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.

Joshua Unangst | Entrepreneur & basketball journalist

My thought process behind starting my own business was simple, how so? I had a burning passion of being an entrepreneur because I saw my parents build companies, seeing countless examples, and just loving the hard work of it. Plus, I loved sports and when I found that special connection of creating my own business and basketball it just felt like a match made in Heaven. Because I am combining two things that I deeply care for together and now having this desire to pursue my dreams of creating my own business, predicated upon basketball, is the entire thought process of creating my own business and just being one-of-a-kind. Read more>>

Michelle Stelly Stelly | Adventure Travel Blogger

I was unhappy working as an engineer for many years. I even moved around different engineering industries to see if anything ever sparked my interest. I went from water wastewater, to commercial construction, to oil and gas, and finally to transportation. Even though I changed my job many times in the span of 9 years, I was never happy. So that is how I knew I needed a change. I knew that I needed to become my own boss somehow. I dug deep for months and thought about what I loved most in the world, what made me happiest. I finally came up with the answer after talking to my coworker. She suggested that I start a blog on my traveling and hiking, and ever since then, my life has changed for the better. Read more>>

Nikki Tomlin | Photographer, Videographer, and Adventurer

I lost my job in June of 2020 due to COVID and was quite upset about losing the consistent paycheck but that was it. I was miserable in that position and was building up someone else’s business at the cost of my own time and with minimal compensation or really anything positive coming out of it. When they chose to let me go because I was paid the most in our small office I thought “I’m going to do what I spend most days talking about in the office; start my own business. And one day I will make at least double what I was making in that job.” Read more>>

Taylor Blount | Handmade Earring Designer

Starting my own business happened kind of on accident! I had purchased a pair of earrings from someone and they broke not long after purchasing them. I also saw other people on Instagram making earrings and thought, “Hey! I could do that!” I started looking into the costs of what it would take to buy the basic materials to make polymer clay earrings. I purchased what I needed and eventually found myself with a plethora of earrings and a desire to share them. My spouse encouraged me to use my art Instagram account to showcase what I was making and from there, it sort of took off! The pandemic also helped me pursue my own business because I was able to dedicate more of my free time to working on perfecting my craft. Read more>>

Brandi Wolf | A Lifestyle of Love

I’ve been very entrepreneurial in my life and have a need to keep busy, be passionate and to continue stimulating the creative mind. In 2015 I met my husband in Scottsdale, AZ and in 2017 we married. He had not owned his own business before meeting me…I dragged him into it. He did not oppose although was a bit unsure of our new journey. Now he loves working for himself and towards our goals that we have built together. We are also franchise owners and have two publications that are a lot of fun and rewarding. Read more>>

Kimberly Lewis Dance Studio and Performing Arts Studio Owner | Dance Instruction and performing arts

I grew up as a dancer. I trained in all forms of dance all over the world so I knew my passion was in dance. When I moved to Arizona in 1990 there was not a lot of work for choreographers/dancers. First, before I decided on my future business, I knew I would need to make a name for myself in Arizona in the field of dance. At the time, there were very little business opportunities in Arizona for a dancer. I was watching the Phoenix Suns vs the Lakers in the playoffs that year. Read more>>

Leah Ireland | Hobby Potter

Making money to buy more clay! Nancy and I met through a pottery class four years ago and we instantly hit it off. We sat in the back of the class (of only six people) and would sometimes have a little too much fun, which came with some chastising from our instructor. About a year later, a local, once a month Farmers Market started. We went to the first one and saw the potential to sell our wares and signed up to be included at the next event. Read more>>

Tressa Jones | Artist & Educator

I am at the beginning stages of starting a business so I can speak in the present tense and say that my thought process is not linear but I know have a nagging desire to create art and to support others in their creative explorations. I have invested many years in studying fine art and instructing for a variety of institutions and I feel confident about transferring these skills into a business of my own creation. Read more>>

Foli Riegle | Pelvic Floor Therapist/Occupational Therapist

My thought processs behind starting Inspire Wellness and Pelvic Health is seeing a need in the community and pairing that need with what I envision quality health care should look like. To me, this means access to a knowledgeable provider who provides a safe space, listens to your concerns and what outcomes you are looking for and takes this time to work through the process with you. I wanted to be able to be the provider I would want to see. Read more>>

Fadi Smaidi | CEO and Founder

Skillstrader is my 13th startup but on average I probably have 50 ideas a year on new concepts. We always hear that everyone has good ideas its execution that matters. Where I am now with my process on starting businesses is very different at business number 14 that it was at business number 1. The first question I tell myself is “What is my exit strategy for this concept or business idea?” By knowing the end goal, it helps me build the roadmap for the opportunity. Read more>>

Michael Gombert Jr. | Tech Entrepreneur & Digital Marketer

In 2020 I had to make a decision, which was to use the money I had to finish college or start my own business. I did not have the resources or time to do both. The degree I was pursuing was sports business. The average pay for this degree was $36,000 a year. I remember sitting in my bedroom looking at my computer and saying “I would rather wake up every morning knowing I took the chance than to regret it years later”. That moment was probably the most crucial decision I have ever made. If I decided to stay in school, I would have not met my best friend and business partner. I would have not been able to work with some of the top companies in the world and be able to speak and help others succeed. Read more>>

Alexis Szewczyk | Alexis Szewczyk Founder/Designer of Vera Vara

I always loved making jewelry and customizing accessories with Swarovski Crystals. I would get lost for hours creating and customizing pieces. Initially it started out as hobby and years later (2019) we made it official with our Etsy shop. The feedback that I received from so many people was you should sell this. Which then turned into repeat customers. The story behind us is my grandmother “Vera”. She was artist who created beautiful macramé purses and accessories. She was also the most positive person you would ever want. So, it made perfect sense to continue her legacy by making and curating beautiful jewelry, with love and positivity. Read more>>