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.

Brandon Jackson | Cafe Owner & Entreprenuer

My wife and I started Super Domestic Coffee in 2018 with the thought that we wanted to create a business that involved the community. I ( Brandon) grew up in Culver City and have always thought that there was a strong sense of community here and wanted to contribute to that. I have been cycling for many years and coffee and cycling go hand and in hand and really wanted to try and capture this in the coffee shop. THE SHOP’s name IS A FRENCH CYCLING TERM, SUPER DOMESTIQUE, WHOM IS THE BICYCLIST TEAM MEMBER THAT DOES WHATEVER IT TAKES TO HELP THEIR LEADER STEAL THE WIN. THE SHOP’S MISSION IS TO BE THE COMMUNITY’S SUPER DOMESTIQUE, HELPING EVERYONE WHO COMES IN HAVE THE BEST DAY POSSIBLE. We really strive to achieve this in our business with team rides, drinks named after the top awards in the tour de france, and also giving back to the local elementary schools with fundraisers. We opened our second location in 2020 called Mañana Coffee. Read more>>

Alex Austin | Creative Portrait & Wedding Photographer

I picked up a camera when I was around 11 or 12 years old because I was fascinated with Photoshop. I loved to re-create the old school Apple iPod ads where the person was in a dance pose, cut out against a vibrant-colored background. I also loved to clone myself and others in photos through Photoshop. As I entered jr. high and high school, I was drawn to portraits. I would take photos of my friends and set up photoshoots after school and on the weekends. The portraits continued throughout college, and I found myself creating very personal and meaningful work that reflected the season of life and growth I was going through during that time. Then the desire for capturing weddings started to grow, which was interesting, because I had never really been one that was fascinated with weddings or wedding photography. To be honest, I did not really understand the reason for marriage, yet the desire to learn more and photograph weddings grew. As a woman of faith, I started to seek God about His heart behind marriage. Read more>>

Hilton Wright II | Record Producer. Songwriter. Composer

The spirit of entrepreneurship and owning isn’t new to me. My Dad has been a business owner since before my birth and the seeds of inspiration that his work ethic planted in me grew. There was always a stark contrast between the work life of my Mom and Dad. My Mom worked for General Motors for 35 years and I would hear her stories of discrimination in the workplace due to being black and a woman and that wasn’t something I was looking forward to. When she got off of work, she was off. She never brought work home or discussed what she was working on outside of the office. I believe that this was a great work/life balance and it made her completely available to my sister and I but I didn’t like how she wasn’t passionate about GM and how they weren’t passionate about her growth. My Dad on the other hand had a true passion for business and the ability to make as much money as you want as an entrepreneur. Read more>>

Lila Hood | Electric Violinist & Master Teaching Artist

I started my own business because I saw a lack of diversity in classical music. Oftentimes, I was the only person of color, or one of a few people of color, in a classical music environment. While sitting on the stage in a rehearsal at Carnegie Hall, something hit me. I felt very strongly that while talent is sometimes perceived as natural, the most important factor in developing talent is access. I was preparing to pursue a soloist career and perform in front of symphonies worldwide, but I found a new passion in creating my first community performing arts program in the DC area in 2000. Read more>>

Jennifer Elliott | Yoga Instructor and Yoga Therapist

I had always wanted to open my own yoga studio. I had an opportunity in 2007 to buy the studio I worked in, but it ended up being purchased by YogaWorks. I was disappointed but was hired at the new YogaWorks studio so it ended up being a blessing in disguise. When the pandemic hit, the physical studios closed and most of the teachers lost their jobs. Many of the teachers began to teach online for themselves. I was teaching a training at the time and and had to immediately learn how to teach it online. As I learned different tools to navigate this new way of teaching I found that most of the teachers were doing the same, but everyone was on their own. My husband encouraged me to start my online studio and with the help of my business partner, Dawn Stillo, we created Yoga World Heart. Dawn and I are Yoga Therapists, so our goal was to create a site where we could host an online yoga therapy school. This is still where we’re headed but we realized that the immediate goal was getting teachers jobs and building a community of students. Read more>>

Morris Ellis, Pablo Murillo | Founders | Aguas Locas

Our thought process: make something out of nothing. Due to the pandemic, we were both furloughed from our restaurant jobs. Pablo had been making aguas frescas for his 3-year old daughter at home, the same ones he would enjoy as a kid. He wanted to come up with a healthy version, something he could give to his daughter that wasn’t the typical sugary-filled agua fresca we are all used to. Once he mastered the recipe for delicious, zero-sugar aguas, he contacted me (Morris) with a vision. I received a call from Pablo, and he told me he wanted to start bottling his new creations and selling them to his friends. I was into the idea. So I went to his place for some samples and I was immediately drawn in. Having a background in graphic design, I started brainstorming with Pablo ideas on how we could turn this into a real brand. Thus came Aguas Locas: born in the pandemic, and handmade with love. We began with Instagram orders and doorstep delivery and have been grinding ever since. Read more>>

Michael Abounassar | Home Theatres Custom Designer Specialist

When I was a kid I use to like playing with electronic toys. I loved electronics & excelled also in mathematics & electronics. I will explain the thought process behind starting my own business as an entrepreneur. Born in 1975, my name is Michael Abounassar, a Professional Custom Home Theatres Audio Video Designer Specialist to the Stars leading in the industry with over 20 years experience & Services in Home Theatres Entertainment Systems: Owner of Galaxy Home Theatres. I pursued my career because I saw and took the great opportunity to do so at that moment several years ago. Below are the services that I offer. I have worked and continue to work hard on several (successful and professional Home Theatres Projects: with layouts and planning.​I am a Specialist in: Surround-Sound Home Theatres, Projection screens,Televisions, Sonos, HDR High dynamic range, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, HDMI CEC Control, Consumer Electronic Control, ARC, eARC, AirPlay 2, DD_EX, DTS-ES, THX, DPLII, SACD, DVD-Audio, Speakers, Receivers, Dolby and DTS surround sound decoding. Read more>>

Cherie Youngblood Richardson | Founder & CEO

As a creative, it was important for me to live my life out loud and in living color and the only way I could do that was to pursue a career as an entrepreneur. More importantly, to apply my creative attributes into the lives others which is why I started Harmony Blaze Co. Having a career background in the human service field, mental health is not a new topic of conversation for me but viewing our current climate with the rapid growth of technology infused into our lives, the impact of social media, the up’s and downs of our economy, racial injustice and now Covid-19, I knew that I wanted to focus on helping to create a holistic environment into people homes that would help reduce stress and anxiety. Therefore with the help of my husband DeWayne, came the designed of Harmony Blaze Candles. Infusing music and scented candles together was a perfect aid for any relaxing routine transforming one mood. Each our labeled candles includes a QR code that is scanned, linking customers to a free custom playlist to help initiate their blaze. Read more>>

Jeffrey Bernstein | Artistic & Executive Director, Pasadena Master Chorale

We started the Pasadena Master Chorale in early 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis, and we had three things in our favor. 1) Choral music is fairly low overhead among the performing arts, 2) in difficult times people need the arts, and 3) if we could make a go of it for the first couple of years things would only improve! Now we find ourselves silenced by the coronavirus pandemic, and it reminds me a bit of the climate in which we got our start 12 years ago. Read more>>

Jeroen de Wit | QHHT Past Life Regression Hypnotherapist

I had been coasting in jobs that paid the bills but were not fulfilling. I started my business to be able of service doing something that I love. Read more>>

Alexis Griffin and Mary McGinn N/A | Founders, Madre Made Bake Co.

We launched our business in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. When the initial stay-at-home orders were issued, everything shut down, including our kids’ preschool. Their school has an abundant fruit and vegetable garden normally consumed during the school year. We saw this food going to waste and had the idea to create a pop-up bakery fundraiser that would incorporate this produce into our baked goods and at the same time raise money for the school which was taking a big financial hit at the time. The response to the fundraiser was beyond what we could have imagined – the community loved receiving homemade goodies delivered to their door during such a difficult time while also helping to support the preschool. We realized we had a gem on our hands and launched our official online bakery a few months later. We modeled ourselves after a weekly CSA (Community Sustained Agriculture) box as we were very inspired by the idea of our customers being able to connect to their food directly and in a way that’s more intimate, without a middle man or large factory involved. Read more>>

Siera M’halla | Hotelier A&R and VIP Concierge

That came naturally to me as it combines both things I love the most, and that I’ve been around my whole life: music and hospitality. I have already been doing that for years and it felt just right. Also, having a social personality, always being the link connecting people together, being the friend to go to for suggestions, for introductions, for arrangements and plannings. And finally I would say that traveling extensively at a young age, having a strong presence in the nightlife and social scene, working in the event industry, in luxury hotels as well as being surrounded by entertainers most of my life, allowed me to build a very strong network and become the point of contact for many. At some point in life, I realized how essential my contribution was to the success of many power players I looked up to, and how impactful my services were to everyone I was assisting on daily basis. Creating these experiences was making me happy. Read more>>

Rosario S. Williams | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

As a psychotherapist, my focus has been working in community mental health settings with families that depend on Medi-Cal to access mental health services. Initially, becoming a business owner and establishing a private practice was not a career goal I had envisioned. Then, COVID happened! For many people, COVID has brought on many situations that have caused grief and loss, depression, and anxiety about the ambiguity of the future. I quickly realized that there are hundreds, if not thousands of Angelinos without healthcare or plans that cover mental health services. My goal and passion is to give back to my community by making therapy accessible to everyone. Read more>>

Raja Deka | Actor, World Traveler, Game Changer

When miraculous chapters in life constantly find you, you know you’re supposed to share them and remind others of their own power, worth, and purpose. As a result, we created a production company with a range of full feature films and TV series in which some of the stories based on true events are already changing lives. Touch A Life Productions is structured so that down the road we will be funding facilities and free clinics for ones in most need globally. Our “Why?” is far bigger than us or any industry. Read more>>

Emily Garcia | Realtor

I was a widowed with a baby and half a million dollars in medical bills. Real estate afforded me the opportunity to make my own schedule, pick my son up from school and provide us a good life. Because I was the sole income provider, I waited until I had 6 months “survival fund” to cover our basic expenses before I started as an independent contractor. Life experience taught me that anything could happen and I needed to plan. Read more>>