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.

Jay Sukow | Improvisor, Facilitator and Instructional Designer

I was tired of waiting for permission to do what I wanted to do. For years I had bet on other people and places and it was time I finally bet on myself. I truly believe that if every person took one improv class the world would be a better place. If I wanted that to come true, I needed to be proactive about it and start something. As we say in improv, “Follow the Fear! Today’s the Day!” Read more>>

Karen McBride, Ed.D. | President & Founder of Bound International, LLC

I wanted to bring resources and expertise to the field during a tremendous time of need. When the world went into veritable lockdown in March 2020, the field of international higher education was effectively cut off at the knees. With no travel taking place and the traditional college experience under threat, educators and students needed life rafts… quickly. Also, images of large cities such as New Delhi and Los Angeles showing clear, blue skies within 8-10 weeks after a majority of air and road traffic ceased provided powerful images to the world about how we affect our environment every single day. Read more>>

Regina Alhassan | Prospect Development Consultant

I was tired of “Working While Black.” I felt stuck. After nearly two decades, I realized that no matter how much I excelled, no matter how innovative I was or how much I leaned in, I would never be the right fit to continue to grow in my profession as a traditional employee. It wasn’t just a glass ceiling; I’d hit a concrete wall. It was depressing and demoralizing. I craved genuine opportunities for advancement and leadership. I wanted better, more authentic team dynamics. And, I dreamed of taking control of my own earning potential. Read more>>

Kara Bazile-Prophete | Artist

During quarantine, I reconnected with my artistic side. I was home most of the time and had nothing better than to rekindle my love for the arts. I started painting more right around the rise of the BLM Mouvement. I had a lot of anger and frustration inside of me that had to be let out, and it came out as painting and making clay earrings. I had a great flow of commission coming in for the particular theme I had going on around that time. I was painting brown faces with flowers covering their faces. I wanted to relay that despite the hate that people have towards us, we are beautiful and resilient. I also wanted to relay that just like flowers we must allow ourselves to grow in all the places people thought we never would. After that period, came my drive to make polymer clay earrings. I wanted to give all women a pair of earrings that made them feel empowered and confident. Read more>>

Azul Santamarina | Visual Artist

At first, I wanted to create unique pieces of handmade jewelry for myself. I wasn’t finding colorful artsy and stylish accessories in the market, so I decided to make them. And the process felt amazing. I’m a visual artist, so creating little pieces of art made absolute sense. Read more>>

Dwan Miller | Creative Director, Choreographer, Dance Artist

My business was conjured by a passion; over 20 years of learning, teaching, performing and producing choreography & entertainment events. Those experiences allowed me to structure performances and programs that allow people to explore through movement. Dancing With A Notion Productions; abbreviated from my name Dwan, undoubtedly helped me establish my WHY! I grew up having the outlet of dance to express all of my feelings throughout life’s challenges and circumstances. Dancing is my form of therapy. Read more>>

Nancy Alvarez & Shannon Smith | Monster Coffee Roasters Co-Founders

As a child (Nancy), I grew up in El Salvador and my family later moved to Los Angeles. In Latin-American culture, children are introduced to coffee from a very early age since most of the coffee served around the world grows near the equator it tends to be a staple in every home. My family and I would often go to coffee farms on the weekends and that was my introduction to the world of coffee not realizing at the time that many decades later I would be trying to share it with the world. Coffee is a way for me to feel connected to my roots and a vessel to be able to share my culture. Read more>>

Mima Osawa | Sustainable Fashion Designer

We all hear about the true cost of fast fashion, but it wasn’t until I witnessed firsthand the waste that occurs in the fashion industry that opened my eyes to reality. Endless piles of fabric mounting on top of each other, all leftover and discarded by other, larger producers in the fashion industry. From then, I quickly developed a fascination for sustainable fashion and wanted to come up with a creative solution to rescue these deadstock fabrics instead of letting them end up as waste in landfills. So I decided to take sustainability into my own hands by creating timeless fashion pieces through repurposing these deadstock fabrics and giving them a second chance. Read more>>

Ruzanna Tovmasyan | Producer, Director & eCourse Creator.

When I started creating professional online courses for others, my mindset was not to create a “business”, it was to find a way to pay rent. I thought to myself, “how can I create wealth and pay my bills really quickly?”, because I knew I was going to lose my job. The thought came to my mind to tell people I knew how to make online courses. I made my first one for practically free, then used that to show others what I could do. My name started getting passed around and I realized I was onto something really big. Read more>>

Robb Thornsberry | Event Producer / President & Founder of Infinity Events Inc

The initial step towards starting my business was the result of a combination of perfectly timed circumstances that motivated my decision. It started with the birth of my daughter in early 2001 while working at a company that was unstable and held no promise for the future. It was at this time that I decided to write a business plan for a company that would not only afford me the flexibility to work from home to be with my daughter but that would also offer a single, primary resource for event and meeting services that corporate clients were asking for but could not get at the previous companies I had worked at. Read more>>

Vince Gonzales | Designer/Photographer

I was always looking for outlets and ways to communicate my original work. In the beginning I was printing and sharing my photographs. Later I reimagined those photographs as t-shirt at. Now much of the artwork I create finds itself on the blank canvas of repurposed apparel. Ultimately I wanted to wear something that I did not see in the market so I created it myself. The positive reaction from others told me these designs had the potential to be a successful brand. Read more>>

Elysia Whitis | Founder of Ollovus & Reiki Healer

I started Ollovus because I wanted to be able to help more people on their healing journey’s and having my own private practice wasn’t going to reach as many people as I could by really forming a community. This business means so much more to me than I can even put in to words. My goal is bring healing, health, and wellness to more individuals throughout the country and eventually, the world. So, for me, starting my own business started with really defining my intentions and the type of impact I am aiming to make on the lives of others. Read more>>

Tania Possick | Voice Over Artist, Actor & Founder of Women In V.O.

The Voice Over industry is comprised of some of the best people in entertainment. I am so lucky to be a part of it! It’s something I’ve been doing for a while but, when the pandemic hit, I was looking for something to take my mind off the craziness of the world. I thought about how much I’d love to connect with people, especially in the Voice Over industry, during this period of fluctuation. I was sad, and lonely, and had no idea what was going on!!! This is where Women In V.O. started! I was at home thinking – wouldn’t it be great to have a platform where women can connect, ask questions, and see positive messages? It all began with an Instagram page, and now I feel like I have more friends in the v.o. industry than I’ve ever had before. Read more>>

Karen Bigman | Founder & President, Suite Solutions by Karen, Fractional Chief Operating Officer for Solopreneurs & Small Business Owners

I started a Divorce Coaching & Consulting firm in 2014. After 5 years, I was increasingly unhappy and struggling to create the success I had hoped for. At the beginning of 2020, I decided to dig a little deeper – Was it me? Was I a lousy Entrepreneur? Did I pick the wrong field? Am I a failure? And so went the struggle in my head. When the pandemic hit, faced with quarantine and so much uncertainty about life, I realized that it was time to figure it out. Read more>>

Eric Marks | Founder of Transported Audio

I never planned to start my own business! I was incredibly fortunate that freelance work kept coming my way, and eventually got to a point where I could no longer take it all on myself. Many very talented, passionate sound editors jumped at the opportunity to support me, and once it grew outside of just me doing the work, I decided that it was more than just myself that I was representing. Read more>>

Alexis Holman | Owner and CEO of Brelon Essentials

“Something’s gotta give.” That was my thought process behind starting my own business for several reasons. I was working at Starbucks and I hated it there. The manager and coworkers were amazing but, it just wasn’t the place for me long term. I had gone vegan about a year prior and I had begun to change a lot of my eating habits, but food wasn’t the only non-vegan variable in my life– I’d found that makeup, too, included a lot of animal based additives. I had been a freelance makeup artist for a couple of years and, naturally, I started reading the back of makeup labels. A friend once told me “it’s almost a political movement to be vegan” and, boy, was she right. Read more>>

Karen Kasaba | Writer, Filmmaker, Founder of Guided Writing Tours

When a friend in my writers group suggested I start doing workshops, I didn’t like the idea of being stuck in a room. I wondered about a way to combine my experience as a docent tour guide at Ganna Walska Lotusland with writing. Was there a way to facilitate unconventional writing workshops in unconventional spaces? I initially posted “Guided Writing Tours” on Meetup to test out the concept. I’d take groups to LACMA or the Hammer Museum to write inspired by emotions evoked by the art. I also experimented with bringing groups to Griffith Park to ride the miniature train, asking them to write about the experience of going on a journey and ending up in the same place — but different. Or, we’d meet at Psychic Eye Bookstore in the Valley for 15-minute psychic readings, and then go off to a nearby coffee shop to write and share. Read more>>

Luca Antonio | Urbamerican CEO

Like all the good things, it started with a dream. Being that my wife and I met at a previous job, we’ve known from the beginning 2 things: 1. We worked very well together 2. We didn’t want to work in an office anymore, at least not for someone else. But what were we passionate about? Mixing our love for music, tattoos, and fashion all in one place, we began forming that dream into a reality. Our goal was to be able to do something that was real and truly meaningful to us. We wanted to create a brand that’s clothing speaks volumes through the art itself. Too often we see brands put their designs to the wayside and instead, focus on portraying their name/logo. This was going to be the opposite of us, we decided that very early on. We prioritize the art, the rest is secondary. Read more>>

Anika Jackson | Founder and CEO, Anika PR

I have been a serial entrepreneur since before I even realized I was! In the past, I started both non-profit and for profit endeavors for a few short reasons – where my passion and life purpose have met, and where I saw a need in the community – local or global. My current business started when I moved back to Los Angeles. I left a business I started in Houston that included both a social club and a retail store for small business entrepreneurs. I have always been passionate about lifting up others, and I love working with other entrepreneurs. Read more>>

Walter Wallace | Technical Film & Photography Instructor

For me, the big thing is not trying to wait for everything to be perfect (I did this with the first app I created). In my experience, it will never be perfect and start the process of running your business, things are never going to go exactly how you plan for it to go. I think it is important to be someone who is nimble, can adjust to change quickly, and is a good listener. I try to get as much feedback from friends, family, and your target market as possible. When your customers are telling you things about your product, listen to them and don’t write them off. I learned not to fall in love with anything that I create because I didn’t create this business for myself, I created it for the people I am trying to serve. Read more>>

Michael Martinez | Honduran Coffee Importer & Distributor

It was the start of the pandemic after a recent trip to Honduras to visit family. I came back to California full of amazing energy and coffee that I felt such an urge to share. After years and years of unable to find an exceptional black coffee, I knew what my family had to offer was something unique and special. I was always discouraged by the tasteless coffees around and constantly seeing new sugar-filled recipes. My mission became to share our family and countries delicious coffee with anyone I came in contact with. Read more>>

Katie Brown | Intentional Gatherer, Dinner Party Host & Event Designer

We spend the first part of our lives growing up surrounded by built-in community, but when we reach adulthood it suddenly becomes overwhelming and intimidating to create consistent, authentic community. So I wanted to create a space where I could meet people in an inviting atmosphere and get to know them beyond surface level conversation. And to me, there is no better way to do that than a dinner party. Read more>>

Leticia Love | Aurora L Clothing Creator

With starting Aurora L my thought process was to pair fashion with an environment of self-love to highlight that everyone is valuable, truly one-of-a-kind and holds importance. Initially, Aurora L Clothing started off as The Bodysuit Lounge about five years ago, but as I began to grow I started recognizing my business is not just a hustle but rather a new beginning. So, after i got fired (lol) I set out to spread self-love to the world through fashion, and the struggle was real! The world will really try to convince you that what you think you could do with the vision in your heart is impossible, when it’s not! It may be difficult but it’s not impossible. Read more>>

Lauren Gropper | Founder & CEO of Repurpose

Well…I was definitely naive to what starting a business actually entails! (Which I think can be a good thing!) I was more compelled to solve a problem and address the issue of plastic waste – which at the time seemed to be an issue that would only continue to grow. I had spent several years in the sustainable design space, working with sustainable alternatives to existing building materials, so I applied the same kind of design thinking to the issue of single use plastic products to design plant-based, compostable alternatives. Read more>>

Roberta Moran | Graphic Design Professional

I was a Graphic Designer for a publication company for 13 years. During that time (within the first year of working there), I started to freelance for other companies in the evening. I really enjoyed working one-on-one with different clients and bringing their ideas to life. After that, I pretty much knew that I wanted to do this full-time – one day in the future. I met my husband at the publication company, he is also a Graphic Designer. We were married in 2008 and that same year we decided to start our company together: Creative Union Design. But at the time, we were still working full-time and only freelancing in the evenings. In 2013 our twin boys were born and I needed to leave my full-time employer to stay home with them. Read more>>

Amy McKay | Artist

Until three years ago, I had ZERO interest in running my own business. I was perfectly happy working for someone else, leaving the heavy lifting to the CEO, the admin team, the managers. I wanted to leave my job at the office each day so that I could balance my life with family time and my art. Eighteen years into a career as a landscape architect, I started to feel unsettled. I couldn’t put my finger on why. For over a year I attempted to get the core of this feeling. I stopped managing projects, thinking that the overlap into my personal life was the issue. When that didn’t help I cut back on my hours to see if having more personal time would mean I could catch up on household chores and THAT – a clean house – THAT would solve my problem. Read more>>

Lisah Monah | Artist, Songwriter, and Producer

Deciding to become a producer came from years of depending on others in order to put music out. The music industry is full of people who can be unreliable, selfish, and unprofessional. Then there’s also those who in one minute and out the next. I’ve learned that you have to be self-sufficient. Ultimately, people are on their own time and no one will work harder for you than yourself. In addition to that, I’m often commended on my lyrics. I decided to offer songwriting assistance as a service on my website, in addition to selling beats. Read more>>

Aja Duran | Branding & Website Designer

I started my business because I’m passionate about inspiring and uplifting women to go after their dreams. Which is why I felt that the best way for me to make an impact was to start my own design business that values quality and intentional design that is crafted for long-term success. The big thing for me is making branding and website design more accessible to small businesses. Read more>>

Vailia From | Owner, winemaker and lover of dancing on coffee tables

Not having to work for anyone else. Done! I would love to say that I thought about what it meant to be an entrepreneur or long term retirement goals but in actuality, working for myself happen organically as kind of a function of striving to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. Read more>>

Nicole Dortch | Fashion Curator and CEO of Petit à Petit Lingerie

The thought process behind starting my business was “it’s now or never”. I had the experience, resources, plans and ideas, the missing element was time. Between balancing my career and life, I was unable to give my business the proper time and dedication required. In order to cultivate my dreams and make it a reality, required sufficient time and COVID provided that opportunity. Read more>>

Jonathan Dumas | Executive Coach | Culture Consultant | Organizational Psychologist | Podcast Host

As a Black entrepreneur, there are often no seats for people who look like me at the table. By starting and owning my own business, I am building my own table and creating spaces that I didn’t see growing up. Another reason I decided to start my own company was in part because I was tired of working for other people, but it was mainly because I wanted agency over my life, projects, time, and money. Honestly, this was something that I did not realize was missing from the jobs I’ve previously held until I started working for myself. With a ton of support from my partner, family, and friends, I was able to make my dream a reality and start a coaching and consulting business called CommonCulture Coaching & Consulting. Read more>>

Akira Houston | Self Care Expert & Travel Enthusiast

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I had recently lost my father due to complications with his health. I was in a dark place of not really knowing how to help myself in dealing with the loss. I remember sitting in my living room in Inglewood CA when the vision came to me that I would start my own Health and Wellness business centered around solo travel and self care. Traveling was always something I did growing up. I grew up an airline brat so we always moved from city to city and traveled frequently in between those moves! When I lost my father, I felt like I lost a part of myself. So in a way, building my business around travel, wellness, and self care has been very cathartic to say the least. I always knew I wanted to be able to help others but I also knew that I was not able to help anyone else until I helped myself. I had to pour into my own cup before I could fill others! Read more>>

Jessica Wilson | Jessica M. Wilson, Poet, Artivist, Educator | Founder & Executive Director of the Los Angeles Poet Society

In all honesty, I wanted to put out a beacon to find other creatives like me. Los Angeles Poet Society began in 2009, about a year or so after I completed my Master of Fine Arts degree at Otis College of Art and Design, in Los Angeles. I was a student in the Creative Writing Graduate program, learning from the maestro Poet, from the line of the Beats, and an Italian Translator, Paul Vangelisti. I would meet Poets, Artists, Storytellers, every week and definitely each month. Read more>>

Claudia Renee | Pole Dance Choreographer | Owner & Founder of Team Basework LLC; A Virtual Pole Dancing Platform

It all started by providing donation based dance classes on instagram live. I was bringing in a lot of money and realized I could turn it into something bigger, so I launched my website in April 2020 so I could control the platform easier.. I had a world tour planned and when it was canceled I pivoted quickly because losing a career that I worked over a decade to become successful in wasn’t an option. I had other artists in mind too. Read more>>

Matthew Wolfhardt | Founder of Wolfhardt

I was always drawn to the creativity and success of fashion had to me. The translation of a designer’s creativity and the ownership someone had in that business was developed through passion and creativity. I wanted the same. A business of my own, a name I could stand for, and a legacy I could leave behind. The idea of leaving something behind meant that it was a beginning of a generation, an idea, a style. Read more>>

Annelise Schoups | Writer

The idea to start my own business didn’t come to me in a vision and I didn’t decide to do it overnight. The whole process sort of unfolded more organically. I had quit my job at a PR agency to travel abroad for a few months and when I came back to the U.S. I didn’t know exactly where I was going to live. I was flexible, relatively unattached, and I liked the idea of being able to travel whenever I wanted, so I started looking for short-term and remote contracts rather than full-time jobs. Little by little, I stitched together freelance writing work that eventually evolved into a small business. Read more>>

Dante Nicholas | CEO of Real Talent Entertainment & RTE-TV

My process behind starting Real Talent Entertainment was to create a multimedia empire/strong entertainment industry driven company that takes the talented entertainers of SC mainstream where they deserve. South Carolina has always been a state where people ran from to make it big. My mission was and still is to make sure RTE is not only just a home for creative beings but also an empire that persuades people to come to SC instead of running from SC. Read more>>

Amanda Stafford | Travel Enthusiast & Influencer

I started my business to aid people in creating new experiences in life. In a world filled with so much diversity, culture, and beliefs someone would need to get out and experience it for themselves to gain a new perspective. I encourage everyone to travel the world and learn not only about the world around them but themselves as well. I wanted to created an avenue that considered people’s budgets to help them to plan and book new travel experiences. Read more>>

Tyler Garber | Artist Manager & Entertainment Attorney

I started The Hood Elle Woods because creatives need legal representation and management that cares about their well-being as a human, and they need to feel comfortable enough to talk to their representatives candidly. In my opinion, the best way to foster that relationship with your clients is to actually take the time to get to know them, and be interested in them. Often times in this industry, artists make legal and management relationships based on notoriety and reputation; however, the artist and representation often are not on the same page because they don’t have a relationship that extends from the work itself. I get to know my clients, talk to my clients and try to be as accessible as possible, and all because I remember that folks just want someone to talk to who has their back and they know has their best interest in mind. Read more>>