Starting a business can be terrifying. Weighing the pros and cons, the risks, and other considerations can be so overwhelming that often promising entrepreneurs stop before they even start. We asked some phenomenal entrepreneurs about their thought process behind starting their own businesses. Our hope is that by making the thought-process less intimidating we can help more folks think through whether they should take an entrepreneurial leap.

Loretta Williams Gurnell, B.S., M.Ed.: Founder | SUPERGirls SHINE Foundation

After spending time as an higher education and nonprofit leader and being the first Black woman in both positions in the early 2000s, I realized that although we’ve come a ways in our societal racial and gender divides, we still had much more room to grow. Some of my greatest moments were when I was able to bring together tasks force teams of professionals that were older than me, different race/national heritage, gender, and political views for a common goal. Building a community of trust was my common goal no matter my position. In addition, raising money to support college student’s dreams of earning degrees or bridging the gap for more inclusion of multicultural programs and benefits in the workplace, education, and corporate America, was my drive. Read more>>

Noah Archangel | Owner, Producer, Songwriter, Designer

Well the business is in the music industry, and at the time that industry was turning negative. I started The Band of the Hawk because I wanted to be the change I wanted to see. Instead of crying about why they only put out drug and stripper rap, I decided to make groovy political rap. Instead of asking why is it only solo artists, I made a rap group as an example to show young kids that it is good to work with each other. Instead of asking why do we not promote our rich history and ancestors, I made that the theme of my crew with the Egyptian symbolism and African arts in the album covers and on the merchandise. Basically, I made what I wanted to see and hear go on in the music landscape. The Band of the Hawk Underground Pyramid Crew #BOHUP. Read more>>

Ryan Crowder | Producing Artistic Director, Penfold Theatre

When my founding partners and I arrived in Austin, the population in the north metro area was booming (as it still is), but there were no professional theatre organizations specifically focused on serving that area. We felt there was an opportunity to meet a growing need. Read more>>

Brandy Hall | Photographer

I stated my business because I felt like I was losing myself, I did everything “right”, went to Howard University, graduated in 4 years, got married by 25. However I had no passion! I felt like I had become someone else’s version of me. The first time I picked up a camera, my soul felt at ease. When I started, I knew NOTHING! My biggest initial set back was striving for perfection and not granting myself grace. I thought my images would look like the Vouge pages, that was NOT the case. I had to learn about different cameras and lenses, how to work with models, and how to edit. It took years to even feel comfortable showing people my art. Success came when I just started to enjoy making my art, not focused on others likes and or applause. I started my website and business Instagram page and let others grow with me. Read more>>

André Brooks | Photographer

Working on something that I will have fun doing until the day I decide to retire. Having a business that keeps evolving. Having the opportunity to create my own hours, create my own work hours, and the chance to travel. Read more>>

Karen Landrigan | Artist

I began my career as a graphic designer. I created logos, designed the covers of several annual reports for some of the biggest companies in North America and I consulted daily with businesses big and small. But the urge to do something more was always in the back of my mind. Then I started designing and producing jewelry in 2007. It was a personal interest. I thought friends and relatives type thing. But people liked my stuff. So I began working more and more as a metal smith and jewelry designer. Eventually my creations ended up in stores like M. Penner and J. Hampton in Houston. In the past fifteen years I have sold a significant amount of jewelry and that fueled my expansion into painting. I can’t stop creating. Art chose me rather than the other way around. I also sell direct to an international clientele from my website. Read more>>

Wendi Ramirez | Tattoo Artist, Painter, and Anthropomorphic Assembler

I started tattooing in 1991. Between then and the time I decided to have my own business, I had experienced multiple shops and artists. It was easy to know what I wanted to present to the public as well as my personal boundaries I realize to stand firm on by refusing to conduct my business in the repeated negative format used by so many shop owners I worked for. I choose to sacrifice a lot in order to hopefully make my artists happy by allowing them to run their own business under the umbrella I’ve built. Hopefully this leads to a drama free relation where they choose to remain loyal. My husband and I are partners who work hard by doing most things ourselves while receiving a modest profit . We value longevity of a business that artists can acknowledge is most beneficial to them opposed to most other shops. Read more>>

Crystal St. Junious | Yard Card Specialist, Teacher, Realtor, & Mom

I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I felt like now was an appropriate time because I have two small children and I wanted to make my own schedule. I am an elementary teacher, but due to Covid I didn’t feel safe sending my 5 month old to daycare, so I knew I had to come up with something fast! I couldn’t afford to not have any income coming in. I would always see these yard cards and wonder how they got started. So I began to research, but hit a brick wall. One Saturday evening a friend and I were just talking on the phone and the subject came up. I knew it wasn’t just an ordinary coincidence, so I had to move on it. Since then, I been blessed to be “booked and busy” as they say, lol! My advice to anybody wanting to pursue a dream is to “Go For It!!!” It doesn’t matter if there is 100 of that same type of business. Read more>>

Alyssum Pohl | Transformational coach focusing on authenticity and self expression

At a point when I was unemployed and working 8 part-time jobs that barely kept me fed and housed, I knew I needed to do something different. I took some time to think about what I had that set me apart. What was it that people told me I was great at? How could I turn that into something that could nourish me and others? All my life people told me I was unique or “weird” or authentic, and I honestly hadn’t thought another thing about it til this moment. I realized that I had actually been teaching authenticity through dance and clowning classes, and that these classes were the ones that had the most profound effect on my students. In that moment, I knew that I needed to offer authenticity coaching to more people than just my small world of performers. It felt audacious and scary, but everyone I whispered the idea to exclaimed how much it was needed. Read more>>

John Stephens | Owner, Music Producer and Audio Engineer

I was the lead engineer at one of Houston’s top commercial recording studios for 5 years before deciding to start my own business; a private recording studio in Houston’s East End. For me, the choice was more about quality and the ability to choose what projects I take on and which ones I recommend to other audio engineers. When you’re working at a commercial studio, the idea is that you take every session that comes through the door because simply running a facility like this comes with a lot more overhead cost. I wanted to focus more on projects that I felt I could personally contribute to and enjoy the process for. Third Coast Recording Co. has enabled me to serve a diverse community of artists around our city, state and from across the country. Read more>>

Chip Baker | 4th Generation Educator, Author, Speaker and Podcaster

Chip Baker- The Success Chronicles is a youtube channel/podcast where I interview people of all walks of life and shares their stories for positive inspiration and motivation. It was started because I realized that I have been blessed and fortunate to be raised by and be around some amazing people throughout my life. I wanted to show appreciation to them by highlighting their stories. Little did I know, It would grow at an alarming rate and far surpass anything I ever thought that it would be. I am grateful for the opportunities. I feel that it is making a positive impact on the world. Read more>>

Christopher O’Neil | Father, Hustler, Owner of Especial Clothing Co.

It was really wanting something of my own. I have always been into clothing and adding my own personal touches to it. But the goal is to create something that the City (Houston) and State (Texas) can connect and be elevated to a global status. I will start with my City first. Read more>>

Destini Watson | Makeup Artist & Beauty Influencer

Since I was a young girl, I have always wanted to be the boss! When playing with my stuffed animals, I would always pretend I was the manager and the stuffed animals were my employees. I knew even at a young age that I wanted to start my own business! As I got older, I developed a love for makeup and artistry. This love, combined with my drive to lead ultimately prompted my decision to start my own makeup service business, and Youtube channel! Read more>>

Lili Arnold | Printmaker + Illustrator + Designer

To be honest, I never had a plan to start a business. It all began about 5 years back when I started making art on the weekends as a way of creative expression while working at a full-time desk job. I got more and more drawn to block printing as these weekends went on and eventually I had a little art show in my town of Santa Cruz, CA. I was encouraged by the feedback of friends and strangers during this time which gave me a little more of a push into pursuing my own creative path. I got to a point where my desk job was no longer fulfilling and my creative life outside that job was pulling me in… pretty soon after that I shifted my work to freelancing for my income source which gave me more time to work on my own art. Read more>>

Ryan Downs | Designer & Digital Artist

I started Black Zodiac Prints to bridge a gap I discovered in the ethnic representation in astrology. As a fan of the Zodiac, I’ve never been able to find much artwork portraying ethnic characters (fictional or otherwise) in alignment with their signs. I began the Black Zodiac series as a way to bring that artwork I wanted to see into the world, starting with some of my favorite past and contemporary R&B female singers and songwriters. I think it’s important for people of color to see themselves in all spaces, including artwork. The series is ever expanding to include more black authors, artists, superheroes, leaders, and more. Read more>>

Anju Divakaran | Founder, VCYNTA

I started VCYNTA as a way to connect homeowners to local home maintenance service providers in their neighborhoods in an uber like fashion. I wanted providers that my neighbors have used and trust, but I didn’t want to make several calls to get quotes and schedules. So I created VCYNTA as an app that allows you to find service providers for your home maintenance needs, get quotes, and book them. As we launched VCYNTA during the quarantine, I also saw that there were small needs within the community where neighbors can help each other. For example, if you forgot to buy milk when you were at the grocery store, a neighbor can pick it up for you. Read more>>