We reached out to some of our favorite entrepreneurs and asked them to think back and tell us about how they decided to start a business. Check out their responses below.

Johnny La Vallee | Photographer

It’s something that actually came very natural. I’ve always been interested in photography, images and capturing the human experience. I started acting when I was 12 years old, I’m still an actor, but I fell deeply in love with photography about 6 years ago. My brother in law, Tim Davis, a well known photographer in New York came to LA for a sebatical and I started following him on his street Photography walks. He inspired me to buy my first camera. Photography is an expensive habit, cameras, lenses, lights etc. So it was all a bit daunting at first. Around the time that Tim was in town I booked a Jeep Commercial. It put enough money in my pocket to buy my first point and shoot Sony camera. Read more>>

Katie Falcon | Design & Consulting

Starting my own business started pretty organically but not fully realized until later in life. Like some, when I graduated from college I did not leave with this direct path to follow. I just knew that I wanted to travel more and loved being creative. I never wanted to be in a cubicle. My dad tried to convince me to get my contractors license and become a home builder…I thought he was crazy. The company that I had worked at throughout high school AND college was starting to grow. So when they offered me the chance to create and design events, it just fit. But after many (and I mean many) years, I was still yearning for more. I wanted to design and create daily. I wanted more time with my kids. I wanted to be a business owner. I purchased and renovated my first condo in 2009 when I was 25. Read more>>

Oscar Emegano | Real Estate Agent & Entrepreneur

I believe that starting your own business is a means financial freedom and overall a healthier way of living. You are your own boss and have the creative freedom to do as you please and it’s all up to you if you succeed or fail. I’ve always been an independent person and never liked to work for anyone. My father even saw it in me at a young age playing soccer. He said to me, “you’re not a team player, you need to go and find a sport like golf, tennis or track.” But I’m doing so it opened up my mind to the possibilities in the world and what I needed to do to become successful. Every since that day I have never looked back. Read more>>

Sarah Ellefson | Founder & Head Copywriter

My primary drive behind BRANDSPEAK Studio was to help other entrepreneurs articulate their authentic voice in a fresh way, genuinely building a recognizable brand with every word they share. Great branding is now no longer the only factor in standing out in today’s market. We’re actually saturated with excellent branding, living in an overstimulating visual world with social media at every click. To truly make an impact with our businesses and become trusted brands, we need stellar marketing copy + consistent communication. As an entrepreneur myself, I saw a deep need for this service in our constantly growing community and launched with that thought process behind starting this up. Read more>>

Lance Jasper Jones | ASCAP Music Artist, Executive Director & Founder

I started Jasper House Warriors because I noticed there was a lack of resources and attention on the mental health effects of those who suffer from chronic conditions, specifically Sickle Cell Anemia. I am a current graduate student, receiving my degree in Clinical Psychology, with my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and as a person with Sickle Cell Anemia. As an advocate, I have been one of the leading voices for Sickle Cell in Los Angeles, specifically on Bill AB 1105 and being able to tell my experiences through medias, such as The L.A. Sentinel, CDC, and Facebook Attn. With Jasper House Warriors, the goal is to give back a platform to the untold voices and stories, while also shedding light on the hardships of the mental health effects that can plague our community. Read more>>

Gorgia Syrengelas & Jen Asaro | Hair and Makeup Artists

Starting your own business can be scary and intimating , but there a lot of benefits that go along with it. We first met in 2006 working for a bridal hair and makeup company. As two woman who wanted to be entrepreneurs, we decided to take a leap of faith and branch off to start our own company. With creating something from the ground up this allowed us to invest in ourselves as leaders and to build a strong team. Loving the flexibility and being able to work from any environment from Miami to Los Angeles just to name a few . In the end it’s nice to follow your passion and do what’s makes you happy but also making more money along the way is a great thing. More importantly, using our products and services to create and inspire beauty in peoples lives. Read more>>

Jenae Thompson | Creative and Brand Consultant

Initially, I wanted it to be a vehicle to help Artists. Being an Artist myself, the moment I learned that even by just putting my own gifts out there into the world; I was, in turn, operating my own business. But successful businesses need branding, marketing, and a connection to the world; as well as to their audiences and potential employers. I wanted there to be a safe space that taught Artists how to optimize those aspects of themselves and of their careers, and it turned into SayQuoi Entertainment! While I still help Artists and Creatives strategize and make the most of their platform; I have extended my consultation and Social Media Management/Marketing services to businesses and Entrepreneurs; and I’ve found that to still support S.Q.E’s original mission, as so many of us have had to pivot and explore other passions for profit in the face of the Corona Virus. Read more>>

Erica Krutzen | Art Therapist & Clothing Designer

I believe the universe has a plan for each of us which is revealed throughout our lives in many different ways. My journey from a thrift store loving teenager to owning my own clothing company is a big one but at the root of it is simply a passion for self expression. I’ve always loved clothes and dressing up. Growing up it was a creative outlet to upcycle and alter clothes as an extension of who I truly was. I enjoyed putting together different styles and would often receive compliments about my outfits from random strangers. Gradually this evolved into friends wanting me to make them something, and eventually local stores as well. It was rewarding to create a piece from scratch and see it being worn and appreciated by someone coming full circle. Read more>>

Natalie Romero-Jablow | Co-Owner

The Lemons Theory was born out of a collectively difficult time in human history, and our genuine desire to make the best of it. We were all starting to realize quarantine wasn’t going anywhere and navigating restrictions was going to be a new way of life. Truly a struggle for someone like me. A former chef, who loved the LA food scene and hosted at least one dinner party a week. In quarantine I still had milestones to celebrate, craved new experiences, and wanted to find safe ways to see select friends. For a dear friend’s birthday I surprised her with a lush adult tea party in the park. It was just the two of us, social distanced, had fun food and drinks, and most importantly looked magical. I knew it was a hit by her reaction, not to mention the number of people who curiously stopped by to inquire about it. Read more>>

Krys Wright | Co-Founder

Our initiative was born in the worldwide uprising centered around racial injustices and systemic inequalities that largely defined the summer of 2020. It’s remarkable that we’re not all collectively tackling the structures in society that marginalize the Black and brown population segments, and are stuck in a stage of trying to convince a considerable number of people that systemic racism actually exists. Accordingly, we’ve poured our time, energy, and sweat into evaluating the deficiencies in the education pillar of our society’s systems, and have focused on reshaping the curriculum that yields the current understanding of the American identity; one that too-often views the Black, Latinx, and Native segments as “ethnic” or ancillary to a core white populous, rather than a collective ensemble that has been instrumental to the development of the country since its inception. Read more>>

Chris Kinkade | Massage Therapist

The thought process for starting my business as a therapeutic massage therapist began when I was at a crossroads in my life. I had started my professional life doing outside sales in the medical community. I was successful at it but I did not love it. I followed that with a 3 year stint anchoring a music video network based out of Houston called “Hit Video USA.” While I had some degree of success doing both of these gigs I was unfulfilled and to be perfectly honest I was not very happy. Something felt “off.” Ever since I was a child I was aware that I had some sort of innate “gift” in terms of empathic touch. But I was a kid with no reference for it and just took it for granted that everyone experienced this. I was always the guy at parties that everyone lined up to have me massage their shoulders. Read more>>

Brother JD | Hillbilly Hoodrat Artist

My thought process was very simple. One day, I wrote down on a piece of paper everything I like to do, and then I formed a business around that. I knew that I liked to build cool cars, bikes and trucks. I also knew that I like to play that Fender Bass, write music and produce cool videos. Last, I wanted my business to be for the common good in some way or another, basically work for that Big Spirit in the sky. I decided to call it “El Rey’s Garage”. A shop and production studio where I could create all of the cool things in my head, whether they be mechanical, musical, or a production of any other form of media I could get my hands on. I drew out the logo I had in my head and I went from there. Read more>>

Carrie Holmquist | Family Photographer & Headshot Artist

I have always been a business person first with a creative flair. My full time job prior to having children was running a marketing department for a small handbag and accessories manufacturer. My job was to listen to what the sales people had to say about what customers were asking for at the right price-point and convince the artistic team that is what they wanted to design. It was challenging to say the least, but I think my practical side spoke to the sales team and my creative side the artists. We managed to come up with beautiful, yet affordable lines of product that did well across different platforms. I started my photography business in 2013 when I saw a need for portraits that both told a story and looked organic. Read more>>

Vivian Kerr | Actor & Filmmaker

As an actor and a writer, it can be frustrating to simply wait for the opportunity to work. So this year my producing partner and I set up our first LLC to begin the process of bring my feature film script, SCRAP, to life. The impetus to start a business, for anyone, I think comes from having a vision for something that needs doing, a gap that isn’t being filled in the market, and then a desire to come in and create something of value for that gap. For example, our film highlights a couple issues that I haven’t seen explored in a lot of independent dramas — homelessness, and the process of IVF. I personally enjoy movies that explore how life challenges affect family dynamics and relationships between siblings, parents, and spouses. Deciding to create a business to bring SCRAP to fruition was something I realized I had to do, because no one else was going to do it for me. Read more>>

Erica Duran | Freedom-based Business & Lifestyle Mentor

The thought process behind starting my own business was to create total freedom of time, location, and income in my life. When I was a Fortune 50 executive I couldn’t understand why I had to drive for an hour in traffic every day just to sit at a computer that was just like the one I had back at home. I couldn’t understand why I had to stay at the office all day even though I completed my work within the first hour or two of the day. I knew life was short and I saw myself and everyone around me wasting their lives away. Then the was the money piece. I make more now in a month than I ever did in an entire year of my job! Now, I help other’s “wake up” and see that life is short and they can indeed make money (more than in their job) doing what they love! Read more>>

Laura Sadler | Medical Massage Therapist

When I was in my early twenties I injured my knee and like most people my age I expected to heal up in a couple days. Unfortunately, I didn’t heal quickly and the injury became chronic. It took me over a year to find the right kind of treatment. I eventually had a full recovery, but in the process I was exposed to alternative medicine and began to see the benefits to other approaches to healing. Not long after I recovered from my knee injury, I went on to have computer injuries which included tendonitis in my wrists, but even worse was pain in my shoulder. I found myself looking for alternative ways to heal my shoulder and through that process I began to realize that I want to help others get out of pain. Read more>>

Matt Larriva | Founder

It occurred to me that test-prep and tutoring was this massive billion-dollar industry that was plagued by informational asymmetry. Parents and students have no idea what to ask for or expect of their tutors in terms of results. And the tutoring companies benefit disproportionately from this relationship, turning the whole exercise into a gamble. As a result, people were hiring tutors like they hire plumbers: are you reasonably priced; are you available near me? When they should be hiring them like they hire doctors and lawyers: are you well-educated, experienced, and do you specialize in my needs? I believed there was a niche for the later, and Powerful Prep was born with the goal of producing the nation’s best point-gains and publishing them for transparency. Read more>>

Jerry Udeochu, Esq. | Attorney

Ownership. Living life and making a living on my own terms. As a former employee, I have seen employees, including my parents and myself, put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears only to be terminated or laid off. Before law school and after passing the bar, I told myself that I would rather $50,000 working on my own business than making $75,000 dependent on if my boss still wants me around and having to censor myself in order to find job security. I also didn’t see the point of working for someone who went through the same schooling and going through the rigors of the bar exam as I did. I asked myself “why apply to work for him when I can take a chance like he/she did, believe in myself, like he/she did, and start my own firm like he/she did?” Lastly, I want my four children to grow up knowing that their father believed in himself enough to gamble on himself, in order to inspire them to reach for heights higher than the one I’ve reached. Read more>>

Lisa Redfield | Hair Artist

I started my own business because I had a hard time finding a salon/space that felt like the right fit. I found that the more I tried to fit into one space the less I did. Throughout my 10+ years of being a hairstylist I found incredible friends but never the perfect salon. In 2013 I opened my very own salon with just me, myself and I but I quickly learned that working by myself was not the right path for me. I began booth renting after that and I haven’t looked back. Vince Varia gave me a safe space to work and build. He helped me learn the ins and outs of booth rental. I wouldn’t be where I am without him. I adore working for myself while being surrounded by like minded people. Being a business owner is liberating. It gives me the freedom to make the decisions I need to that best fit my business model but allows me to still collaborate with other incredible stylists. Read more>>