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.

Monique Dao | Published Wedding & Portrait Photographer

I’ve always considered myself a mixture of a creative soul and a businesswoman, whether working in corporate or owning a business. But after spending 12 years in a mind-numbing industry, I started to feel my creative side was slowly disappearing, leaving me regularly uninspired. I didn’t think I could do 12 more years of the same job. The lonely office life, the long stressful hours working on the road, the dealing with unpleasant people on a daily basis, the lack of recognition and inspiration all contributed to my decision of finally quitting and starting my own photography business. Read more>>

Tayler Gilbert | Photographer/Creative Director

I started my business by accident I guess. I started photography by just taking photos for my AP Studio Art class in high school. I took photos of just my friends and myself at the time and posted those photos to Instagram. Then people started reaching out for me to take their photos and I realized I could make money through photography. The process was natural and I just learned everything from youtube from people like “Jessica Whitaker” and “Jessica Kobeissi” they were my biggest tools to learning how to start my business. Read more>>

Danny Steiner | Co-Founder & President, Kenshō Health

After I left Brami, the plant-based superfood company I helped launch, I took some space to explore the question of “what next?”, and decided to pursue research in an area I’ve been fascinated with since studying under Daniel Kahneman at Princeton: behavior science. I partnered with a good friend, Spencer Greenberg, who is a researcher in behavior modification and we created a concept called Happiness Habits, which was designed to help users cultivate more joy by tracking micro-behavior changes – like smiling in the mirror or taking deep breaths – throughout the day. Read more>>

Sophie Collins | Co-Founder & Wellness Expert

My business partner and I received so many blankets throughout our pregnancies and becoming moms and we wanted to create a product that could be anything from a burp cloth to a swaddle to a scarf that you wrap around you on the plane. We didn’t want to be wearing a muslin cloth with avocados on it when we were cold at brunch, so we came up with the Universal Throw. We carefully created the size and released it in specific colorways and patterns that would work well for a sophisticated palette. Read more>>

Daniel Grimmett | Music Producer Management

Growing up I always had entrepreneurial tendencies. I was definitely one of those kids who had a lemonade stand, tried to sell random arts and crafts to the neighbors, and put on little magic shows expecting to receive tips at the end if I did a good job. However, I am not the kind of entrepreneur who would never work for anyone else. I spent 6 years working corporate sales jobs which gave me the foundational skills to build my own business and I enjoyed most of those companies that I worked for. Starting my own business was a necessity. There weren’t many traditional job positions for what I do in the music industry. I like the idea that whether I succeed or fail… It’s 100% my responsibility. Read more>>

Christine Redmon | Body Artist

I had been a makeup artist for 17 years at that point and was a mother to two young kids. I realized I needed something that was not only steady but a schedule that was on MY terms. I also felt like I could offer more to my clients than just makeup, which was already such an oversaturated field. So many of my clients would jokingly say “I wish you could do my brows like this everyday!” I believe in the universe guiding our path, and with all the changes in the world, I decided to trust my gut and let fate lead the way. Read more>>

Tamika J. | Founder and Owner of Taomi Tea N Treats

I wanted the tea experience to be healing, fun, sexy, cool and luxurious. We often think of tea as this quick experience, you place the tea bag in your mug and pour hot water and voila you have your tea! Here at Taomi Tea N Treats, preparing your tea is a part of your self love and healing journey. Read more>>

Iris Hosea Patty Flores | Online Event Marketplace

Festively is founded by two women of color who felt and knew they wanted more out of life. We are co-founders who met at work, but spent our lunches and a lot of time chatting about our dreams of being an entrepreneur. Yes, we had successful careers in Corporate America making six figures, but we knew there was something missing. For many years we planned corporate events and family parties. We struggled with finding the right vendors to match our theme and vision. Read more>>

Adaku Ikotun | Motivational Speaker and Fashion Stylist

I started Adaku Inspires and Adaku Style to focus on inspiring individuals into knowing that they have a great destiny and purpose to accomplish in their lives. Adaku Style helps women discover their true beauty (both inner and outer) and gives them a BOOST in CONFIDENCE to let them know that THEY ARE LOVED. Read more>>

Alex Simon | Co-Founder and CEO of Elude

One of my co-founders, Frankie, and I have always had a deep-rooted passion for travel and really enjoyed booking trips together. When we were in college, and early in our corporate careers, we would spend countless hours looking for affordable trips we could take to escape our monotonous, daily routines to explore new destinations. While booking a trip over one holiday weekend, we actually discovered something surprising: we could fly to our home state New Jersey for the same price as Spain. From there, Frankie and I set out to create Elude and help other fellow travelers access newfound destinations around the world, bringing a budget-first model that had not been seen in the industry before. Read more>>

Elisa Ellis | Wardrobe Stylist

I was a jewelry sales rep and I enjoyed helping clients style their jewelry with different outfits. I also had friends and friends of friends who were going through divorce and needed help putting together outfits that were business professional. After years of doing it for free, to help friends out, my best friend encouraged me to turn it into a business. So I took a leap of faith and started at the end of 2018. Read more>>

KAZUYO TAKEDA | Founder/Head Designer

I started G.K.P. with the aim to create kitchen products that are environmentally mindful and have a one-of-a-kind design quality. We’re a woman-owned business based in Santa Barbara and we design sustainable, practical and beautiful kitchen products that can inspire our daily kitchen experience. I originally worked as a designer for women’s clothing brands. When I had children,I took a break from work and became a full-time mom. I naturally spent a lot of my time in the kitchen cooking and baking. Read more>>

Tali Diamond | Real Estate Agent

To me, starting my own business meant taking a leap of faith towards something I’m passionate about. Having been a retail buyer/merchandiser with my own clothing business years before pivoting to real-estate, I was always drawn to the prospect of launching a career where I could inject a sense of creativity into my professional endeavors while enjoying the flexibility and responsibility that comes with a self-managed business. While real-estate differs from my background in fashion, I knew that I’d be at home starting my own career in real-estate due to my aesthetic sensibilities, appreciation for small details, and love for engaging with and servicing my clients. Read more>>

Sophia Mitchell | Curator & Designer

I wanted to start a business that served truly one purpose and that was to fill in the gap. As a home decor business, I knew that it would be difficult to launch one product at a time, but I also knew that I had a very unique perspective and could bring something rather exclusive to the marketplace. Most importantly all of my designs sought to fill in the cultural gap. I wanted to create a space in design where people of color could see themselves represented. Read more>>

Mary and Allie Ancel | Co-Founders

As sisters, starting our own business was something that we have wanted to do since we were kids. We have always created art and designs for our own apartments – we sew pillows for our sofas, screen print colorful posters for the walls, and Mary makes amazing ceramic pots for all of our plants. Over the years, our friends and family have encouraged us to start our own brand, so we founded Pink Door Store as a way to share our creativity with the rest of the world. It takes a lot to put yourself out there, but it’s a lot easier doing it as a team! Read more>>

Patricia Medina | Entrepreneur , Mother and Wife

I was going to be a first time mom and That was all I could actually think about . Wondering how I was I going to make it . My husband was in a state prison serving 15 years to life and I didn’t know when he would come home. This really pushed me to want to start . Here I was pregnant with our first baby and determined to figure it out . I was working for a couple doctors at the time and I didn’t think maternity leave would be enough money to pay all my bills. I kept talking to my husband about selling things online just to try it out .This desire kept coming up and I kept running from it . Read more>>

Chris Phillips | Owner, Athletic Trainer, Strength and Conditioning Specialist

I saw the services that my kids and my friends kids were getting in regards to sports performance training and injury rehab and felt with my experience in professional sports, I could offer a superior service. My goal was to offer a setting similar to what I had worked in at the NHL level. During the NHL lockout in 2005, a bunch of my colleagues and I spoke about life after hockey and opening this type of facility was a common theme. I moved back to SoCal in 2007 to work with the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League. When the league folded in 2009, I felt like this was my time to open. Thirteen years later, I have three facilities in Orange County. Read more>>

Denise Benz | Brand Management & Business Development

The process behind starting my business began after I read the book E-Myth Revised. The book explained how so many people dive into starting a business based on a passion. Once they start the business they discover all the other spokes on the wheel of entrepreneurship that are necessary to move forward. I discovered that for example, a baker may be amazing at making beautiful desserts but lack the skill to create an image and brand for their business. Read more>>

Sergio Bindel | Founder and Curator of The Pop-Up Shoppes

Let’s set the scene – its March of 2020, and like many of us, I was furloughed from my job due to the pandemic. Having recently graduated from college with my Bachelor’s Degree in marketing, I had been working as a marketing consultant for a small medical group in Orange County with less than a year of experience under my belt. Throughout college, I worked in the hospitality and events industries waiting tables and event coordinating for the LA Food & Wine and Pebble Beach Food & Wine. With restaurants closing their doors and events no longer being permitted, I was unemployed and felt completely lost in a world of uncertainty. Read more>>

Shanta White | Nail Artist & Entrepreneur

Originally I worked in corporate America, I was let go from my former career of 7 1/2 years during the recession. I had my tonsils removed 3days after and had plenty of time to think and reflect on what would be next of my life! I knew for sure what I was doing was not fulfilling nor was I living in my purpose. As I prayed my mind reflected back to college when I would do mine and friends nails, I enjoyed the creativity outlet and the ability to put smiles on their faces, I also enjoyed the one on talks we would share. Read more>>

Stephanie Thorman | Founder, Moms Day Off.

I began Moms Day Off in my home about 7 years ago. I gathered my group of mom friends and had an in home party without our kids and spouses…I called it Moms Day Off. As a Stay at Home Mom all I was craving was time with my friends but, kids, spouses, schedules, laundry…all of it was constantly taking my attention, So I created what I needed….a day off. We swam, sipped, and laughed our way through the day and it became an annual tradition. I even made matching shirts and hats each year as a momento of our fabulous day together in community without interruption. Read more>>

Angelica Miller | Licensed Midwife

It was almost seamless, not that it was easy but that I was called to running my own business. I’ve almost always worked for myself, even since I was a kid. ( Not to say I haven’t had a couple of jobs not working for myself.) I’ve done babysitting in high school, nanny and doula work in undergrad and when it came time to really think about my future licensed midwifery felt right. Read more>>

Serrano Barnes | Bauce of All Sauces and Student Support Specialist

Honestly, just wanted to add some flavors to the market. For so long, we have been using the same condiments, sauces and hot sauces. Some giving the same flavor profiles and low heart or extra heat and no flavor. We wanted to be dead smack in the center. Creating profiles that are flavorful as hell, but also provide the heat that some folks don’t get from the traditional brands. Read more>>

Andrew White | Photographer & Writer

I started working for myself when I realized that the traditional marketing and ad agency model is broken for creatives. I took a look at what my agency was charging for my time and then looked at what they were paying me and realized how much money I was missing out on. I eventually started booking freelance work outside of the agency and was making more than I did at my full time job. Outside of the monetary difference, I always felt very limited by what I could do creatively in that role and had so much more fun doing my own thing. So, 7 years later I am still working for myself and have been doing my best work and having a great time doing it. Read more>>

Kimberly Bassette | Licensed Esthetician, Makeup Artist & Lash Tech

I’ve always been interested in the beauty industry. When I was growing up I was teased for being different and that’ is something that has stayed with me. To this day I’m not that confident in my appearance but one thing that helped me feel more confident is makeup. I started my business for several different reasons but one of my main reasons was to help those who feel less than. My goal was (and will always be) to help people feel confident and beautiful. Read more>>

SKYE BANKS | Business Owner

I’ve always hated working for others. How I see it is, if you aren’t working for yourself or pursuing your passion, you are helping someone build theirs. Although its been a struggle over the years working a corporate job, I never had the guts to take the risk of starting my own business. I took a trip to Atlanta and I got to see all of these beautiful successful people of color running their own businesses and pursuing their passions, all the way from nail salons, beauty shops and even skincare. It was so inspiring! Read more>>

Mavero Duran | Co-manager and musical director of The OutLaw Mariachi: L’A.s Premiere Rock Mariachi Band

The OutLaw Mariachi was created as from what we see as a part of our musical and professional evolution. This evolution we feel started in 2010 when we were developing our last project of a mariachi-inspired rock band. However, after many years of successful effort and a gain in popularity, we came to realize that our work was not going to benefit us in the long run, but instead only benefit the person that was claiming ownership and had no desire to share with the very people that had helped develop the group. Read more>>

Valerie Larsen | Actor, Musician and Teacher

My first thought behind starting my own business was that I needed an income after losing my job performing at Disneyland during the pandemic haha. But it was also a few other things. Passion, Service and Flexibility. I’ve always been very passionate about music and the process of mastery. When I had the opportunity and the time to build a new business, I knew that teaching would give me more time to not only master my own skills, but to help others do the same. Read more>>

Laurie Burke | Voiceover Artist, Actor and Coach, and Founder of Virtual Voiceover™

I started Virtual Voiceover™ in the true spirit of creativeness. It was organic. When the world shut down, Backstage Magazine asked me to be their resident Voiceover Expert and share my knowledge via “Youtube Lives” with those interested in Voiceover (a field that has been growing exponentially ever since). For the last 20 years, I’ve been a working Voiceover Artist, Actor, and Coach and built my own home studios from the beginning so meeting/teaching all of the wonderful people online that were eager to learn, Read more>>

Zach Davidson | Artistic Director, Coin & Ghost

As an artist, I’ve always been keenly interested in the idea of “finding my people,” of carving out our own little corner of things. Even in high school, I was always trying to build infrastructure around my favorite collaborators. More than pursuing excellence project-to-project, what excites me most is the prospect of fostering a deeply engaged community and creating a long-term relationship between that community and the work. Starting a theatre company offers several interrelated opportunities to do just that. Read more>>

Jeremy Wolff | Arts & Entertainment Producer

I switched from the Steel Industry to the Arts & Entertainment Industries. I make art on a commercial scale now and my dream is to create music & arts festivals for lots of people to attend. I needed to start my own business in order to be happy. I needed to love what I was doing every day. My experience in business thus far puts me in a position now to achieve what I want, which is to run a successful company in the Music & Arts Sector. My goal is to run an organization that operates across a range of creative industries. Read more>>

Robert Vogel | Professional/World Champion Shooter

Well I had been a full-time police officer throughout all of my 20s. During that whole time and even before I had been a very dedicated competitive shooter. I simply got to the point where I was a multiple time national/world champion and the demand was there for me to make a living as a professional shooter. Read more>>

Connor Chase | CEO, Co-Founder & Head of Design

My thought process behind starting my business was to innovate incrementally. A year ago, I started using the Brave browser. This web browser rewards users with cryptocurrency for using the service. I thought this was an incredible and engaging business model so I made sure to remember it. One week later I was meditating and thought to apply the same model to the wellness industry. Read more>>

Anna Midé | CEO of Mobile Sculpt LLC

My thought process in starting my own business was I had been working and hustling so hard all my life that why I am not doing it for myself? Working for myself, I find it more rewarding helping my clients and creating my own schedule. I really want to provide a healing and relaxing experience where clients feel comfortable to either sleep during the treatment or talk about anything they like to! A little escape from reality for my clients. And I’m very analytical and plan a lot for the future. Very patient in making sure the plan takes place. Read more>>

Charlene Eldon | Freelance Graphic Designer

I went back to school in my mid-twenties for graphic design, and am now a freelancer. It’s a great idea for disabled people such as myself to freelance rather than work full time for someone else; even if we manage to find a boss who isn’t upset about us needing frequent sick days and doctors visit, we’re often let go from jobs because our health insurance is expensive and causes everyone else’s premiums to go up. Being a freelance graphic designer means I can work remotely, aka accessibly, and keep my health insurance through a combination of different gigs. Read more>>

Yolanda Buggs | Writer/Producer/Filmmaker/Educator

I started my own business twenty years ago. Buggsy Productions, Inc. is an independent film and television production company. We write and produce films, television shows; and most recently, we have expanded our venture into children’s books. My motivation for starting my own entertainment production company stems from my need to be self sufficient and the captain of my own destiny. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and I find myself encouraging those around me to adopt the same outlook. Read more>>

Ahmad Williams | Fashion Designer

I started DEViURi because I always had my own sense of style when it came to fashion. I started out shopping at my local malls for new clothes. However, in 2018 I found that my personal style started to change. I would often go shopping and wouldn’t walk out with anything. Nothing seemed to suit my taste. This made me decide to start making my own custom pieces. My custom clothing became popular locally and I decided to start my brand during my freshman year in college. Read more>>

Doria Karina Greenland | Energy Practitioner & Founder of Mojave Reiki

Being born and raised in Santa Monica, I never imagined that I would move to the middle of the desert and start my own business as a Reiki practitioner. In 2016, I started recognizing that city life was wearing on me. I was working as a technical recruiter and behind a computer a lot. In an effort to find some peace, I began taking trips to the desert. The desert provided me with stillness, a much needed pause to hear myself think. The draw was strong, so in 2018 I left my job and pulled the plug on over 30 years of Westside living and moved to Yucca Valley full-time. I felt at peace with my environment, but my mind was racing about what the next “career move” would be. I remember not wanting to commit to anything, asking for guidance in my daily meditations. Read more>>

Leonidas Martinos | Barber and hairdresser

1)When I decided to open my own business I was 22 years old at the time, full of dreams, passion and love for barbering and hairdressing and everything that comes with it.My goal was and still is to become as good as possible at my job so I can make my customers the happiest as possible with my services but also to improve myself as a person and as an artist.When my customers come in for a haircut or a hairstyling and relax, they often share stories or personal problems with me.In that way we start connecting and that is something that shows me trust and I’m always willing to talk to them and help them if I can. Read more>>

Joanne Ledesma | Music Business Management and Consulting

I have been fortunate to wear many hats in the music industry such as music programmer, music publisher, music business teacher and music producer. After twenty years I realized that I’m better off serving clients on a one-on-one basis with all my knowledge rather than adhering to a single company purpose. My clients vary from lyricists and songwriters to touring bands and high profile acts. Their individual needs and talent levels varied so much that I never really felt comfortable offering a single subject or one-size-fits-all approach to a group. Read more>>

wendy figone | Wellness Consultant/Retreat Leader

When COVID started, I could not offer my clients relief in the form of myofascial release. I began zooming, teaching clients how to practice self myofascial release. I also opened an outdoor “forest office”. This beautiful forested area was profoundly healing for my clients, which led me to become a forest therapy guide. I also took my clients to the ocean to practice yoga, silent disco dancing and so much more at Maverick’s beach, which is a powerful energy vortex in Half Moon Bay. Read more>>

Steve Hill | Mortgage Broker

I’ve always enjoyed being my own boss, coming up with my own ideas for marketing, expansion, new processes, and having no barrier to implement them. I always tell people ever since I went self-employed I’ve had 0 conference calls, 0 memos, 0 manager meetings, 0 annual performance reviews, 0 quarterly goals…. but with that comes a lot of added responsibility, because each month also starts out at 0 income. Read more>>

Daniel Sahlberg | Photographer Creative

I always wanted to have my own business, and since I was sixteen years old I wanted to take photographs for a living. I had been assisting photographers in Stockholm, London and New York for a long time before I started up on my own. Besides assisting, I had also been working on a self financed art show project named “Rockabilly Rebels”. Where I was portraying the Rockabilly scene in Sweden and England. It was a big deal for me because it was going to be shown in one of the most famous exhibition halls in Stockholm, named The House of Culture (similar to Pompidou in Paris). Read more>>

Sunset Media Co. | Content Creation & Marketing

Sunset Media Co. is the result of three women in the marketing industry who were ready to join forces and create a boutique social media marketing agency from the comfort of their home. The Sunset women are experts in content creation, TikTok, & influencer marketing, seeing clients triple sales through their unique approach to marketing. Read more>>

Nagmeh Hamidian | CEO & C0-Founder

I wanted to help people gain confidence and to “feel beautiful” in an authentic different way and form of education. I wanted to do this by incorporating cutting edge technology so that we can provide anyone and anywhere in the world to as many people as possible accurate, customized treatment plans to achieve their healthiest skin yet! Read more>>