Thinking through whether to start a business – whether to take the risk, whether to go out on your own – isn’t easy. So we asked some entrepreneurs we admire to tell us about how they thought through the process of starting a business.

Laura Moll | Celebrity Lifestyle, Branding and Event Photographer

I wanted to build something for myself that I was proud of, something that made people happy, and allowed me to stay home to raise my kids. I knew it was going to be really hard work, but I also knew that it would pay off. Being my own boss, creating my own schedule, constantly learning and being creative, while also doing something for others that would make them happy and feel special was something that was very important to me. Read more>>

Kelly Balch | Wedding & Commercial Photographer

When I thought about starting my business, I knew I would be taking a lot of risk; no health benefits, no cushion to catch me if I fall, no experience whatsoever. The only thing that had me willing to at least try, was my drive and passion for doing what I love. My gut feeling was if I followed what I loved doing, that the rest would come easy. Growing up, my parents taught me about work ethic, about being kind to people, and once you see a vision clearly, you’d know where to go. Those were some of the tools, that helped build the confidence into giving this leap of faith, veering in the direction of the unknown and uncomfortable, and giving it a shot. It took a lot of balls, but also heart. And my gut was right, everything else came into fruition, because I was doing what I was passionate about. The passion and love behind it fueled everything to help start my own business. Read more>>

Jennifer Digiacomo | Founder

For as long as I can remember, my family has strived to make every day a celebration! From Holiday traditions to unforgettable parties, I was raised in an environment that made the most of every moment! My family is also full of creatives and I followed suit, pursuing a career in Graphic Design. After getting my B.F.A at Otis College of Art and Design I began my career at BCBGMAXAZRIA® continuing on to Skechers USA® then finally wet n’ wild® cosmetics where I worked my way up to Art Director. Bringing people together with good food and decorations has always been my “happy thought,” since such memories are the fondest of my childhood. Consequently, as a professional graphic designer, you would think that the idea to design party decorations would have occurred to me sooner. However, it wasn’t until I was planning my 30th birthday party that inspiration struck. Read more>>

Samuel Lippke | Editorial Event Photographer

I wanted to create a Photo Studio to focus on documenting peoples real life experiences through my photography. To take an image that would bring my clients back to the feeling, the excitement and the emotions of the moment. I’ve always loved being able to cement and enhance incredible moments with my art. Read more>>

Jack Hunter | Actor, Writer & Director

My career in the arts started while I was teaching chemistry at Seneca College… A teacher with little motivation winds up with a lot of free time on their hands. I use to sit in my office and apply for auditions. Teaching college wasn’t what I expected. Most of the students in my class were there because it was the only program they could get into. Few had a passion for science. I wasn’t rehired, perhaps because I put so little effort into teaching or perhaps because after one of my students yanked a spectrophotometer out of the cupboard he was covered head to toe in hydrochloric acid. Who knows? Story telling was always one of the most important things for me growing up. I would get into trouble just to have a story to tell. Acting was something I had always enjoyed but was weary of acting as a career. Read more>>

Laura Roser | CEO, Artist, Writer & Innovator

I’ve always been entrepreneurial, from babysitting and selling jewelry as a kid to designing websites for businesses in high school and college to starting my first “real company” right out of college. For me, starting my own business was never a major leap. It’s just the way I think. In the rare times when I did have a W-2 job, I’d always have a side hustle that would turn into a business. Business allows me the freedom to create my vision, which is risky because sometimes it’s successful and other times it’s a flop. Some companies I’ve started are tried and true–like my marketing agency or real estate business–others are much riskier in terms of concept. Paragon Road, for example, is a riskier endeavor because I didn’t model it off of an existing business. Read more>>

Mollie Yarsike | Founder

In 2015, I was at a networking event in Los Angeles, in which a couple hosted a ton of young professionals to mix and mingle for dinner. The couple had three kids (ages 7, 6 and 4). The two older kids were totally fine that night. They joked around with each other, ate their meal and kind of knew what to expect from a night like this. The four year old on the other hand was pretty sad. She needed attention and her parents were both busy hosting. Her siblings were old enough to keep themselves occupied, so she was essentially alone. I saw her upset and my nanny/babysitting instincts kicked in. We played games and talked. When I went home and took my nightly shower, I had a “shower thought”. There needs to be a service, so that kids can feel special during an adult focused event. It was then that the idea of Black Tie Kids came to be. Read more>>

Naader Shagagi | Teacher & Guide

I found my purpose deep within my heart when I was a kid, about 5 years of age. I felt someday I would a become a teacher. This thought of becoming a teacher would surface from time to time during my reflections. Life then took through the first season, the spring season of the soul’s journey. I finished elementary, middle and high school. In high school I chose to major in math as I was not much of a reader. Majoring in math took me to the avenue of engineering, which I was given a scholarship for, ultimately becoming a mechanical engineer. By this time I was 23 and the question of being a teacher kept coming up in me. I thought I would get my Phd and become a professor, however while finishing my master degree, I crossed paths in a library with a scholar. He asked me certain questions about life, spirituality, religion and science. Read more>>

Giorgio Tavecchio | NFL Kicker & Gastro-preneur

I’ve had the privilege of growing up in an Italian-American household in which meals where a sacred time and the table a sacred place. My family would come together daily to break bread and enjoy each other’s company. I began to view this time and space as not only physically nourishing, but also soulfully nourishing. It became a time and space where we would communally unite to spend time together; a habit transcending human history from a necessary means for survival to a simple celebration of life. It is this celebration of life that I deeply cherish and want to share with others! My American Football background has given me the privilege of being the first Italian-born NFL players. Read more>>

Brian Rodriguez-McGovern | Former Comedian & Current Culinary Adventurer

I think businesses are like hot peppers. Whether it’s a peño or a Serrano or heck even a straight up standard Bell, from the outside they look pretty similar, but as soon as you cut one open, you know exactly what you’re really dealing with. Congruently, I think success is a lot like the Scoville hot pepper spice index. Some dude named Scoville decided to quantify how spicy an ancho or a ghost pepper is, and people just except that as true. “Oh no, Scoville said it’s too spicy” is something I used to say, but everyone’s own spice tolerance is different. TWIST: so is everyone’s idea of success. Let’s just say I use to adhere to the Scoville hot pepper success index. I was slicing and dicing little pieces of other people’s peppers, cautiously having a little nibble, fearful to take the whole honking habenero myself and eat it whole. Read more>>

Robyn Reynolds | Certified Professional Organizer

Organizing was something I have done my whole life for fun. It gives me joy to organize and re-organize things in my home. Little did I know it was actually a profession and I could make a living doing something I love. I think I was reading a magazine and found out about the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO). At that point I knew this was what I wanted to do and here I am 12 years later. Read more>>

Jennifer LaGrow | Chief Tailgater

We wanted to do something on our own that we were passionate about and felt confident that we would be successful. Being very passionate tailgaters ourselves, we saw a need in the industry to help support other football fans with setting up their own tailgates. Read more>>

Annette Gladstone | Co-Owner & Preschool Director

We opened Segray Eagle Rock to create a unique learning experience for every child that comes to our preschool. It was important for us to have the families feel a sense of community as well. Parenting is a complex puzzle and a preschool can be a main source of support to a family. We were so excited to find this incredible space in Eagle Rock, and wanted to be that support to the community. Read more>>

Alice Braccini | CEO & Founder

There was an irresistible opportunity in the competitive landscape paired with my own value proposition. I felt ready to pursue this based on my own vision rather than for another company. I started my career in public relations early on and after experiencing both in-house and agency environments at a high level, I built a unique and comprehensive service approach that combines the best of both. A bespoke savoir faire of brand development and positioning yet taking advantage of the resources and highway of information from agency activity. In the US, we are the only communication and brand building agency I know that is as hands-on and bicoastal with diverse management. We live and breathe our clients. It is most fulfilling to build something from the ground up, it takes courage but more importantly a clear vision and fantastic collaborators. Read more>>

Lindsay Thomason | Owner & Founder

I came up with the idea to start The Nanny League after dropping off the little girl I nannied for at school. While passing the UCLA campus on my drive back to Holmby Hills, a light bulb went off, or my “Oprah A-ha! moment’ as I like to call it: I was going to start a nanny agency made up of college-educated nannies for affluent families. I pulled over and grabbed a piece of napkin from my nanny bag, and wrote down a rough copy of my treatment plan & mission statement: we were going to not only help service families, and help impact the lives of children in a positive way, we were going to provide jobs, and perhaps even a new job market, for college-educated professionals. Read more>>

Emily Pinkus | Small Business Owner & Esthetician

Entrepreneurship is weaved throughout my family, and I knew from a very young age that I wanted to own a business, I just didn’t know what or how. Fast forward to graduating from Esthetics school, I wanted to get some real life work experience, hone in on my craft and learn as I went. Once I had two years under my belt at a very popular waxing chain, some money saved and encouraging clientele, I knew it was time. I wanted more. Since giving my two weeks notice at that job, I’ve never looked back. Read more>>

Nicole Robbins | Tennis Coach

Starting my own business was something that just came natural. I was working the Racquet Centre Universal City and when it shut down, the only logical step was to go out on my own. It was an easy switch. I already was scheduling my own lessons so it was just the natural next step. There were some learning curves but I quickly caught on. I was lucky my brother was a web developer so I was one of the first tennis coaches to have my own website which was a huge help getting clients to know about me and my program. Read more>>

Jason Myers | Guitar and Ukulele Instructor

Honestly, the business model is quite basic and simple: private lessons at my home studio (currently zoom and my front yard for the duration of the pandemic). It’s a business model that’s probably hundreds of years old! After stints doing house calls, lessons in music stores and schools, the “no other parties involved” method is best for me, and it turns out I am a more reliable secretary than what I’ve experienced in more formal settings that include a third party. Read more>>

Eddie Estudillo | Musician & Entrepreneur

After a 20 year absence from entertaining I canvased what the entertainment world of music and where it was heading. I compared where I came from ( 50’s and 60’s era) and wanted to bring the showmanship back to the stage. Read more>>

Courtney Dickins | Eco Friendly Fashion Designer

I created Fashion Yell as a passion project for my soul and sanity. I’ve been working in the fashion industry for 20 years from everything from Lingerie to denim. Whether I was doing design or production I was never making what I really wanted to wear. Art. You know I got into the fashion because I was IN LOVE with fashion, and the jobs I got kind of made me fall out of love along the way. I started to forget why I followed this path in the first place. Things become technical and true design becomes irrelevant. You can’t be too fashion forward because you’ll lose customers so basic and boring will be your best seller. The fashion industry I was experiencing had so little to do with real fashion and was just being in the apparel business. I just feel like if I am not making what I am truly passion about I am failing. Read more>>

fnnch | Street Artist

I didn’t intend to start a business — I was just looking for an outlet because I felt creatively stifled at my work. I started going out at night and creating street art in San Francisco, and it took about 4 years from that point until I was able to take my art practice full time. Two of those years I did it as a hobby, and two of those years it was my primary focus. There are advantages and disadvantages to starting a business accidentally. The advantage is that you cannot fail — if the business fails, you aren’t even aware there was a business, so it’s as if you didn’t start it at all, which in some sense you didn’t. The disadvantage is that, if you are looking to get out of your current job, it’s a lot harder to do that when you don’t make a conscious effort to start a business. Read more>>

John Bradley “JJ” Jackson | Investor, Startup Adviser & Professor

I started Titan Angels LLC, a seed investment fund, in early 2017. As a professor of Entrepreneurship, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and the founder of two incubators at Cal State Fullerton, it was clear to me that our local community was a fertile ground for startups. CSUF has 300,000 alumni and we estimate that over 75% live within two hours of campus. The greater Orange County CSUF community is ripe with creativity and innovation. Most the of the startup founders that I have met need mentoring and startup capital. Thus, starting Titan Angels LLC made sense. Why me? In addition to my experience at CSUF, my background includes a tour of duty in Silicon Valley with various high tech firms, both giant and startup. Read more>>

Gus Gougas | President

I always knew I wanted to have my own business and after 20 plus years in corporate America, the time was right to take the next step. I explored buying existing business, franchises or starting my own company. After spending a week, with a former colleague, who bought a franchise in the new garage organization business, I was intrigued. What I like about the industry, was that it was new and had a very low saturation rate, that meant plenty of opportunities in the future. I also liked that it was a home improvement business. Due to my personal experiences as a homeowner and the dissatisfaction with the lack of professionalism within the home improvement industry, I knew a change in the level service, would be well received. Read more>>