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.

Louisa Wells | Freelance Photographer and Writer

As a photographer, you can sometimes feel like you’re on an island when working towards your goals. You can often look around and find other people running further ahead and it can get discouraging. About two years ago, I wanted to do something with this feeling and decided to start a weekly email newsletter sending encouragement to fellow creatives. After a while I felt like it was time to put it down for a while until last year during the pandemic. I’d always wanted to do something tangible with my work that also combined my love of writing. With that, Belonging was born. Read more>>

Ester Talasazan | Designer and Creative Director of YWS Young, Wild And Serene

I started YWS Young, Wild and Serene in 2013 from absolutely nothing; no background in fashion, no idea about manufacturing and production. I literally went into it head first. believing in my vision and desire to create fun and comfortable clothing. Things fell into place as I did my research and invested my heart and soul into every piece. I have had setbacks and made mistakes, but trying to grow and learn from each one, is what didn’t allow any of them to stop me. I cry happy tears every time I see one of my creations come to life and envision someone else wearing it, comfy and embracing themselves. Read more>>

Jocelyn Castillo | Travel & Lifestyle Creator

I unknowingly started my business while I was in college. I had already 6+ years as a photographer and it was only when I switched the camera to share not just travels, lifestyle, but personal growth did I realize I had built a community that supported my blog. Read more>>

Zahra Elise | Entertainer & US NAVY Vet

My family says I was born bossy. And I can remember at 12 years old being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and my reply was, “a boss, a CEO of something.” So it wasn’t even a thought. Zahra Elise became a brand, my business. Read more>>


365zing was birthed out of my personal health journey and my desire to help close the health disparities we see with black women. Between the ages of 12-14, I found myself in a health crisis. I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor, an autoimmune disorder called scleroderma, as well as polycystic ovary syndrome. I was told that I would have to be on medication for the rest of my life in order to thrive. Ten years later I felt there had to be another way and that all the choices that available to me were never presented. I moved forward with a lifestyle change during that process I took several trainings and received certifications that allowed me to own my healing process. I struggled with staying on track with her self-care for 19 years, trying anything and everything to stay on track when it came to her mental, physical, & spiritual health. I found things that helped in one area but not overall. I decided to immerse myself in research. Read more>>

JA’NET ADAMS | Global Personal Finance Speaker & Author

Before starting my business I did not know that someone would pay me to speak. That all changed one day when a church paid me $250 after speaking at one of their events! From there I started to believe that I could make a living off of sharing with others how I paid off $50,000 of debt in two years. I then began to work on my business the next two years waking up at 4am working to 7am to send emails out to perspective clients. I would then take my son to daycare, work my 8-5, come home and work on my business from 9pm-11pm. I knew I needed the shelter of my paycheck in order to get my business off the ground successfully. Read more>>

Kassie Meiler | Director of Social Media Communications at GOAT Social Media

I noticed there was a gap in the marketing industry between agencies and small businesses. Many small businesses and companies are aware they need social media marketing, but many are not financially able to hire a full-service agency. GOAT Social Media is focused strictly on social media management, and we offer ala carte services meant to fit the needs and budget of any business. Instead of working for an agency myself, I found it extremely rewarding to work directly with business owners and other companies on my own time and in my own way. When you have your own business you have the flexibility of taking on more work and configuring your hours to best fit your schedule. Although, as many business owners know to be true, there are never enough hours in a day. That is what excites me. I can relate to my clients who are business owners and to be able to take one thing off their plate, such as social media, it’s what GOAT Social Media is all about. Read more>>

Bob Denison | President, Denison Yachting

33% Obligation (3rd Generation). 33% Opportunity (Yachting industry has room to grow). 34% Passion (Nothing beats a day on the water). Read more>>

Keith Ulrey | Owner of MIcrogroove (Indie Record Shop in Tampa, FL)

I’ve worked in/out of record stores for going on 30+ years. My very first job at 16 years old was working in a mall record store from 1988-1994. My life has always been consumed with music, from listening to playing when I later became a musician. Over the last 30 years it’s grown to engulf my life 100% . I began playing in punk/DIY bands when I was 18 and still play to this day. I began touring the US, as well as putting on/promoting shows in the Tampa Bay area over the years. After 10 years in a office job, I went back to work part time in a Tampa record store for another 4 years or so until that business (sadly) closed. It was at this point, I decided to fully immerse myself and opened my own indie record shop Microgroove in 2011. Nine years later, we’re still here plugging away. It was a combo of wanting to do something I was passionate about while also within my own self interests. So, between owning/running the shop. Read more>>