Readers often email us asking us for advice about new businesses they are thinking about starting and we often find that many of them don’t have a framework for thinking about a more fundamental question: why should or shouldn’t you start a business?

Below, you’ll find how successful entrepreneurs from across the city thought about this very question when they were considering whether to start their businesses.

Tiauna Hendrickson | Graphic Designer

Honestly, I didn’t have a “thought process” behind starting my own business. It started off as a hobby in middle school, I’ve always been very computer savvy, creating images on photoshop, etc. In college I completely stopped to pursue my career in IT & computer science. After having my second son, I wanted an invitation made for his party and was like oh i’m not paying anyone to do that because I know how to do it. So I picked it back up, just randomly. From there I had friends and family asking me to make this and edit this, so I got back into it heavy. But I still had a 9-5 IT job. My job was easy though I didn’t do a lot of “busy work.” Then I got engaged, and got reconnected with a high school friend of my who is a dope a$$ event planner. She saw my graphics I created for my engagement party and said “Tee I didn’t know you did graphics” and she hired me to do all her graphics in 2016. Read more>>

Toryn Lankford | Founder & DJ

Starting my own business and being a successful entrepreneur had always been a goal and dream of mine from an early age. From an early age, I had always had some sort of idea of a Service based business that I’d like to start. As a teen it was Mowing Yards and Yard Work, later it was Cleaning services and finally after College, some life experiences and a love of Music, it became Mobile DJ Entertainment. When it came to Entertainment, the thought process has always been to offer our clients an experience; not just on the dance-floor, but throughout the process, from the 1st inquiry until the wrap up of the event. My goal with my business is to give our clients ease of mind, while of course helping them to create memories that they’ll have forever. Read more>>

Freda Durden | Owner & Chief Consulting Officer

I love money, freedom, and new experiences, but I definitely began my business out of need. Something began happening in my mind and I was unable to continue doing the same things. I am a businesswoman at heart; or at least I am naturally bossy. I tried a few different ventures in my life–some more of a hustle than a legit business. But launching 813WellBeing was an uncomfortable decision because I was still learning my spiritual gifts; I wasn’t quite comfortable with the “Woo Woo” sentiment of being a healer. However, it didn’t take much time for purpose to take over. After being wrong many times, I really wanted to be effective at navigating spiritual evolution and authentic success for myself and my clients. That’s when I began coaching. I saw the gaps in giving tarot readings and energetic healing sessions; to the need for true guidance and support, so I started building systems and methodologies. Read more>>

Amy Pazahanick | Owner

Agape Tennis Academy was created to positively affect as many people as possible through creating a fun, welcoming, and inclusive culture where everyone in the community can go. Agape means Unconditional Love in Greek and this speaks to the culture and environment we create at the tennis academy. Tennis is our vehicle to make the world a better place. Agape has managed semi-private, private, and public tennis centers. There is an unmistakable positive energy and passion that fills every tennis court that Agape manages. As a staff everyone on the team should feel like they are part of a family. Everyone is made to feel welcome, included, safe, and should be comfortable to share and express ideas that will help move the company forward. In one word what separates Agape more than any other tennis academy is that we CARE. Read more>>

Praise Jackson | Brand Strategist & Image Consultant

When I started my company, Elements of Delight, I was on the heels of having been terminated from a company I had grown with for over 9 years. After licking my wounds and having a little time to reflect on my experience there, I realized that I had everything I needed to start my own company. And, that’s exactly what I did in October of 2014. My thought process in starting my company was that I now had an opportunity to bring my expertise as a brand strategist and image consultant through the various service my team and I offer in a way that spoke to me and allowed me to live out my true purpose – helping individuals, businesses and nonprofits create strong brands and images. Read more>>

Keya Carr | Entrepreneur & Nonprofit Organizer

I have always wanted to work for myself, and have my own business because I felt the creative side of me needed to have my own platform, and do the things I wanted to do. Read more>>

John Ughulu | Motivational Speaker & Strategist

I was born and raised in Nigeria, a country where entrepreneurship is embedded in the minds of every citizen from childhood. Just like my parents who used their entrepreneurship skills to empower both friends and relatives, i also picked up that trait from them. I grew up being that person who was always striving to build a team and a network. Empowering people is an innate gift that i always harnessed. This innate gift of empowering people is what led to the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. Albert Einstein Said, “Strive not to be of success, but to be of value.” My thought process was to add as much value as possible to humans, my community and the entire world. Read more>>

Courtney Reynolds | Hair & Beauty

My thought process behind Healthy Lengths is to provide women with washing techniques, hair tools and products to elongate the life span of their Wigs and Extensions. Read more>>

Kebbi Williams | Artist & Community Activist

Providing a place for artists to create and Supplying a need for the arts community. Read more>>

Aireale Monai’ | Founder & CEO

The thought process behind establishing and initiating my business was to create platform that uplifts, highlights and beautifies a person’s imperfections. My ultimate mission is to create a platform that embodies realistic narratives, body images, and distributes resources to infuse self-love. Arita LaShon has various exhibits, forthcoming, emphasizing the body positive community, self-love and empowerment. Read more>>

Robtaevious Madden | Filmmaker & Actor

Honestly, it was something that I always wanted to do. It wasn’t until around 2016 when I started doing skits that I started to really consider things and say hey maybe I really could have my own film company and make my own films. I was already writing the skits that I was doing so I felt like I could challenge myself and write scripts also. It was until this year tho (2020) that I actually went forward with it and stopped being afraid and stopped all of the “I wonder if this will go wrong” thoughts that I was having. So I started writing, got my iPhone, and started filming. Read more>>

Jazsper Womack | Cosmetologist & Owner

When I decided I wanted to be a business owner . I was 13 years old. I was already having clients and had my own little income coming in. I did not know that this was the start of making a dream a reality . I was 20 years old when I decided I didn’t want to just be a regular salon owner or cosmetologist. I wanted my brand to be known world wide and recognized for my skills, offering services to celebrities, and networking with well known brands. I honestly didn’t know where to start, what legal procedures was needed to protect my business, or if it was even possible for me to obtain the success I wanted. I had big plans for my life at a very young age and because of that , it helped me trial and error so many times that would later give me the wisdom to know what work and didn’t work . I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but everyone that “knows me,, knows I don’t take No for answer. Read more>>

Casey Kelly | Co-founder

Overall our process of getting started was pretty natural. Both of us are incredibly passionate about fashion. After beginning to understand the darkness of the industry we wanted to make change. We love getting dressed, styling, and creating garments. We both love creating beauty. We also love people, believe in transparency, taking care of the environment, and better working conditions. We wanted to create a new way to shop that is more personal and better for the world overall. Read more>>

Rodney Allen Jr. | Founder

I wanted to create brands that represent my purpose as a musician at scale, so I decided to become incorporated as a business and create a non-profit organization. My mission is to empower people through music and promote the significance of Black American culture which jazz music derives from. Next Level Music LLC is a company dedicated to sustaining a vibrant music scene in the community through live performances and music education. JAM ATL Inc. (Jazz Advocacy Movement) is a non-profit organization dedicated to uplifting communities with limited access to music education and empowering black artists. Our mission is to promote Black American music as a respected art form and credit the innovations of black history where jazz derives from. JAM ATL provides tuition-free music education and music opportunities for young artists. Read more>>

Nikki Wade | CEO, Film Producer, Screenwriter, Event Producer, Radio Personality & Entertainer

I had a need to create my own lane…my own stage. I’ve always been a performer and I moved to Atlanta to advance my career in a big way. However, I didn’t have the same following here in Atlanta, that I’d developed in Seattle. Although initially, I was welcomed in some venues, there were other venues and performance cliques that would make it difficult for me to perform or just plain shut me out. I also began to see musical and poetry events being thrown together, with no structure and the same artists on the roster. After a few years of seeing the same old shows over and over, I decided that I could create and produce an event that would not only have structure and cohesion, where I could perform and host, but would also have variety in the lineup, creative in style, exciting and entertaining. A hip-hop/poetry crew called Free Forum Exchange, offered me a one-time feature at Apache Cafe, which I named Soulrotica. Read more>>

Kita Bryant | Blogger & Photographer

I wanted to create a space that I can tell people what life is really all about without all the fancy fluff that people use on social media. I also wanted to create a space so that my culture doesn’t die out. Read more>>

Kani Richards | Face and Body Painter

Working jobs that did not fulfill my passion or who I am as a person was getting exhausting. I was in a cycle of working jobs for only a month due to not being able to handle working for someone else and not being in full control of my schedule. I wanted to show my creative talents and be able to receive funds for it. Read more>>

Keysha Lee | Author, Filmmaker & Educator

My biggest motivation for starting my own business was to never have to answer to anyone and to pave a path for other women. It turns out that having your own business comes with a great deal of responsibility and risk. Every call is mine but every crisis is mine as well. Peter Drucker sums it up “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” Being an African-American woman in a white male-dominated industry is the most challenging part of my journey. However, the pros still outweigh the cons. The best part about being a woman in Media is inspiring women, especially black women and girls, to chase their dreams. Representation is so important to believing you too can make it in an industry not always accepting of you. When women see me, I hope they see themselves. And that visual creates confidence and the courage to pursue their passion. Read more>>

Helena-Kelleese Smith | Executive Director of Development & Operations

I launched Serve Community initially as a community service organization. I later learned that most non-profit orgs and small businesses needed someone that understands their needs and could effectively provide solutions. So I decided to consult and work alongside the individuals I consider to be our #EverydaySuperheros and #ChangeMakers. Pivoting and transitioning my company after this decision resulted in more grassroots businesses, start-up non-profits, and businesses branding, capital, grants, and general operating and development support. Read more>>

Daneisha Simon | Luxury Cake Designer

Family means everything to me, so my biggest focus behind starting my business was obtaining the ability to make my own schedule. I am a mom to 4 beautiful boys and I love participating in their school and sport activities. It’s always felt uncomfortable “asking for permission” to watch my children grow and mature, and I knew I needed to take control of that aspect of my life, if not anything else. Read more>>

River West | Photographer & Activist

My career was honestly a total ACCIDENT – I never aspired to be a photographer. I didn’t know WHAT I wanted to be. After college, I found myself working at a photography studio as an image retoucher/photo processor and on my own time, I was doing a few hobby photoshoots for fun. People saw my stuff. Then a friend or two asked me to do a shoot for them, and they’d pay – so I started to do a few little gigs here and there. I had no idea what I was doing, but people kept wanting to book me! At a certain point after first being supportive, the studio owner and photographer demanded I stop immediately and sign a very strict non-compete agreement. Even though I was terrified of losing my job, I said no, quit, and followed this new path I’d happened upon. I hustled a couple of side jobs the first year or two – somehow made it on an income of around 10k one year – and eventually went full time due to demand. I was able to build my gear, buy a new car. Read more>>

Erika Deshay | Virtual Fitness Coach

My thought process behind starting my own business was based on conversation I was having about ‘Investing in yourself”. I wanted to be able to make money doing something that I loved. I use to go to my 9 to 5 each day and put on a happy friendly customer service personality, when I really was unhappy because I was unfulfilled. I had become uncomfortable in my spirit and knew it was time for a change. Read more>>

Sheeda DB | Cooking Sensei & Kindergarten Paraprofessional

So I’ve always wanted more, not in a the grass is greener type of way, but hopeful for the future type of way. I’ve always loved cooking and serving my family and friends! Their reactions to my food always warmed my heart so I know I wanted to extend that passion further for a long time now. To know what you’re truly passionate about is half the battle in stating your own business venture. Last year I bought my fist home on my own and soon after I knew I was done with corporate America. I quit and honestly was in total limbo of my next move. But I knew the stresses of working for the man was weighing on me and I had to make a decision to secure my peace so I quit! Now I don’t suggest anyone to just quit their jobs, but we all have to start somewhere. I also knew I had a passion for teaching so I became a kindergarten para. Read more>>

Peta-Gay Barrett | Hotel General Manager & Fitness and Nutrition Specialist

As an black woman working in corporate American, I saw the need to do something to inspire the women of my age group. We spend a lot of time taking care of work, spouse and children but not as much time on ourselves. So I decided to share my fitness journey in hopes of helping to empower women to improve their overall health through fitness and nutrition. Read more>>