cart that would fit seamlessly into the background of any space, while serving up lots of the best made wines. After much research, we found our little truck and outfitted her to be a serving station. Events have been on hold since our launch so that we can all stay safe, but when we can come out and serve again, we can’t wait to share the stories behind our selection, winemakers and vineyards. Read more>>

Rachel Dahlenburg | Actor

I’m not typically a good decision maker, but deciding to pursue acting was a relatively easy decision for me to make, despite the fact that I never thought I could be an actor. I always secretly wanted to be one, though. I grew up in New Mexico, and my family was not involved in entertainment and wasn’t artistic at all. I had been living in LA for about a year when I got laid off my content writing job, and after I got laid off, I realized I didn’t like writing nearly as much as I thought I did. I decided to take a job as a barista to re-evaluate my career prospects. It was actually my husband who suggested that I consider acting and that I sign up for some improv classes, and so I did, just to dip my toes in the water. And it was terrifying, but I loved it! I kept getting asked by my classmates who my talent agent was or how many auditions I was getting or how much I book, and I kept telling them, “I’m not an actor,” and they would say, “Well, you fooled me.” Read more>>

Mauricio Arrioja | Line Producer & Consulting Producer

It was during Christmas time where I was unemployed and went to visit my Brother in Seattle and started researching about media companies and also about myself. Asking questions like: What are my strengths? What can I do to keep myself growing and learning? What are my passions?. Read more>>

Amanda Schechter | Creator of FORMERLY YAN, Mom to 2 Boys, E-commerce Consultant, and DIYer of Home Projects

My friends and I had a need. We were pregnant, working, and had nothing to wear. So I decided to design a line of clothing that can be styled and adjusted to fit changing silhouettes. We haven’t seen much newness or innovation in the maternity market for years. Maternity clothes are considered “dowdy.” The quality is poor because people won’t want to spend that much on something they will only wear for a few months. Some turn to non-maternity brands that happen to be maternity friendly but they tend to be more expensive…I know from first hand experience. A lot of designer dresses and tops are also only dry clean only and that is not practical for a mom. Becoming pregnant is such a special and exciting time. We deserve to feel beautiful and be able to get excited about going shopping for our new bodies. If we’re going to spend money on a new wardrobe, it should be something we can buy now, wear now, and be excited about wearing later. Read more>>

Claire and Lily Andrew | Filmmakers, Business Partners & Sisters

If you aren’t given the chance to tell your stories, we think it’s important to create those opportunities for yourself and others. So in 2018 we formed our production company, The Wildflower Sisters, to produce content we are inspired by. We are passionate about making economical films yet not compromising quality by playing to the strengths of the script, utilizing production value, and bringing together a tight knit passionate crew. It’s important to represent young female film makers, and hopefully inspire others to go after their dreams. Change is in the Hollywood air and inclusivity of diverse story tellers is bringing about an exciting wave of film making. Read more>>

Jared Lorenzo | Actor and Small Business Owner

I believe in the power of manifesting to create what you want for your future. Visualizing the goals I want, and making it a reality is what it takes to start a business. If you can see it for yourself, it only takes applying action to evoking one’s dream. I had a strong vision of what I wanted for my business, and although it has not been easy, I have to remind myself that there are no short cuts in becoming a business owner. I laid out a manifesto with detailed attainable goals with a specific timeline of when things would happen. Working night and day, countless hours, and actually putting in the work makes the vision concrete. Read more>>

Luquana McGriff | Sugar Artist & Educator

My thought process behind starting A Cake Baked In Brooklyn. I was always had an entrepreneur spirit. I always wanted to start my own company I just did not know what business I would have at the time. I was a single mother working for NYPD New York City Police Department. I always wanted to leave a legacy for my two children. I have invested my time to build a strong foundation for my children. I had a passion for baking which I would share with my Co-Workers at all the retiring parties. I would donate cakes, cupcakes & other desserts. My coworkers would go crazy and said I was in wrong profession. At that time I never foreseen this as a business. I did start selling my desserts to co workers and friends. I finally had the strength and confidence to started my very own business. Read more>>

Monika Sed | Fashion, Portrait & Fine Art Photographer

I think it has been a very natural process. Since I have been in the photography business for quite sometime, I can definitely say that all started first by exploring my capabilities as a creator, understanding business ups and downs, what could be my in depth contribution, questioning if I do have a natural talent or will I need to work very hard to learn things. Also, with time, I realised how much I wouldn’t be liking to work for someone else, having a defined limits, rules, commitments that wouldn’t let me grow at the speed I desired. I think that was the moment when I realised that the only way I can enjoy what I like and live my true self every day – is by working for myself. And many people probably have a wrong image, that it is all about fun and freedom. Owning business, it becomes even bigger commitment than working for someone else. You become countable for your own actions, decisions and success. However, at the same time, it gives you the feeling of absolute euphoria and that the sky is. Read more>>

Joshelle Jackson | Creator of Retro Elle

I first fell in love with natural beauty products in the early 2000’s after watching Lisa Price of Carol’s Daughter on the Oprah show. I was watching the show with my mother and she was describing how she started her business making skincare products right from her kitchen. I was so inspired how someone could make such amazing, rich and healthy products with simple ingredients. But, it wasn’t until years later that I would become even more connected with natural beauty. In 2013, I had my daughter and went through a rough patch of postpartum depression. I had moved from Connecticut all the way to Atlanta and was miles away from my family whom I was very close with. I was so in love with being a mother but postpartum depression had taken a toll on my mental health. One day, after an emotional and draining day, I began to reflect back on Lisa Price and how she made bath and beauty products from her kitchen. Since I was a new mom, I only wanted to use the most simplest and safest products for me and my daughter. Read more>>

Joanne Mosconi Piano | Acting Coach

The thought process behind my online coaching business was that if I can stay connected to my Los Angeles actors virtually, while I was in NYC working on a show, then my teaching could continue and my students could flourish. I started my Online Acting coaching business- The Performing Arts Coach- in October of 2016- way before the pandemic and so I was ahead of the game when it came to teaching on Zoom. Read more>>

K& | Founders of Twinning Store

Ever since we can remember, we have gotten questions about being twins. Being twin sisters is a huge part of our lives. Every day, we communicate way more than what seems to be normal. Through texts, facetime, calling, or simply by hanging out. We were born with a built-in best friend and confidante. When we, for the millionth time, discussed how lucky we were to be twins, we decided it was time to flaunt our twin-ness. On to Google we went, but we couldn’t find anything that spoke to us. Nothing truly portrayed the twin language while being cute at the same time. We simply wanted items we could wear in our daily lives. Therefore, with our background in fashion, we decided to start Twinning Store ™, an online store for twins. After months of planning and prepping, we officially launched in July 2017. Read more>>

Eddie Aguirre | Podcast Host & Graphic Designer

There came a point in my 20’s, after countless rejections at the beginning of my graphic design career, that I realized I needed to start creating my own opportunities rather than waiting for someone else to define my professional worth. Using my design skills, I made the jump into podcasting in 2015/2016 (after being influenced by my consumption of podcasts) to give me a sense of direction and clarity on the world and my community. Creating the podcast gave me the opportunity to create a platform where one can express themselves and showcase their own skills and craft; while allowing me to grow as a designer and learning the ins and out of maintaining a brand. The rest speaks for itself. Read more>>

Avi Greene | Healthy Gourmet Chef & Meal Prep Coach

As a fitness professional & nutrition coach, I was always writing meal plans for my clients and noticing their biggest challenges were with nutrition. One day, a client with a family of 6, asked me to come and overhaul their entire kitchen and way of eating. As I cleaned out their pantry of junk food, explained ingredients to their 3 teenage sons and started juicing and cooking all the meals for the family, I was teaching the au pair the principles of my “healthy comfort food”. Through this process, I documented and posted on Facebook. Other friends started reaching out with requests for me to cook for them & coach them. That was the start of my business, 5 years ago in May. Read more>>

Jake Sells | Owner | Jake Sells Wood

Jake Sells Wood evolved out of something different entirely. For me, woodworking was a creative outlet. A creative outlet that I desperately needed during unhappy times. I was steadily working as an analyst in the commercial banking industry and the doldrums of cubicle life were driving me mad. Because of this, I decided to make a change. When a move from my apartment (at the time) and into a house presented itself, I had one item on my wish list: a space to woodwork at night and on the weekends. I wanted to start working with my hands and build furniture for both personal use and for close family and friends. I loved it and couldn’t get enough. This led to many builds, many mistakes, lots of YouTube DIY videos, more mistakes, more learning, and finally a logo and branding. At that point, I had the confidence, desire, and motivation to turn what was once a hobby into a business. I haven’t looked back since. Onward & upward!. Read more>>