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.

Cassandra & Lauren Van Keulen | Owners / Sisters

At the end of 2020, after a year of not being able to socialize the way we were used to, we were inspired to create a safe and memorable way for our community to gather again. We discovered how much of a desire there was for people to celebrate and we felt drawn to be the facilitator of those moments. Our vision was also to support locals during a tough economical time by collaborating with native vendors and artisans to both elevate our picnic experiences and pour any successes back into small, family-owned businesses like ours. Read more>>

Euron Nicholson | MBA, Strategic Consultant, Wellness Coach, and Speaker

Approximately 5 years ago I arrived at the concept of WellTyme. At the 16 year mark of my corporate career as a Leader in the Healthcare industry, I had begun wondering if the career that I had worked so hard to build was truly in alignment with what I was “here to do” (i.e. my purpose). As I began the quest to answer this self-imposed query, I started with the question, “what is it that you Love most about what you do”? and this is when the unfolding began. I quickly identified that the best part of my job in was helping people identify what they truly wanted and helping them plot how to achieve those desires. Read more>>

Jonathan Johnson | Digital Entrepreneur

Well, this answer can be a long-winded one so I will just make it short and sweet. I started off my digital career as an affiliate marketer and lead generator for a handful of networks. After being a “Super Affiliate” for a network for 2 years in a row, one of their customers reached out to me directly and offered to pay me 25% than my monthly average for 18 months if I would simply do for their website what I did to mine to get all this traffic. Read more>>

Melissa Erker | Home-based floral designer

The thought process behind starting my own business was a culmination of things: I needed a way to be creative and do what I love while also being a stay at home mom. I needed to create my own hours. My daughter is old enough that she doesn’t need me to do everything for her anymore and I needed to feel a sense of accomplishment while she’s at school and extracurricular activities. But many people don’t really want to hire a woman with an 11 year employment gap. Read more>>

Angelle Albright | Co-Founder and President

Chemo Beanies’ start was quite interesting, and we often refer to ourselves as accidental entrepreneurs. Our business was truly borne out of necessity from my own personal struggles dealing with cancer. I hope our story inspires others that they too can turn their own personal lemons into lemonade. I was just 38 years old with three children under nine when I was diagnosed with a 34% chance of surviving breast cancer. My wonderful world instantly turned upside down. Read more>>

Michelle Davies | photographer

My name is Michelle Davies! I currently attend the University of Southern California as an undergrad, minoring in photography at the School of Roski Art and Design. My inspiration for melaninpicss was to capture the beauty of melanin because I’ve always felt there was a lack of representation of men and women with darker complexions photographed in good lighting. Read more>>

Sheenee Cotton | CEO & Vegan Chef

My grandfather played an important role in the launch of my vegan products and services business, Cotton Creations LLC. I was very close to my grandfather and after his passing in 2016 due to several health-related illnesses (diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and more) that are prevalent in the black community, I decided to adopt a vegan diet in my quest to begin a healthier lifestyle. The more educated I became on the connection between food and health, the more I felt a responsibility to share this information and educate my community on healthy eating solutions. Read more>>

Heather Daenitz | Wine Industry Photographer and Social Media Consultant

Craft & Cluster was born out of both a desire to be creative and to help wine brands with their marketing. I was working for a vineyard management company from 2017-early 2019 and they asked me to start a social media account to help educate the community on what exactly a vineyard management company even does. I decided, if I was going to do social media, I was going to do it right. Read more>>

Ellise Uyema | CEO of Live Long and Plant

In a past life my mom owned a long term care home, so she always encouraged my sister and I to go into business for ourselves. It just so happened that I had started a new job and I heard something from the General Manager that I didn’t agree with – she told us that she had to miss her children’s first day of school because “mommy had to make money.” I don’t currently have kids, but I didn’t want to be put in a scenario where I had to choose between my future kid’s milestones and going to mandatory work meetings. Read more>>

Those Cupcakes | Luxury cake and cupcake brand in Los Angeles

I’m picky! I would attend parties and there would be 1 cake flavor for 50-100 guests. I thought To myself, “It would be really cool if someone were at parties and you can tell them what kind of cupcake you want while making it right in front of you”. And, that’s exactly what I did. I began offering my clients the option to formulate a menu that their guests would be able to build individualized flavored cupcakes at their events (weddings, parties, industry events, etc.) I knew I had a product that the world would eventually appreciate and there was no reason for me NOT to offer my desserts. Read more>>

Rachel Helfman | Ad Tech Marketer, Small Business Owner, & Mom

It was the middle of the pandemic and I was stuck at home — as a new mom — desperately craving some me time. Amidst covid, I wasn’t comfortable going into Manhattan unless it was dyer, so I missed luxuries such as using an infrared sauna. As a tenured marketer and brand strategist, I started asking myself how could there not be an Infrared sauna studio in this mile square (Hoboken)? Read more>>

Maricar Cristina Holopainen | Yoga Teacher & Business Owner

I was always entrepreneurial since I was in college where I made shoes and bags out of passion and creativity, which turned out to be financially lucrative. I was fascinated by making things happen – and I always wanted to work with highly-motivated and skilled people so having a business allowed me to create an environment of both learning and earning, as well as creating products and services that made other people happy and gave people a way to earn a living. Read more>>

Alyssa Simmons | Young Creative Entrepreneur & College Student

My thought process behind starting my own business initially came from the founding of my individual Non-profit “Reigns Charity Foundation” I initially created my Non-profit in an effort to inspire others going through adversity, with my motto, “It’s temporary…” My Non-profit was particularly created to support and inspire other individuals going through similar adversity as me, such as having a Chronic Illness and/or being a part of the Disability community. This being what birthed my motto, and the vision that brought about me launching “Reigns” as a business as well. Read more>>

Pola Rubis Lamonte Goode | Web2 / Web3 artists / CEO Neosutras / Authors / Wellness Advocates

We wouldn’t call it a business, Neosutras is a form of culture that have only one foundation – love! It seems simple, but until it’s only a concept but not a practice of active awareness during every life event, it’s no more then just a beautiful word. The process of creation happened organically, during life events we was going through ourselves: toxic relationships, neediness in love, drama in life, lose of self worthiness… We questioned why? And what is the way to transform it to the joyful way of living? Read more>>

Andie Sausser | Founder of Circle Supply Co.

I went to college in Hawaii where microplastics/litter from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch washed up on the shoreline of my favorite beach constantly. We would do a beach cleanup and the next day it looked like we were never even there. It was crazy and impossible to ignore! I changed my major and got a job on campus as “Waste Reduction Fellow”. My passion for talking to people about trash/waste streams was lit and I never stopped. Read more>>

Zain Pirani | Co-Founder

I was extremely frustrated with the options available in the CBD space. A lot of companies were slapping CBD onto their products as a trend, without any real basis behind why the ingredient was in the products to begin with. Even then, there is tons of misinformation about the ingredient: the type and dosage to use, what it does in a particular product and how it interacts with other actives. I personally believed in the benefit of CBD, if used properly but was time and again disappointed in what I would purchase as a customer. The opportunity came around for me to create my own brand and thus began the journey for No, Thank You. Read more>>

Dominique White | Undergraduate Student at Howard University and Founder of Melanin Medicine

When I created Melanin Medicine, I wanted to create a supportive space for students like myself who were interested in pursuing a career in the healthcare field. I noticed that a lot of my peers needed extra support from mentors and from students who look like them because transitioning from undergraduate to medical school or any graduate school can be tough. I also noticed that it was hard to find a space where this support was constant or where the support came from people who look like you and who have had the similar experiences to you. Read more>>

Tarik Bradford | Owner of Dahomey Music-Synch Licensing & Publishing

From a very young age I always had the ambition to start my own music related company. I was inspired by legendary executives like Berry Gordy and Russell Simmons so I studied them over the years and tried to learn as much from their stories as possible and figure out how to apply that to my own journey. Once I entered into the music industry I wanted to soak up as much information and accumulate as many experiences as possible and eventually use that knowledge to venture out on my own. After several years of working at a variety of companies in the music business I decided the time was right to take that leap of faith and venture out on my own. Read more>>

Giulia De Bellis | Emotional Coach & Trainer, founder of The Camelot Institute of Human Interactions

I’ve always loved fantasy novels and movies. They’ve always been my “escaping from reality” coping mechanism. During my studies I discovered that the world of magic is full of emotional intelligence. So I created The Camelot Institute, a non-place for teens to train their emotional intelligence just as the Knights of the Round Table did with their values or Hogwarts students do with their magical skills. Read more>>

Barrington Coburn | Dancer & Designer

When I started Fearless Anarchy it was about putting my vision of streetwear fashion out into the world while also telling a story from that my audience as well as myself can relate to. I always thought it would be pretty cool to have a clothing line and see my designs on others now I’m working to make that happen. Read more>>

Kristen Van Nest | Tech Copywriter Biz Owner + Author

Going from zero to a full blown business you can use to support yourself often takes 3-5 years, it’s not overnight. I always suggest people not give up their day job while they build. In addition, it’s important to find the fastest way to build up capital. When people say “work smart not hard” it starts with how can you work more efficiently? For example, is it worth teaching yourself everything you need to know about Instagram or using some of your current paycheck to pay for a contractor expert on Instagram to help you 3-5 hours a week. Furthermore, finding clients starts with telling everyone you know about your new venture so you can get referrals fast. Read more>>

Jazmine Jackson | Entrepreneur

Throughout my years of working, I’ve realized that I wanted to be self-employed. I’ve realized that I’d rather work towards something other than just money. I’ve realized that I’m a creator and not just a consumer. Now I’m the owner of Jaz Blooms, a cosmetic and accessory line, Spiffy Cleans, a cleaning company AND co-owner of Muddgear clothing line! Read more>>

Isaiah Weatherspoon | Professional Drummer | Music Producer | Author

My initial thought process for starting my own business was that I wanted to find and create a unique way to get kids involved in Music and the Arts but in a very interactive, “hands-on” type of way. That is what led me to start my own children’s music coloring book series titled “MUSIC IS COOL” ! Read more>>

Chris and Shanelle Smith and Criss-Paxton | CFO/Co-Founder/Creative Director of Ground Breaking Conservatory and CEO/Co-Founder/Executive Director of Ground Breaking Conservatory

-My thoughts on starting my own business began with the faith of my business partner & co founder, Shanelle Criss Paxton. She approached me one day with the idea. We sat down and discussed a vision for GBC, and in my heart I knew that she was the strength and support I needed to move forward in my career as a choreographer & creative director. -Chris Smith Read more>>

Mark Alexander-Erber | President and Founder – Golden Robot Global Entertainment

I have always been entrepreneurial since i was very young and always worked hard to create , i was involved with hotels / pubs many years ago and via these we would promote and tour bands , i always loved that involvement in the music industry. So fast forward when the planets aligned to start a music company it all just made perfect sense. This company was formed approximately seven years ago however many years prior when my son picked up a pair of drumsticks we could tell instantly he was going to be one of the greats and he ended up on Australia’s got talent a TV show very similar to America’s got talent Read more>>