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.

John Ward | Filmmaker

I wanted to start my own brand. I started my own production company, Dark Park films because I want the company to become a name that is associated with horror and science fiction films like Blumhouse Productions. It’s important that film doors just don’t know my name but also no the production company. If I am not writing and directing a film and a different filmmaker is attached to that product I still want people to know that it’s going to be a good quality film because it is being produced through Dark Park Films. Read more>>

Jessica Sonnenthal | J. Mona – Realism Artist

The first time I picked up a paintbrush at age 11, I knew that painting was something that I was going to do for the rest of my life. Although I painted on and off into adulthood, it was never consistent and there were many years that I didn’t paint at all. Eventually I felt the void. Two years ago, my husband sat me down and said. “You need to get back to your art. You are neglecting a part of who you are.” That really hit me hard. From that moment, I was determined not only to get back into what I loved – painting, but also create my business. I developed a website, I began a social media campaign, and most importantly I went to the art studio consistantly and started producing my best work. It was the first time that I wanted to showcase my work to anyone who wanted to see. Overtime, people were begining to notice, my art was selling and it was a wonderful feeling. These past two years have been so fufilling and creative. I’m grateful. Read more>>

David and Dennis Robicheau | Good Food Comfort and Hospitality

My son and I cooked together for years before going into business. The thought process was just taking the love of what we were doing and turning into full time business. We chose to start a pop-up business because of the low risk and barrio to entry. We believed in our product and ability to serve food people would like. The local breweries were a perfect place for us to provide a BBQ pop-up. We figured if we consider each plate a critical and take good care of ours and the breweries customers we will be invited back. We also thought if people liked us at the brewery, we could develop some catering opportunities as well. The end game is to develop a following large enough to lower the risk of opening a brick-and-mortar location. Read more>>

Angelo Williams | Actor & Entrepreneur

We’ll mines is a bit different. 3 years ago, my girlfriend at the time now wife use to send money to each other overseas. We realized that there was an exchange rate when sending money internationally. I use to work a job at the time so I was very interested in learning why we were being charged so much just to send money. That’s when I learned about the Foreign Exchange Market (known as Forex). It’s very similar to stocks. I told my wife about it and how it was the largest financial market in the world. After long hours of research, I seen a way where I could not only profit off of this market but leave my job with a portable skillset and achieve other lifelong goals for myself as an actor. One thing that I learned was that there was a huge gap in the market for others who wanted to learn the skillset. We’ve soon began partnering with a platform that would help us impact lives around us with a skill as well as earn money in the process. Read more>>

Saskia Wilson-Brown | Director and Founder, The Institute for Art and Olfaction

I run a non-profit called the Institute for Art and Olfaction. I started it in 2012 because I felt that, at the time, there was no recourse for people who wanted to learn about perfumery outside of a Euro-centric, capitalist model of consumption. The perfume industry has, for better or worse, relied on exclusionary narratives. The models and language tends towards a certain perception of the role scent can and should play in society, as well as how we can and should engage in it. But there truth of it is that there have been diverse scent cultures since recorded history. European-style perfumery is only one of many, and the reason it is the dominant narrative in perfumery is simply because of 20th century marketing strategies. When I started exploring the perfume industry, originally for a documentary, I found that the world could benefit from a different approach. This was what informed my decision to open a non-profit devoted to education, access, and – importantly – experimentation with scent. Read more>>

Louis David | Chainstitch Embroiderer & Utopian Mechanic

I offer Custom Chainstitch Embroidery that is fabricated with the same hand driven machines that operated throughout the XXth century. The personality of the embroiderer shows in his craft, so I figured Utopia had enough to offer to stand out, and continued in California what I had started in France. Read more>>

Catriona Fray | Coach & Founder of Catriona Fray Studios For The Performing Artist

I started my business during the pandemic as an offering to artists who are committed to remaining connected and engaged in the performing arts. During a period of uncertainty, staying disciplined and passionate is so essential for all artists! Catriona Fray Studios for the Performing Artist is a holistic training ground for creativity with the intention of helping artists discover their light within and tap into their unlimited power as an artist. It’s been my pleasure to coach with professional performers virtually while on tour and adult beginners! I aspire for each of my students, whether they are guitarists, pianists, vocalists, yogis, dancers, songwriters, actors, beginners and professionals, to connect to their mind, body, and soul as they study and train in their craft. I want to leave my students after each lesson inspired to share their artistic gifts with the world and honor each and every stage of the process. Read more>>

Jonathan Hinton | Part-Owner

Our store was originally started by a friend of ours who unfortunately had to leave LA to attend to family matters. He had always wanted the store to play a more vital role in the surrounding community, and when he asked the four of us to take over the business in July of 2020, we recognized it as an opportunity to build the store from a retail operation into a more community-oriented non-profit entity. Since then we have worked to keep the retail side running, while conceiving and initiating programs aimed at using our space to benefit our Northeast LA community. Space is at a premium in our community, and we are constantly coming up with ways to share our retail space and other resources with our neighbors, with a particular focus on uplifting BIPOC and LGBTQ+ voices. We have been blessed with a business that came to us complete with existing inventory and community relationships, and a building owner (and mentor) who values the strength of the community and enthusiastically supports our mission. Read more>>

Adriene Brathwaite | Actor & Entrepreneur

I have always been an avid planner user. I mean, I would spend upwards of $50 on a planner, but I would never finish using it. I got irritated with wasting all of that money! The idea hit me to create my own planner. Something that I, as an actor would actually finish because it catered to my needs as an artist. Thus, the “Type (A)rtist Planner” was born!. Read more>>

Seth Menachem | Psychotherapist

I have always been independent. That’s not to say I don’t like a communal feel at work–and it speaks in part to why I have turned my private therapy practice into a group practice–but I knew I wanted to set the tone for how I practiced therapy, built my clientele, and managed my work/life balance. Having Menachem Psychotherapy Group allows me to train other therapists in how I work as a therapist, and what is important to me in helping clients succeed in meeting their goals. Read more>>

Kai Kurosawa | Bassist, Composer and Educator

It just all fell into place. They way I learned about things I need to know (and/or do) as an independent professional musician all came from diving head first into the industry. Before I knew it I had some knowledge and just kept adding to it. Since I play such a unique instrument I knew I would get some backlash but was willing to go through that as well. Read more>>

Tamara Bates | Financial Advisor To Artists

Last April, the City of Santa Fe decided to cancel its summer art markets due to COVID-19. These two major art markets, for Native American and Spanish art are often the single source of income, not only for an individual, but for a family. I decided to launch a free program to help artists diversify their revenue sources and support them otherwise with financial planning and career coaching. My career has not been in the arts. I was a financial advisor for UBS and Raymond James and before that a nonprofit fundraiser and philanthropic program officer, but I am the daughter of two artists so this world felt familiar to me and that I could have an impact. After running a test group last April-September, I officially launched the first cohort this January and am working with 19 artists in three states. I already see the shifts- the artists in this program are taking bigger chances, applying for bigger grant opportunities and charging more for their work. Read more>>

Xavier Goodloe | Fitness Coach & Boxer

My thought process behind starting my business was pretty straightforward. I was tired of 9-5 work, just moved back home from college, and I had a kid on the way. I knew that “good isn’t good when greatness is expected” and I expect greatness from myself so settling for good was never an option. Read more>>

Amanda Ramirez | Embroidery and Cross Stitch Artist & Motion Picture + TV Costumer

I started Blue Hair Wonder because I thought it would be really unique way to give back to the world: creating embroidery and cross stitch art and donating the profits to non profit and social justice organizations. Read more>>

Michelle Ellamae | Creative Director of Ellamae Productions & Owner of TASTE Dinners

I started Ellamae Productions (EP) to create environments which celebrate humanity’s commonalities- love, kindness, and good intentions- over labels and differences. Based in Santa Monica, CA and serving worldwide, Ellamae Productions is a full-service event design and production studio specializing in luxury weddings, experiential gatherings, and nonprofit events. I started EP after working in the Hollywood entertainment events industry for eight years, and this stint provided me with an incredibly educational learning experience of producing high-profile events. Another reason for starting EP is to create more collaborative opportunities with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals in the creative event space. As an Asian American female business owner, I believe that when we lift one another up, I’m doing my part to create a better, more equal future for people from all walks of life. Read more>>

Valerie J Runyan | Virtual Writing Retreat Leader & Writing Life Coach

My thought process behind starting my “Ink Drop Space Virtual Writing Retreat” was following Toni Morrison’s most famous quote about creating the thing that you wish to see but it is not out in the world. I wanted to experience a Writing Retreat but then COVID-19 happened just as I was all set to attend a physical retreat for it’s ten year anniversary, also the pandemic isolated my writing community from one another. In April of 2020 I created my own virtual Writing Retreat for myself and my writing community. This year I have expanded my Writing Retreat to reach an audience I call my “Golden Woman” with “Golden Woman Soiree Virtual Writing Retreat” for women who are fifty-plus who are ready, willing and able to indulge in their writing dreams, by writing their legacy in their own words in their own way. Read more>>

Lena Strothe | CEO, Wrangle Inc.

Wrangle solves a problem that I continued to encounter working as a producer in media: How do I hire reliable, professional, knowledgeable freelancers at a moment’s notice? Creative industries are naturally very project-based, so often I would hire five, ten, twenty freelancers to complete a team. As a producer, it’s your job to ensure your hires don’t hurt the bottom line or the creative vision. I wanted to build a network and a project management platform that alleviates that stress and lets creatives focus on the fun stuff!. Read more>>

Harvey TheRealtor | Realtor

It was after the traumatic birth of my son Broxton who was born 1lb 9oz and was on life support for 32days. He ended up spending 99 days in the NICU and was discharged on my 32nd birthday! That life changing event made me realize I needed to do the things I said I wanted to do. It really put things in perspective. Read more>>

Tiffany Hobbs | Photoactivist.

I’ve made other people’s dreams come true for years. I decided it was time to invest the same amount of time into my love for black people, and my own creativity and business. Read more>>

Flo Rudoff | Spray Tan Specialist

I guess I wanted to hear my own voice. I was in my early 20s and I wasn’t entirely happy where I was (I was a manager of a tanning salon). I needed a shift, to have my own independence, to be in charge of my life. Running your own business is scary. It’s up to you and no one else, but there’s something really exciting about that and it actually made me feel better that if there was a problem to deal with, it was up to me and I didn’t have to go through the knot of line managers to get it sorted. I love what I do. To make people feel beautiful while we talk about everything under the sun combines my two favorite things: people and tanning. After every appointment I come away feeling happy that I made someone’s day. You can’t get better than that. Read more>>

Dan McCashin | Co-Founder S1 Helmet Co.

When I Co-founded S1 with my business partner 25 years ago we were only 21 years old. When you are that young you are purely in the moment and your thought process is more about being creative, ambitions and following that individualistic spirit that drives you to want to do something unique, and you are most certainly not thinking about the gravity of the life goals you are embarking on. We both grew up surfing and skating and we were passionate about those daily disciplines. When we had the idea to start S1 it was more of art project where we could collaborate together and as it evolved it too became a daily discipline and here we are 25 years later!. Read more>>

Masaya Nakayama | Artist, Painter & Ecoactivist

Since I was little, painting was the only way to express myself. However when thinking about future, the most of my friends said we can not make enough money with art. I also knew that Japanese art market is too small so I betrayed myself. I became a teacher for junior high in Japan. To be honest, I was originally interested in education, so it became a very meaningful teacher life. I learned a lot of things from students. when I told them about importance of having dream, the words came back to me. I decided to show in my action. It was when I was 29years old. At the time,I couldn’t speak English at all. New challenge in New York as an artist was pretty scared for me but Their’s pure eyes also pushed my back. Now they are also grown up, and we are still keeping in touch. Sometime they ask me about their future. now I answer, “Believe in yourself and do what you want to do”. Read more>>

Ashlynn Cheung | Wedding Planner and Event Designer

I just knew I wanted to start my own business, I wanted to show the world, anyone is able to reach their goals and dreams once you put your hard work, willingness, trust, and care in what you want. I wanted to inspire others to want to achieve their goals and dreams, from opening a small business, to opening a big business. Whichever one anyone chooses it is considered a huge WIN, because whoever I inspired, chose to go towards that direction in what makes them happy in their goals and dream. Behind why I started my event planning business, I am a type of person that loves the beautiful outcome of each event, and how it makes each client feel when they see the final outcome. I love making my clients dream event into a reality. My passion and thoughtfulness is a huge factor in my business in building a relationship with each client and vendor to make sure the event is successful and beautiful. Read more>>

Krystal Buttner | Apothecary Artist & Hair Stylist

Brown Sugar Botanica is a pandemic baby. She made her way in to the world in January, 2021. I was in the midst of my third furlough from my full time job, as a hair stylist, at Spoke & Weal in West Hollywood. Through out each stay-at-home-order (there were three in LA) I found comfort in collecting & propagating house plants, which meant dozens of visits to the Flower District, downtown Los Angeles. In April of 2020 my life shifted more than it ever has before. I lost the person who was closest to me through out my entire life… My younger sister & best friend, Celeste. Working with plants & flowers helped ease the heartbreak & pass time. Watching roots sprout in water & new leaves grow by the day was a rewarding feeling, a feeling that 2020 lacked for most of us. My heart still aching every day, I needed to some how communicate with my sister. Read more>>

Jasmine Stafford | Lifestyle Blogger and Career Consultant

Kaye Consults is my baby simply because it was birthed during a very sad time in my life. My father had recently passed away unexpectedly and that was followed by a bad breakup which resulted in me finally going to therapy for the first time. My wonderful job offers free therapy sessions through our Employee Assistance Program and it was one of the best things that happened to me. She suggested that I do something for me that makes me happy. I always wanted to start a blog, so Kaye Consults was born! The career revamping side of Kaye Consults was birthed because I was always revamping my friends resumes and cover letters or sending mine as a template and I saw them achieving their dream jobs and going after opportunities they might not otherwise have attempted so I knew then and there that service was something the world needed from little ole me. I am always offering my expertise and letting people know what does and does not work for me on this journey called life hence the consults in Kaye Consults. Read more>>

Mikael Kennedy | Fashion/Fine Art Photographer & Rug Dealer

Honestly there was none, it began as a passion project, I was collecting these antique textiles because I loved them. As time went on as I was sharing them online folks began asking me to source pieces for them, it grew and grew for 10 years, mostly existing online as a private but shop-able collection, last year we opened our store in Los Angeles in partnership with a friend who deals Moroccan rugs. By keeping it low key and allowing it to grow organically for a decade we allowed it to have a stable foundation/following before we moved into a physical space. Because this is my second business I was able to protect this one from the pressures or stresses that can sometimes sidetrack a small business. Read more>>

Carmen Dianne | Prosperity Market – Founder

My thought process was more along the lines of “how can I make a change,” which resulted in the creation of Prosperity Market. When we spoke last year, I was working as a makeup artist for TV & film, which is a far cry from my new line of work. 2020 really sat me down, as I’m sure it did for all of us. In this time of global pandemic and social unrest I was searching for a way to create impact, and it was really dropped into my spirit to create economic impact for my community. I didn’t know what that would look like back in June 2020, but what I did know was that in order to create any systemic change it would have to start with economic change. I heard a stat saying that a dollar stays in the black community for just 6 hours. We spend over a trillion dollars collectively, and only retain 2% of that. Now, due to COVID 41% of black-owned businesses have closed. Read more>>

Tanisha Chambers | Children’s Author

Well for me I had a few different thoughts, when creating my brand I wanted something that would live on forever and leave a lasting impression was really important to me and truly one of the reason I started my business. I wanted something that could also create residual income for my little sister Zuri and that she could be proud of me for doing. Lastly there were not a lot of books with black characters in them and I wanted to change the narrative and be the person to bring change to the children’s book industry. For many years we did not have a seat at the table and I wanted for Children’s of color to be seen and know that they matter and that they do have books with characters that looks like them. Read more>>

Alexandra De Queiroz | Owner and Gelato Master

My Italian heritage inspired my passion for the vulture and making gelato with the fundamentals of Italian tradition. This furthered my aspiration to bring the experience to the United States. Creating my business provided the part of my life that was missing.Being a stag at home mom meant my children were my priority then. Now I’m able to enjoy my grown children and have indulged in my dream of owning my own business. Read more>>

Jaime k Ullman | Pilates Educator, Life Coach & Birth Doula

The thought process behind starting my own business happened in 2005. It was a big transition time for my career. I owned another business, servicing the entertainment industry with graphics & merchandise for various television shows, film & post production studios. As a dancer, with a degree in Modern Dance & Theatre and a minor in Anthropology & Environmental Studies I knew I had to get back to movement. Working in the corporate world & one as creative as the entertainment industry was exciting, always different, and quite stressful. I would dance every night after work, driving a full circle from home, to work to the studios & home again. In 2005 My partner & I decided it was time to sell our women owned & operated business of 25 years. At that time I got married & started my family. As a wife & now mother of 2 little boys, I decided to certify in Pilates and begin my new journey. Read more>>

RACHEL Grant JACKSON | Yoga Instructor

I started my online yoga business pre-pandemic. Part of the mission was to inspire people to move their practice off their mat into their lives. Having a home practice was one step closer to actualizing that goal. I set out to condense the philosophy and posture practice I taught in long form in person classes into short practices that could be done anywhere, anytime. Now every teacher is doing this and how great is that!. Read more>>

Jessie Douglass-Smith McGraw | Transformative Coach

To be honest, I’ll never forget the first time someone said to me, “How does it feel to be running your own business?” and I turned around to see if they were speaking to someone behind me. While I was working away at my last job (which I initially thought was going to be the career I was going to retire from), I would spend my lunch hours journaling about how I could teach what I share with my clients now. Initially, I thought it would be in a movement class setting, combining my love of dance to help folks get in their body, with a TED talk-esque presentation at the beginning and a guided meditation at the end. Once I felt I had gotten a grasp on what that would look like, I waited for my gut to tell me it was time to take the leap and leave my job. I didn’t have a business plan, I didn’t have a backup plan, I didn’t have a wild amount of savings or a solid sense of how it was going to turn into a profitable career. Read more>>

Idalia Rodríguez | Culinary Curator

When I thought about starting my business, I thought about my value. How I had worked myself to happy exhaustion for others and their legacies… How my dedication and obsession with my art and work rendered me indispensable. I realized I could put all of that energy and creativity into my own legacy and my own name. The idea that my message in my craft and the alchemy in my offerings would be delivered by me without misinterpretation?! I had to go for it. No strict definition. Armed with my ability to create any and everything culinary with my hands. Read more>>

Dontrell Jackson | Artist

I went to school for art but I didn’t go straight into my art career after college because I was scared and wanted steady money or at else everyone was telling me me that so I went into warehousing and worked as a paintball referee literally worked 7 days a week most times and I wasn’t happy with my life so in 2019 I took that leap of faith and went full time artist and I’ve been happy or mentally in a better place since. Read more>>

Shade’ Elliott | Fashion Designer & Stylist|

I thought of Vintage Apparel a few years ago right after leaving from the college I was going to. I was already doing small alterations and customizations to friends clothing and my own at the time. I would always thrift shop also and I started to resell thrifted clothing. A lot of windbreakers, vintage tees & classic items. I would do the reselling thing for about a year or two and decided to turn that into an actual clothing brand that takes recycled materials and makes new items. I decided to make sure my brand incorporates sustainability into everything I do. I believe that sustainable fashion can help out in a bigger way than it is seen. I think people will see a change in how we recycle different items and may also increase the amount of recycling that people do in their own homes. I want to make clothing that is not seen in stores. I like to make a lot of 1 of 1 pieces meaning that nobody else has the same design, or customization. I love that people can shop with my brand and find items for themself, unisex clothing and kids clothing all unique for them. Read more>>

Matthew Solomon | Author, Relationship Coach, and Integrated Leadership Consultant

My main consideration in starting my own business, and the various facets of it, was firmly rooted in the inquiry of where I could serve people and society the best. In my prior careers as a musician and filmmaker, I was focused on what I most enjoyed at those times. Entering into coaching and consulting, however, was more of a calling for me–I thoroughly enjoy what I am doing, and the driving force behind it all is in bringing people together and helping to facilitate positive change in the world. Across the board, one of the main sources of conflict is the inability of people to connect and communicate at a deep level. I am grateful to have acquired the tools and skills that I have. And, I am grateful to have the ability to teach people how to do this– whether it is within organizations, within romantic partnerships, or within the everyday lives of people. Read more>>

Dave Brandwein | Music Producer, Touring Musician/Bandleader, Songwriter

There are two things that made me decide to start my own business many years ago. Regarding the first one, I was correct: I don’t do well working for other people. As far as the second reason -I was a little bit off: I thought I had totally unique ideas, a perfect plan, and more than enough knowledge to succeed right away. That turns out to be a lifelong quest for many people, including myself. But man… am I glad I didn’t succeed right away. That probably would have been a disaster. Read more>>

Matt Eskew | COO Generation X-Ray Records / Generation X-Ray Films

When I started Generation X-Ray Films, I wanted to create a brand that reflected who I was. I wanted people to see one of our Music videos or short films and immediately know that it was created by us. Honestly, I was proud of the work we were creating and I wanted to fly our pirate flag over it. Now that my wife and I have expanded the business into a record label (Generation X-Ray Records) we wanted to take the same approach, Complete ownership and control of our music and product. Our belief is that no one is going to work harder to make your dreams a reality then ourselves. So once again, we hoisted the flag. Read more>>

 Jose “Jay” Pineda | Creative Director & Producer

There wasn’t actual “thought process” at first. I was broke, I needed to make a money fast, so I figured if I could learn how to help people through content creation then that could help me with my bills and get ahead. It was a snowball effect. I went from one client to two, then more people started seeing my work and started reaching out to me. I envisioned myself being this video production powerhouse so I took the steps necessary to get to there. Still not there, but at least I got started and I’m working towards that goal. That’s the main thing, you need to execute. Read more>>