Starting and growing a business is hard, but often deciding to start the business in the first place is even harder. We asked some successful entrepreneurs from around the community to open up to us about how they thought about starting a business.

Allison Johnston | Artist & Illustrator

Starting my design and illustration business was a very organic process. I don’t think I ever really sat down and said, “I’m going to quit my job and start a business!” After graduating with a degree in graphic design, I kind of assumed I would work at a design firm and that would be that. Instead I was a graphic design intern for a while, worked in-house for a real estate company, interned again for a software and tech firm, and worked in-house again for a home decor company before realizing how much I hated the typical work-in-an-office nine to five grind. I started freelancing in my spare time and eventually made the switch to freelancing full-time, but I still didn’t feel particularly passionate about the work I was doing. It honestly wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized I wasn’t a designer — I was an artist and illustrator masquerading as a designer because I had the misconception that it was more employable and I had the fear that I would never be able to make a living making art. Read more>>

Giusseida Sicoli | Owner

What was your thought process behind starting your own business? I had been in the dentistry field for almost a decade and I wanted to switch gears and run a business where I could apply my passion for service and attention to detail but in a sector where my efforts could scale effectively. I also wanted to be part of something where I could extract the most value out my international exposure. My husband and I lived in the France-Switzerland border for a while and needless to say, we developed a passion and appreciation for gourmet chocolate. We looked for potential businesses to purchase in Houston and we found Araya Artisan Chocolate. The previous owners moved out of the country and we came across the opportunity to purchase the company. Araya Artisan Chocolate is one of the longest running and highest-ranked fine chocolatier in Houston and is a company that has an outstanding array of products. The brand is well positioned in Texas, and our customers love our products. It was a no-brainer! Read more>>

Kate Miller | Newborn, Maternity & Family Photographer

When I started my business in 2009 I didn’t really know how much it was going to grow. I knew that I loved photography and thought if I could make a little extra money while still working my day job it would be great. Looking back starting my business was the best thing I ever did. I have been a full time photographer since 2016 and I love that I get to wake up everyday and do something that makes me happy and doesn’t feel like a job. Read more>>

Alana Kennedy-Nasser, MD | Pediatrician & Trailblazer

Life is short. If you CAN be your own boss, do it. Small business owners and entrepreneurs tend to be risk takers, willing to fly without a firm safety net. I know that starting the first concierge, membership based, insurance free pediatric practice in the greater Houston area was a very big risk. However, having spent my prior medical years working for a large pediatric academic center, I recognized that most medical business models rely on a revolving door of large volumes of patients, with physicians spending too much time on the never ending “clicking” of boxes in an electronic medical record to maximize insurance reimbursement. And I knew that I would rather spend that time really, really getting to know my patients, their parents, their pets, their fears, their passions, their medical issues and their life changes. So, starting the practice was the easy part! Read more>>

Aiyesha Minott | Owner, Lead Design Consultant & Planner

I knew that I wanted to create something that was tied to my passion. I knew that I wanted the freedom to move in ways that wouldn’t be restrained. I wanted to create an avenue for me, and one in which others behind me could follow. I wanted to show my children that their mother is a strong person, with a mind to be an innovator, a creator, a lifelong learner of her craft. Read more>>

Erika Labuzan-Lopez | Owner

As a therapist, I’ve always been passionate about providing high quality therapy to my clients. However, most therapists coming out of school work for agencies and other non profits that help them get their hours towards licensure, which is great, but at a rate that is often unsustainable. I found myself providing 50 sessions/week of therapy working as a contractor, and I realized quickly this was not the way I wanted to practice. So, I began the process of starting my own private practice in which I had control over how many clients I would see, how much or little I wanted to work, and I actually had time to do trainings to continue to grow as a professional and become an even better therapist. I am now moving into a group practice so that I can hire new therapists to come work with me, help them get the clinical hours and experience they need at a reasonable pace and for better pay. Read more>>

Janai Smith | Self-Care and Mental Health Advocate

To be honest, my parents were my biggest encouragement for starting my own business. Both my parents are small business owners and my mother maintains a full time career as an educator on top of her business. They stressed the importance of education and finding a job that I am passionate about, but also encouraged me to “go for it” if I decided to make something of my own. And because off their mental and emotional support, I decided that I don’t want to “have to” work for someone else for the rest of my life. I want it to be my choice. And the only way I see for me to have that option is to create something of my own. The other driving factor behind starting my business is I wanted to create something to leave behind to my legacy (my children) if they want it. Our legacy is the only thing that survives us as humans, and I want mine to be great! Read more>>

Eric Christie | Licensed Residential Home Inspector

Realizing I did not want to go back to the 8 to 5 world. I knew the industries I had been in had no job security and no longer cared about the people they employed. Someone called one day and asked me if I was interested in doing some contract engineering work. At that point I had not even considered it. Within a few weeks, my mind had started to shift from an 8 to 5 mentality to an entrepreneurial mind. It took some time, but when you can get that switch to flip in your mind, you see opportunities everywhere you look, everywhere you go, with people you just met or folks you have known a long time. I wish I had considered this more earlier in life as I feel I would have my business built and would have seen the opportunities that are available. Read more>>

Brian Watts | Doctor of Physical Therapy & Athletic Trainer

I have been a physical therapist for 10 years now and before starting my own business, I worked for two different larger corporations as a staff physical therapist. I realized that my potential to help people was limited in the type of business I was in. So I decided to start my own physical therapy practice that would allow me to create an overall better patient experience with better outcomes and better patient satisfaction. I also wanted to be able to spend more time with my family and do the sports and activities I enjoyed. I have been able to create more time and financial freedom for myself and my family by owning my own physical therapy practice along with helping hundreds of people stay active and return to the active lifestyle they love and deserve. Read more>>

Shelbie Morgan | Vegan Baker

Simply put, I wanted to share the food I made with everyone and be apart of the food industry. I have always loved trying new food and cooking it. I’d see how happy I was, and the other patrons around me were at a restaurant. I’d also see how happy people were at gatherings when my mom would cook or holidays. I wanted the process of starting my business to represent my experience of trying a new dish or restaurant for the first time or as a returning customer always memorable. I wanted people to have the same smile on their face when trying my baked goods as all those people did years ago at parties and holidays when my mom and dad prepared homecooked meals. Honestly, my process behind starting my business came from a background that had good food, a lot of love, and new experiences for my tastebuds. With that, the next step was to incorporate healthy baked goods that still had all the flavor and sweetness. Read more>>

Kevin Ivester | Art Gallery Owner & Frame Shop Owner

It’s always been my goal to own and operate my own art gallery. I love the arts. I’ve made the act of making art, talking about art, and participating in the arts community my life. This love, paired with the fact that I’ve been working in the arts my entire professional career and I’ve accumulated experience and skills that enabled me to open my own space with confidence. Since opening the gallery on September 19th, I’ve decided to take things one step further by opening a custom picture framing shop just across the parking lot from my gallery. The synergy between the two businesses will reduce operational expenses for my gallery, as well as offer additional services to my artists and clients in both directions. Read more>>

Maricel Dominguez-Watson

I hate to start on a negative note but it is my reality, and that of many others. We are in an age where we need to share our stories and create awareness. I started this business because I was dissatisfied with the jobs I had and even more so because I kept getting bypassed for promotions. As a Latina woman, it just seemed that I could never measure up. You hear stories of inequality and you hope you never experience this, but deep down you know it is just a matter of time. So I started this business to pave my own way up the corporate ladder and declare myself CEO/President! I was not going to wait and hope that things changed; but I was going to change, I was going to take control. Read more>>

Orit Lagnado | Professional Photo Organizer

I have loved photos and photo albums since I was a little girl. Being the child of immigrants, I only saw my extended family on summer visits so photos were incredibly important to me. A friend approached me asking for help creating photo books for her children. Her printed photos were unorganized in bins and her digital photos were on multiple computers, SD cards, and phones. She felt overwhelmed at the thought of it all and guilty that her children had no photo books of their childhoods. Through working with her, seeing how relieved she was to have the project taken off her shoulders, and watching her family enjoy reminiscing through the photos, I fell in love with organizing photos and making photo books for others. Right after Hurricane Harvey, I had so many people calling me because their photos got wet and they wanted to know what to do. I saw so much loss and devastation. Read more>>

Brandi Untz | Digital Artist

After creating digital art for seven years, I felt my work was ready to offer for sale. I’ve always wanted to earn a living as an artist, so once I created work worth selling, starting a business was an easy decision. Read more>>

Henry Keculah Jr. | Entrepreneur

I could control my own schedule and make difference at the same time. It was never about the money, it was about doing what I love. Read more>>

Nnenna Umelloh | Founder & CEO

I went natural when I was 16 years old but that doesn’t mean I had any idea what I was doing! The transition to being natural was a trainwreck. I had no clue what my real texture was like or how to take care of it. In fact, it took me a couple of years to grow out the perm in my hair in the first place. Learning what my hair needed to be healthy was a confusing mess. I kept on comparing myself and my hair journey to other women. I’d question my own beauty because my hair didn’t bounce like theirs or my curls weren’t as defined as theirs. I thought if I used the right combination of products or I washed my hair enough, it would finally get better.  It didn’t.  It took me years to figure out my hair texture and what I specifically needed to make my hair grow. Now I love my texture and I love my hair but it took time and patience. I know there are millions of women, men, and non-binary individuals who going through the same challenges as we speak. Read more>>

Minyette Young | Best Selling Author

Well I’ve always had a entrepreneur mindset. My career background has been management for the past 8 years. I’ve thought like a “boss” for quite some time. When I thought about starting my own business I knew that it would be something easy for me to do. My family owned a grocery store when I was a little girl and I remember helping at times. I saw my family build the business from scratch. I realized early in the process of starting my own business that there will be some challenging and I’m prepared for that. Success is not easy to achieve but it’s worth it. Read more>>

Diana Brewster

Once my kids graduated I needed something to occupy my time. I was always crafty and enjoyed making my kids costumes and decorating for holidays and party planning. Once I was able to spend time doing this I put my plan into motion and started my own business! Read more>>

Derek Campbell | Real Estate Broker & Investor

I love real estate and have always wanted to start my own investment business. I previously managed a team of wholesalers at a large acquisitions company but wholesaling was never the end game for me. I enjoyed the energy and teaching others about what I loved but wanted to be more than just a middle man. I wanted to be able to provide my clients real value, I wanted to be able to directly help people out of some very trying situations and ultimately make the community brighter. That said, to be honest, while starting my own company was always in the back of my mind, I figured it would be a little later in life. I planned to play it a bit safer, learn more, save more etc. but when this opportunity fell or you could say was forced into my lap, I had to take it, and there has been no looking back since. So to answer your question, I just leaped. Read more>>

Greg Lacoste | Photographer, Visual Artist & Problem Solver

Starting my business simply began because I did not want my education and talent in photography and visual graphics to go to waste. I decided to go to the Art Institute of Houston to pursue an education in the Arts, and then land a proper job as a creative director in a marketing agency. (lol) As time passed and the industry evolved, I noticed I could start my own business in doing what I love. Read more>>

Cory Moore | CEO, Entrepreneur & Creator

I have been an entrepreneur since I was 21 attending college in Texas State University. For me the decision was always pretty easy. I was working for some people at the time and I really saw first hand a lot of things I did not like. I also realized if I wanted to complete control over my life and my career starting my own business was the only option to pursue. Read more>>