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.

Troy Reed | Writer

It’s something that I thought about for a long time. You have to work hard in life to get to where you want to go. Since you have to work hard anyway, you might as well work for yourself. I didn’t want to be someone that made someone else rich. I wanted to be someone that made myself well off instead. Read more>>

Amara Primero | Film/TV composer and Managing Director of Primerchord Production Music

The challenge and the opportunity for growth. When you work for someone, you tend to work to the parameters that they require of you. I would often think, “If I was running business, I would try doing it this way…etc.” Starting my own business has allowed me to really push myself and apply different strategies that I wouldn’t be able to apply if I was working for someone else. Read more>>

Sunny | Editorial & Fashion Photographer

I started exploring cinematography at Florida State Film school and then continued at the UCLA extension program. This was where I fell in love with the art of photography. I then began working as a Director of Photography for film, where I learned how to light in different scenarios and create cinematic looks for diverse scenes. I believe lighting is one of the most powerful ways to tell a visually interesting story. I had heard over the years that many people avoided featuring darker skin tones, as more nuance is required to do so. This inspired me to lean into that focus in hopes of making a difference. During this process, I learned that film stock was originally designed to take pictures of Caucasian skin; which is insane to consider, but indicative of the limitations the industry used to place on itself. In January 2020, I opened my photo studio in Los Angeles. My subjects are often models with darker skin tone, and I now have the confidence and skillset to bring out their best presence with my signature projector lighting. Read more>>

Bryan Bowser | Writer / Speaker / Entrepreneur / Creative Director

The thought process behind starting my business was to find a legal way to make money in the hood. Born and raised in South Central LA, everybody around me was making money illegally, I saw where that was getting them so I had to find some way to start something that would last the test of time. Read more>>

Allison Bajracharya | Entrepreneur, Educator, Executive and Organizer of People, ideas, and Action.

Our multi-racial team came together in June, 2020, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, in a desire to do something different to affect real change. On the heels of the social unrest in this country, we decided to do our part to promote the economic growth of Black businesses by infusing intentional spending power and wealth into the Black community. Ultimately, we wanted to organize communities with the intent to influence mindsets and behaviors that will result in long-term support of Black owned businesses. We want to ensure the swell of support for Black business owners that emerged last summer became a movement, and not just a moment. Thus, we became the Movement of Allies for Black Businesses. Our founding team of marketing experts, business leaders, educators, activists, and entrepreneurs is volunteer run. We launched our first social media campaign in August, and are committed to building out more complete infrastructure for the organization in 2021. Read more>>

Veronica Crawford | Photographer, Retoucher, & Creative

I have had a passion for photography for as long as I can remember — running around the neighborhood I grew up in with my mom’s camera, but I don’t think I fully decided to make a commitment to it until my senior year of high school. From there is where I decided to fully pursue photography and have my own business. I didn’t begin seriously studying photography until 2015 when I transferred to ArtCenter in Pasadena, and I think that having my own business through school helped me to be creative and passionate about my work, when my school assignments weren’t necessarily providing that creative freedom that I wanted. After graduating and getting a full-time job, my business continued to allow me to be creative and meet new people, which is what I love about it the most. It serves as an outlet when I’m feeling a bit stifled in a busy work life, even if I am only working on personal projects once every few months. Read more>>

Doranna De Bortoli | Hairstylist and Makeup Artist

After 30 years of my career, I can say that it is about to realize that it is required to sow seeds of passion for my work,perseverance,courage, humility every day with love. I learned that sometime we falls down and that we always have to stand up again. At work as in life it is a metter of always adjustin the shot to find the bes strategy. Read more>>

Yvonne Low | Nail Salon Owner

My partner Crystal and I had bonded over our love of a good manicure on a road trip one day, and how it’s more than having visually appealing nails but appreciating the sense of taking time to dedicate to our personal well being is what made us love getting our nails done. We also realized that aside from the attentiveness of a well skilled manicurist, just like a well designed coffee shop with the perfect playlist and caffeine offerings, the combination of details and other elements can begin to transform a seemingly mundane process. With my past experience for many years as a cafe owner back in Singapore, and Crystal’s background in architecture, we realized we were in a unique situation where we could craft our own elevated holistic nail experience through beautiful interior space, thoughtful service elements and quality healthy products. We were excited to combine our complimentary skillsets of design and entrepreneurship to curate our ideal nail service to our customers who appreciate the same sense of revitalization through an elevated experience, We wanted a place that could provide a sense of well being, of creativity and connection to the community. Read more>>

Jonny Zeller | Director

As anyone who has done it can attest, starting your own busines can be easy. But sustaining and growing it is an incredibly difficult endeavor. I think it’s something rooted inside of a person. Entrepreneurship is a state of mind. I believe it can be learned, but there’s still a special spirit needed inside of you to start with. I couldn’t not start my own business. I think it’s important to build a team of smarter people around you and utilize the “Fail Fast” mentality. If you’re the smartest person at one part of the business, then partner with someone who is smarter in an area where you are a bit weaker. We all need a team and when your peers succeed, you succeed – there is always enough room for smart people and good ideas to succeed in this world. It’s way too difficult to do it alone. “Failing Fast” allows you to weed out bad ideas or practices quickly so you don’t waste too much time or money chasing something that isn’t going to work. Unless your passion is unrelenting and you see no other way to feel fulfilled in your professional life, I think it’s important to not be too precious about an idea and move on to the next one. If you can have one good idea, then you can have more. Read more>>

Jake Karls | Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer at Mid-Day Squares

For me; I wanted to be able to have the freedom of exploring different passions. To be unapologetically myself. I grew up surrounded by entrepreneurs; My grandparents, my father and my brother. I saw them go through hard times and uncertainty and their resilience inspired me to wanna be an entrepreneur. Read more>>

Lia Scott | Credit Expert & Financial Advocate

I wanted to be able to help others have financial freedom & to know that they didn’t have to walk their journey alone. Read more>>

Craig Owens | Author, Photographer, and Tour Guide

Originally, I embarked on taking Old Hollywood style photos in historic places for another creative project I had in mind. The locations I chose were all were supposed to be haunted, which, at least to me, added a sense of fun and mystery to the shoot. Little did I suspect at the the, that my project would eventually change the course of my life. While shooting at the Mission Inn in Riverside, CA, I witnessed strange things, like disembodied footsteps and the sound of things being moved when no one was around. I even saw my first “shadow figure,” a phenomena I didn’t believe in at the time. Months later, strange events once again occurred during a photo shoot at the Pierpont Inn in Ventura, CA. It was then that I began to wonder: is there something about my approach that was triggering these weird ghostlike occurrences? After discussing what went on at the Mission and Pierpont Inns, friends and family talked me into conducting similar photo shoots at other haunted locations for a possible book. At first, I was reluctant to write a book because it meant that I would have to shelve my other project in order to do it. Read more>>

Yoko Riesen | President of Nino Beauty LLC

I have seen many smaller Japanese companies struggling to deal with issues that often arise when expanding sales internationally and can be made even more difficult because of Japan’s Far East location, the time differences and the language and cultural barriers that can be intimidating for the uninitiated. I worked for many years in marketing, branding and licensing for my previous employer’s overseas branches and clients and with the addition of my Law degree I feel I am uniquely positioned to assist Japanese companies, especially beauty & health industry which has been my interest almost all my life in overseas market expansion, I was fortunate to recently have had a chance to partner up with Rikki, a third-generation Japanese American living in Tokyo, who has been established for over 20 years in Japan and is a leading importer and distributor of high-end, niche-brand American and European cosmetics, including jane iredale and RevitaLash®. Read more>>

Karen Carr-Crawford | Growth Strategist, Marketer, Strategic Planning and Business Plan Guru/Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Advisor

The first thought was to provide sustainable income. I had been laid off and needed to replace lost income. Fast forward 20 years and I have grown professionally and personally in ways that I would have never imagined. I started targeting small individual business owners like myself. I then moved into delivering services to larger small businesses recognizing the need for strategy and systems that were not being utilized to generate growth no matter what the business size. I have been able to craft new skills and enhance a business mindset in order to continually deliver services and grow a customer base. Read more>>

Trent Brown | Founder, Chairman and CEO, KILOGEAR, Inc.

My wife and I founded KILOGEAR CUT several years ago to address a simple need. How could we turn the body into the gym and help time-deprived adults, athletes and youth get fit faster and more safely by simply changing what they wear on a day to day basis. KILOGEAR CUT is the most advanced premium weighted performance gear and apparel in the world. All of our amazing gear is designed by the worlds top doctors in sports medicine, professional athletes, trainers, engineers, military and fashion designers. Functional fitness at its best. There has been non=stop innovation on monitoring the body, but very little in terms of impacting the body. KILOGEAR CUT is designed to help the body burn more calories naturally, while adding lean muscle…without changing the natural body biomechanics. We constantly test our gear with third-party testing groups and have refined our gear and apparel through the years. We have optimized the designs of the gear and the levels of load and resistance. All of our amazing gear is comfortable, safe and effective. Read more>>

Yael Lichaa | Founder of RAZ Studio & Films

It is easier to appreciate the good times in our lives, but to appreciate the hard times, when we struggle and are in our lowest points in life, that’s when the true appreciation develops and leads to spiritual growth and manifestation of our dreams in the future. Since I was a child, I dreamed about a “one stop” creative place where I could make various forms of art, like drawing, painting, woodworking, building, and also make movies. Of course, place like that did not exist in 80th back in Kiev, Ukraine. I also dreamed to discover something special and unique that would prevent people from getting sick and dying, and that how I thought of becoming a doctor. For many years after, it was a constant battle of a career choice between art and science. I studied both, until I realized that neither would save the world. To protect me from the anti-Semitism, my mother never told me that I was Jewish. I continued searching, found Judaism, but could not related to the religious aspects of it. Finally, after screaming to God to give me answers who I was and what was my purpose in this world, in the year of 2,000 I found the Kabbalah Centre and fully immerged in the studies of Kabbalah. Read more>>

Natalie Ramirez | Portrait Photographer

I wanted to share beauty with people. I wanted to show them their own beauty and help people feel confident about who they are. That is what my photography is all about. When someone come to be photographed by me they will have a customized experience that allows them to feel like the star of their own show. They leave with gorgeous photos of themselves that will be treasured for generations to come. Read more>>

Ronnie Lopez | Gym Owner and Certified Strength Coach

The thought process of starting my own business was answering this question, “How can I bring meaning to the work I do, on a daily basis?”. I worked for a Fortune 500 company as a manager earning a good living. I traveled the world. Some would say, I had it made. What I discovered was that corporate success did not lead to internal success. I wanted to help people and know that my work mattered. That was the driving force behind wanting to start my own business. It was the hardest but most rewarding decision of my life. Read more>>

Erika Salan | Founder, The Nicavana Project

My business is unconventional, and came from an unconventional place. The idea stemmed from a place of healing. I was in a transitional period in my life and my beloved Doberman, Sierra, passed away suddenly. In a place of needing “something” to move on, I focused on starting a fair trade project. For many years, as finances allowed, I put ethical sourcing, fair trade and transparency above all else with any products that I bought. I wanted to do the same, and put all my energy into starting my project with the same core values. I was unwilling to compromise on my ethics, and that stayed with me throughout the process of building Nicavana Project from the ground, up. Read more>>

Alisson Rosales | Gym Owner & Entrepreneur

I developed a passion for health and fitness over 24 years ago when my husband gifted me personal training sessions. After my first workout session, I was hooked! Having been transformed by this experience, I obtained my personal training certification and became a fitness trainer. Maintaining this lifestyle created a calling for me to inspire others and change lives. As a result, I decided to open Fit Body Boot Camp, Foothill Ranch in 2009. By owning and operating my own facility, it provided me the freedom and opportunity to inspire a lifestyle of health and fitness on my own terms. Because I have some very unconventional and progressive thoughts on achieving the best results possible, I am able to institute this within my program, with no obligations to any others on how this is achieved. This includes exercise, nutrition, endurance training and a unique culture, with my personal imprint. My passion is health and fitness and by starting my own business in this industry, it allows me to instill this same passion in others so that ultimately, this is passed on, not only from person to person, but from generation to generation. Read more>>

Nicole Pellegrini | Designer & Copywriter

I believe that some people are simply born with an entrepreneurial spirit, and I am one of those people. I’ve been dreaming of running my own business since before I ever entered the work force. There’s always been an appeal to it that I can’t quite explain. Whether it be a coffee shop or a design firm, I’ve always wanted to start my own business. To this day, I’m constantly coming up with new business ideas, even if I don’t end up pursuing them. I think that definitely comes with the territory of having a creative entrepreneurial mind. When I started my current business, I had just been let go from a job in fashion and took that as a sign to go out and try working for myself. I had tried running a small business in my early 20’s. That didn’t work out, so it was a scary step. But it truly felt like a “now or never” moment. This was my chance to take control of my life and take my career into my own hands. I was tired of working for companies and bosses that I didn’t resonate with, so I decided to take the plunge and become my own boss. Read more>>

Cherrelle Overby | Owner of NYCOWLL Fashion Boutique

My thought process behind starting my own business was surrounded by building a legacy for my future family. Since the very beginning of our marriage, my husband and I made a vow to break generational curses and create something that we could pass on to our future generations. Being African-American, our culture typically isn’t known for having generational wealth or if it started in a previous generation, that generation did not teach the subsequent generation how to continue these practices so that we do not return back to a state of struggle. Our boutique: NYCOWLL (pronounced Nicole) will actually be the name of our someday future daughter. We put together a unique way to spell it by combining a few letters from both of our names. We want to teach our children how to build a legacy, continue to teach their future children and help others by giving. Read more>>

Bill McFadden | Percussion Accessory Manufacturer | Musician | Chemical Engineer

Starting a business is different for everyone. While I have been an manufacturing executive working in corporate America for most of my career, I have always carried with me a strong entrepreneurial drive. A book I read, 15 years years ago, had a major impact on the type of business I wanted to own one day – “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss. Owning a business can be daunting, overwhelming and slowly extract your life force. I wanted a business that I can run from anywhere – Freedom. I wanted a business that fits into what I enjoy in life – Design, Manufacturing and Music. Lastly, for a business to be successful, you must have a unique or competitive service or product that provides value to a defined audience. No Nuts Percussion combines all of these things for me. Read more>>

Luke Forsyth | Painter

I didn’t think much about the business side of the art world and for much of my 20s and 30s. I spent a lot of time painting privately and creating multi sensory experiences in alternative art spaces. Those more experimental, “art for art sake” endeavors we’re really enriching and gave me the drive to create more – both in performance and as a painter, where my art foundation lies. I began to curate more through those early opportunities and I discovered that I love to include artists that I find captivating in a larger conversation. Remaining in conversation with artists I respect is always inspiring for creating work and also for how to build a life where making art can be central. When I was younger I was able to see my dad start his own business and have a home office. I’m grateful to have had that as a part of my upbringing, and it’s helped me think about starting my own studio and facing the same challenges that he had had when he was creating his own business during my childhood. The self-discipline and creative time management are things I employ in my own practice. Read more>>

Andrea Vicunia | Storyteller, Producer, Director & Actor

I had been an actress in Los Angeles getting called in, mostly, for many stereotypical roles when I decided to create my own content. In that process I created my production company LIBARI PICTURES, now THAT GIRL PRODUCTIONS. It started as an outlet to show my potential in regular roles and not one-dimensional characters only but then I realized my love for storytelling. I began to realize the power we have as the creators of stories and not just the performers. Since then I have explored several ways of storytelling: short films, web series, branded content, commercials, documentaries and stop-motion. I believe in learning by “doing”, making mistakes and creating more. I believe life sends you signs when you’re in the right path, here have been mine: – I won AT&T’s Best Underrepresented Filmmaker Award for ‘Stereotyped’ in a ceremony at WB Studios in Los Angeles – I won AT&T’s Best Movie made with a mobile device for ‘Something is Off’ – I have a Certificate of Recognition from City of Los Angeles for my documentary ‘Home’ – I was granted a scholarship for a cohort of ‘Women in Comedy’ for my series ‘Stereotyped. Read more>>

Alan Gomez | Owner – Commodity

My wife & I had recently moved back to California from Oregon and I already felt exhausted at the idea of going through the motions of the hiring process. At the time, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for a fresh start at my own business. I always wanted a business that focused on beer AND coffee.. But I had no money, so I got a small loan from a friend’s dad to start a coffee popup so I could start generating some revenue.. Just about a year later, I had my own space and was going through the process of getting a beer & wine license. And through the last few years, Commodity has developed into the bottle shop & cafe that is currently standing. Read more>>

Marni Task | Yoga Instructor & Indu Aromatherapy Creator

I never really thought of starting “a business” per se. Starting with going to college, I’ve always followed my heart. I went to NYU for acting and learned yoga while there. I loved acting and then also fell in love with yoga and because I loved both things I wanted to share them and create a career from what I loved. I believed if you do what you love the money will follow. After I started teaching yoga, I began experimenting with essential oils. Inspired by my beloved teachers Sharon Gannon and David Life, creators of the Jivamukti Yoga School, who would massage my neck and shoulders at the end of class with a lotion that completely relaxed me, I created an essential oil blend that my students fell in love with. I had no intention of creating a business out of my lotion concoction. But after the 100th person asked me where they could buy the lotion, I thought maybe I should make a bigger batch. It gave me so much happiness to bring happiness and relaxation to my students. And so my hand made mantra mixed Indu Aromatherapy Lotion was born. So it was all an organic evolution that evolved out of my love for theater and yoga. Read more>>

Deborah Hurwitz | Productivity Coach for Perfectionists

After 25 years of freelancing, punctuated by longer-term gigs like hit Broadway shows and concert tours, I knew I needed a better way to create stability for myself. I was tired of the hustle, and especially tired of working for other people’s visions and brands. Ownership became a non-negotiable for me, along with creative control and a healthy dose of pleasure and self-care. Starting a new business at 50 has its perks, including leaving behind what you’re “supposed” to do and what others might think! My building blocks became what is now COBALT Coaching: Creativity, Ownership, Balance, Action and Leadership Training. Read more>>

Rachael Henson | Sculptor

I began thinking of starting my candle business earlier this summer after collaborating with my studio mate to create specialty candles. Before the pandemic I was making work that was sensory based but also transient, these “edible images” were edible ink printed images that were transferred onto surfaces and meant to be consumed. These pieces were meant to change with time, either to be eaten or to decay. After the pandemic hit, I decided that I wanted to continue to create objects that could be both sensory and functional, but were more accessible to people. I really love candles because of how simple yet evocative they can be, as well as their capacity to hold both pigment and scent. With candles you can have your own little sculpture that will deform into something new when you light it. The sensory characteristics can also be extended to touch as well, as I am currently experimenting with making candles that can be used for BDSM wax play too. The versatility of wax makes for interesting and exciting new avenues. Read more>>

Chella | Entrepreneur

I have a few businesses that I have started, to start I am a photographer, so I shoot events, weddings, head shots etc. So I started my photography business Kifahari , and I do pretty well so I continue to work on my craft and get better. Since I’m also in the entertainment industry because I do modeling as well, I know a lot of directors, and producers, so I started my own casting company. So I cast talent for a variety of different jobs and opportunities, that has been very rewarding as well. It feels great to be able to create income for my friends and people around me. So I’m 2020 I started my own clothing line, I have a YouTube channel as well so while growing my YouTube during corona virus I gained over 50k subs and I have multiple videos up. So I started my clothing line called Rich is Right. And I have men and women clothing. So everything kind of just happen it was just thrown my way and I took full advantage of every opportunity. Read more>>

Raul Ramirez | Founder, Catch Wrestling Alliance

Over the last century Catch Wrestling had all but gone extinct. Offshoots like Freestyle and predetermined Pro Wrestling are what many think about when they hear the word, “Wrestling.” I wanted to give a voice to, and raise awareness of the wrestling style that started it all, Catch Wrestling. Read more>>

Knajula Edwards | Apparel Designer and Author

My business was started as a direct result of asking God to give me a business that I could steward. See, up until that point, I had started a few different businesses that never were as successful as I felt they could have been. So I prayed and asked God to give me a business of His choosing that I could steward, be successful in, and ultimately push His Kingdom agenda. Much to my surprise, about two weeks later, He dropped this business on me. Honestly, I wasn’t all that thrilled initially. I was like “Really God, a t-shirt line. But, ok, if that’s what you want.” Needless to say, He began giving me an entire vision for the band, packaging, marketing, etc. Fast forward to now, it has been an unbelievable ride and CMCG Apparel has become wildly successful. Read more>>

Jasai Madden | Author, Mindfulness Facilitator, Owner of Alaiyo Waistbeads

On day one and every day since – for the past 4+ years -I have shown up to do this work because the people who need it have made their needs known. And I know that is powerful. I was obedient to my spirits call to make and then write about making a waistbead and every day since has been experiencing that decision as it’s busts further into bloom. Read more>>

Natasha Maxwell | Brand Consultant and Wellness Coach

The idea for creating a digital agency that services wellness brands came about shortly after our world shutdown due to COVID. I saw a need for guidance and strategic positioning for coaches and small businesses who were struggling with adapting to the new world of virtual and online services. From working in the health industry these past 6 years I felt I could bridge the knowledge and expertise I had in business building and retention with the 5 years of brand marketing experience I had before that. Who better than someone who’s been on both sides to help these brands reinvent, stand out in a sea of others, and get clear on who they want to help and what problem they solve for them. Read more>>

Katie Ravnik | Holistic Personal Chef

My thought process behind starting my own business was informed by the desire to be a conduit for healing to those struggling with chronic health issues. In 2015, I was diagnosed with permanent repetitive strain injuries in both arms – as a result of my computer-based job – and told to find a new career that didn’t rely heavily on computer work. I was determined not to be defined by my diagnosis, so in addition to my regular physical therapy exercises, I started researching anti-inflammatory foods and doing acupuncture/Chinese medicine treatments as a way to help my body heal itself. I have been passionate about cooking since I was young and I was delighted to discover that not only was it an activity that didn’t aggravate my injuries, it also provided a wonderful outlet for my creativity. I enrolled in a culinary program focused on eating for health and got certified as a holistic chef. By transforming my diet and adopting a holistic wellness routine, I was able to dramatically reduce my chronic pain symptoms. Read more>>

Kimberly Nguyen | Interior Designer and Stager

Interior design started as a hobby, where I enjoyed designing and staging the homes I was flipping, resulting in those properties selling for more money and felt, I can help others do the same. Read more>>

Jennifer Daigle | Content Creator & Photographer

I always believed that if I was going to be putting effort toward anything in my life it needed to be effort towards my family legacy. You may have heard the quote, “if you do one thing and it fails, it’s ok, it just might lead you to the thing that will lead you to the thing that will be your thing.” I knew that starting a photography business wouldn’t necessarily define my “legacy” but through running my business I have learned invaluable lessons and have had to shift and grow in so many ways that I have found myself invested in many different companies. What once started as a small portrait and wedding photography business has now grown into a small boutique creative agency. Serving others that have started their own businesses has allowed me to come full-circle after fourteen years. The life of an entrepreneur seems glamorous at times, but in all honesty it is a lot of work, financially it can be risky and sometimes you receive no reward. You end up at times having to humble yourself and instead of giving up, be willing to take a step back and start fresh. For me, I would rather accept the risk of an entrepreneurial life than live any other way. Read more>>

Kourtney Rojas | Owner & Baker

It is funny, because to be honest everything about starting my own business has been so organic. The question alone makes me laugh because it dawns on me, “oh yes, I own and run a business.” WOW. In 2011 I started baking pies. I had been baking and learning and experimenting since 2007 when I graduated college with an English degree. I was working at Flour Bakery in Boston. I saw how happy baked goods made people. The joy a freshmade muffin brought to a person’s weekend. It wasn’t just the baked goods though. The company, Flour Bakery, baked everything from scratch. It was so important to put the work in behind the product that was going out into the public. That stuck with me. Back to 2011, I was looking in Orange County for a pie bakery that did just that, fresh baked pies 100% from scratch, and I found nothing. So I started baking for friends, and family. Here we are in 2021, close to 10 years later and that is all that I have done. Continued to bake fresh seasonal pies with my own two hands. Read more>>

Keliecia Parker | Product Developer and CEO

Ever since I could process a thought or idea I knew I wanted to own a business. As I discovered more of my passions I realized it’d be a fashion company. I want to build something so strong and unique to leave for the future generations to come.. I feel as though my family has sacrificed so much in order for me to fully drop everything and shoot for the stars. So with that in mind, I chose to finally devote my time to my brand. Read more>>