Starting and growing a business is hard, but often deciding to start the business in the first place is even harder. We asked some successful entrepreneurs from around the community to open up to us about how they thought about starting a business.

Harold Kestenbaum | Franchise Attorney

In 1981, I was working for a small firm and had spent four years at this firm learning about franchise law. So in 1981 I made the decision that i knew more about franchise law than my boss and I knew he would never make me a partner, so I decided to leave and go out on my own. It was the best decision that I had ever made in my business life. Read more>>

Marianthe Bezzerides | Film Composer and Music School Owner

My journey to starting my own business was a bit circuitous, and not necessarily deliberate, but that’s probably how a lot of people get started doing their own business. I studied music composition in college and in grad school, and had some success with writing music for films and videogames, but I didn’t quite know how to gain more traction and keep the momentum going to propel my composing career forward. Like many aspiring composers (and actors, directors, writers, painters, etc.) one must have some type of day job. Many composers follow the track of assisting other well established composers, and I did want to go that route, but I didn’t have much confidence in my abilities, nor did I have the connections or wherewithal to really pursue this path. I did think it would make the most sense for my day job to still be music related, even it if wasn’t exactly composing music for films. Read more>>

Shayne Letford | Visual Branding Specialist

I’ve always been a very visual person. I learn visually. I frequently see patterns and styles. I also notice things that are out of place. When I was young, I noticed something interesting about how I perceived different people and companies that I had no previous interactions. Those that put their best foot forward and “looked” professional were more desirable and approachable to me, than those that “looked” unprofessional, or even boring. I saw billboards and fliers with blurry graphics and questionable color combinations and realized that I had an unnoticed bias against these companies compared to a well laid out design. Questions like, “What is the message that they’re trying to tell me?”, “How would I fix this?”, “Am I the only one who see this?” followed me for years until I finally decided to do something about it. Letford Media began when my need to help companies with their visual branding outweighed the fear of starting my own business. Read more>>

Yoko Hasebe | Dancer& Plant-based Sushi Chef

Since I moved to Los Angeles in 2016,I have been working as a sushi chef awhile I pursue my dreams as a professional dancer. I would go take three dance classes during the day or go to an audition and run to work afterwards like so many dancers do in this city. However, In 2018, when I got to the studio one day, I just started to cry in my car and didn’t go into studio that day. When I think about it now, I know I was simply exhausted. I wanted to be successful so bad I didn’t realize I had given up on simple habits that kept me healthy&happy such as eating balanced meal and getting enough sleep.I was very happy that I was pursuing my dreams but my physical and mental health was out of balance and it affected my performance in dancing and my mood. I decided to take a break from taking classes, and fix my habits and become healthy & happy outside of dancing. Read more>>

Leslie Gallagher | CEO of Two Hands Four Paws, Inc.

For about a decade I was the assistant to one of the seven media moguls in the world. When my boss died I adopted his older German Shepherd. A few weeks later a groomer ruptured a disc in her back leaving her paralyzed. Every veterinarian that I took her to told me to euthanize her as there was no hope for her to recover. After weeks of searching for a specialist to help me, and trying every modality I could think of, I started swimming with her. Within a month she was walking again. I was so astonished that in a city the size of LA that there was no one doing physical therapy for animals. As I had always wanted to be a veterinarian and was currently out of work I decided to go back to school to see if I could learn how to do PT on animals at the age of 35. I figured that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain if I could learn how to help other animals like I had done with my shepherd. Read more>>

Sarah Zimmerman | Crochet Designer, Author, Blogger

It really starts with doing something out of love and passion. I have always been into art and expressing myself creatively. In college I majored in Visual Arts and then worked professionally as a graphic designer for many years. When my oldest son was born, I started crafting with him almost daily and when my second son was born I began crocheting outfits and toys for my boys. My passion for creating only intensified with the birth of our daughter, seven years ago. Crocheting was something that started out as a hobby but then I began to develop a love of pattern writing, designing, and teaching. When I started my blog Repeat Crafter Me, I had two goals: The first one was to share all of the crafts and crochet projects I was doing at home. I wanted to give others tutorials and techniques so they could re-create what I was making; bringing creativity and joy into their own homes. Read more>>

BreAnn Robinson | Owner of BreAnn Renae LLC

While I worked my last job I encountered a lot of small business owners that had a hard time conquering the social media space. I had already been doing social media management for a couple of businesses. After a year at my job, I decided to put my 2 weeks in and tackle social media management full-time. It was a risky step and I was advised not to quit my job, but I love what I do, and that is helping small businesses stay in front of their audience. Read more>>

Peter Nevenglosky | Co-Founder – Avuá Cachaça l Founder – Tiki by the Sea l Founder – Svöl Aquavit

The process was a combination of passion and opportunity. From a passion perspective, I was always interested in tangible products and especially in spirits – who have such unique identities driven by cultural traditions and a sense of place. This combined with the craft spirits and the modern cocktail movement highlighting a number of opportunities to build new categories in the United States. Combining these two elements I started exploring spirits. categories with my business partner Nate Whitehouse. We discovered cachaça for the first time at a small boteco in Williamsburg, Brooklyn about 10 years ago and never looked back. The category was rich with 500 years of history, over 4,000 producers, and an amazing tradition of wood aging but was under-developed in the US market. We saw an opportunity and started the process of finding a great distilling partner and building a unique brand in the marketplace from there. Read more>>

Sha Givens | Founder & CEO of I Can Fly International

Starting a non-profit organization was something I never imagined doing. For many creative and compassionate people we often fill a need where it exists. That’s what I did. After hearing a story of a 10 year-old girl who was married off to a 55 year old man in Kenya for the price of one cow and $40.00 cash, my heart responded. I had to act. Something needed to be done. I couldn’t sit in my comfortable Los Angeles abode knowing little girls in Kenya were being deprived of their basic human rights. This revelation not only inspired me to do something because I wanted to, but simply because I had no other choice. Growing up as a kid in California I dreamed of being an actress or a congresswoman, Most of us have dreams of accomplishing a certain goal, profession or practicing a particular vocation. My goals changed when I learned of innocent children who were oppressed. The world became much bigger than myself. Read more>>

Dr. Dominique’ Reese | Owner & CEO Reese Financial Services, Chief Financial Coach & Strategist

I realized that none of the big financial firms were catering to people like my mom, aunts, and cousins, and just family in general, who were hardworking people, who also had money dreams, and very little, if any assets. I’d get really upset at the thought that my $10 dinner plate, was apart of a fundraiser to bury a friend or family because they didn’t have insurance coverage. I’d get sad when family would borrow money from me and NOT pay me back and then not even bring it up when they saw me, because they didn’t have it to give and really, they didn’t even know how to communicate about it. I’d get fed up when I drive in my neighborhood and see all the check cashing spots, knowing that they are here because there is a need for short-term loans because paycheck to paycheck living is the norm. Read more>>

Michele Velazquez | Owner and Founder

In 2010, my then boyfriend proposed to me and I didn’t love it. When I asked him why he proposed to me that way, he mentioned that there were no resources out there to help him propose. A lightbulb went off for me and I thought, wow, what if I could help people plan their proposal? I had always been an entrepreneur and I also had event planning experience so I thought it was the perfect idea. Fast forward 10 years and now there is TOO MUCH information for the proposer. You could go down a rabbit hole on Instagram searching for proposal ideas for hours. We help them sort through the noise and create a perfect proposal with a lot of meaning. Read more>>

Grady Craig | Executive Producer, VP of Business Development & Operations

At 13 years old, I wanted to take control of my own freedom. I didn’t want to have to ask my parents to buy me video games or food at the mall. It gave me an enormous sense of joy being able to pay for things I wanted, when I wanted, instead of asking, begging, or making a pitch. The best way I saw myself being able to sustain that feeling of independence was by starting my own business. Read more>>

Taylor Gordon | Holistic Health and Wellness Coach/Yoga Instructor

This question is always so interesting because for the longest time I did not intend to turn this into my own business. While working my way through my own health journey , I found myself sharing the things that I did to support me with others and It quickly became clear to me that this was a part of my purpose. I realized that I would be doing myself and others a disservice by not exploring this on a larger level. The work that I do as a Holistic Health and Wellness Coach is so special to me, because it’s not just a trade that I learned; I have and am living it in real time. Everything that I share are things that have changed my life and that I continue to use to this day. As I learn them I share them! The thought behind starting my coaching business was to be of service, to support those that I saw pieces of myself in, I saw a need and I am fighting to fill it. Read more>>

Liz Marie | Brand Strategist & Creative

There were two key factors behind started. my own business: First, it scared the sh*t out of me. I’d reached all of my major career milestones and was wondering, “What’s next?” Growing up without much money, I’d always been financially risk averse so the thought of having to rely on myself alone to make money really freaked me out. But that’s exactly why I had to do it. One of my biggest values is to constantly face my fears because that’s how you grow. Taking the leap into entrepreneurship was the last frontier. And honestly, it hasn’t been that scary after all. Second, I was using my talents and intelligence to help old rich white men get richer. I wanted to not only build my own dream, but support and empower women and BIPOC business owners to build their businesses. Women, people of color and especially women of color encounter way more obstacles and have fewer resources when building a business –and as a result, these businesses statistically have lower revenue, lower profitability, fewer employees and just less POWER. That’s BS and I want to help change it. Read more>>

Julie Cox | Owner and former Pro Surfer- Traveler Surf Club

We started Traveler in 2016 as a place to more comfortably get in and out of the ocean to surf, swim and standup paddle. The Surf Club offers board storage, so that if you ride a longboard you don’t have to deal with the hassle of tying it onto the roof of your car every-time you go to the beach. There are nice changing rooms, personal lockers and a hot shower, so that you can get clean and warm up after swimming or surfing in the ocean, which is just a few steps away from the club in Malibu. We also really wanted a space to build community and to allow people to be able to get work done between sessions before or after getting in the water. Now with so many folks working from home, our little wifi lounge area has become a popular spot for members to get out of the house more enjoyably and efficiently. Read more>>

Valerie Pappas LLauro | Co-founder of a charity and Brand integration Producer

My husband and I decided to start Walking Strong, in order to create awareness and raise money for the rare disease that our son was diagnosed with. Our son had been diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in 2011 when he was 5 years old. The week before his pre-school graduation was the week our lives changed forever. We had learned that his seemlingly, benign muscle-weakness was due to a rare form of muscular dystrophy that is a progressive disease, affecting all the muscles in the body including the heart and the lungs. We had learned that by the age of 12, he would no longer be walking and that there was no cure. We were told we would be lucky if he “lived into his 3rd or 4th decade.” The Neurologist we had only met once, read us this “death sentence” over the phone on a sunny summer day, as our 5 year old son was playing with his 3 year old sister nearby. We decided that taking action would help us feel like we were taking some control. Read more>>

Deisy Suarez-Giles | Spa and Wellness Expert, Author & Business Owner

My initial thought process was how was I going to make it work. Where would i find the money to build my business. How will find I clients. Would I be able to sustain and pay my bills. I was petrified of the outcome or potentially failing. It took me several months to finally get serious and put my fears behind and give my all. Read more>>

Gudrun Kosloff Heidi Lieberman | Co Founders of kid’s clothing line Grey and Ray

We started our business out of sheer necessity. Two moms looking to dress their young boys in nice quality clothes without a hefty price tag. After age 5 or so, cool boy clothing options are quite limited and we were frustrated. So we decided to create fun, high quality clothing ourselves. We were not reinventing the wheel, just rethinking it for our boys, Benjamin Grey and Oskar Ray. This is how our west coast inspired brand Grey and Ray was born. As the boys have grown, our business has grown with it. Read more>>

Gabriella Taylor | Founder of Extraordinary Love™ Transformational Educational Programs for Women

It was less of a thought process, and more of a calling. My early life led me through darkness and pain, and through the process of waking up from a coma, I had an awakening. This awakening led me on a global pilgrimage around the world visiting communes, ashrams and monasteries, as a young woman, before cell phones and google existed. The seeker in me that just knew I had something in me that was much greater than what my history taught me to be or expect, led me into a rich journey of healing and self-discovery. This led me into the arena of Spirituality and Psychology. Through learning how to pick myself up inside, and build a healthy sense of self, I then learned the skills necessary to walk others through their journey of healing and awakening. Read more>>

Patrick Williams | Youth Sports Visionary

There are many driving forces behind starting my own youth sports leagues. The first was to attempt to bring equity into the youth sports arena by making my sport program accessible to families who may not otherwise be able to access such programs. For example, in my business model, I offer a number of scholarships for children that can’t afford to pay the registration. Secondly, I grew up in a small-town in Northern California in a tumultuous environment and football was my saving grace. In football I found security, validity, family, and the self-worth needed to continue to maintain motivation and hope for the future. I hope that children and youth that come into my sports league with anxieties or troubles can channel these emotions on the field. Lastly, the flag football leagues I own are non contact which was decided intentionally to curtail the reports of concussions from traditional football. Read more>>

Pankaj Raval | Founder of Carbon Law Group, a Corporate and Intellectual Property Law Firm

It starts with understanding yourself. After working in several different jobs over my life, from retail to interning with Amnesty International to working overseas for an NGO, it became clear to me that I wasn’t the best employee. I had clear ideas on how I thought things needed to be done and I was always looking t make systems more efficient. And when you think about inefficient systems, the legal system may be close to the top of that list. After starting my career as an attorney in one of the worst legal markets in modern history, I knew if I was going to build the life I wanted, I would need to develop a new way of practicing law that focused on building healthy relationships and leveraging technology. Opening up my own law firm was the result of limited options and a compulsion to be the master of my own destiny. Read more>>

Sahir Champion | Executive Producer | Director | Entrepreneur

The thought process behind me starting my own business is ownership. I realized early on in my career that opportunities would be far and slim and that no one would give me an opportunity, I would have to create them for myself and others, especially Black and minority creatives. I can’t depend on anyone to create the life and opportunity for me, I have to do it for myself while showing others that it’s possible. If you look at entertainment in general, many Black musicians, artists and inventors were robbed of their work because they didn’t pay attention to the business side and they didn’t know any better. There have been countless numbers of successful artists who never got to reap the benefits of what they created and that has taken away from our communities. The goal is outright ownership, and owning what we create. Read more>>

Don DiCostanzo | CEO and Entrepreneur

After working in corporate America I decided it was time for me to become an entrepreneur. I only wish I had done it sooner. Although I had the perfect combination of experience and wisdom that I learned from working for another company. I also did not want to work for “the man“ I wanted to be “the man“. Read more>>

Benny Borsakian | Restaurant & Real Estate

Starting a business can be terrifying. Must weigh the pros and cons, the risks, and other considerations can be so , but at one time in my life I was hungry. It was a terrible feeling. And I was always thinking that if I ever make enough money,, I would love to feed people. Makes me happy to see people eat. Read more>>

Silvia Gonzalez Scherer | Executive Artistic Director and Co-founder of Hanford Multicultural Theater Company

In 2016 I received a call from a friend who wanted to recruit me into a playwright master’s program at her university. I knew it was a good opportunity and it would be a boost to my theater career. As I started the registration process, I looked at the diversity of the community I live in, and the lack of opportunities in the performance arts. Especially for people of color. Then a flashback to where I grew up and how I hungered to be in acting classes, but my parents had financial struggles. Then I realized there are little girls like me in this community who are hungering for acting classes and it needed to be available. Read more>>

Ellie Laks | Founder, The Gentle Barn & Author, My Gentle Barn

The Gentle Barn has been a dream of mine since I was seven years old. And all throughout my childhood I would draw what The Gentle Barn would look like on my notebooks and picture what it would look like as I drifted off to sleep each night. I loved animals and they were always my friends, teachers, and healers, but the folks around me didn’t see them the same way. I wanted to provide connection between animals and people so people could see their intelligence, affection, and personalities. And I wanted to help people learn to be kinder to animals and be more gentle. When I started The Gentle Barn I left a very safe life as a mom and a wife to risk my marriage and my home life to live my dreams. It was scary financially, I indeed ended up in divorce, and in financial hardship. Read more>>