1. Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo, Co-Founders/Editors (Reductress.com)
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Beth: An artist. I went to school for illustration, but after college I was like “Ugh, this is hard.” So I went the easy route — starting a business in the surefire entertainment industry.
Sarah: A lawyer. Then I came to my senses and chose the more practical career path of comedy writer.
What's the worst job you've ever had?
Beth: Stocking office supplies at a finance company where the men would practically cuss you out over a lack of 2% milk.
Sarah: This one’s a combo: The Gap and T.G.I. Fridays, which were both in the same mall, and I worked at them both at the same time.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
Beth: Do the thing you are most afraid of — your reverence is actually a sign of your passion for it.
Sarah: Don’t burn bridges — unless it’s like a really, really bad bridge.
What inspired you to start your business?
Beth: I was working on a couple of sketch shows with other women and writing a lot of jokes about women’s media and internet culture when the idea suddenly came to me for a fake women’s magazine. I approached Sarah about making it happen, and the rest is history.
Sarah: Beth had come to me with this idea, and once we realized nobody had done it in any serious way, we figured, why not be the first? But years and years of being inundated with women’s media led up to that point for the both of us.
What do you like most about your job?
Beth: The control I have over which projects we pursue and what direction they’ll take. I am greedy for power.
Sarah: The people! And constantly being able to engage with ideas I find interesting, important, and funny.
2. Kelly Sue DeConnick, President/Writer (Milkfed Criminal Masterminds)
What did you want to be when you grew up? Actor.
What's the worst job you've ever had? Actor.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? Hm. Neil Gaiman once told me you never learn how to write a book, but you usually learn how to write the book you’re writing. I don’t know if he was quoting someone or if that was him, and it’s not really advice, but it’s a thing I’ve found to be very true.
What inspired you to start your business? Necessity.
What's your biggest accomplishment? I don’t know really. Sticking around? Survival is an accomplishment in our industry.
What do you wish you knew before starting your business? How much of my work as a writer isn’t writing.
Who are your heroes? Jerri Truhill
…I have a lot of heroes, I think.
What do you like most about your job? Doing it.
3. Nancy Lu, Owner (Fancy PR)
What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a model... When I was 8 or 9, I even sent Kate Moss a fan letter (the first and only piece of fan mail I've ever written), and she actually wrote me back! "Follow your dreams, xoxo Kate." It's probably buried in the dark closet of my childhood bedroom now, but thanks, Kate!
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? The best piece of advice I've ever received is: "Work hard, be kind." Do good work, and the recognition will come later — not the other way around.
What's your biggest accomplishment? Keeping Fancy PR afloat! It's been almost two and a half years, and I'm so proud/excited/ecstatic it's still going.
What do you wish you knew before starting your business? That I was capable of starting something on my own. You have to believe in yourself first before other people will get behind you.
What do you like most about your job? I love interacting with people from all over the world on a daily basis and getting a glimpse into their lives. That sounds super creepy, but it is nice to feel simultaneously connected to people in the UK, Italy, France, Latvia, Australia, etc.
4. Laura Roeder, Founder (Edgar Social Media App)
What inspired you to start your business? I first started working for myself because I wanted the freedom to control my own schedule. I remember having a friend visit me when I was working at my first (and last) professional job, and I hated that she flew all the way out and I only had time to have one dinner with her. I wanted to be one of those people hanging out at a coffee shop in the middle of the day! (I should note that I am literally answering this question at a coffee shop in the middle of the day, so goal achieved!)
What's your biggest accomplishment? Employing 18 people! Building a fulfilling workplace that everyone actually loves showing up at is what motivates me every day. So every person we add to the team feels like my biggest accomplishment.
What do you wish you knew before starting your business? Everything is hard, so go for what you want. When I was first starting out, I helped my friend (who is a Hollywood actress) with her social media. So, I thought it would be a natural jumping-off point to help actors manage their online profiles. Only problem is I have pretty much zero interest in the entertainment industry; you have to drag me just to see a movie! Now, I see that making any business successful is going to be a long, hard road, so you may as well aim for the business you actually want to have.
What do you like most about your job? It's really fun seeing ideas come into reality, especially as your company gets a little bigger and so many things happen without you. Right now, we're working on a totally new website, and it's still a trip to me that this really cool site is being created and I didn't write any copy or any code to make it happen. I feel like a conductor, like there is just magic happening around me!"
5. Shannon Chrissey, Behavioral Analyst for Children With Special Needs (Chrissey Consulting)
What did you want to be when you grew up? A teacher! Then I became one and realized we’re underpaid and overworked. So, I became a consultant instead, and now suddenly I can afford to live.
What's your biggest accomplishment? Honestly, starting my business. I had zero knowledge of how to start, run, manage, and organize a business. I now have a sliver of knowledge on how to do those things, and after making several mistakes and learning from them, I’d say it’s my biggest accomplishment.
What do you wish you knew before starting your business? Save at least 30% of your net income for taxes. Don’t try to estimate what your taxes will be for one year based on what they were the previous year. You don’t know enough about taxes to make guesses like that!!! Save a minimum of 30% and be prepared to pay even a bit more than that.
Who are your heroes? My mom. Hands down. She was the CEO (female CEO in Montana in the '80s is nothing to sniff at!) of a quality health company for 35 years and raised three girls while maintaining a good marriage. She rarely lost her patience and always looked poised. I’m convinced she is either under the influence of some miracle drug or has superpowers — maybe both.
6. Kate Dwyer, Co-Founder/CEO (WITCHSY)
What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be in The Matrix and write pop songs.
What's the worst job you've ever had? The job where I worked multiple people’s jobs because the owner wouldn't hire more people (read: cheap). Relentless after-hours texting. It was a big motivator to start Witchsy.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? If you're making no money and it's making you totally miserable, that's a good sign to move on. It's prevented me from doing things I feel like I'm supposed to be doing and caused me to get stuck.
What do you wish you knew before starting your business? Get comfortable with telling people "no" as soon as possible. It will happen often if you have a clear idea of what you want to do.
What do you like most about your job? Each day when I check on our shop and handle emails, I know we've created an atmosphere that supports our friends and artists that we love. Also, flexible work hours.
7. Joanna Kahvedjian, Owner (The Rolling Brick Food Truck)
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? I actually used to role-play different professions with my friends. But the professions were limited to secretary, artist, model, actress... I couldn't decide.
What's the worst job you've ever had? Three-way assistant (Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operations Officer, and General Contractor).
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? "Lead boldly. Lead like a woman." —Sharon Hadary
What inspired you to start your business? The love of entertaining, a passion for food and environment, desire for community and growth, my husband building a brick oven in our garden for a great party, and the incentive of doing what I love for a living.
What do you wish you knew before starting your business? How fast the business would take off and how to transition into the next phase more actively.
What do you like most about your job? I like the energy it gives me to interact with so many people and the effects it has to "surprise and delight" them. I also like the feeling of having potential influence on the market and to have a choice in responsible business management.
8. Chelsea Hughes, Founder/Creative Director (CantiqLA)
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A marine biologist.
What's the worst job you've ever had? Working at a movie theater.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? Don't sell yourself short: What you do is a craft, and you should get paid as such.
What's your biggest accomplishment? Starting my company and quitting my corporate fashion job to do it.
What do you wish you knew before starting your business? I wish I knew more about online content. I had no idea how much work goes into things like web design, photos, and online marketing until I started to actually do it myself.
What do you like most about your job? I have the freedom and flexibility to make my own hours and hang out with my dog.
9. Stephanie Simbari & Elizabeth Kott, Co-Hosts/Co-Creators (That's So Retrograde)
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
Stephanie: I don't think I totally understood that you had to grow up to "be something." I think from a young age I was just always convinced you could make your life work doing what you liked and what you were good at.
Elizabeth: Children’s book author, fashion stylist, radio show host.
What's the worst job you've ever had?
Stephanie: Probably when I was the "shot girl" at Yankee Doodle at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, which is a really cheesy sports bar. I had to dress like a slutty referee and walk around screaming "DO YOU WANT A SHOT?" while simultaneously getting so drunk because the only way to get customers to buy shots was to take the shot with them. It was so gross and debasing, and I did not make enough money to justify any of it.
Elizabeth: Walking celebrities around awards-show gifting suites, holding their free stuff (actual job).
What's your biggest accomplishment?
Elizabeth: My head never really can land on a "biggest accomplishment." Life is full of tiny victories and tiny weird things that weave our narrative… Right now, the tiny weird and victorious moments that have brought That's So Retrograde to the mainstream seem quite significant.
What do you like most about your job?
Stephanie: It merges so many things I love: chatting and learning; performing and sharing. We have a podcast about wellness with an explicit rating on iTunes. So we've basically created a job wherein we get to hang out with each other and act like silly idiots, but for a really good reason. Our guests gift us with so much incredible information, and it gets shared with our amazing audience. So, we all get to be on our personal wellness journey and work to improve the quality of our lives together; it's so much fun.
Elizabeth: Honestly, I love it so much. It feels like it is some kind of a joke from the universe, like...this can’t be something I actually get to do. I talk into a microphone with one of my dearest friends about wellness...topics we are genuinely curious about that end up impacting our listeners' lives. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear from a listener about how something they learned from an episode shifted their life — the feedback is so rad.
10. Breann Beasley, Creative Director/Principal Laborer/CFO (Saddle Tramp Brand)
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Cowgirl. Anything to keep me on a horse, on a ranch, way out in the sticks. I'm actually probably still working toward that one...
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? People are going to judge you regardless of what you do, so you might as well do what you want.
What's your biggest accomplishment? Throwing a match on my comfort zone and watching it burn as I quit my secure, salaried career and embarked on my own business venture.
What do you wish you knew before starting your business? I wish I knew more about taxes. Ugh.
Who are your heroes? At the risk of coming off as arrogant, I'm my own hero right now. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mutually exclusive heroes.
What do you like most about your job? Creating. I'm not "classically trained" in any facet of design, so sometimes I feel like I've got a tiger by the tail, but with a lot of tinkering/googling/calling my dad, I can do just about anything. The final product is always gratifying because you're like "I f*ckin' MADE that."
11. Annmarie Lanesey, President/CEO (Greane Tree Technology)
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? An artist.
What's your biggest accomplishment? My biggest recent accomplishment has been founding AlbanyCanCode.org. Long story with lots of people and parts. One part is: being a grassroots organization aiming to get nontraditional talent into the pipeline for software careers.
What do you wish you knew before starting your business? The things people tell you will matter most actually don't seem to matter. And the things that matter most are the things you have to learn the hard way.
What do you like most about your job? We've built software that millions of people have used around the globe. This gets me really excited. I also get real excited when we work on a web or mobile app that has a big impact on people's lives. Life is short, and making a difference matters.
12. Alexis Asplundh, Owner/Designer (A2S Swimwear)
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A marine biologist! I love the ocean and thought if I could study marine life in cool locations, sign me up! Especially if it included scuba diving. I love scuba!
What's the worst job you've ever had? I spent two summers in middle school shredding paper for an elementary school secretary. It was tedious and extremely boring. The only reward was obviously the paycheck; I could buy snacks at the pool with those precious dollars.
What inspired you to start your business? I saw a hole in the market. I lived and worked in Sydney for a year and couldn't believe finding a good suit that would stay on when surfing was so difficult. I was also extremely sick of black wetsuits! I love, and am familiar with, neoprene and thought it would be fun to have standout and functional suits.
What do you wish you knew before starting your business? I went to school for fashion — I know fashion, but having to figure out what taxes I have to charge, who I pay those taxes to, and what exactly I can put on the company card are the things I wish I knew in advance. I ended up having to do a lot of research, including reading Accounting for Dummies, to figure out more of the business side.
What do you like most about your job? I love being able to be creative for my work. Developing new patterns and working with my hands is almost meditative. It's one of those jobs that doesn't feel like a job.
13. Adrienne Cooper, Founder/Tour Guide (Fun Foodie Tours)
What's the worst job you've ever had? It’s a tie between working retail for a jewelry and accessories shop on the Upper West Side and selling knives for Cutco. The first one was just miserable because people treat you like garbage. The second was a cult-like experience that made me feel bipolar.
What's your biggest accomplishment? Not giving up. There have been a variety of reasons to go back to an office life with a predictable income and benefits, including an injury that literally knocked me off my feet for months. But at the end of the day, I don’t want to live with regrets, and that’s what giving up would mean to me.
What do you wish you knew before starting your business? The importance of preparing for the worst-case scenario. I’ve always run my business on a pretty day-to-day basis, figuring that I didn’t really have to answer to anyone else. But then when I broke my ankle, I needed to turn my tours into scripts so that other guides could take the reins. This was very difficult to do while stoned on pain meds.
What do you like most about your job? Everything. I love sharing my favorite parts of my favorite city with people. I love creating experiences for people. And I LOVE doing the research, especially the part that involves me eating as much delicious food as I can!