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.

Jennifer Brasuell | Dance Instructor & Choreographer

The Dance Wire is live virtual dance classes that was created in response to the pandemic. I have been teaching and choreographing dance for 20 years, and when the quarantine hit, it forced much of our daily lives to migrate online, and I followed. Dance is fun! Kids love to dance, so with my love for teaching, it seemed natural. Kids have fun with different themed days like Throw Back Thursdays, dance party classes with disco lights, and TikTok Tuesdays. Additionally, we film and create mini dance videos. Kids learn a choreographed dance in class, film themselves at home, and then send in their footage which is edited into a cool music video to share with their friends and classmates. Rather than the quarantine limiting what we’re able to do, it’s proved to be quite the opposite — opening the door for many activities and methods of teaching which may not have been apparent in years prior. Read more>>

Tom Henschel | Executive Coach & Podcast Host

Years after I graduated high school, I visited my favorite teacher. He told me he’d been impressed that as a senior in high school I had declared, “I could never work a 9 – 5 job.” I had no memory of that, but it resonated. And it certainly is how I have lived my life. My first career, as a professional actor, was highly unpredictable which suited me fine. When I saw that my acting work wouldn’t sustain me or my family into retirement, it never occurred to me to “get a job.” So I’m not certain there was a “thought process” behind starting my business. Rather it feels as though it was a choice that simply presented itself as a fait accompli. Read more>>

Melissa Steginus | Author, Speaker & Productivity and Wellness Specialist

While I try to avoid the word “should,” I believe that what you do should also serve you. I wanted to start my own business to serve my community and people all around the world while also aligning with my values and giving me what I need in life: freedom, creativity, connection, and fulfillment. I’m a very independent, self-disciplined person, and I’ll always choose to carve out my own path versus try to morph to fit into someone else’s predefined box. Before I began building my business, I really struggled to “fit” into predefined professional roles related to my background in social work. I knew I could help people in a meaningful way and based on my unique strengths and interests so I slowly began to find and create opportunities to do that. Read more>>

SA Brown | Filmmaker & Teacher

My thought process behind starting my own business is creating my own table instead of begging for a seat at ‘theirs.’ In the past as a content creator, one had to wait to get a ‘green light’ from big studios and Hollywood producers. Now with online streaming services, you can create content and build an audience without powers-that-be giving you the ok. In addition, I want control over my creations. It seems you relinquish so much control gaining the backing of a major studio. Read more>>

Ryan Carter | Local Crown Dealer

My thought process behind creating my brand came from personal experience. I wanted to remind women and young girls that they could overcome any and everything, that regardless of what life throws at you, you are still a queen. I also wanted to create a safe place for us to come together and talk, share, cry laugh etc without any judgement while also having a good time. Read more>>

Wilford Sanchez | Celebrity Fashion Stylist

The decision came after I did a spec shoot, where was paid well (which can be rare in this industry), and it dawned on me I can do styling for a living. At that time, around 2011, I was doing product development with American Apparel and I began to research creating a styling business on my own. I made the final decision after I was signed to Celestine agency, and I quit my job with American Apparel and leaped into the unknown. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because it gave me absolute creative freedom, however, it took a lot of hard work to make it successful. Read more>>

Jang Lee | CFO

I’ve had the opportunity to work for several early stage startup companies. This gave me the opportunity to work with a lot of amazing founders who were pursuing their dreams of building something big. My role in these companies were to (1) ensure that on our way to making the Founder’s dream a reality, we didn’t run out of money (2) build process to improve unit economics and (3) work cross functionally to address risk areas and improve the business. Living through this for over 10 years and having been a part of 4 fast growing startups, I realized my own dream. This was to use my experience and partner with founders and figure how to build and scale their business. I founded and launched Upround Partners with the sole purpose of using finance to help increase a company’s valuation. Read more>>

Howard Richman | Pianist, Composer, Teacher, Inventor & Empowerment Coach

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved the feeling of being a helper. I loved helping my dad, when he would say “Howard, go in the den and get the phillips screwdriver for me.” Since 1975, I’ve been teaching piano and that is a form of helping and empowering. I notice this common thread in all of my many ventures since then…. “How can I help to make someone’s life better?” Another aspect of my motivation is if I find a solution to help me in my own life, I want to share my discovery with others. My piano teaching has blossomed into a whole school with teachers of all instruments teaching in-person and online: https://www.richmanmusicschool.com In the past ten years, toothbrush manufacturers (for some unknown reason) have been phasing out the traditional flat-style bristles in favor of multi-level design. Read more>>

Jacqueline Hinton | Pilates Instructor, Professional Dancer, Choreographer & Entrepreneur

When I was getting certified to become a Pilates instructor in 2006, I couldn’t help but notice I was being forced to use the same communal Pilates loops as everyone else. I saw hand after hand and foot after foot going into the same straps every day. And I saw that people were touching their faces nonstop while exercising. After watching this every day during my certification classes, I had a bit of an epiphany. I wondered why I couldn’t have my own loops to take to class with me? And why couldn’t these loops be cute instead of the normal black you regularly saw on all the machines? That day I went home to my now-husband and told him my idea. With that, the idea for Good Citizen Pilates Loops was born! Read more>>

Larry Brownstein | Commercial and Fine Art Photographer

I was working in the high-technology field which was comfortable and enjoyable for me. I often traveled on vacations. On one extended trip throughout Asia I was fortunate to travel with a friend who was a photographer. I bought my first camera, pocket-sized Minox, at our first stop in Hong Kong. My friend, Harry Peronius, took photos everywhere and all the time. So, I began to take pictures everywhere and all the time. Harry also gave me feedback about my photos. By the time we left Asia, I fell in love with photography. I continued traveling and photographing and began to have my photos published in magazines. That was the beginning of turning my photography into a business. It grew slowly but surely. I sell stock images. I photograph weddings and other events. And, I exhibit regularly in galleries such as Gallery 825 in Los Angeles. Read more>>

Evette Vargas | Writer, Director & Producer

I often tell people, “I accidentally started a company!” The Writers Room 5050 Foundation was certainly a dream, but in earnest, it organically grew out of my activism. For more than a decade, I have been mentoring and creating opportunities for underrepresented storytellers — Latinx, BIPOC, and women in the entertainment business, as well as fostering fresh voices. As a Latina writer, director and producer, inclusion is a huge issue for me. In 2019, I mentored five diverse screenwriters, wanting to break into television. So, I organized a writer’s room setting, where the writers broke a season arc of the series, Killing Eve, then wrote an episode of that season arc, and ended the experience with a table read of their scripts. The writers had incredible breakthroughs. Read more>>

Veronica Clanton-Higgins | Therapist, Life & Sexuality Coach

Initially my thought process was the concept of ending intergenerational cycles of toxic behavior. I figured my work would be impactful if I could teach people how to fight against negative thinking, reframe their perspective on what happiness is , and teach them how to manage their emotions. This starts the ripple effect of goodness, while also assists in ending familial cycles of toxic behaviors. I started VCH Prosperity Consulting in 2016 to address the social, emotional, and spiritual needs of women in my community. (I felt that the women have such a profound role in families. So if I help her, I help the entire household. I have made it her life’s purpose to improve the lives of others by helping them discover their “happy” through the use of mindfulness-based interventions. Read more>>

Jennifer & Jaime Vallinas | Owners

We had our dream destination wedding with our closest friends and family in early 2020, right before COVID hit. When our wedding was over, we had wanted to keep the wedding week celebration going still and basically do the wedding all over again because we had so much fun, but of course we couldn’t! So the idea of Made With Jetaime Events came about. MWJ started with the idea of us wanting to help other couples have their dream wedding just as we had ours. The cost of wedding planners and coordinators are expensive and we wanted to offer the quality of a planner and coordinator without the expensive money tag that comes along with it. However, when COVID hit and large events were being cancelled, we wanted for families and couples to still celebrate whatever occasion it may be – graduation, anniversary, engagement, birthdays, and more – in a different way! Read more>>

Shira Yevin | Founder

Gritty in Pink was a long time coming, born out of a crusade that started back on the Vans Warped Tour, when I founded the Shiragirl Stage. The original vision was to do a traveling festival tour of female artists; I worked with Warped Founder Kevin Lyman to develop my concept and plan, however I soon realized what I wanted to create was far bigger than just a tour: I set out to build a true lifestyle brand. We officially launched Gritty in Pink in Jan 2020 as a monthly event in LA, and at the time I had a full-time job in the beverage industry, so this was my side hustle. After 3 successful events that cultivated a special female-driven community in the music scene, COVID 19 hit- and so we pivoted to do a livestream in place of our April show. When we saw how many people tuned in, we decided do it weekly. Read more>>

Too Zen | Visual Artist & Entrepreneur

I decided to start taking my art seriously in November of 2018. I was experiencing a lot of post-grad depression, since graduating college that June. I went abroad for 3 weeks after graduating, and came back with no money. So I had to take any jobs I could find since I’ve been supporting myself since I turned 18. I would cry while pouring sauces at a burger joint because I felt like my undergraduate success was all for nothing. The only thing that kept me from falling into further depression was art. I kept picking up small part time jobs here and there until I could find something full time. While I was working these part time jobs I felt like there had to be more life, and like I could do more. I decided I was going to start my own business, after seeing @xenoughsaidx aka Brianna Hernandez make it as a successful Artist on twitter. Read more>>

Paul Tavenner | Music Producer & Entrepreneur

Starting my own business was a way for me to continue working in an industry I found to be highly dysfunctional and abusive. I hated the thought of “throwing away” all those excellent years of college education by switching careers just because the actual system was bad. Fortunately for me, technology was changing rapidly by the time I entered the workforce. I began to see that it might be possible in the fairly near future to afford high-end audio equipment for thousands of dollars, not millions. I didn’t have thousands of dollars at that time in my life, but it gave me hope that the mountain of money needed to afford such equipment had been reduced to a small but steep hill. So, I quit my job and started researching areas in the audio industry that were underserved. Read more>>

Claris Sayadian-Dodge | Manager

I launched studioexpresso and C Artists in 2000 after I left Ocean Way studios (managed the facility’s 7 studios for 12 years). The idea was to assemble choice producers I knew and make them available to growing ranks of independent artists (both major and new) who seek development services. Labels were becoming more of a distribution and marketing centers rather than place to nurture artists. Era was marked by online services being launched including Spotify, YouTube, Apple, Amazon… Quickly we amassed about 100 producers who could be found with a simple Google search, some with their own private studios! Twenty years later, we’re here for artists. Our monthly eZine reaches 25,000 industry subscribers and Grammy voters – artists, session musicians, labels, managers, music supervisors and media. Read more>>

Jack McCaffrey | Freelance Animator

The idea to start an animation company had always been in the back of the mind, but honestly seemed like a bit of a pipe dream. Then in the middle of 2020 when all film work transitioned into being fully remote, it suddenly appeared more and more possible to found a studio entirely from my home. So with the power of a strong Wi-Fi signal, I created “HelloJelloShip,” where I provide animation services for clients as well as independently produce animated shorts. I’ve done animation my whole life, so I’d say the business is just a natural extension of that. The process of collaborating with others to bring ideas to life through the whole production process is very cool and rewarding. Read more>>