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.

Leslie Short | Founder The Cavu Group and author of Expand Beyond Your Current Culture

I started The Cavu Group because I was exhausted being in meetings and hearing that diversity and inclusion is so hard to achieve. The way companies spoke about D&I was as if they were buzzwords and magical. I finally said I need to shift the conversation and mind shift. I wanted to create conversations and trainings that’s about people not buzzwords. I wanted a company that would help people, companies and organizations turn intent into action that would be focused and accountable. Read more>>

Erica V. Walton | Author and Wellness Coach

In 2014, I had the idea of starting a weekly self esteem camp for girls and writing a book about my childhood. I was once a young lady in need of a mentor/advocate. I held off because I was afraid airing family secrets. In the black community sharing your personal business is frowned upon. Then in 2015, after a traumatic childbirth experience I promised myself and God, that if I make it out I’d use my story to help others. I sat down and wrote down everything I wanted to accomplish. Read more>>

Amalía Astin | Healing Practitioner & Reader

I never sought out or planned to start my own business. Rather it feels like the business choose me and I simply followed directions. I have always known my work would be on my own terms, yet I never knew what exactly I wanted to do. Once it began to become clear I was meant to offer (tarot readings, ritual tools, and healing sessions–at least for the time being) the website, name, and operations of the my business fell into place. The behind-the-scenes of starting “ur love matters”, building the site, getting my systems into place, photos, have all been exchanges with friends and family who had the knowledge and skills I needed. All this to say, I feel very grateful everything fell into place. Read more>>

Jozanne Marie | Actress, Author and Producer

Personally, it was more than a thought but a definite calling. As an actress and writer, there were many times I was looking for a story that represented myself and other people of color that I was not seeing in the entertainment industry. Instead of complaining, my business partner, Xaypani Baccam and I decided to provide that space that will not only fill a void but connect the world through  art and entertainment. Sometimes the things we hate to see are what we are called to change. Basically, we hold ourselves accountable and begin to create work and opportunities for a more diverse and inclusive Hollywood. This is genesis of Double 8 Entertainment. Read more>>

Mike Pyro | Tattooed/Artist/Vandal

It was really a no brained for me. I’ve always been a hustler, someone that likes to create and make things that don’t really exist…or at least tweak something to my view. I’ve never fit into anyone else’s model of ‘employee’ and done things my way on my own, so working for myself, be it hustling clothes, art, tattoos whatever, just making it my own way has always been in my DNA. Read more>>

Vincie Ho (Ph.D.) | Founder and Executive Director, RISE Travel Institute

I founded RISE Travel Institute in June 2020 in the middle of the pandemic. I took a risky step to start a nonprofit when the global tourism industry was brought to a standstill and businesses and organizations were struggling to survive, but I firmly believe that this unintended pause was the best time for us to reset, reflect on and rebuild from the unsustainable and unjust systems that negatively impact local communities, economies and ecosystems around the world. Through our educational programs and experiential journeys, we hope to provide young people like you with the knowledge and the tools to make the most mindful travel decisions that would do the most good and the least harm to the communities and ecosystems of our travel destinations, so that they don’t just recover from the pandemic, but thrive beyond how it used to be in the most sustainable and healthy way. We started RISE Travel Institute as an anti-oppression organization also as a response to the rising global anti-racism movement. Read more>>

Quay Potts | Content Creator. Photographer/Videographer

The thought process was simple. When you really think about it, everyone is already running their own business and the brand is yourself. When you apply for a job and go in for your interview, you are marking yourself for the position you seek and that company is outsourcing a task to your brand. That is a very broad example but that’s how I’ve always looked at it. So taking it a step further is just cutting out the middle man and going straight to the consumer and marketing your talents for your own personal gain. Of course that comes with a whole new set of challenges which is why entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. So whether you like it or not, you are already running your own business. Read more>>

Sam Pareti | Film Editor, Video Producer & Adobe Certified Instructor

I never thought I would ever start my own business. I always thought I would hold a good job and make a good living until I retired, but nevertheless, my extremely empathetic mother rubbed off on me, my genes finally kicked in and by the time I was 23 I realized that I needed to devote my life to giving back to the world. I was born into a very non-traditional family, where my older brother and I, would always get what we ask for, but we never asked for much. We had two wonderfully loving parents and even tho they divorced when we were teenagers, they still both gave us the love, support and trust we needed to be ourselves and learn how to approach life in a way that serves ourselves and others. When my parents divorced, I got really into video games to escape the reality of it. Playing those games led me to recording my gameplay and posting on YouTube, which led me to discovering my love for editing. I took that love and stuck with editing all through my life to bring me to where I’m at today: a Hollywood film editor. Read more>>

Melissa | Owner | Skin Deep Photo

When I first started Skin Deep Photo in 2013, it was straight out of college when a friend and I decided to make a photo company that featured tattooed people and artists and it was a fun project for us. It was short lived since we went our separate ways and lived our own lives. In 2015, I decided to start up Skin Deep Photo again because photography makes me happy. This time I decided to focus on empowering women and that’s where the motto “Every Woman Deserves to Feel Like a Goddess” came from. Read more>>

Arlene and Maché Griffin | Photography & Creative Content Team

Our children have been in the industry for a few years before taking our Photography business to the next level. We have always loved the arts and creating but a true push came when we started not only doing our children’s modeling portfolio but also their fellow models signed with their talent agency, DirectionsUSA. We saw a real opportunity to expand our business beyond a hobby and haven’t looked back since. Read more>>

Oboi Jones | CEO of Thrones Of Greatness LLC

The thought process behind starting my own business was to build something that lives on past me. I wanted to create life changing art and distribute it to the world. The main goal was to create, distribute and make waves in the industry of the arts. The monetary value was never something that drove us a team, as we knew that would eventually come. The common goal was to be build and thrive in our own lane. Read more>>

Stingray Stiegler | Surf coach

Surfing has impacted my life so much so,, which has now led me to my current passion of sharing the all mother ocean has taught me. Read more>>

Stephanie Scull | Designer

I was actually shopping for jewelry gifts when I noticed a gap in the market– I was trying to find a gift that was sentimental and unique, but also valuable. As I searched, I started to notice that all of the valuable real gold jewelry was very classic, very unaffordable, and sort of lacking personal sentiment… Whereas the “costume jewelry” was avant garde, on trend, and incorporated sentimental things like crystals and animals. So I wanted to fuse both worlds and create pieces that could be worn timelessly, but that also had that same unique boldness that costume jewelry had. I wanted to make quality, affordable jewelry that told a story and meant something to its wearers!. Read more>>

Jasmine Johnson | Entrepreneur & Fashion Blogger

I’ve always been in love with fashion starting from a very early age. I admired my mom when she would get all dressed up, put on her makeup, and make the perfect look for the day. Her style really inspired me to be in the fashion field. I held on to that dream until I was able to put my foot in the door at the age of 15 as a fashion model. I noticed at the time women of color were rare in the industry and being so young I didn’t realize how important it was for them to have a diverse community. As I got older, I realized how uncomfortable I began to feel as a black woman in an industry that was not very diverse or accepting. Being true to my ethnicity was not accepted on most jobs, my natural hair indefinitely being a big issue on most booked jobs. I wondered how I could find a way to shift the industry and make all women feel comfortable just being true to who they are. I knew I wanted to start a high fashion women’s clothing brand, and it was important for me to create a brand with diversity, but most importantly a brand where ethnic models feel accepted in natural form. Read more>>

Jackie Tha Muscle Whisperer | Guasha Massage Healer & Trigger Point Therapist

I hated the physical therapy industry! They always wanted me to drag things out with clients so they could treat them longer and make more money, when I could truly heal these people in way less time. I also felt the spiritual component was lacking in the clinical atmosphere and everybody has trauma, felt weird to ignore that, especially since its a big part of chronic pain. I was exposed to all of the certified massage methods and none of them felt comprehensive enough to me, so I created my own way of combining all those methods into something unique that resonates with me personally as well as my clients with gua sha and trigger point therapy at the forefront. Read more>>

Evan Greenberg | Performance/Paid Marketing Consultant

When young people begin their careers, a common phrase they use is “I want to learn.” Or when asked about how they like their job, they say “I’m learning a lot.” Although I am a lifetime learner, as my career progressed, I found that I had learned some skills that allowed me to move from a learning phase to a performance phase of my career. Starting with Facebook and Instagram ads, but now moving to other platforms, like Clubhouse, I found that I was able to offer this service to clients on an a la carte basis. Performance/paid marketing is an example of a skill that should be in the tool belt of aspiring or mid-career marketers, but that many companies look to outsource on a contract basis. Read more>>

Justin Nucum | Owner and Head Coach of Hardkour Performance

My thought process behind starting my own business initially started as a college project. At the time, I had to present a 60second pitch of something that I was passionate about, the community needed and that was NOT on the market yet (similar to the show: Shark Tank). During my college years, I was very much into Ninja Warrior back when it was still in Japan. I wanted to try these obstacles and train like these ninjas. I did some research and could not find a gym near me that offered these obstacles that were on the show. The closest thing were rock climbing gyms or free running gyms. Even with those, you would need multiple memberships to practice on the different obstacles. As a college student, that was not an option to be paying those memberships. The other option that I found was that these ninjas were building the obstacles and practicing in their backyards. So with that information, I pitched this idea of having a one-stop shop gym for anyone to come in to train and practice for Ninja Warrior. Read more>>

A. Mariah Caruthers | Entreprenuer

For about three years, I experienced a period of declining health and was officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2017. I knew that I could no longer work in a physical workplace, so I had to officially quit the corporate career path. I reconnected with what brought me joy—writing and school. On my path towards healing, I received my MFA in Creative Writing in 2018. I compiled and published my first book of poetry, “Reflections of a Twenty Something”. After that, I made a conscious effort to use my personal experience as my platform—Mariah’s Got Nerve. I felt the confidence that I never had. I literally have my hands in several opportunities from creating a clothing brand to becoming a freelance social media manager!
The point of everything I do is to know that “your limitations will become your greatest source of power.” I can do anything despite the odds against me. Read more>>

Cathy J. Hood | President | CEO

I created Pristine Initiative, LLC because I wanted to create change in the public relations realm. I’ve worked for and have worked with many top PR agencies that didn’t have the client’s best interest. They focused on the bigger picture rather than helping clients to reach their target market organically. A lot of PR agencies are only in business for the “clout.” At Pi, we have real relationships. We focus on “people” stories and authentic experiences. We are in the industry to develop thought leaders and position them as outliers in their fields. Read more>>

Liza Shapiro | Co-founder, CURA Art

The concept for CURA Art began in 2012, when I met my business partner, Georgia Powell, while both working at the Redfern Gallery in London. We believed that there was a gap in the market for a service that concentrated on the care and management of art collections. More focus tends to be on the acquisition process, with not as much available support geared toward the long-term preservation or management of artworks and collectibles. This is how the idea for CURA Art was born. While I lived in London for over a decade, I decided to return home to California and move to LA. It may sound strange to start a company while living so far from each other, however, it has turned out to be a great advantage as we have access to a wide range of clients and a varied network of specialists. Read more>>

Gosia Steele | Health Enthusiast, Founder, CEO

Originally, the main motive behind starting my own business was to help people who can relate with my health struggles, and are not able to find one health supplemental food to nourish their body. On my path of dealing with anemia, heart and kidney malfunctions, I ended up going to a Holistic Medicine University in Wroclaw, Poland ( a city I was born and raised). During my 4 years of studying there I was able to understand my body from more holistic perspective, and I realized that our body’s natural state is a state of “equilibrium”( homeostasis), a place where it reaches a “self-healing” state. In order for me to establish that point I needed to nourish my malnourished organism. The problem was that all available vitamins, and essential minerals on the market , are in a form of pills, capsules, tablets, or best option -powders ( needed to be mixed with a liquid). I represent a group of people who have an “aversion to swallowing pills”, and I couldn’t find a single supplemental product which would provide a complete nutritional value, so I created my own. Read more>>

Father’s Factory | Wooden Toy Company

When we became parents, we found that the toys our kids play with were overstimulated. Kids get bored with them easily. Most of the toys don’t allow children to think and imagine on their own, and they are designed to be consumed at a fast pace. However, the majority of them were made with plastic. When they got thrown out, they would end up in the landfill. This became a frustration for us when we selected toys for our girls. The toys out on the market were also not designed to aesthetically fit into your home. It was either we had to give up our space to fill with uncoordinated color toys or no toys at all! Because of this frustration, Jimmy often built toys with cardboard for the girls to play with. The most basic and unglorified toys spark their creativity and imagination. Over time, these cardboard toys had become an important part of the girls’ lives. Seeing the many magical moments that his work bought to his family, Jimmy was inspired to spread joy with parents and kids around the world. He started to design toys that would bring families together and create memories that would last lifetimes. Read more>>

Latasha Mercer | Screenwriter & Content Creator

My thought process behind starting my own business was to uplift and support my community. Famed Director Ava Duvernay says something I live by: “if your dream is only about you, then it’s too small.” I’m hardwired to be of service: it makes me feel good to know I’m positively affecting people. Read more>>

Maia Flore | Visual artist

My intentions was to stay free and stay true and if I could use my imagination and feed my curiosity while make a living out of this, even better. Read more>>

Yoyo Setiawan | Founder/Chief Snacker at Snacks,Yo and Wellness Enthusiast

I am an avid snacker and self-proclaimed foodie. Researching and trying out new snacks and superfoods is probably one of my favorite pastimes. However, since most smaller labels cannot be found in stores, I’ve had to purchase products in bulk directly from the brands. Sometimes, I would be lucky and actually love the products. But often times, I’d find myself stuck with a lot of products that I would never eat again. So I thought to myself…there must be a better way and that was when Snacks,Yo was born! Snacks,Yo is where you can purchase the best, healthy and great tasting snacks! With all the products out there, I know firsthand that it can get overwhelming and expensive to try them all. And that is why I started Snacks,Yo I wanted my fellow avid snackers to have the ability to mix-and-match different products to create the perfect healthy snack box for themselves based on their own preferences and dietary needs. Read more>>

Karlos Galvan | Owner/CEO

I’ve always had dreams of owning my own company. When I was working in corporate fitness I saw what I was able to do personally and financially. This solidified my dreams and I knew that I could do the same for myself to create the financial freedom that I wanted along with being able to make an impact in the lives of others. Read more>>

Mario Fernandez | Grammy Nominated Recording Engineer | Technologist

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Life lived on my own terms. It was back in 2010 when I linked up with nipsey, that the flame grew as I was exposed to many new concepts of marketing, ownership, and what it would take to start something on my own. Having failed at another business and had a patent expire abandoned, I kept perusing new ideas that could yield a profitable business that I enjoyed. In 2015, while have been working in the music industry for about 6 years, I stumbled into an idea that would soon turn into my new venture. It was an issue that kept manifesting itself every time I was in the studio: Why is there no collaboration audio interface that allows for musicians using different software platforms, to collaborate efficiently?. Read more>>

Alex Caiola | Intuitive Guide and Astrologer

For a long time, I felt unaligned in my career. I knew something was off but I couldn’t fix it with each new role I took. It was around then that I realized I had psychic abilities and became more invested in the intuitive arts of Tarot and Astrology. When it finally clicked that my passion could be a career, albeit a non-traditional one, and I started to lay the groundwork for starting High Priestess of Brooklyn. I’m someone who can engage in analysis paralysis, so once I had my business idea, which was to be an intuitive guide as High Priestess of Brooklyn, I set out to brand it and beta test with friends and family. I just had to start to get momentum enough to keep going and to hold myself accountable to keep going, even when it got difficult. Read more>>

Gille Klabin | Filmmaker

I started my film career in England while attending university. I was taking any film related job I could get so that I could learn from those around me. While doing that I was also constantly shooting anything I could, be it a short for me and my friends or a music video for an unsigned band. I knew no one would hire me for actual human money so I just worked for free as much as I could making stuff I hoped would be cool in an environment where failing had low stakes. Initially my dream was to get represented by a production company and get into their deal flow with cool artists and commercial brands. I set my sights on that and worked tirelessly to learn about all facets of film-making and to make the coolest things I possibly could. I got rejected for years, sometimes politely and often times not. At first I was bitter about it which drove my first desires to just going solo but I eventually realise it was unfair of me to expect people to just blindly believe in my potential by looking at the half-good videos I was capable of making at the time. Read more>>

Denny & Mira Zimmerman | milkman LA

We are a husband and wife team. MILKMAN was started out of a need to create together. milkman in itself is a combination of our surnames. Working as freelance designers in studios all over town we rarely got to work together or work on projects that were making an impact on peoples lives. The thought was to have a studio where friends, family, and all people can come and start their own brand, It doesn’t take much to have the freedoms of making income on the side or as your main source of money. We knew we could provide a service that could kick off peoples dreams on a small or large scale. So MILKMAN was developed. Read more>>

Jamei Lauren | Entrepreneur & Content Creator

My thought process was very strategic in the journey to starting my business and here’s why! I started my business during a critical time for the entire world, which was the 2020 pandemic due to the virus Covid-19. When the pandemic happened I knew that I wanted to start a business just didn’t know where I wanted to start with my process, I was able to take the much needed down time to sit, think and plan for what is now my pandemic baby business, as I call it, By Jamei Lauren, LLC. I knew I didn’t want to spend months of downtime wasting away so I took full advantage of my time to map out what I needed to start my business. I knew I wanted to start an aff0rdable business that, even in a pandemic, w0uld thrive. My goal was to get all that I needed to start the business for 1k or less. I was definitely successful and I was able to triple my start up cost in the 48 hours. Read more>>

Yosmi Trinidad | Yosmi’s Boutique | How it started

I always wanted to start my own business but I was too afraid. I liked the idea of it and I enjoyed fantasizing about it, but I thought that it was too unrealistic for me. It seemed risky to me and I would always think of every worst case scenario. What if I do my taxes wrong, what if I get sued, what if people hate the product? These are the questions I would ask myself over and over again. Until one day I realized that I was self sabotaging myself and thinking too negatively. Life is too short to be scared. After getting over my fear I had to think about what I would sell. Lashes came to my mind instantly. Lash extensions and strip lashes had become super popular over the years. Tons of girls I knew were constantly going to Walmart to buy lashes that would not last. So why not sell quality lashes, I thought! I also wanted to sell clothes as well and that’s how Yosmi’s Boutique slowly came to life. I knew that I didn’t want to be stuck in one category.
At the time I was a Senior in college. Read more>>

Juliette Arciuolo | Custom Cookie and Cake Decorator

I come from a family of entrepreneurs and small business owners so I have always known that I wanted to start my own business. I have always had a love for baking but only as a hobby. I would bake all the time for friends and family. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college (with a strength and conditioning major), that I realized I wanted to turn my baking into a business. I got my first cookie order back in October 2019 and, from there, it has been growing more and more each month. My business grew mainly through word of mouth. I was very lucky to have such supportive friends and family who saw my talent and believed in what I was doing. I am happy to say, as of March 2021, I am a full time baker!. Read more>>

Venius Adams | I am A Kundalini Yoga Teacher and the Founder and Creative Designer of Luxe Yoga by Venius

I felt like to have your own business and do things my way was the Ultimate!! The idea that I could DESIGN my own Collection and someone would be interested in purchasing my creations, just gave me butterflies! I have always believed that I should run my own business, although the idea of it frightened most intrigued me.. because I felt it’s the Ultimate experience FULL Circle. Read more>>

Rashida Diva Shabazz | Actress and entrepreneur

I’ve always been very creative even as a child and I would make jobs for myself to earn money. A family friend showed me how to make beaded bracelets. Once I mastered it I made some, put them on a tray, and walk around my building selling them for 25 cent to a dollar when I was about 8yrs old. I have a BS in Business administration. The thought process behind starting a business and being an entrepreneur started way before Golden Drops Hair Oil was created. I feel like I always connected to being a boss rather then a worker. Although I had definitely worked for many others over the years. Read more>>

Dolores Runte | Natural Herbal Consultant

After becoming diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis, I quickly learned that there weren’t many options when seeking out treatment. The only FDA cleared medication was very expensive , even with Insurance my cost was around $800 a month. I started studying herbs and their benefits and made a few products for myself. When I got the relief I needed from my own concoctions, I shared them in some Facebook groups and quickly started getting messages from others asking if I could make them some of my products. That gave me the drive to help others and “ Green Witch Products” was born. Read more>>

Lindsay McMurray | Trombone Player and Band Leader

As most musicians can attest to, the gigging lifestyle is unpredictable. This is where I think the phrase “feast or famine” comes in. Especially if you look at the holiday season where you could be working from noon to midnight at 4 different locations, but when January hits you can be looking at a month-long gig desert. Maybe even 2 months. Or you could be hired to do a tour for a year, but return to town only to find out that all your regular gigs have replaced you. Although this is the nature of a musician’s work life, there’s not much you can really do about it except hope that the phone rings. I wanted to give myself a little more control of my fate, so I started to look into what kind of holes there were in the market and see if I could put together bands to fill the gaps. Read more>>

Conor Biddle | Writer & Pink House Clothing Founder

I’ve always been someone who loves to have multiple projects going. While I was getting frustrated with how out-of-my-hands making it as a TV writer was I became attracted to this idea of starting my own business, after all, it would be entirely in my control. That was the catalyst for starting Pink House Clothing.mThat’s not to say I hadn’t kicked around the idea of starting a business before because I certainly had. There’s something so exciting about owning an entity that you get to develop every aspect of. I’ve learned an unbelievable amount in my first year from managing people to branding to UX to marketing to finance. Starting your own company really kicks you in the butt to become extremely well-rounded. Read more>>

Elizabeth Rietz | CEO & Co-Founder

When my daughter was 8 years old, she began to develop and needed to wear a camisole or bra under her tops. We struggled to find a camisole that was both comfortable and had a shelf bra inside for an extra layer of coverage. Then, we had an even harder time trying to find bras that she would wear since she has a lot of sensory issues. I began talking to other moms about this struggle and quickly realized I wasn’t alone. Even though I had never been in the apparel industry before, I decided to research what it would take to get a sample made. After searching for awhile, I found people who could help me understand the process and help design our first line. Then, my husband decided to join me to build this business. With his background in the technology industry, he built our website on Shopify. Read more>>

Tsvetta Kaleynska | SaaS expert, TV commentator, Founder – RILA GLOBAL CONSULTING

For many years I worked at a large media agency in New York City, which had various products and offerings. I started as an intern in the Social Media department and I left the company as the Manager of the same division. My work involved a lot of writing, which was somewhat unnatural to me, given English is not my first language. I quickly learned the ropes of the job and started analyzing and interpreting millions of datasets turning them into valuable findings and recommendations for clients. After working in some tech roles at software companies, I saw a trend across all my employers, which I wasn’t a fan of. In my 11+ years in the Social Media and Business Intelligence space, I have seen how Fortune500’s digital strategies get outsourced to cheap and inexperienced labor – from setup, to research to planning. Read more>>