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.

Ahjalia Hall | Thrive Dance Center Co-Owner

Our mission is to not only provide the best in dance and performing arts education to our students, but to also guide them towards realizing their full potential and help them to become amazing, creative, and generous human beings. We didn’t want to just create a dance studio but rather a place where kids can come to have a place to learn to be confident and disciplined through dance. We also wanted a place where dancers could be influenced to give back to the community around them and live from a place of gratitude. Read more>>

Ken Blackman | Relationship Coach

I’m in my 20th year as a full-time sex and relationship coach and workshop leader. I got my start working for a couple different coaching consortia and transformational training facilities. As an employee, all I had to do was be good at what I do and let the company handle getting clients and students for me. In 2013 I was facing burnout and didn’t know why. I took a month off of deep contemplation and realized my employment had come to feel like golden handcuffs. Even though it was scary to think about taking all aspects of business into my own hands, the desire to teach and coach my own topics and areas of passion in my own way, not through the lens of anyone else’s vision, demanded I do so. I left immediately without much of a runway or plan—NOT something I would recommend to others. Fortunately, I’d developed something of a following, and quite a few people immediately reached out to work with me. Read more>>

Thomas McClure | Founder/Executive Director of the Columbus Fashion Council

When creating Fashion Week Columbus (the now flagship program under the Columbus Fashion Council), as a non-profit fashion week serving local fashion designers and fashion design students, I was the agency director for a major talent agency. Columbus being #15 (now #14) largest city in the nation, we didn’t have a fashion week like other major cities. I felt that we needed to help put Columbus on the fashion map, and soon discovered through the process that Columbus was home to many fashion designers. In 2012, we’d learn that Columbus ranks #3 in the nation for the number of resident fashion designers, behind LA and NY. We rolled out a 4 day fashion week in 2010, and now we have 7 to 8 days of fashion shows and fashion related events. Read more>>

Anna Cherekovsky | Therapeutic Bodywork Practitioner

For years I had been a dancer in regional companies and was working in administration, organization, and publicity to support myself, with a small bodywork practice on the side. I was exhausted by serving bosses or boards of directors with whom I didn’t agree. I was debating between working as an independent publicist, which was a safe profession as organization comes as second nature to me, or taking the challenge of finally developing my bodywork practice. When I was reading the “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, I came to across 2 verses that changed my life – 3;35 “It is better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though faultily, than another’s duties performed perfectly. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous. And, 18:47 “It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Read more>>

Chelle Worthy | Small Business Owner

When I moved to California December 2010, I had retired from Denver Motor Vehicle after 20 years of starting as an on call file clerk, to title clerk, assistant manager and finally advancing to a branch manager. With my experience, I assumed I would be a shoe in to transfer into another state’s DMV department, and I would be gravely wrong. After three years of trying to get into the state system, I used the time to finish my Associates & Bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration hoping this would jump start a new career industry at the age of 44. In the meantime, I would have to find entry level jobs to learn the CA title process as it was nothing similar to CO. I wasn’t scoring the highest test scores so I needed to learn the system. In March of 2013, my former salary of $75,000 dwindled to $12 an hour, which I had to plea up from $10 with my experience, where I worked at a rental car company as a DMV Coordinator. Read more>>

Lewis Johnson | President and CEO, Alelo Inc.

Prior to starting my business, I was a faculty member at USC, where I did research in artificial intelligence in education. I recognized if I founded a company our technology could reach more people than it ever would at a university. That proved to be true; so far over 500,000 people have learned with Alelo products. Read more>>

Lynsey Rosen | Co-Owner and Medical Director, Shiloh Veterinary Hospital

We had worked as associate veterinarians in other practices and in academia for over 10 years. When we thought about starting our own practice, the idea was very daunting. They don’t teach you anything about running a business when you are in veterinary school, and they don’t really set you up to be a practice owner. We wanted a unique model, something that could really help our community – our clients and our patients. Little did we know that COVID-19 was coming and our model would become truly essential to people. We liked the idea of a mobile veterinary hospital that could do everything – see all types of animals, go everywhere, and do advanced medicine and surgery. We wanted to still practice high quality medicine and surgery, but make it accessible and convenient for clients and patients that could not make it into the vet office. We wanted to be able to practice just the way we wanted, with a small, personal staff, and control over all aspects of care. Read more>>

Kimberly Didrikson | CEO and Founder of Learning Motherhood

I saw an opportunity to build something that I had wished existed when I returned back to work after parental leave. Women are asked to return to work as early as 10 days after birth due to a lack of support of any sort of federal comprehensive parental leave program in the US. This is such a disservice to parents and their ability to navigate this fragile and what should be an exciting time in their life. The idea that we can do it all personally felt impossible after having our first son, and when I looked for the village of career moms to guide and support me through the transition, there was no one. My first thought was I can’t be the only one going through this, and when I asked more seasoned moms how they navigated this transition, I was met with comments like, ” we just powered through” or “we paused our career until our kids were older.” I really felt like there has to be a better way, and when I didn’t see it, I decided to build it. Read more>>

Issac Hwang | CEO of Cali Finance Group & Financial Advisor

Financial illiteracy is a dire crisis that has silently been wreaking havoc in our country. The “American Dream” has been misinterpreted into symbolizing materialism and short-lived aspirations rather than instilling Americans with aspirations of frugality and long-term investments. Financial irresponsibility is not seen only among our citizens but also in corporations and our government. However, citizens will always get the “shorter end of the stick” if we do not address financial illiteracy. Along with financial illiteracy, financial advisors are prevalent and accessible to the wealthy but excludes the other socio-economic classes. Financial services and education should be made to be more accessible to the other socio-economic classes. Currently, our future generations is learning about finance through social media and unsupported sources. The rampant era of misinformation is degrading financial literacy further and causing the general populace to learn by trial and error. Read more>>

Megan Orozco | Jewelry Designer | Model & Muse

My thought process behind starting Mystic Bones was wanting to create unique jewelry pieces that really connected with the wearer. I’m a huge jewelry person myself and love to express how I’m feeling through styles that really exude certain energies and magic. That feeling of being drawn to a certain piece is the same feeling I want my audience to feel when looking at a Mystic Bones design. Read more>>

Nicole Vannelli | Underground Soap Lady

When I first started Underground Soap Lady, it was selling just my stain remover stick to earn money to pay for my dog’s leg amputation surgery. People purchased to help my dog, but then kept coming back for more. With people continuing to purchase my stain sticks, I decided that this could be an actual business, so I made it happen. Read more>>

Sharon Stewart | Luxury Candle Maker

My creative nature has allowed me to always find something to produce with little effort. I started making candles and developing fragrances during the weekends and offered my candles as gifts to friends and family. They became very popular and gradually I began to receive orders. It was at this time that I felt I should take what I have enjoyed doing for many years and turn it into a business. I also wanted to demonstrate to my daughters that entrepreneurship is far more rewarding than being an employee. Read more>>

Kellianne Fedio | Amazon Expert | Exit Advisor | Podcaster | Attorney | Real Estate Investor

Even though I pursued a career as an attorney and practiced law for over 8 years, I always knew deep down that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and start my own business. Becoming an entrepreneur has been one of the most exciting and liberating experiences of my life, and now I could never go back to working for someone else. I love being in control of my own destiny and build my business around my life, not the other way around. Read more>>

Adam Cushman | Filmmaker

As filmmakers, we try to find ways to earn a living as we build our own projects. Day jobs, office jobs, delivery gigs, whatever pays the bills. None of those jobs are our real job. And there’s peace of mind in knowing that. That there’s an exit point. That this is all just temporary. Before creating Film 14, a company that produces trailers and videos for the publishing industry, I worked as a private investigator, a law clerk, file clerk, flower delivery guy, runner, personal assistant, ESl instructor, English composition professor, and creative writing instructor. In my spare time I wrote screenplays, directed short films, and networked. The idea for Film 14 hit me by accident. A friend had asked me to direct a book trailer for him. I didn’t know what that was at the time, but as I suspected they were unexplored and underdeveloped to put it kindly. Read more>>

Brad Baker | Mentalist & Entertainer

When I made the change to start working for myself I was actually doing videography instead of performance. I basically thought I could do better than my then current employer of how I structured my own time and money. I objectively saw my value for the first time. The media group I was working at relied on me making and turning out content for them. They relied solely on my creativity (and the one other editor/videographer that worked there.) It didn’t “just happen” though. It took about eight months for me to feel confident. I knew I needed some kind of financial stability to start on my own and I only had a little in savings. I did the math on what I was earning at this job compared to if I got my own video clients. Even if I just had one video client a month, I would be able to cover rent, groceries, and put a little into savings. That was the final push I needed to just leave the company I was with and start on my own. Read more>>

 Micki Hardenberg | Actor, Singer, Dancer, & Creator of Made By Micki

Made By Micki has a bit of an unusual origin story I would say. I was working as an actor on the First National Tour of the musical Bandstand when things started to shut down back in March. I was laid off from my job like so many others and I found myself with a little too much time on my hands. I knew pretty quickly that I would need some creative projects in order to keep myself sane so I decided to dive into the world of drag. I started by learning about makeup and then eventually became fascinated with wigs made from unconventional materials, stuff like yarn, paper, and even safety pins. I had nothing better to do, so at the end of April I decided to make a wig of my own. I had never crocheted before in my life, but I ordered some yarn online and in the week I waited for it to arrive, I learned the basics of crochet from YouTube. I finished my wig a week later and I was hooked – crochet pun 100% intended! As I tried to figure out the best way to make use of this new skill, a friend showed me a blanket she had made for a transgender person in her life. Read more>>

Teju Owoye | Marketer and Clean Beauty Entrepreneur

I started Clean Rebellion because I was frustrated by all of the harsh chemicals and yucky toxins in the beauty products that I was using every day. Growing up, I suffered from eczema, and I didn’t realize that some of the harsh cleansers that I was using made the problem worse. I started hacking my beauty routine by experimenting with diet changes and switching to cleaner beauty products. On this journey, I got introduced to castile soap and immediately fell in love with it! But, I struggled with the major brands on the shelves—they either used cheaper oils (like palm oil) in their blends, or they had scents that I didn’t love. So, I rolled up my sleeves, got in my kitchen, and started creating my own castile soap, which is now our signature product. Our soap is made from 100% organic olive oil and scented with beautiful, natural plant-based essential oils. It’s designed to be the perfect, mild, gentle cleanser for your skin. Read more>>

Andy Dicker | Tatto0/Freelance Artist & Wilderness Skateboard Survival Guide

Ikigai – reason for being. This perspective on life has blossomed in my mind since my head injury back in 2017. Each and every moment in life is truly a blessing to be apart of. Even when it seems everything is an obstacle, everything seems to work out with time. Obstacles shift into opportunities if you will. I almost died. Man, so happy that didn’t happen hahaha. There is a feeling inside my soul to appreciate this gift I have been granted to continue living. With this feeling in mind, there is absolutely no reason for me not to continue flowing with my passions. My reason for being is to do what I love with those that I love. Since my injury, I have had and then also tried to get jobs from a number of different businnesses. Oh hell no! They always end up becoming less than ideal obstacles to endure. With time I began to realize that the opportunity, that has blossomed, is to start my own business. With that, here we are. Read more>>

Monica Garrett | Founder + CEO of Margaux Agency

I founded Margaux [pronounced mAAr-goh] Agency in 2015 with the mission to create modern brands and strategic marketing for companies. The name, Margaux, is an homage to my daughter, Gianna Margaux. When I started my first business, I dove in. I knew I wanted to be my own boss and I wanted to have more control over the work I produced. Being a creative person, I found value in the work I created so I knew there was a demand for the services I wanted to provide. It wasn’t until things started taking off that I realized I needed to have a strategic business plan to scale the business beyond me. I always knew I wanted to grow into a larger agency model and we’ve been on track to do just that. Read more>>

Kimberly Licht | Challah Baker

I was reading a story to my son at bedtime and at the end there was a recipe for challah. He asked me if we could try to make it and I agreed. My first attempt with this recipe was actually quite awful. I knew nothing about proofing yeast and I just threw it in with the rest of the ingredients It came out very pretty but as hard as a rock. I tried a few more recipes over the next couple of weeks to get it right until I found the one that worked for me. I then began experimenting with different fillings and topping. I began posting pictures on social media for fun. After a while I was getting requests to make them for friends. Initially I was hesitant because I didn’t want it to take the joy out of baking for my family. Eventually I decided to give it a shot for just one week and see if I enjoyed selling them. Needless to say, I did and I still enjoy it. That’s how my business evolved. Read more>>

Lisa Klein | Speech language Pathologist, Certified Orofacial Myologist

In my experience, working for others always involved politics. I knew if I wanted to make a difference in my clients’ lives, I needed to practice without barriers. Also, the flexibility in the schedule was important once I started a family. Read more>>

Steven Lenchner | Architectural Glass and Lighting Design

I’ve always heard that if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. After years of working in the entertainment industry, I decided to follow my passion. Read more>>

Anthony Caldwell | Actor & Producer

Striking out on my own has always been a passion of mine. It gives me the feeling of controlling my own destiny versus having it be controlled by societal demands. I’m also a believer in the idea of investing in myself and allowing my education to compound, just like interest with money. My father started his own business before I entered high school and built into a sustainable vehicle that allows him to travel the world and earn a decent living, all while continuing his brand of education. He was and is a big inspiration into building my myself and my career. And although my passion is the entertainment industry and my creative outlet is acting, I don’t view it any differently than any other sort of entrepreneurship, sport, or activity. It’s merely what I enjoy practicing and improving on day in and day out. Read more>>

Brad & Crystal Reihl | Owner / Operators

Crystal and I moved from LA/OC to Palm Springs and realized that the “pop-up” culture hadn’t quite made it here. It was our perfect opportunity to embed ourselves into the community, but simultaneously bring this stripped down version of the burger back to a place that would totally appreciate what we’re doing. Read more>>

Roma Khetarpal | Founder, Tools Of Growth, Award-winning Author, Speaker, Trained Mindfulness Facilitator, UCLA MARC at Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior Member of the International Mindfulness Teacher’s Association

Parenting is the most important responsibility we’ll ever have. More often than not, it is the hardest responsibility we’ll ever have. If we’re lucky, it’ll be the longest responsibility that we will have. Yet we come into parenting without an intention or a goal. Did we purposefully make this choice? Did we plan parenthood, or did it just happen? Did we start a family because it’s what we are “supposed” to do? Layered upon this are ubiquitous questions: What if I mess up like my parents did? What if I’m not a good parent? Will I mess up my children? You see, we generally come into parenthood with a lack of clarity, purpose, and intention and with fear and doubt. Through parenting my own children, I learned organically the value of parenting mindfully, consciously. I experienced firsthand the open communication and solid relationship that followed through the different stages of growth both for my children and myself. Read more>>

Ryan Chan | Founder & CEO of UpKeep

After I graduated from Berkeley, I started work as a process engineer. My job was focused on how we can make our production lines as efficient as possible to maximize revenue for the plant. During work, we were constantly reacting to breakdowns, putting out fires, and performing repairs. What we realized was that the company could save on costs and drive the most revenue if we placed our multi-million dollar assets on an effective maintenance and reliability program so we wouldn’t have to halt production, ideally ever. I was then placed on a team to find a CMMS to help us do just that, I ended up picking a company that’s our competitor today. It ended up not working for us and a net loss. What I found is that most CMMS are ineffective, have slow-time-to-value, and are simply not optimized for the deskless workforce. I knew I could make a better solution. One that is built for the technicians in mind as much as it is for the rest of the business. Read more>>

Dr. Tanja Johnston | Doctor of Natural Medicine, Nutritionist & Yoga Instructor

I had co-founded a technology company previously. Quite frankly after I successfully sold my share of that business after 7 years, I had all intention to settle into motherhood as my main job. But while I love my son and family duties, my innate drive for more kept me up at night. I wanted more! Choosing my second career took into account my previous experience in starting a business. I knew of the risks and benefits. That experience also amplified my strengths but also my shortcomings. This time around I did not want to carry the responsibility for an entire body of staff members. I wanted to have a business in which I am the talent and the fiscally responsible owner. As a nutritionist my product is ultimately my knowledge and skill set around food. I did not want my work to be influenced by having to sell anything else but my science-based knowledge and experience. Read more>>

Khim Teoh | Malaysian Restaurant Owner & Operator

When I graduated from UC Irvine with a B.A in Economics and minor in Management, I started on the corporate ladder path. I worked at a Fortune 500 company as a Human Resource Analyst for a year before I quickly realized that being behind the office desk crunching data and numbers was not for me. I needed to be more hands on and have more interaction with people so I decided to quit my cushy corporate job and start my own business with the mindset that I was young enough to give it my all and if I lost everything, I could always start again from the bottom of the corporate ladder. That was definitely the most important thought as an entrepreneur that you have to be willing to work as hard as possible and at the same time take the risk. My philosophy was always hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. Create need and want by using all my resources in marketing and sell the heck out of it. Read more>>

Sara Beermann | Illustrator and Graphic Designer

Initially I wasn’t striving for owning my business. I was never really a super extroverted kind of person, and I was convinced that you have to be gregarious to run a successful business. Right out of college I lived in Europe, Asia and the US following my husband’s international work assignments. This was a life style I had known and cherished since my early childhood. My family had moved from Germany to France, to Canada, and back to Europe. It came naturally to me to travel around the world, work from home, in a café, a remote office and build a growing international clientele. Despite a seemingly unsteady lifestyle I am very homey and I wanted a healthy work-life balance especially since my son was born. So I kind of discovered what type of work I could do within this framework, as I went. Read more>>

Tamla Gaston | Advanced Crystal Practitioner and Holistic Wellness Advocate

After working in the Non-Profit sector for over 25 years, I was pretty burned out. I wanted to do something different, something that would allow me to continue helping others. But, I also wanted to feel excited about what I was doing. I wanted to be happy and satisfied with the services I was providing. I knew early on that I wanted to continue being of service, but I wanted it to be in an area of service that was important to me, and my own journey. Read more>>