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.

Alexis Artin | Life Coach, Author & Speaker

I always identified myself as someone who was “searching” for themselves. It spanned all areas of my life, from my relationships to my career and it was excruciating. I had even earned the nickname “the Forest Gump of the Feminine” from my friends because I had been a job gypsy for so many years. Whether it was working at Hooters, managing doctor’s offices or starting an events company, I was endlessly seeking my place, my purpose. It was when I landed my first role in the entertainment industry that it all started to come together. My ability to be flexible in different environments and meet expectations under varying circumstances made me an asset. I climbed the ladder quickly, going from riding around with friends in beat up cars to flying on private jets with top tier celebrities. Read more>>

Ashley Yano Hilary Pawlik | Co-Artistic Director, Choreographer & Dance Educators

Artist Entrance Dance Company was founded on the idea of bridging the dance studio experience with the professional dance world. There is a serious need for a pre-professional dance company that prepares serious artists/dancers for a possible future in commercial dance, concert dance and dance education and this is why we started this company. The other thought behind starting AEDC was to empower young dancers to explore their artistry and allow them to open their eyes to all of the possibilities available to them in the professional dance realm. Read more>>

Amanda Petro | Yoga Teacher, Sound Healing Facilitator & Reiki Master

There were many reasons I started this journey. The first one and a major motivator for me was to help people. I have always been a physically inclined person and love expressing myself through movement. I grew up a gymnast and dancer, flexibility and strength were of huge importance for me. It made my feel my best, Finding yoga was a pivotal moment in my life because I learned how to move in a more sustainable and accessible way, in a way that connected me to my spirit and purpose, that taught me how to breathe in order to regulate tough emotions and challenging moments. Yoga taught me how to be a better person, to come from my heart space, to care in a way that was open and accepting of all walks of life. Read more>>

Jeff Kunze | Bridge2PT CEO & Doctor of Physical Therapy

Our thought process about starting Bridge2PT has morphed over time. Originally, my wife Rose and I were facing the realization that one of us may have to stay home to care for our son Hendrix due to his growing medical needs and doctor appointments. At this time there was a new business model arising through companies such as Uber and Lyft. We thought, “Why doesn’t healthcare deliver high quality, convenient care to patients’ homes?” We began to research and were shocked to find that there was nothing like this available. I was working at an outpatient orthopedic clinic treating patients every 20 minutes, the current clinic norm, which did not always allow me to address all of my patient’s needs. This is when the idea of Bridge2PT was born. Read more>>

Tamra Johnson | Entrepreneur, Advisor & Investor

Initially, when I left working for a big corporation after almost a decade to start my own business, it was my desire to have more control over how I was spending my time and to be able to work directly on problems I cared a lot about. I knew I wanted to create more professional opportunities for mid-career women that are highly accomplished and need more flexibility than a typical full time job presents. I wasn’t totally sure how I was going to go about doing that. In the over 9 years since I identified that as the problem I wanted to work on, the how I am going about it has evolved. And in creating and building one business, you end up learning about additional opportunities and problems to solve. Read more>>

Steffie Funk | Shamanic Healer & Founder

I was at a point in my life where I was operating in my ‘Zone of Competence’ – ‘successful’ but also uninspired, burnt out, and stressed out. From outward appearances, it looked like I had it all together, but I had completely lost interest in my work. I finally decided: ‘good enough’ was no longer ‘good enough’. I thought of myself laying on my death bed looking back on my life and knew that if I didn’t bet on myself and the whispers of my heart (which were, at the time, TOTALLY irrational), I would regret it. So I went for it, took the leap, started my Shamanic Healing business, and stepped into my Zone of Genius: Urban Shamanism. My mess became my message. Read more>>

April Stewart | Owner & Formulator

I started my business out of pure need. I have always had little Flare ups of eczema and rosacea as a pre teen/teen and it was manageable. However as an adult it just hit me and I was left scrambling for help. I went to the doctor who gave me steroids and creams shampoo and though it calmed my symptoms my hair was breaking and still falling out. So out of desperation I started researching cosmetic proportions herbs and extracts to help my skin and my hair. I started with my Intense mint Scalp infusion oil… The first product I ever made to address eczema and dermatitis. It’s a soothing oil to stop itching address dryness of the dermis and roots of hair. This was so important to me because I needed a oil that my skin was actually going to absorb and benefit from. Read more>>

Ryan Pfeiffer | Drink Maker

Like many young professionals, I couldn’t afford to get sick working in finance and trying to have a life on the weekends. We had no “sick days” and instead loaded up on as many vitamins and health drinks we could, tried to hide our sniffles, and returned to our desk. As soon as any semblance of a cold surfaced, I ran to the pharmacy, the health foods store, and smoothie bar and filled up with vitamins, fruits, and pills. These were never cheap runs. I thought there had to be a better way to get back on my feet than a pharmacy cocktail of supplements. When I learned the product I wanted didn’t exist, I went about trying to make it. I started experimenting with ingredients that science has proven hastens recoveries, to create a single shot to fulfill all my vitamin and antioxidant requirements. With the help of a food scientist and nutritionist, we managed to bottle this elixir into a shelf-stable shot. Read more>>

Emily Rotenberg, RDN | Registered Dietitian

My thought process behind starting my own business was to work on the preventive side of nutrition. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is amazing that as a Registered Dietitian I’m able to make sound evidence-based recommendations via medical nutrition therapy for conditions such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, etc. On the other hand, it’s even more amazing that nutrition education/counseling, re-establishing one’s relationship with food and body, and implementing attainable behavior changes can significantly decrease one’s risk of chronic disease. For that reason, I started my Nutrition Counseling Virtual Private Practice. Read more>>

Arthur Chivichyan | Educational Leader & Coach

I was fortunate enough to identify my passion at a very young age. I was able to use my passion to define my purpose and how I can socially impact individuals and a collective group of people. Starting my own business gave me the opportunity to instill my own mindset, thought process and influence the community I lead. It gives me a sense of healthy control and power over the success of others, and that is one of the significant points I always make to the people whom I surround myself with. I get to differentiate myself from other educators, as I am not copying and rebranding someone else’s work; I am creating my own blend of how I believe people can perform, thrive and reach their potential; specifically todays youth and young adults. Read more>>

Joshua “Cartier” Cutsinger Cutsinger | Producer, Mixer & Studio Owner

I started in the music business at the tail end of the era when recording studios were all analog based. Shortly thereafter, digital audio workstations (DAWs) like Pro Tools began appearing on the scene. There was a transition period where records were still primarily being recorded on analog tape, while specialized Pro Tools engineers and systems would be brought in for specific editing tasks. I saw the need for this and invested in a fairly elaborate Pro Tools system which I would rent to studios for these editing sessions. The proliferation of more affordable digital audio gear made it possible to do overdubs outside of large recording studios. So, I started Hayloft Studios in Chicago. This helped a lot with musicians’s album budgets. It allowed them to do the more tedious and time-consuming process of overdubs at a cheaper rate. Read more>>

Sharon Baluku | Designer & Entrepreneur

It was a thought that had lingered in my mind for many years, as a matter of fact to some degree ever since I was a child. Because of my background and the privileges that I have been granted throughout my life, I have always known that I wanted to pay it forward to others who could benefit. I was born in Uganda in East Africa, and at the age of four, my family and I made a huge transition and moved to Sweden. Growing up there (and later in the US), I was always aware of my luck in life, and the opportunities that I was given because of where I lived. I was surprised to learn that many young girls around the world were not able to attain an education simply because of their gender, and the more I learned, the more I realized that I wanted to do my part to help. So starting Baluku Design had a lot to do with girls’ education. Read more>>

Maya Zellman | Owner & Chief Sweet Officer

Prior to starting my business I was working as a professional dancer and teaching artist. I was basically living out my biggest childhood dreams. When I had the idea to start Maya’s Brigadeiro Brazilian Sweets, it was really out of left field. I had no experience in the culinary arts, and I had no experience running a business, I had never even worked in any business/corporate setting in my life, I was an artist from the moment I graduated college. I had the idea to start Maya’s Brigadeiro on one of my annual trips to visit my family in Brazil, as well as to officiate a friend’s wedding. I introduced some of the Americans who came for the wedding to my favorite Brazilian sweet, BRIGADEIRO, and they all fell in love as much as I did when I started eating it as a young child. Something just clicked, I knew I had to bring Brigadeiro to Los Angeles, and to the greater United States. Read more>>

Andrea Russell | “Cookie Lady” – Cookie Baker Extraordinaire!

I come from an entrepreneurial family. My mother built a successful company when I was a child, and it is still operating to this day! My business however, was started by ACCIDENT! After my divorce I decided to go back to school to finish my Bachelor’s Degree. The final project for my last class was centered around creating a business. We were assigned to author a business plan, including market research and projections and pitch our business “Shark Tank Style” to the rest of our class. I created The Cookie Jar as this final project. I always knew I made great cookies, and I thought it would be a good idea. For my pitch, I baked cookies for the entire class and had them packaged and labeled with my homemade logo (not the one I use today), and everyone LOVED them. Read more>>

Chavonne Stewart | Founder & Director of Exposher, Inc.

Exposher was started out of a strong desire to impact the lives of underserved girls like myself. Growing up as a young girl in South Central Los Angeles, I was not exposed to much, and it wasn’t until I went to high school that the world opened up for me in such an amazing way. Through singing I was able to travel and really see the world, and I thought to myself, “I can have the life I choose and not the life that I’ve seen growing up as a child, and I will show other girls that they can have the life that they choose to have.” With that thought, I formed my non-profit and began to mentor young girls. My goal was, and still is, to be to them, what I needed someone to be to me. Read more>>

Erica Sardarian-Peterson | Founder & CEO

Growing up as a first-generation Armenian American with immigrant parents, I was always taught to work hard. My dad moved to Los Angeles in 1979 as a young twenty-something and his first job was writing tickets at a car wash. He eventually started his own business, which has always inspired and will continue to inspire my entrepreneurial spirit. I started Sweet Little Nothings xo, a stationery company specializing in sweet notes and custom cards, after I began roaming the aisles of a card shop and couldn’t find the right card to send my then boyfriend who lived across the country. Not finding the right card really inspired me to create my own. I didn’t have a design background and I had no idea how to even create a greeting card but I loved handwritten notes and I knew I wanted to make something special. Read more>>

Maja Re | Corporate Wellness Instructor, Certified Yoga and Breathwork Instructor, Usui / Tibetan Reiki Master & Visionary

In an instant, my whole life changed. Everything shifted. Nothing made sense, yet everything was clear. Many of us are driven and propelled by the events that happen to us, instead of taking those events and rising above to an even better place. Bills must be paid, so we focus on how to make money rather than honing in on our true purpose. I feel eternally blessed for my wake up call… In 48 hours I found out that cancer had been removed from my body and was “no longer there” and before I could even process “beating” such a terrible disease, my mother was taken from this earth. It was then that I knew that I was put here for something bigger, something greater than myself. I knew I needed to find my true path. After spending almost half my life working in the corporate world, and practicing yoga for almost as long, I decided to make a change not only in myself, but I knew I wanted to help others find their inner peace. Read more>>

Helena Lau | Owner

Since early childhood, from watching and helping my parents with their business, it had taught me not to be scared to venture out on my own. But I’ve also grown up in the era where you were suppose to start from the bottom and learn your way up, pay your dues, so I’ve always work hard and tried to gain as much experience as possible until I felt I was ready. From that point of view, and armed with my BFA in Fashion Design from Parson’s, I took on as many various roles as possible in the Fashion Industry from Design, Product Development, Production, to even Retail, finally deciding to focus on Textiles Research & Development. That is where I’ve realized my passion, with stints at Vera Wang, Rebecca Taylor, and Marchesa overseeing all their materials sourcing and development. When I decided to move from NYC to LA, it was nerve racking at first, to leave my position in the Industry, but I also felt that I knew how to help Designers on a larger scale in a better way. Read more>>

Julie Fox | Health, Wellness and Life Coach & Follow Your Trail Trail Coach

Making a difference in as many lives as possible is my passion! It’s exciting to empower women to live their best life and to not just dream their life but to actually LIVE their dreams. I have such great great belief in people, especially women, as I’ve had to work through many obstacles/crisises in my life from childhood to the present. For many years my friends and family members encouraged me to become a life coach. I resisted for many years as I’ve been blessed to have a long-time successful career as a leader in a direct sales company. I finally gave in and took the steps toward becoming a certified Health, Wellness, and Life Coach. I feel that I’m able to help so many more people as a result. Read more>>

Nicolas Pigot | Branding and Creative Director

Starting my own business was always in the back of my mind. I have been raised in France, in a modest family, and as a kid I thought that the only way to transcend my family social status was to be a business owner. That was obviously a misconception, but it gave me the drive to ultimately become a business owner. During my college years I figured I needed a wide range of skills if I ever wanted to be my own boss, I started off studying graphic designs and computer science and shifted to a business major. This “unconventional” shift at the time ended up giving me an edge and led me to get a decent job right after college, working for a medium size business. The company in question gave me an internship in Los Angeles, which was a huge deal for a French kid, that company was doing garment printing and had a eco-conscious clothing brand. Read more>>

Anthony Sturmas | LA Storyboard Concept Artist

I have never enjoyed working for anyone, but you got to start off somewhere. I hustled allot back in the day, by airbrushing on shirts with graffiti, pin stripping lowrider cars, painting murals in LA and in South Central ie: (The Yard, Belmont tunnel back when it was accessible, 9th street under the FWY bridge in Long Beach). Friends, car clubs, dance crews, girlfriends would come to me to have me airbrush sweatshirts, hoodies, pants you name it. That is pretty much when I started to hustle my art and make a living at it. Its not easy and its not for everyone but if your heart is in it to win it, you will succeed. Its not so much talent its more like are you willing to go the extra mile? You must have determination. Read more>>

Peter Lozano | Podcaster

We originally started this podcast as a creative outlet to work on together as a married couple. We knew that with minimal equipment and a good idea we could produce something that we could be proud of. We both had some experience guesting on podcasts and we actively listen to several so we knew what we liked as far as content. We both love movies so we knew a show focused on film/cinema history would be right up our alley and spinning it towards the queer/LGBTQIA community was the perfect hook. Plus we both love listening to the sounds of our own voices so podcasting was the logical choice. Read more>>