Starting a business can be terrifying. Weighing the pros and cons, the risks, and other considerations can be so overwhelming that often promising entrepreneurs stop before they even start. We asked some phenomenal entrepreneurs about their thought process behind starting their own businesses. Our hope is that by making the thought-process less intimidating we can help more folks think through whether they should take an entrepreneurial leap.

Katie Hutsel | Energy Intuitive | EFT Practitioner | Meditation Teacher | Mindset Coach

The thought process behind starting my own business was fueled by the change and transformation I saw in my life from applying these same principles and healing modalities.  Before starting my healing journey, I was in the Hospitality Industry managing restaurants and coordinating private events. I worked 60-70 hour weeks as a General Manager and Beverage Director in restaurants ranging from St. Louis, MO to Dallas, TX, and even Kauai, HI. I had gotten caught in the hamster wheel of life. I barely had any time for myself or my self-care routines. I was constantly putting myself last. My work and career had become my only priority in life.  I had the “title” and the “salary,” but I was miserable and felt completely unfilled. The long hours and grueling workweeks finally caught up to me and caused extreme fatigue and burnout to set in. Read more>>

Paul Julch | Personal Wardrobe Stylist

To be honest, the thought process was the needs of my family. I had just been laid off from a corporate retail job, my older son was about to go to college & my younger son (who is autistic) needed someone at home in the afternoons. So I needed to come up with a job I could do where I could make my own hours, be home for my son & be flexible when needed. I actually didn’t originally intend to become a wardrobe stylist – but with a little time on my hands, I ended up spending more time with friends. And we would shop. And I would tell them what to wear. And eventually, I realized that I could make this a business. So now it was time to do some research.
I did research around how other personal wardrobe stylists did their jobs – so I could both see what I wanted to do & what I didn’t want to do. I created schedules and structure and processes so that my work flow was clear, but still flexible. And I built my own website and then one day called myself a stylist. A friend threw a party, I got a couple of clients and it started from there. Read more>>

Kaitlin Mamie | Comedian | Writer | Producer

As a performer, comedian, writer, and being an artist in general, the most important factor to my success is the motto “Good Enough.” I think it’s very easy to talk yourself out of doing something for fear that it won’t be the best thing you’ve ever done. I say throw that out the window and just start making things. If you want to be a painter, paint as many paintings as you can. If you want to make pottery, start wheeling as many pots as you can. (I clearly don’t make pottery because I don’t think you call it “”wheeling”). Each time you make one you will get better and better. But if you spend all your time on one painting or one pot, you’re not going to progress. I see people falling into the traps of perfection and they can labor over one project for weeks, months, and even years. For me, done is better than perfect. Don’t spend too much time worrying about what everyone will think about it. Read more>>

Paul Edward Kaloostian MD, FACS, FAANS | Neurosurgeon, Speaker, Researcher, Innovator and Author

Starting my own private neurosurgical practice Paul Kaloostian MD, INC has been a breath of fresh air. Our headquarters is in the Los Angeles area with offices all over California as well as neighboring states. My goal was to have autonomy over how I practice medicine, how I set up my treatment space, and what I can do with my time away from work. This is a critically important aspect of one’s professional life and as medical students and residents/fellows in training over many years, we are not taught about life after completion of our apprenticeship. This wisdom would be invaluable and I have sought to convey my thoughts regarding life after training to my students and colleagues. I truly feel that some people excel with autonomy such as with a private practice while others excel in a structured environment, such as a university setting or large corporate Hospital setting. It is important as a provider to find out where you fit in and what will provide you the most fulfillment at the end of the day. Read more>>

TK Trinidad & Nesha Blair | CEO & COO

Our though process behind starting our business was/is, “Just Do It”. There will never be a time when everything will be perfect. So we just pull the trigger and go. We have learned a lot and have met people that were and are very helpful to the business. But we probably wouldn’t have met them if we didn’t start. Read more>>

Kwame Egerton II & Ackeem Kipp: CoFounders of The Black Currency

The Black Currency started after the murder of George Floyd, Ahmad Aubrey, and Breona Taylor. The Co Founders wanted to shift focus from protest to financial empowerment of diverse communities. The idea is to create the next generation of diverse Millionaires. Racism and unconscious bias are mindsets passed down from individuals parents, perpetuated and inscribed into one’s brain by the media, and are thought processes many have lived with too long to change. The idea behind The Black Currency is to control what you can control. Wealth and financial empowerment will put minorities in the driver’s seat and allow them to have the financial freedom and influence to shape their present and future. Read more>>

Joseph Serna | Chef & Owner – Poppa Joe’s Kitchen

Deep down inside it was always something I wanted; to be my own boss, to create for myself. Wasn’t until Covid hit, that I got the nudge I needed. Made me think a lot about taking care of my wife and kids, my family, and what impression my creativity would have on them. Cooking being something I’d done my whole life, this nudge helped turn just wishes into actions towards my own business, my dreams. I enjoy the benefits of being my own boss, finalizing my own projects, and the flexibility to put family first, because above all, that is what is important to me. Read more>>

Dillon Hill | Executive Producer Man

I didn’t necessarily plan on starting a business – it happened out of nowhere. Back in 2017, my childhood best friend was diagnosed with cancer and given only a year to live. That was a pretty stressful thought to hear, but after some thinking on it, I decided that I would drop out of college and spend that year trying to make his bucket list dream possible. I made a small little video explaining who he was, the story of our friendship, etc. It went SUPER viral, and suddenly there were millions of internet strangers rallying together to support our bucket list. It was extraordinary to see. Eventually, we asked our community to help us break a world record… we wanted to have the largest bone marrow donor drive. Again, we were blown away by the amount of support we received…over 13,000 people signed up to donate their bone marrow. The best part? One of those people ended up being the life saving donor for my friend. Read more>>

Gary Chau | Creative Director & Espresso Lover

My best friend Mark and I always wanted to have our own neighborhood business. Since our working relationship is founded upon our friendship first, we wanted to create a business which was neighborhood community and people driven in a like-minded manner. So the aspiration is that it would be a place where friends and family would be able to get together to enjoy each other’s company. Both of us were drawn to the lifestyle of a European caffe, in particular those that are in Italy. They were neighborhood places where genuinely everyone knew your name; generating quick sales transactions in large volumes was not the primary focus, but living slower and enjoying life with friends and family was more important. Read more>>

Ren Fernandez-Kim | Anthropologist, Educator, Artist, & Friend

I’m not entirely sure. I’m fairly new to the world of ‘Influencing’, but I take it very seriously. My face, my voice, my platform is the business, which is also my livelihood. It’s not something I thought about doing, as it just—kind of happened. But my thought process right now is along the line of—How can I use this platform for change and for good?. Read more>>

Alonzo Wright | CEO of HitScholars Music

Ownership. We live in an era of decentralized music and complete ownership of your content is possible, so why not?. Read more>>

Jenny Li | Illustrator, Animator & Pianist

Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking of starting a business. I made the decision during quarantine where everything happened so suddenly.

For the past 4 years throughout college, I’d never gotten a single internship or job in the art/illustration field, while others in my class were able to get positions at prestigious studios and companies. I felt like things were so unfair—I had a perfect GPA, worked my hardest on all my projects, and was the only one in the school pursuing my dual degree program, yet why couldn’t I get anything? I was ready to give up on art and accept that I was never going to get a job or become successful—maybe I should’ve gone into medicine after all. Halfway into year 4, I finally received my first internship offer at a small company for summer 2020. I was so excited—it was my first opportunity! But a few weeks later, the first case of Covid-19 was discovered in NYC, and the internship was canceled. I was back at square one again. Read more>>

Tyler Critelli | Cinnamonist

Cinnamon has always been one of my biggest obsessions. I still get texts from people I haven’t talked to in years with pictures of cinnamon rolls and big cups of horchata because they know I gush at it all. SIN-MIN began as a mens’ slacks idea with the first pants design being called “SIN-MIN Sticks”. I had the fabric picked out, colors, patterns and grades, and wanted to get the word out before getting anything produced to see if I could get some preorders to cove part of the production cost. During one of my tap classes a student brought be a lip balm she made in a crafts class that day and boom – I knew that what I could use as a “business card that people won’t throw away”. It was small and pocketable, used multiple times a day, and cheap to make. Given that the brand was already cinnamon-based, I knew the flavor had to be as well, and it needed to be a cinnamon flavor that was sweet, smooth, and creamy like you’d want a lip balm to be. Enter my favorite beverage: horchata. Read more>>

Rebecca Grant | Photographer and Director

Deciding to start my own business was not a decision I made overnight. Shortly after I graduated from college, I was hired as the full time photographer for a fashion e-commerce company where I worked for four years. During my time working at that company, I began to learn what the hallmarks of a poorly managed company looked like, where politics and personalities were making the daily business and creative decisions. In a positive sense, I learned a lot about shooting in a studio that I created and working with models that I had the responsibility to book. But I also learned how not to run a company and knew I was not destined to work in that kind of environment. After that job, using that knowledge and experience, I started freelancing as a photo assistant, digital tech and retoucher, while at the same time I was test shooting in my studio in Brooklyn, intent upon working with as many models and creative teams as possible. Read more>>

Rose Kim | Actor, Theatre Artist, Performance Coach & Founder/Producing Artistic Director of Art Rat Theatre

I’m an actor and theatre artist and I run my theatre company, Art Rat. I discovered acting in college. Acting was fun, it made sense, and I felt I could be good. One of those “click” moments where you’re like “Wow, I like doing this, I’m good at doing this, and now I’m obsessed with being the best……” Making theatre and performing was amazing. The lack of diversity was exhausting. All my college theatre department’s productions were insistently predominantly white spaces. Plainly speaking: not super inspiring and a lot of the material was written by white folks, directed by white folks, performed by white folks, for an audience predominately made of white folks. As an actor of color, the options are slim. Most of the time are you waiting for some white director’s “yes”. And if you don’t get that “yes”, you don’t have another opportunity to perform. Read more>>

Alice Ford | Sustainable Travel Founder & Adventure Filmmaker

I created TravGanic to fill a void in the travel market. I wanted to stay in ecolodges and support indigenous communities on my travels but none of the big travel sites had ways to filter for these types of experiences. I found myself searching for hours online to find listings and wanted to make sure other people didn’t have to do that. TravGanic is an ecotourism marketplace that brings sustainably certified tours, boutique hotels and vacation rentals to customers looking to travel with a minimal impact. We feature a lot of outdoor adventure tours on our site, like trekking in the Himalayas, walking with the Maasai in the Serengeti and hiking through the Andes on a visit to meet indigenous cocoa farmers in Peru. Read more>>

Christie D. Van Paepeghem | Alumni Relations & Events Associate and Wedding Planner

I never thought I would start my own business. There are many risks and doubts that come with it, and you begin to question yourself, asking yourself “Are you sure? Is this the right thing to do right now?” It really all came down to one quote that helped me and keeps me motivated to this day. “Don’t quit your daydream.” I took the opportunity to shadow Joanna Chong, owner of J.Soiree Event Coordination & Design. She asked me to assist her at one of her events. Was this really what I wanted? Yes, this is exactly what I wanted. Today, I work full-time for USC as an Alumni Relations and Events Associate while working as a part-time wedding planner for my own business, Sweetest Love Moments. I am where I am today because of my networking, risk-taking, hard work and of course my passion for the event planning industry. Read more>>

Brian Blair | Lead Artist and President of Pumpkin Pulp Inc.

I always loved Halloween and horror movies. I had recently started my own haunted attraction and made a lot of my own props and masks for it. My masks immediately started to draw the attention of other haunts who wanted to start purchasing them. I created Pumpkin Pulp and started to focus on creating high quality masks for the haunted attraction industry. Read more>>

Topee Parker | Design

My thought process behind starting my business was to provide something that was missing, a authentic streetwear brand. Before starting my brand I felt like everything in the streetwear industry was starting to look the same, and I hated it. So I decided to create “RareAF®️“ to creatively disrupt everything. That’s why I always say we are here to be disruptive, not fit in. Provide products that people can live with and give my consumers retail experience to every “RareAF®️“ event. Read more>>

Brea Mitchell | Cultural & Political Journalist

I started The Breakaway Blog in the middle of 2020. The world was rapidly changing, and as a country, we were going through heartbreak after heartbreak. Culturally, politically, socially – everything was a mess. I began writing about it. I became passionate about empowering young people to care about world issues, to care about voting, and to care about staying informed. I decided that I would write weekly on The Breakaway about some of the important worldly topics that we all should be keeping up with. I wanted to bring information to the surface in simple terms, and in a way that everybody can understand and find relevance in. Substack is a platform that makes it easy for writers to reach and connect to their readers. It’s a simple, free email subscription, and I’ll be in your inbox once per week. My weekly letters are usually around 800 words, and they are simple and get straight to the point. Your subscription would mean a lot!. Read more>>

Andrew Pifko | Writer/Performer

My grandfather used to tell us, ‘Try everything: travel, eat, love, experience…all of it. Find something you love to do, then get so good that you get the respect of your peers in that field. If you can achieve that, you’re set’ Never looked back. Okay, that’s partially true. I took a MAJOR detour and got my honors in microbiology from U of T, but all the while singing show tunes which TOTALLY messed up my titration calculations when working in the lab. Clearly performance was the way to go. Read more>>

Qian Wan | Production Designer & Concept Artist & Scenic Artist

My career started when I was in University, my major was Scenic Art. I remember since my school is a theatre school, we had a lot of performances every semester, so my friends from other majors would ask me to help them design and do scenic painting parts. Gradually I realized that this could be my business. Luckily, Year after year, more and more people asked me to do production design and scenic painting for them as a package deal. And when I’m in LA, I keep in touch with my clients in China. So that I could get double job opportunities. I think my main point is never say no to a job opportunity for you, because you would never know which will take you to success. Read more>>

Danielle Ross | Co-Founder of Education PowerED

Our thought process is simple. You see a problem and you do everything you can to fix it! When starting a business, you have to be BOLD and CONFIDENT about your vision and your mission. For us, we know that what we are doing will change lives for generations to come. The audacity we have to stand proud in our beliefs about teacher pedagogy and the student experience is why we created Education PowerED!. Read more>>

Kate Parsons | Co/Founder of FLOAT, FEMMEBIT, and Stickney Creek.

We started FLOAT to formalize the collaboration that my partner Ben and I started with our first VR project, Liminal Realities, back in 2015. We had been curated into a gallery show in Hollywood thanks to Sharsten Plenge of We Open Art Houses and were surprised at the impact it had. We realized that we were creating something very unique, work that we never would have created on our own. We’ve been collaborating on art, various immersive projects and client work ever since. Read more>>

Oscar Gubelman | Producer

Oddly enough this came quite naturally. When I was younger the idea of being a producer was never even a spark in my brain. I was always going to be on the stage or in front of the camera. It was and still is my biggest passion. The rush you get when you are in front of that many people, the feeling of being connected to your fellow actor or the introspection of diving into a character; there really is nothing like it. The business side came as almost an obvious next step. Be able to create. Having control over characters and story lines and watch it all come to life piece by piece. It was taking the passion of acting and going to the next level. I also happen to have had the luck of two amazing co-owners with similar views and matching excitement next to me. Its always wonderful to dream but when you have people beside you who are ready to pull it into a reality it is truly phenomenal. Walking Distance Productions is a tool to be able to make our dreams and creations a reality. Read more>>

Lauren Salvo | Salvo – Dance Pop Singer/Songwriter and Vocal Producer

When I started out as a baby Salvo fresh out of music school learning how to sing into a microphone in a studio setting, i was pretty inexperienced. Going from an operatic stage to recording in the studio was a whole new world for me, and was hard to adapt to. I would spend hours in the booth trying to get that perfect take. Pitch or rhythm was never a problem for me, but having that “swag” and personality was. I sounded like a fricken Disney princess. But pop was always my true passion so I knew I couldn’t give up. It got to be very tedious for my engineers to keep spending all this time with me, telling me how I could improve and what they thought would help. So I decided one day that I was going to get my own setup, that way I could take all the time I needed and really work with myself to find the sound that I wanted to put out into the world with my music. Read more>>

Heather Harvin | Creator of Treasure Your King & Songwriter

I’ve always had a passion for helping people, since childhood. When I became an adult and began to develop deep friendships with women, while developing my personal faith, I knew I needed to tie the two together. Essentially, I wanted to empower my friends with the courage of spirituality and then one day, I had the idea of empowering all women, not simply my friends. Thus, I decided to start a platform to merge two of my passions together- faith and girl power. Read more>>

Kimberly Blagrove | French-English Translator, Entrepreneur & Traveler

I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart, even when I didn’t really understand all that it entailed. However, when I was younger, I was taught to believe that if you started working for a company and worked hard, you would eventually “work your way up the corporate ladder”, so that was the first approach I thought I would take. I had always been a hard worker and time after time, companies would give me additional responsibilities, but eventually I noticed that they would never award me the title or the monetary compensation that was associated with the work. It was a hard lesson, but I eventually learned that “working one’s way up the ladder” was not a model that necessarily applied to everyone. I was a black woman naïvely blind to the fact that my race and gender might work against me and so I had additional hurdles to face. Read more>>