Starting a business is a commitment and requires dedication, resources and sacrifice. We asked some of the rising stars in our community how they thought through the idea of starting their own businesses.

Daisyiona Howlett | Comparison Coach & Published Author & Motivational Speaker

I knew how it felt to silently struggle with mental health issues but pretend that everything is okay. I also felt like as a woman who is a person of color there is still a negative connotation on mental health and wellness and I wanted to help debunk that notion from my community. With my business, I am able to teach women of color that they are not alone and also help them acknowledge their feelings. Read more>>

Charmaine Hamp Carino | Love Alchemy Life Coach, HypnoBirthing Coach/Doula, and Yoga/Meditation Teacher

I knew I wanted to be a healer in some capacity. I knew that I was very good at listening to people and helping them through their problems. I would spend hours on the phone helping people without getting paid. I knew that I was good at many things and I didn’t want to do one thing. I love change and excitement. I knew that I wanted my own hours and I wanted to be my own boss. I also really started to talk to God asking for these things to come in. I worked on patience and contentment and continued doing the work while I was not in the ideal job. I started looking through all the things I could do as a healer. Read more>>

Karen M. Blackwell | CEO of Sage & Alms with brands Kanda Chocolates and DewBurst

I’ve had an amazing 15+ year career in the medical device industry with leadership roles in Strategy, Marketing, Operations, and Sales. I have loved working for Mission Driven organizations, but I was drawn to do more for my community. In 2018, I traveled to Ghana and I absolutely fell in love with the flavor profiles unique to Ghana Cocoa. It was creamy, chocolatey, and fruit-forward – but most importantly, it didn’t have that strong bitter taste that is associated with most dark chocolates. Through my research, I was struck by the lack of single-origin Ghanaian chocolate available within stores. While Ghana is the 2nd largest producer of Cocoa in the world, the export of cocoa beans have been a priority over the export of bean to bar chocolate. Read more>>

Lexi Jones | Artist & Social Worker

I have always loved to make things out of other things. As a kid I took discarded pieces of clothing and old sheets to sew new dresses and made jewelry out of things I found in my dad’s shop. In 2014, I was having fun experimenting with making giant birthday cards out of record covers for friends and family. People kept telling me I should sell them. So I took a pile of old records my husband no longer wanted to make music from or listen to, and I made a few collages. I created an Etsy shop to use as my storefront and 4StoriesUp was born! I knew from the start that I wanted to keep my art focused on up-cycling materials that would otherwise be garbage, like scratched vinyl records. In this way, my childhood goal of making discarded things beautiful again, could remain the driving force. Read more>>

Reese Large | Chief Teen Officer of Real Life

I started my business, Real Life, because one of my go to clothing stores had just closed. In Santa Barbara, where I live, there are not a ton of clothing options for teens and tweens. This gave me an idea. I decided to start a clothing business for ages 11+ that donates a portion of its profits to non-profit organizations every quarter. All of our products are made sustainably and without sweatshops. The sweatshirts, hoodies, and tees are made from the coziest materials! I designed all of the graphics which are then printed onto our clothing by an amazing, local printer. Real Life has evolved into an great online store with kids sizes even! You can also visit the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum Store to see our clothes in person. Read more>>

Kimberly Seals Allers | Executive Director, Narrative Nation & Founder, Irth

I had a great career in journalism–I was a writer at Fortune magazine, I covered Wall Street at the New York Post and later at Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper in London, The Times, and I was senior editor at Essence. But like many women, when I became a mother everything shifted for me. When I was pregnant I became very interested in the socio-cultural landscape for pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding and especially what was going on with Black women and the racial disparities in pregnancy and breastfeeding outcomes, not to mention the maternal mortality and morbidity rates. Read more>>

Laura Bostrom | Professional Organizer + Founder of Everyday Order

My world completely changed when I had my first baby, and between the diaper changes and feedings, I had a lot of time to think about how I wanted to shape my life. When my son was two months old, I decided to follow my passion and help other busy families reduce stress and overwhelm by organizing their spaces. Read more>>

Kaden Forsberg | Co-founder and perfomer in VOLARE TENORS

Taylor Fawcett, my co-founder, and I first seriously talked about launching this artistic venture right after touring in another tenor ‘popera’ group. We were both coming from established solo careers in opera, theatre, and pop music and we knew we had the ingredients to do something different in the ‘popera’ or ‘classical-crossover’ genre. So we started brainstorming and, after a few drinks, we made a shared Google Drive folder titled: VOLARE. We added ‘TENORS’ later on to help clarify the brand. But, right from the beginning, we knew we were on to something, we knew we were bringing something fresh and different to the genre; both creatively and as a business. Read more>>

Simone Broadus | Health and Wellness Coach

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, I lost all my sources of income on the same day. I had lost my teaching position, my fitness coaching position, and my dog walking job. Honestly, I was probably doing too much. Never the less, I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do. I had just moved out my parents home and BOOM, the world literally shut down. During this time in my life I had to do a lot of reflecting. I had to figure out a plan to survive. It was the first time I felt helpless. I immediately started to ponder on ways I could make money. I ended up taking a job at UPS where I unloaded trailers for hours. Read more>>

Sarah McNeilly | Person of Magick & Yoga Instructor

I was coming from a place of rebuilding my life. One of my close friends/older-sisterfigure/mentors (Carol) suggested I get certified to teach yoga. At this point I’m not in-love with yoga, but i figure I am quite athletic & taking the yoga certification class would instruct me on the proper basics and provide me an opportunity to promote health & wellness, something I could very well get behind as a new career . I had never found love with yoga, because the majority of the women/men i had met who were ‘yogis’ were pretty ego driven, it was too slow for my anxiety ridden mind, and it was very hard for me- downward dog was extremely painful for my wrists & i felt like a fool expressing this to any instructor as they already made me feel inadequate. Read more>>

Daryl Richardson | Teacher & Mentor through SEL & The Performing Arts

The catalyst behind my thought process in starting my business was targeting the Youth in my community, who I saw had no outlet for creativity during their summer vacation. It was disheartening seeing kids just hanging around, and not tapping into their innate talents, gifts, abilities, and most importantly their aspirations. I was fourteen years old, at Junior High School 72, when a guidance counselor by the name of Mrs. Alaway asked me; “what I wanted to do with my life?” I immediately blurted out; “I want to be a professional dancer on Broadway.” She asked me to follow her into her office and handed me an application for the High School of Performing Arts. Read more>>

Kaytie Gabriel | Model, Creative Director, Content Creator

The thought process behind starting my own business definitely started with rejection. During the beginning of my modeling career I was always turned down because of my height or my look. It was hard to build a credible portfolio. I reached out to many agencies, photographers, different brands and businesses, went to endless castings and although I did have a great experience when I’d get booked nothing really stuck until… I created my own platform specifically catering to upcoming creatives in the entertainment & arts industry. I wanted to help those trying to get their “foot in the door” because I knew how hard it was for me to build a presence without any guidance or sense of community. Read more>>

Tiffany Ellison | Mental Health Counselor | Entrepreneur

I was afraid when I first started my family was a huge part of why I started it. The encouragement and love shown was much needed. I do not like to put myself out there but when I did it I was shocked by the response. People supported that I didn’t think would support. My initial thoughts were no one will support and will like anything I create. I took time and make sure I crafted my formulas correctly. God gave me this vision and I knew if was for me because everything came into place the way I needed it to. Read more>>

Chris Lopez | Boobelife- Mama, Content creator, Screen Printer, future CLC

Moms face stigma and judgment everyday. Especially when we use our instincts and make less than popular decisions in society’s eyes. I created a lifestyle brand for moms that inspires us to feel empowered, confident and courageous about speaking up for ourselves and others. Creative and classy ways to shut unwanted judgments and opinions out. I wanted to create cute, unique and edgy shirts, similar to the vintage tees and rock tees I love, that helps Moms express themselves. Read more>>

Nifflr Thingmabobs LLC | Enamel Pin Creators

We both collected Disney pins for a few years and have always played with the idea of becoming creators and making the pins that we wanted to see for ourselves and add to our own collections. The fantasy pin community is very large and the creator network is huge, so we were able to reach out to other creators for their advise on the best way to get started. After 2-3 months of gathering information, organizing what we needed, we launched Nifflr Thingamabobs! Read more>>

Charles Renn | Real Estate Agent & Hair Salon owner

Great question, and an important place to start. For me, it started with having a talented sister Lissa who started pursuing her passion in hair styling at a young age. Watching her grow into an adult and stay persistent with her career path showed me the drive she had. While she pursued the hair salon route, I was purusing a corporate career in management with a Fortune 500 company. Without getting too far into it, the experience was great and I learned a lot about myself including the skills I had to offer, and also the limits I had to put in place. For me, corporate life wasn’t fulfiiling or a right fit. After my time there, I escaped to Argentina for a few months and enjoyed living aboard. Read more>>

Elizabeth L. Silver | Novelist, Attorney, & Founder, Onward Literary Mentoring, LLC

As a child, I had a clear goal in life: become a writer. After trying to find my way via publishing, law, and academics, all of which I also loved, it became obvious quite quickly that the path is not exactly clear. Over the years as I began to publish, I grew to rely on my fellow writing colleagues as my first readers. I’ve always believed in the power of mentorship, specifically in a field with no clear path such as the writing life, and wished I had someone ahead of me to whom I could reach out and ask questions along the way as I navigated everything from early manuscript creation to revision to eventual publication. Read more>>

Brenda Villanueva, R.N. | Owner & Supervisor of a CA Licensed In-Home Care Agency for Seniors

Justin Villa Care, LLC was created from my passion of taking care of seniors and the necessity to improve my own quality of life. After spending 14 years as an owner/operator of 10 board and care homes for seniors in the South Bay, I was diagnosed with cancer and my life was turned upside down. There was a crossroad of prioritizing my life or my business and I decided to sell my business in order to focus my energy on getting healthy. My treatment was successful and in order to regain my life back, I took a two year sabbatical to refocus on myself and my family. Well, two years was enough to realize that I was too young to give up on my passion and in 2006 I started Justin Villa Care, LLC to provide in-home caregivers for seniors. It gave me greater flexibility to serve families and use my nursing experience to provide solutions on helping seniors stay at home. Read more>>

Destinee Graham | Founder of KIKI KREME

The concept for KIKI KREME started when my mother-in-law, who was born and raised in Jamaica, shared her family’s recipe for body butter. It had circulated the generations and I knew I could trust it. While expecting our son, I added my own twist to it and loved my creation! I offered it to friends, some who were also pregnant and they raved that it was better than anything in the store. I couldn’t make it fast enough. When people were willing to pay for it, my (brilliant) husband and mom encouraged me to make enough to sell. And I haven’t stopped since! Read more>>

Jocelyn Fletcher | Photographer

I’ve always loved being behind the camera, and capturing moments, the beautiful in-between ones that are sometimes fleeting. The moments where the light hits just right, or the sunset sky is the perfect shade of pink. I’ve always had a passion to capture as many beautiful moments as I can. Eventually, I started sharing my photos online, and people started to inquire with me about taking their photos, so nervous as I was, I decided to just give it a shot – and I fell in love with it. Read more>>

Sauli Danpour | Real Estate Professional

I started my business within a year after I ended up being homeless living out of my car under an overpass in San Francisco. My job had just terminated after I returned from an out-of-state assignment and I couldn’t afford to move into my own apartment. Although I knew it was a temporary job, I didn’t want my future destiny to be in the hands of others. So within a year I got involved in another business (with no salary, commission only), learned the ropes, then borrowed $2000 and started the business with another individual that put in $2000. Read more>>

Irene Kong | Co-Founder & COO

I’ve thought about starting my own brand in college—it was an idea that floated in my mind quite often as a result of my love for consumer products. After I started working though, the thought subsided until the idea of MANTL came up a few years ago. It was scary to leave the stability of a full-time job to build my own business and it wasn’t a decision I made lightly. Ultimately, I asked how my future self would feel if I never tried due to fear, versus if I tried (and maybe failed) to start my own personal care brand. It was a risk, and it still is, but it’s also 100% worth it knowing that I am giving my utmost effort to build MANTL every day. At that point, I had been in the start-up world for about 7 years as well—I knew that starting my own business would bring on new challenges and learning opportunities, and that played a crucial part in my decision-making. Read more>>

Kisha Waters | Entrepreneur ~ ?? CEO of @TheMovementLA Fashion Week || @KWFStyleLounge || @KWatersGGI LifeStyle || @officialbossesbrunch || #VibeWithKisha iglive show ||@kalafiabb

My thought process on starting my own business… well as long as I can remember as far back as being a child I’ve always wanted my own business, but what really prompted me to starting TheMovementLA Fashion Week was that I really wanted to be a part of fashion weeks like New York Fashion Week, Paris Fashionweek , LA fashion week ect. and what I felt was that the cost to be a part of these types of fashion shows were extremely expensive.. and that fashion week was the best way to really get your collection in front of Stylist buyers ect. So I decided to start ThemovementLA fashion week for people that needed and deserve a platform to showcase their designs .. and it would not cost them a arm and a leg to do so. It would definitely be worth their time and investment. Read more>>

Blaire Baron Julia Walker Wyson | Co-Directors of Shakespeare Youth Festival, the Country’s Youngest Shakespeare Troupe

BLAIRE: Back in the early 2000’s, my neighbor and I tried an experiment on 0ur 5 year olds. If we gave them lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, would they understand them? (Lola’s mom had been in the Royal Shakespeare Company; myself, a lifelong professional actor.) “Weaving spiders, come not here! Hence you long legged spinners hence!” They instantly acted out the spider weaving a web. “Beatles black, approach not near! Worm nor snail do no offence!” “Ohhh, the fairies are trying to scare away the bugs from their queen while she sleeps! Ohhh, because they’re tiny!” Read more>>

Renee Ritchie | Director of “Tasmanian Dance Expo” | Professional Dancer/Choreographer | Educator

The process of starting a brand new dance convention “Tasmanian Dance Expo” came from a dream that my business partner Lockhart Brownlie had. This is a crazy thought but he had a very vivid dream that we went back to our own country Australia and state ‘Tasmania’ to bring huge opportunities and experiences for the people of our hometown. Nothing had ever been done like it before in Tasmania and both Lockhart and I were ready to learn how to be business owners and run an event like no other for the young dancers of our home. Both of us had gone off to have such successful careers internationally. We were both in a place in life where we were wanted to give back to our people and give them the opportunities that we had always dreamt of. Read more>>

Kaliaya Dews | Coloring Book Author

To just do it. During covid, I started coloring but I could never find a coloring book with characters that resembled myself or my community. So I decided to create my own, I wanted to give my community representation and inspiration. I did not think too much about how the business would work, but I wasn’t too sure. I simply started creating content and then the rest came along. When starting a business (unless you have previous experience) there is a lot of unknown, but you cannot let that stop/scare you. You will figure it out when the time comes. I made sure to stay in the now and enjoy the process, rather than trying so hard to plan for the future. Somethings you will not know the answer until that time comes along. When you are feeling stuck it is always best to follow your intuition because there is no one way of doing things. Read more>>

Randall Powell | CEO Infinite Horizons

We wanted an opportunity to create an organization to support our vision of creating housing affordable to everyone. It was also our intention to own a business that could be apart of our legacy and provide opportunities for our family friends and be of benefit to our community. Read more>>

Samantha Romero | Founder of Fig & Oak

I would describe the evolution of Fig & Oak as an organic process that emerged from my love for interiors and design. After visiting case study homes like the legendary Eames House or Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House, I made it a life goal to visit as many of these majestic homes as possible. I often found myself sitting for hours at the Los Angeles Public Library simply flipping through pages of mid-century modern design books and thinking how amazing it would be to design one for myself. Read more>>

Jermaine “Chef Raw” Rawlings | Owner & Executive Chef Frat Boy Cuisines

My thought process behind starting my own business was actually pretty random. I would host Thanksgiving dinner in LA for all of the fellow transplants that didn’t get a chance to go home for the holidays. We also used to host epic Caribbean night where I would cook Jerk Chicken, Curry Chicken, Rice and Peas, and a lot of other items. This gave me quite the reputation as an amazing cook amongst friends. Once I got out of the Air Force while attending USC’s Marshall School of Business one of my friends convinced me to audition for the show Master Chef. I ended up making it all the way to the Top 100, but unfortunately I didn’t make it past the final cut. After seeing I had what it took to make it that far I opted to sharpen my skills and start Frat Boy Cuisines. Read more>>

Sarah Nikolovska | Trauma/Neurorehab Specialist / “Body whisperer”

Having spent years working in gyms, that structured their business models around sales rather than services, I finally realized that this goes against everything I value about myself and my field. I fundamentally disagreed with a sales model being used to promote health and wellness products because volume of sales has nothing to do with the way that we as practitioners and providers actually do what we do. If anything, it diminishes the value of what we do and the quality of the relationships that we hope to build with our clients. In an effort to honor that relationship, I moved away from the corporate fitness environment and sought to create a space and a platform that centered itself around the clients and their needs. Read more>>

Monique De La Torre | Mother of three & Entrepreneur

When I began this journey I really just wanted to do something that I enjoyed. Some of the main things that I focused on were, how could I bring organic wellness to my local community through my love for all things herbal and make it fun and delicious. Read more>>

Jamie Val | CEO of Spitfire Social Media & Professor of Social Media Marketing at UNLV

During the recession in 2009 it was very difficult to get a job. I was about to graduate with an MBA, and I had previously worked in Marketing part-time for a start-up. Social media marketing was in its infancy, and in this job I was tasked with handling the Facebook community we had developed. I realized early that social media management was about to be something huge for businesses across all industries, so I decided to create an agency to manage social media. I started Spitfire Social Media in 2010, and the rest is history. I knew at that time that I was ahead of the curve, but that was a risk I took to assume that social media would become as prevalent as it is. Read more>>

Courtney Zbinden | Bakery Owner

In February 2020, I left my baker position at Bub and Grandmas Bread to be the dedicated bread baker at the Rose Cafe in Venice. Making the leap from wholesale bread baking to fine dining was something I was really excited about because it would allow me to be more creative. But as luck would have it, I was only there a month before the pandemic hit and I was laid off. I had always wanted to own my own bakery, and I had notebooks full of ideas, recipe tests, bakery names, logos, etc., but there had never been enough time to get anything off the ground. Read more>>

Dustin Rhone | Espy Estates | Founder & Real Estate Broker

I graduated college in 2013 and received a job offer the day after graduation. The role was for a digital media company, specifically in licensing. The hours were a typical 9-5 and I found myself answering to multiple managers. The company was great but after 4 years there I realized I needed to work more closely with people and connect to more individuals outside of an office. I always loved sales and working with people so I gave Real Estate a shot In 2018. Immediately I knew this is what I wanted to do. Read more>>

Farmer Dave Scher | Bandleader, Musician, Sound Healer

Creativity is like Nature… it abhors a vacuum. “Let there be light”! , the stars seemed to shout.. .and the FDWOW were born. Read more>>

Lucy Islikaplan | Owner, Instructor and Coach with FIT4MOM West SFV ( San Fernando Valley)

I got my MBA back in 2013 knowing that someday I’d like to have my own business but was in no hurry since I was working for a high end luxury brand in Beverly Hills and loved what I did! It wasn’t until I got into a car accident, while pregnant with my firstborn in 2017, that I realized that having a retail job, with a newborn and while recovering from my injuries, was no longer as luxurious as it once had been. Read more>>

Tiffany Harding | The Artist & Mogul

I wanted to leave a legacy behind one that my daughter, her kids, and generations to come can benefit from. The plan is to create generational wealth for my family and break the curse that was once bestowed upon us. So I started teaching myself how to gain and sustain financial freedom. Read more>>

Andrea Garces | Personal Trainer

My Though process is changing the health and medical system. Everyday I Invest in studying Nutrition and alternative medicine in order to improve my body, brain and performance. I believe fitness is the future. Read more>>