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Why Did You Start Your Business? Week of November 18th

For individuals that constantly view financial statements or business plans each business looks eerily the similar. Even sometimes the brands, logos and names make consumers scream for the days of uniqueness. Peeling back the skin of business, it is often the entrepreneur and business owner that makes a business unique. Each and every business has an entrepreneur and unique story for launching his or her business, and it is that story which make each business special.

The Idea and Opportunity Just Happened

Photo Credit: Ben Sayers

In the beginning of 2002 I started a software development company to create a stock trading platform. But, after a few months of working on that, I realized that the stock market really wasn’t for me. My true business passion was to have a company involved in technology equipment and services. I shifted the focus of my software development venture to an IT asset management firm and then it happened; the idea and the opportunity that would lead to tremendous growth for my business. During the first six months of 2004, I noticed a growing demand from customers for VoIP products. The only problem was, there was nowhere to purchase them from. So in August of 2004 with demand for VoIP growing each day, I launched VoIPSupply.com with just a handful of employees to almost instant success and the rest is eCommerce history.

Thanks to Ben Sayers, VoIP Supply!

After Hearing A Friend Complain

After hearing my single girlfriends complain over and over, “I’m never going to meet anybody,” and “All the good men are taken,” I realized I had an opportunity to empower women to dare to date. I created a point system and much like Fantasy Football, we set stakes and competed to earn points by exchanging numbers, receiving texts, calls and going on dates. After 10 weeks, my girlfriends and I had gone on more dates than we had in the previous two years. So, I decided to launch Fantasydatinggame.com so other women could dare to date too. Fantasy Dating empowers women to take chances, build confidence and find love by incorporating flirting into their daily routines. Knowing her wing girl is ahead by six points, will give a woman the guts to chat up a guy waiting for his frappuccino at Starbucks. In fact, when a woman Fantasy Dates, she won’t leave the coffee shop without giving him her number.

Thanks to Suzanne Casamento, Fantasy Dating Game!

Because I Had No Choice

When it comes down to it, there’s simply no better way to gain world-class experience than by simply going out there and just doing it. Don’t think, don’t ask how high, just jump From day one as an entrepreneur you enter the greatest education of your life.. There’s always something else to learn or some new experience to attain. And just when you think you know it all, your market or industry will throw you a curve ball and put you right back on square one. Society also has a weird way of defining experience. By that I mean that most people doing the hiring see youth as an automatic “No” to any position of influence (i.e. Any position worth having). Waiting 20 years for a position that you would excel at now–just because you’re not old enough– is complete BS. Yet most executives can’t see past youth to accurately assess a young individual’s potential value to a company. I knew from an early age that if I gave into what I was “supposed to do,” it was going to be another 10-15 years before I got to where my abilities were now. Perhaps I’m overly ambitious, but giving up years of your life just to keep the status quo just isn’t acceptable–not now, not ever. In this way I didn’t really have a choice. It was simple: Become an entrepreneur and have no limits to how high I could go, or take a few huge steps backwards and crawl for a decade or two.

Thanks to Graham Mumm, LeanMill.com!

I Love Creating Things

Photo Credit: Abhinav Gupta

I started in the app business out of a passion for making video games and have built a company (Game Scorpion Inc.) revolving around apps. Fast forward a few years later and now I’m even training new app developers and writing my first book on the subject. I’ve always loved creating new and unique ideas and coming up with innovative ways to do things. My most popular apps are My Clock Station Pro and and Intimate Fireplace which are both available for iPad through the App Store. Living my dreams has truly been a blessing and it’s something I couldn’t have done without belief in God or a greater power other than myself. Starting a business can be a challenge, but if you keep at it and persevere with a positive mentality and faith, there is no mountain you can’t overcome! I leave you with my own personal quote, “Many dream a dream and wake up to reality…some dream a dream and make it a reality!”,

Thanks to Abhinav Gupta, Game Scorpion!

To Earn A Living That Would Support My Yearning

I started corporate video company Voices & Visions (V&V) Productions to earn a living that would also support, in both monetary and in-kind ways, my yearning to produce documentaries. The idea for V&V grew out of the first documentary I produced in 1997 with the help of my husband, who had been a successful director of photography. The program aired on a number of US public television stations, after which we were approached by a few business owners requesting our services to create marketing pieces for them. I recognized that corporate video work would keep us in the film industry, ensure our engagement with the constant flow of new technology, require us to maintain an evergreen list of equipment, and provide enough of a salary base to support our family.  Additionally and significantly, the corporate work would afford us the opportunity to utilize our skills, equipment and experience to produce documentaries about which we felt passionate and through which we wanted to make a difference. We have since then produced eight documentaries, including a recent one entitled “Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean” narrated by actor Ed O’Neill, which will be the feature program in December on Whole Foods’ Do Something Reel site. Voices & Visions has excelled over the years, winning numerous awards, and is on a strong growth trajectory reflective of today’s unquenchable thirst for video.

Thanks to Ellen Friedland, Voices & Visions!

Because I Helped My Son Walk

Photo Credit: Milena Perrine

I started a business around a soft structured baby walker I made to help my son learn to walk. Instead of returning to work, I chose to stay home with my son and bring to life a  product he inspired. Having lost my job as a Controller of a small private equity fund only two weeks before my son was born, I was happy to have found a new position a few months after his birth, even though I wasn’t going to begin work immediately. About two months before the new job’s start  date, my son learned how to stand and attempted to take steps. My husband and I had chosen not to purchase a traditional baby walker on casters and wheels due to the safety issues and motor skills inhibition associated with this type of device. I spent two weeks bending and holding my son’s arms to help him walk. All he wanted to do was practice  walking and I wished for a harness that will allow me to support him without bending as my back was killing me. I didn’t find anything suitable to purchase. So I cut up the baby carrier he had outgrown and used parts of it in combination with some webbing and 2 buckles to create a contraption that would allow me to help him practice walking without having to bend. It worked so well, that parents at the local playground offered to buy it from me. A patent attorney assured me that a patent can be issued for my creation. I never started the new job. I stayed at home with my son and worked very, very hard to turn my idea into a viable product. It is now gradually being added by more and more retailers in the US and Canada.

Thanks to Milena Perrine, Little Dundi!

Because Cancer Touched Our Family

When Cancer touched our family, we wanted a product to wrap patients in loving energy when they were in hospitals so ‘feel the Hugs’ was born. We quickly learned hugs could be sent to friends having birthdays, soldiers far from home, and for anyone going through a rough time. Hugs are healing and good for heart health. Feel the Hugs® are gifts inspired by hugs and the expression can be found on tees, totes, teddy bears, caps and stationary. The little character ARELY puts a smile on everyone’s face, and soon will be a character in children’s story books. Feel the Hugs is a business with a Heart♥ and a portion of all sales is donated to cancer research.

Thanks to Karen Rapport, Feel the Hugs!

We Wanted A New Industry in Detroit

At Whip Hand Cosmetics we truly believe that makeup can not only transform a face, but also a great American City. Detroit was once known as “The Paris of the West” — a city that shined with lights and culture and some of the greatest examples of early 20th Century Architecture in the world. Believe it or not, in 1920 the honor of “busiest intersection in the World” went not to Shibuya, Tokyo or Times Square, but to Detroit’s Michigan and Woodward Avenues. We want to be part of bringing that back. While Detroit has experienced tough times over the past five decades, our city is in the midst of an unprecedented renaissance, being driven by a fresh crop of upstarts and entrepreneurs. I spent most of my life in Waiʻanae, Hawaii, and there are a lot of parallels between Detroit and where I grew up (temperature not being one of them.) We started Whip Hand Cosmetics to bring a new, non-automotive-based industry to Detroit that takes advantage of the city’s rich history of manufacturing, while also creating new jobs and something unique and exciting that hasn’t been seen here before. There are very few opportunities to be part of a *rebirth* of a city. That’s what really gets me up and moving every morning: Proving that underdogs *can*succeed.

Thanks to Riese Lauriat, Whip Hand Cosmetics!

Because I Discovered My Soul’s Purpose

My business grew out of discovering my Soul’s purpose for living. I went to workshop in 2001 for an entirely different reason and discovered by Soul’s purpose for living. This was extremely powerful and just wouldn’t leave me alone. So when I retired from the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), it became my drive to make a direct contribution to world happiness. I have since written a book  describing how anyone can end unhappiness for good in their life. The book was awarded Inspirational Book of the Year for 2012 and I was named Inspirational Man of the Year for 2012. We are steadily working to help people give up their stress, conflict and hurts and connect them with the happy way of living. There is no greater work in my humble opinion.

Thanks to Stephen Whiteley, Happiness Works!

It Was Either the Business Would Take Off or an Interview Would Pan Out

Photo Credit: Greg & Nicole Will

When he traveled to Ecuador for the first time over a decade ago, Greg would never have imagined that he would become a founding member of Amazon Andes Sky. He just wanted to pass Spanish II. After a few short months of study and exploration back in 2000, he was hooked and would spend the next 12 years on a constant quest to return to Ecuador in whatever capacity he could. After finishing his master’s degree, he returned to the States to decide which avenue to pursue next. He moved to Asheville, NC where he met me, Nicole. We both secured temporary employment and searched for more permanent positions in our respective fields just as the economy began its downward spiral. With no prospects in sight, we began to feel stuck, resumes continued to flow out with no response, and Greg looked once again to Ecuador. He always describes it as a race.We started building Amazon Andes Sky and continued sending out resumes. We figured that either the business would take off or an interview would pan out. It was a waiting game. Thankfully, the business won and now we’re guiding special interest tours throughout Ecuador, exploring its spectacular landscapes and hanging out with interesting, adventurous travelers. Every part of the journey has been a challenge but it feels great to use our brainpower to grow something of our own instead of building someone else’s dream.

Thanks to Greg and Nicole Will, Amazon Andes Sky!

Because I Wanted to Mess with the drunks

Photo Credit: Dave Hirschkop

I owned a restaurant called Burrito Madness in College Park, Maryland and we got way too many drunk patrons late at night. I made really hot sauces to mess with the drunks. Eventually I figured out how to make a sauce that was much hotter than anything in the World and Dave’s Insanity Sauce was born. In our first year we were banned from the fiery food show and declared “the hottest culinary experience known to man” by the New York Times. Since that time my company has expanded to many other products and primarily sells pasta sauces. We have won dozens of awards and are sold nationally, but for many people they will never forget being burned by Insanity Sauce.

Thanks to Dave Hirschkop, Dave’s Gourmet, Inc!

To Market & Sell My Patented Invention

Photo Credit: Tangela Walker-Craft

I started Simply Necessary, Incorporated to market and sell my patented invention, the GoPillow! The original intent of the GoPillow! was for cradling babies for breast or bottle feedings. I knew it would be an excellent travel pillow. The idea for adding the privacy blanket to the GoPillow! came later. It was added after I was caught in a crowded area during a rainstorm at Disney World in Orlando, FL. My stroller and nursing blanket were in another part of the park. My husband gave me the shirt that he was wearing so that I could nurse my daughter because I was very modest. Everyone around us just giggled or smiled knowingly as my shirtless husband stood there while I used his shirt as a “breastfeeding blanket”. It was then that we realized that a built-in privacy blanket or cover would separate our pillow from any other nursing pillow on the market. The built-in blanket turned the pillow into a multi-purpose wonder! The GoPillow! solved several problems that mothers often run into when away from home with a baby or toddler. The pillows are now professionally manufactured and packaged.

Thanks to Tangela Walker-Craft, Simply Necessary, Incorporated!

I’m Independent & Ambitious

I like to run my own show, and I have lots of drive. I noticed that nobody was teaching etiquette in my city in 1989 so I formed a company, Business of Manners, that teaches international etiquette, formal dining, social graces and customer service.

Thanks to Adeodata Czink, Business of Manners!

Because There Was A Demand

I started my business because there was a demand. I set out to be a novelist. But my novels quickly hit worst-seller status. One even made the UPI’s Ten Most Underrated List for that year, along with the New York Knicks, who never even made the playoffs and a Meryl Streep movie about a dingo that ate a baby. I was supporting myself with a business career while waiting to achieve best seller status (along of course with wealth, fame and beautiful lovers). Then, about 20 years ago, my agent suggested I write a business book. Which I did. I quickly found myself in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and any number of other publications. One day the phone rang and the voice on the other end asked me if I’d speak at their convention. For a one hour keynote, she offered a fee that was over a third of the advance I’d gotten for the book. I did it. I loved it. And I soon found myself in the speaking business.

Thank you to Barry Maher!

Working for A Large Corporation Was Predictable & I Had An Idea That Followed Me

Photo Credit: Jeff Martens

I started a company for two reasons. First, working for a large corporation was just too predictable. I knew almost exactly what my title, responsibilities, and position would be for every year into the future. Sure, there were fancy titles and nice paychecks, but so what? There was no excitement and I worked at cool companies like Nike! So, I had to get out on my own and forge my own path. How did I decide what company to start? It was the business idea I couldn’t get out of my mind. The one that invaded my thoughts and wouldn’t let me push it aside. I was obsessed, I had to do it.

Thanks to Jeff Martens, CPUsage, Inc!

To Address Travel Issues & Insanity

Photo Credit: Heddi Cundle

Ultimately, what we solve is the insanity of spending 9 hours over 4 weeks (average) on multi-websites trying to find a deal $5 cheaper than something we thought we saw 3 weeks earlier. And when we booked the trip, did we get the best bang for our buck? We don’t know and the industry doesn’t. Yet we repeat this insanity & awful experience for every single trip. What myTab solves are a few problems: #1 from having funds in your account, you focus on a happier booking experience because you’re travel cash rich. #2 since myTab runs a gift card platform, holding the secured funds, we can negotiate collective fund power with travel suppliers (a feature called Match myCash). #3 $30b of $100b gift cards a year are not redeemed as there’s no value. With myTab, gifting towards a trip has an emotional attachment and you know your gift will be used towards dream travels. #4 We create a win/win for everyone – the customer’s funds are stretched further through our negotiating with suppliers & the industry captures unique cash rich demographics at slow & long lead times for a fraction of the cost vs advertising & marketing. And that’s why I created myTab – to address huge issues in travel and put a stop to the pre & real time booking travel insanity.

Thanks to Heddi Cundle, myTab!

To Combine My Hobby, Passion & Skill Set

I decided that I wanted a job that combined my hobby (photography) my passion (our kids Zoë and Finneas) and my skill set (advanced image processing and software engineering). When I could not find such a job, I created one. Insatiable Genius currently sells three apps; ToonPAINT, Eye of the Tagger, and PencilFX. What I am doing can be scary and uncertain, so I occasionally doubt myself. When I do, I look at the tradeoffs in what I am doing versus what I could be doing. I have friends who are tenured professors with job security, but many of them had to give up on having a family. Husbands can or will not move to small University towns where positions are available, and many of these women chose not to have children in order to publish enough to get tenure. I also have a number of friends who went into industry as programmers or researchers. While these women make more money than I do. (For now) They all work on project that are assigned to them, and someone else owns their every thought and idea. I have complete creative freedom and everything that I am building belongs to me.

Thanks to Bruce Gooch, Insatiable Genius!

I Wanted to Make Money from My Creativity

I started my business because I’ve always wanted to make a lucrative business from my creativity. It’s taken many years to figure out what exactly I could do creatively and make it profitable as well (I’ve done everything from fine art painting, ceramics, textiles, etc.), and jewelry has been the one thing that has fulfilled this, of which I stumbled upon by accident. It’s been very successful and profitable for 10 years now (grossing in the low-mid 6 figures for many years and employing on average 5 employees at any given time).

Thanks to Bonnie Riconda, Calico Juno Designs!

I Wanted Financial Independence & Saw A Need

In addition to wanting the financial independence that owning my own successful company would bring, I saw a need for a set of software tools that didn’t exist. I built the database and software tools that I wanted to use for my own investing/trading (based on 30 years experience) and then made those tools available to others as a subscription service. Response has been overwhelming. Turns out there were lots of investors feeling the same pain I was.

Thanks to Mike Scanlin, Born to Sell!

I Had a Particular Skill

Photo Credit: Jen Portland

A combination of computer camp starting at the age of 5, a Systems Engineering degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a few years of working in “Corporate America,” led me to be an expert in the “business art form” of Microsoft Excel. While this certainly helped my career, it was also a difficult cross to bear, as co-workers inevitably discovered my Excel talents and as a result, I found myself doing colleague’s Excel work for them. It was after several particularly late nights, at my “day job”, of finishing others’ work that the idea for ExcelRainMan.com was born. I knew if demand for this particular skill was so prevalent in my company, it must exist elsewhere. I decided to test this theory and offer these services to the general public and in 2008, Excel Rain Man started cranking out Excel Spreadsheet consulting work for companies of all sizes.

Thanks to Jen Portland, Excel Rain Man!

I Wanted to Apply My Knowledge

I just finished my Master’s degree and I had written my thesis about using Twitter to predict box office sales for movies. I really wanted to apply the knowledge I gained and the technology I built into something useful. I thought about creating a tool to monitor your brand, but that was too crowded. So I pivoted and created a review site for consumers. Why not collect all the information consumers are creating on social media, analyze it and give it back to them? I wanted to let the crowd access their own wisdom.

Thanks to Kevin Ohashi, Review Signal!

I’ve Always Been Independent

Photo Credit: Trish Sare

I have always been a very independent, free spirit individual who really doesn’t suit the 9 to 5, Monday to Friday routine work life that so many people succumb to. I also believed that if I have to spend my life working, than I may as well love what I do. I am passionate about adventure travel, different cultures, the outdoors and keeping active. At the age of 20 I left home and set off on a 5 year journey working my way around the world. While I was out there I met so many interesting people from all over the world who were doing really interesting things with their lives. I specifically remember being in Australia, on the Great Barrier Reef in the middle of the day and there were so many people out and about on their yachts. I thought to myself, it’s midday, midweek, when most people are generally at work and yet all of these people are instead out enjoying life. I told myself at that moment, if they can have a life like this, than why couldn’t I.

Thanks to Trish Sare, BikeHike Adventures!

I Wanted A Lifestyle About Balance & Giving Back

I am a motion graphics designer who got tired of working for other people in 2004. I tried freelancing but it felt like more of the same: crazy hours, too many cooks in the kitchen and at the end of the day that nagging thought that I am making someone else successful. So I decided to reinvent myself – as a small business. From the beginning I wanted this company to be more than just a means to support myself. It is about a lifestyle, about balance and most importantly to me, it is about giving back. We have a near constant rotation of pro bono projects for non-profits, ranging from the United Nations to NYC’s Transportation Alternatives.
Thanks to Maria Rapetskaya, Undefined Creative!

About Gresham Harkless Jr.

Gresham Harkless is the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.

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