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.

Marissa Bobkowski | Candle Maker, Poet, and Event Operations Manager

The process was gradual. I always considered myself a creative who ended up working left-brained jobs. I could never find the right thing to create so I changed my thought process. “What is something that I spend money on that I could make myself?” I chose candles. I started bringing candles with cute anecdotes about my friends as dinner party gifts. Eventually, they would ask for more, but I realized I needed to start charging if I wanted to continue. Candle making is a process and constant trial and error, much like baking. When the pandemic hit, I decided to invest in supplies. I posted to Instagram and said I was learning to make candles, I said I would write a custom haiku for friends on a candle in return for a donation to cover supplies. I was not expecting the response I received. Within a day, I needed to make over 60 candles. Read more>>

Cristina Wilson | Owner/partner

We grew up in our dads motorcycle shop and watched him sell. My uncle also had a hair salon. We were around entrepreneurs during our childhood and we always thought we wanted to do the same. We loved selling anything and were always trying diff business ideas. When the time came and we had some money saved we took the plunge. Read more>>

Cassie Uysaluz | Cinematographer/Photographer

It’s all started in 2009. I was a lost college student and I didn’t really have a direction or a mentor. I initially went to school for theatre and film, but after seeing tons of people struggle in the creative industry paycheck to paycheck, I knew there had to be something I could do where I would make good money, but still be affiliated in the film and television world. I was constantly being approached to film things for family, friends, and businesses I knew. They always said I should just start my own business already and make videos for people and brands. People even suggested weddings. This was something I really had no idea about but wanted to take a dive Into and learn more. I quickly learned how much money you can make in the wedding industry, and making commercials for people and brands. knew I had great potential in bringing stories to life on screen for people. I just needed my first client. 2 Craigslist postings later I had my first wedding. Read more>>

Karina Esperanza Yanez | Arts Educator & Founding Executive Director

I thought about it for years, which is why I think it took so long to become an official non-profit, even though Greetings from South-Central was already conducting programming for nearly three years. I wanted everything to be intentional and sometimes that takes time to think through. I felt like I was having more conversations with stakeholders than anything, trying to figure out what the right next step was. When doing community-based work, it cannot solely be the vision of one person, and it can become easy to get stuck in that cycle. I wanted to make sure that the folks I was reaching out to were reflective of our community, that our programming was something students would be interested in, as opposed to some kind of art workshop or class only I thought was great. I think with any new venture, the community comes first so defining that community is important. Read more>>

Dana Michell | CEO

I honestly set it up as something I knew wasn’t happening in the market I had been working in for 20 years and I thought “someone should do that” and then eventually saw an opportunity and went “F*ck it! Mose well be me”. I never dreamed it would turn into a global business so quickly and that now we have created processes and protocols that make us a leader in our field. Read more>>

Kristie DeStefano | Baker

I have been making chocolate chip cookies for over 20 years. It’s a family recipe that I mastered quickly and have been bringing them to parties and get togethers for years! A few friends asked if I would package and sell my cookies for corporate gifts during Christmas time so I did, and even though they were well received, I never seriously considered being in the baking business. But then 2020 came… I started noticing food pop-ups and began communicating with different venders when it hit me – why not me? Why not sell my cookies? So, I created a name, launched a website and got the word out on social media. It started out with just my inner base but little by little my orders increased, and by the holidays, hospitals, TV productions, social media followers, and friends of friends were ordering my cookies. It showed me that there was a demand for my product that surpassed family get togethers. Read more>>

Anje Collins | Former Publicist and now shoe designer

For more than 35 years, I have successfully used my master’s degree in public relations to amplify and publicize an extensive list of celebrity clientele. Now, that I am a retired veteran publicist I am using my decades of experience to break barriers in the fashion industry with my new luxury shoe brand, Coco & Blue Collective. Right before the pandemic, I broke my ankle and I was down for about six months and then the pandemic hit and I had a lot of time to reflect upon my 35 years as a publicist. This also gave me time to think about what I really wanted to do. One was to focus on my organization Women In PR, and two just sit down and do me for once. Read more>>

Brandon Stewart | Artist, Candle Maker, Account Manager

For me it was the opportunity to build on something I love to do, and to use it to help my family. I’m a big dreamer, probably more so than anyone in my family, so being able to show them – hey if you really want to do something go for it! Really means a lot to me and not just for them, but for anyone out there scared to start a business. Read more>>

Paymaneh “Bibi” Khalili | Events Creative & Dance Teacher

Super simple thought process honestly… I wanted to attend a certain kind of event and found that the options were limited where I lived, so I decided to create the platform along with the assistance of a friend. Read more>>

Brianne Cohen | Wine Educator & Event Producer

I started my own business (Event Production) in 2007……just before the recession….good timing, right? That timing gave me the thick skin I have today, and has likely helped me navigate being a small-business owner during the pandemic. I also had to take a job or two between then and now. But I have been solidly self-employed since 2017. I decided that I was cut out for full-time corporate employment when I was negotiating with my then boss on my full employment and compensation package. I was jockeying for a larger base salary and more vacation time. I got one of the two, but I wasn’t happy. How could I let me fate and my compensation lie in the hands of someone else. It was a fundamental disconnect in my brain. That was the last job I ever had, and I can’t now fathom ever having another job. I am meant to own my own time and my own livelihood. Read more>>

Yvette Garfield | Owner/Founder

I launched the idea for my business on a long flight back from India in 2003. I was starting law school later that year and just kept adding to a folder on my computer called “The One Day Business”. One day I would start this business, but did not have a clear vision for when, as graduate school became my focus. I worked in international children’s rights and along the way met people who helped me add to this folder. When I interned at the DOJ for a summer, a colleague was an illustrator and helped me solidify the look of my first product. Upon graduating, I had the first product ready to go and took a massive leap of faith. I would say this leap was a combo of naïveté, faith and knowing that I would just figure out each step as it came. Read more>>

Jana Cruder | Artist, Photographer & Director

For me there was no other way than to be in business for myself. I was raised in a family business and started officially getting paid to work at the age of 5. I was taught to follow my vision and create the opportunities I want to step into … ‘If there’s a will there’s a way.’ I’m grateful for that. I know that’s not often the norm. Although I’m first and foremost an Artist, I’ve officially been in business for myself since moving to Los Angeles in 2005, and as an Artist & Photographer coming up in LA, I’ve found myself continually growing, exploring, reinventing and honing my craft, vision and approach. My primary mediums are photography and film and now also include installation and performance, and I am unique in the sense that I have an incredible knack for commercial sensibility. I attribute that to attending art school at an engineering and business college. Read more>>

Sarah Rodenbaugh | Actor and Personal Trainer

Starting my own mindful fitness brand took a long time – and it’s still growing! While also being an actor, I had all sorts of doubts about this uncertain future, drastically delaying my decision to go for it. Would the fitness business take me seriously? On the flip side, if casting directors knew about my business, would they wonder if I now take acting less seriously – and therefore take ME less seriously? What about, “I don’t have that stereotypical body that many associate with a personal trainer. And a personal tainer in Hollywood? Get outta here!” Where would I fit in? Oh RIGHT! Right where I belong: among the sea of other fierce, multi-hyphenate women who may have ingrained wiring that limits our successes. I want to find those who crave the right motivation to experience life in the best version of THEIR own body and mind — not the shape of someone else’s. I knew I could bring that relatability to my teaching because I’ve struggled with my own weight and food behaviors and that allow me to understand that all-too-common plight. Could I use that to empower others?!. Read more>>

Yashin Phillips | Owner of Inchworm Entertainment

My thought process behind starting Inchworm Entertainment was creating a business that allowed me to experience everything I am interested in with interviews and video production. I wanted to find a way to bring people together. Read more>>

Laura Linda Bradley | Actress & Podcast Host

I started What’s My Frame? because I wanted to help other actors and creatives by sharing what I had learned over the years. The beauty of becoming an artist is there’s no one set road to success. But that’s also a huge stumbling block for many, because so much is unknown and personalized. I got involved with union series and because a national committee member with SAG-AFTRA, because I wanted to help young creatives understand the opportunities and support the union offers. Last Spring when the lockdown hit I wanted to put some inspiration and encouragement into the world. Never before had all areas and elements of the entertainment industry come to a stop at once. I jumped at the opportunity to start a remotely recorded podcast, and thankfully friends and co-workers from the industry trusted me with their time and stories. We just recently celebrated our 1st anniversary of the What’s My Frame? podcast. We’re now streamed in over 29 countries. Read more>>

Kareena Kirlew | Ballerina and Social Entrepreneur

As a Black woman navigating the realities of racism and predatory capitalism, I see my business as meeting a need that this society, in its current iteration, simply isn’t built to meet. When artists can’t become their full selves because of racial discrimination and economic exclusion, that is violence, and I’ve experienced it. I don’t wish it upon anyone else – young artists, especially. Right out of college, I’d wanted to become a teacher in underserved, poor communities like the ones I grew up in. As as adult, however, and as I was doing my own training in ballet, I became a dance instructor for the “tots,” as we call them. They’re 3-4-year-olds, up to age 7. And I absolutely LOVED every single minute of it! (I do especially miss the adult-like farts that would rip through the classroom with fierce pride, those crying-leg-hold tantrums and the sexy mirror tongue kisses. Good times, these.). Read more>>

Yanil Maldonado | Creative Entrepreneur

I have multiple businesses, so one business led to another. It started with my passion for organizing and planning events which led me to start my event planning company. After doing that for a few years I craved the support of someone who would guide me in the businesses process. So I created the platform that would give businesses visibility, provide them with information, and help them grow their business. Read more>>

Ana Valle | Coffee Roaster

The thought process behind starting my own business was that I was looking for something that would make me happy and fulfilled. For me that involved food and that turned out to be coffee. I wanted to do something that I could feel a connection to, and I kept coming back to coffee and the way my family and culture celebrates it. I also wanted to do something that would stimulate my creativity and be challenged to make things better while continuing to learn and evolve. Read more>>

Nikki & Luis Sanchez | Owners

The thought process behind me and Luis starting our own business was the aspiration to build a financial foundation for our son and some flexibility with our time. Then in 2019, our mothers’ were diagnosed with cancer. We recommended that they use CBD to help relieve their symptoms but neither of them felt comfortable going to a dispensary or even using cannabis to help provide relief. We quickly realized how inaccessible plant medicine can be to many people, like our Moms and folks in our community. This sparked the idea for our business – to open up a friendly neighborhood CBD shop. Read more>>

Treshon Lyniece | Model, Entrepreneur & Creative director

I started my business Skyscraper Collection in one of the darkest times of my life, I was living in Chicago and had just singed to a major modeling agency. What i thought was going to be the height of my career was actually one of my lowest. Even at a time where I felt incredibly discouraged, I invested my last to get my brand off the ground. My thought process was very simple: If people dont give you a way make one. I knew that it was important for me to build something that allowed me to still do what i love as a model and creative, and more importantly build something to highlighted other models. I felt the industry didnt showcase enough women that looked like me or the women I know. I wanted to create a space that re-defined the beauty and body standard especially for women of color. Read more>>

Simone Sello | Music Producer

I wanted to offer high quality music production to consumers. Most people like music, but they don’t have a clear idea of how music making really works. Some people have music ideas, and they need help to develop those into a presentable product; nowadays technology can help a lot, but in many cases a human guide is preferable. We try to walk our clients through the different steps of music production, and show them how to develop a rough idea into something that sounds like a record. Read more>>

Kimberly Au | Graphic Designer and Founder of KIMA Vintage

I started as many high school and college students do, looking for ways to earn money. Inspired by thrifting culture and fashion trends, I was ecstatic to try expressing myself through the clothes I wear while on a budget. With thrifting, I could try any trends or DIYs that I saw online for very little money. And when I was done, I sold everything on Facebook. When I finally completed college in Spring 2020, California had begun the Stay at Home orders and I was left with a student loan and rescinded job offers. It is a cliché to say that I had no idea what would become of my hobby of selling thrifted clothing online. But after casually selling clothes online and using that money to pay off my student loans, it became apparent that there was an opportunity to grow my hobby into an online store. Read more>>

Carene Rose Mekertichyan | Artist, Activist, & Educator

In the midst of the genocidal attack on Artsakh and Armenians, I threw myself into doing whatever I could for our community. In all of my efforts to amplify what was happening and get people organized, I noted that there was, and has always been, a critical gap in the work of Armenian-centered organizations. I co-founded Yerazad with a small collective of Armenians who wanted to organize at the grassroots level while also centering and uplifting those who have been marginalized in our community; such as mixed race and LGBTQIA2S Armenians. An understanding of intersectionality is critical and must be an integral part of any organization, whether or not their focus is social justice. At the core of our work is the fight for Armenian liberation and strengthening of the transnational solidarity between our struggle and the struggle for justice here in the United States. Our community can no longer remain insular and must show up for other marginalized communities. This activism and solidarity must be genuine, rather than transactional. Read more>>

Sarah Walker | Workplace Culture & Wellness Expert

I started a corporate job fresh out of college and was amazed at all the fun events my company offered to the employees. My first day on the job consisted of an afternoon ping pong tournament and pizza for everyone. It was so fun! I had never seen this in the workplace before. Shortly after, there were mass layoffs throughout the company and events like this started to fade away. I noticed people only conversing with those on their individual teams and overall lack of happiness and satisfaction throughout the office. I was in charge of onboarding and new hire tours so I knew most people in the office but they didn’t know each other! It was so sad to watch. So I decided to do a yoga event and I hired one of my favorite instructors to come in. I taped posters all around the office, I added it to the weekly email, I bought kombucha, the whole deal! It was so well received that I ended up hiring a wellness company to assist me in finding instructors for an entire wellness month. Read more>>

HELEN WILSON | Designer and company owner / director

I wanted to be my own boss (or rather I didn’t want to have a boss) I like working WITH people rather than FOR people! I also wanted to be an artist so by designing a commercial and accessible product I could combine the two!. Read more>>

Sarah And Stacia Whipple and Vinar | Owners / Modern Resale

My business partner and are very different but we both have creative independent spirits. That connection in addition to a healthy dose of “why not us” is what got us going on Modern Resale. Though we spent years watching others run a retail furniture business, in many ways we had no idea what we were getting into. Neither of us had a business background. Stacia was an English Lit major and I was an artist. Selling furniture was supposed to be our day job. What really got us going was seeing a need that we thought we could fill. At the time, high-end resale was not ‘a thing’. The showroom was getting calls all the time asking if they bought furniture back. In many cases there was a story about the pieces being almost new. Since our clients were always asking for deals, we figured, how could we not do this!. Read more>>

Kevin J DeBruin | Space Educator, Former NASA Rocket Scientist

While designing spaceships I really fell in love with the public outreach I was doing, like going to schools and teaching kids about space exploration. I started to enjoy it more than my full time job and saw the importance of entertaining education for our youth. I started to wonder if I could do my space education full time to increase the impact of my passion and also be able to pay my bills. Turns out I can and being able to solely focus on creating entertaining education content gives me the most joy. Read more>>

Steven Buitrago | HairStylist

The thoughtfulness process about starting my own business was trying to open my first and own salon during Covid on 2020. But thankfully it was a good challenge and it’s been really good knowing the location I moved to has been a success. Read more>>

Alexandra Bassett | Lead Trainer & Behavior Specialist

Freedom. I felt held back by the confines of how the company I worked for before was being run, plus I had ethical conflicts with how they operated, which made it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with management. So, I decided to start my own company that reflected my own values and that has been very liberating, albeit hard work. Dog Savvy Los Angeles is a positive, game-based, dog & puppy training company that offers force-free and holistic solutions to a variety of behavior problems, and because we are forthright about all of this on our website, we end up attracting really lovely, compassionate clientele that are on board with what we offer from the get-go. It’s amazing!. Read more>>

Joan Sullivan | Musician | Entrepreneur

Like so many others during this global pandemic, I found myself doing major soul searching intertwined with hobby collecting. My apartment steadily grew into a rainforest, my bass practices doubled, and I even dusted off my high-school roller skating skills to add some extra cardio to my routine. While skating around the Arts District in DTLA, I began to notice some very unhappy plant friends slowly yellowing, withering away calling out to me as I rolled on by the windows of residences and local businesses. So many people dive into the plant game, but some need help to dial in the care for their green companions. My goal is to get everyone confidently growing. If I could only plant little forests everywhere, maybe then people would feel closer to good ol’ Mother Nature and learn to be more connected to the world around them. Maybe then, more people would aim to reduce their waste and be greener everyday. After all, we would be nothing without our oceans teaming with life and vast rainforests pumping out oxygen. Read more>>

Cambreisha Montgomery | Adolescent Sex & Relationship Coach

Sexuality is a natural part of human development and I wanted to create a safe space for teenage girls to explore this part of their life. I didn’t want them to feel ashamed or intimidated about the process of exploring sex and relationships. I honestly felt like I could use my own personal experiences along with my close friends to properly educate and prepare these young women on all things sex, which is much more than the act itself. Sexuality is how you feel about yourself, your expectations of your partner, and understanding what your body is going through developmentally. My goal was for these future women to explore their curiosities because sex isn’t all bad and I think its irresponsible to tell teens not to have sex without explaining exactly the good, the bad, and the ugly. Read more>>

William Bly | Chef & Owner of Specialty Events & Catering

The thought process was, knowing that I’ll be doing what I’m passionate about, and what I love. I’m passionate about creating delicious meals that people would love. Read more>>

Walter Michael Bost | Writer/Filmmaker and Supervising Sound Editor

I’ve always wanted to have a production company, ever since I discovered filmmaking in college. I knew I wanted to be able to make films and projects that were personal and important to me – to say the things that I wanted to say – and the only way to really do that is to do it yourself. I also come from a strong independent filmmaking background, so that still lives within me daily. Having your own business also gives you total control, which is also very important to me; I knew I wanted to do only the things that really interested me, and not be told what I could or could not do. If you can get the money, and you’re the boss, there really are no limits. You find a way. Having your own business also gives you some credibility and stature, and opens up more doors that helps you do what YOU want to do. In addition, I think it improves your work, because you know it’s “official” and really represents you. It’s your brand. Read more>>

Raymond Goode | Author, Playwright and Director

(1) My thought process began more as a dream that turned to reality. After battling depression and suicidal tendencies; a great vision was given to me. It starred our as a boy with a dream and turned into a man fulfilling that dream. From the writings of my 1st book ‘Traces of You’ I had to overcome many insecurities and fears to become the multi media mogul that I am now. (2) My book ‘How to Write and Print under $300’ has been the lead book with helpful people; not only fulfill their dreams of becoming an author, but it has also over 200 personnel become independent licensed business owners. ‘How to Write and Print under $300’ has been the consulting book that has assist in opening over 200 self publishers. Read more>>

Pablo Saldana | Actor, Singer Songwriter & Coach

I wanted to get creative about being creative. When the pandemic took off, most performing artists had to pause most (if not all) of our work. It was then when I began coaching acting and music online. I started working with students across the country and would appear in schools from districts in other states. I loved getting the opportunity to expand my outreach. Read more>>

debi akin | artist

my thought process is two fold- I am a people pleaser , I like to make people happy I am also an artist and found it was time to put my art out there to make me happy- take the risk-be brave putting my art “out there” seemed to fulfill both. Read more>>