Each business has a story. No matter if the business is a Goliath like Wal-Mart, or a local business owned by a couple or family, the business has roots in an idea. For each business owner, the story of their journey can range from monetary needs or the passion for a unique project. Each story is different though the reasons may remain the same. No matter the tale, the background behind each and every business is what fuels each entrepreneurship and brand.
Photo Credit: Herbert Ong
One word – passion
One word: Passion. Unlike most startups, Healthentic’s mission was not created until we truly understood the needs of our marketplace. We interviewed 138 corporate benefit managers, and surveyed thousands more, to determine how we could help them successfully execute wellness programs. We learned that they needed to have the ability to sell wellness initiatives to their C-suites, and prove a solid return on the monetary and time investments for these initiatives. With this knowledge, we came up with a scientifically-based program that analyzes years of insurance claims data (medical, dental, prescription, HRA, biometrics) to show a groups true health, including opportunities for improvement through tested, and proven, wellness strategies.
Thanks to Herbert Ong, Healthentic
Photo Credit: Beth Allen
Empowering women to be smart homeowners
I started HIP Chicks, Home Improvement Project Chicks because I want to empower women to be smart, capable & confident homeowners. As an interior designer, I was tired of just telling women what improvements to make. Tired of hearing about women who paid through the nose for minor home repairs and being taken by contractors. Tired of knowing women who just accepted broken, run down living conditions because they did not have money for hired help. I decided to show them how to do it themselves. I use my seasoned DIY abilities to give other women the knowledge, skills and guts to save money, save time and be independent from contractors, husbands and kids. By tapping into my passion and a once hidden entrepreneurial spirit, I am creating a brand that will be a symbol to women (and guys) that home ownership and Doing it Yourself can be fun, cost effective and gratifying. My goal: build HIP Chicks into The DIY resource for women. Rachel Ray brought women back to kitchen for easy, practical and fun meals. Look out, because I am taking over the rest of the house!
Thanks to Beth Allen, HIP Chicks
Photo Credit: Alan Carniol
To teach others to escape the misery of the job search
Most people don’t like searching for a job. It’s like having to start dating again after being in a long-term relationship. And as I discovered for myself, how to find a job is not a topic well covered in school. My own search led me to a lot of opinions, and a lot fewer actionable steps. Eventually I realized that there is a clear set of job search and interview skills that can be taught and learned. I started my company so other people could learn these skills, avoid all of my mistakes and land their next job faster.
Thanks to Alan Carniol, Interview Success Formula
Photo Credit: Marcy Twete
To make breaking the glass ceiling a group effort
After a decade of working in fundraising with nonprofit organizations dedicated to supporting women and girls, I realized that all women had the same career issues. From the largest donors to women struggling to put food on the table for their families, every woman needs more information, additional resources, and a powerful network to set goals, meet them, and ultimately become successful in their personal and professional lives. The sad truth is that while women are 50% of the population, we’re only 2% of the C-suite. We can’t change those numbers as individuals, and we can’t get ahead in our careers as individuals. Career Girl Network is exactly what its name implies – a network. We help women connect to other powerful women in all stages of their career and gain key tips, tricks, and mentoring to get ahead. Only collectively can we break the proverbial glass ceiling and begin to see change occurring in American business, politics, and more.
Thanks to Marcy Twete, Career Girl Network
Photo Credit: Dr. James Bernstein
Driven by a passion for social impact
After launching General Health, Inc., the first preventive medicine business in the US and Informax, a software company that helped the sequencing of the human genome, I began to build Noxilizer, a project that really fueled my interests and passion. I served as CEO and Chair of the Board as we developed and commercialized a disruptive room temperature gas sterilization system. With eight years and over $17 million in capital investment, Noxilizer validated its patented nitrogen dioxide sterilization process. With Noxilizer running smoothly, I was free to pursue my initial dream and create a product that would benefit billions of people in the developing world. Sterile medical instruments can mean the difference between life and death. Reported healthcare-related infection rates in developing countries range from 15% to 40%. This problem grows with the expansion of basic surgery in under-resourced settings. I founded Eniware, LLC, using Noxilizer’s patented technology to build a portable sterilization device that requires no power source and no heat. This is a first in medical instrument sterilization and an innovation that has the potential to benefit millions of people not only in developing countries and rural areas, but also victims of natural disasters and in military humanitarian aid and field operations. Eniware’s system will provide safe, affordable, and effective sterilization of medical equipment anywhere in the world at any time.
Thanks to Dr. James Bernstein, Eniware, LLC
Photo Credit: Dana Goldstein
To teach my sons that you can be creative, inspiring and nurturing while earning an income
I didn’t start out that way. When I launched my business in 2006, I was interested in generating a modest income while I raised two boys under the age of three. Without a business plan, but with plenty of support from my husband, I began to create custom slideshows for birthdays, retirements and weddings. My television and film editing skills enabled me to tell a compelling story and it was only after my first year in business that I realized all my clients were sending emails sharing their emotional experiences when they viewed their dvds. I felt so fantastic about these comments so I started sharing them with my family. I did not realize that by discussing the projects and reading the reactions, my children were learning about exactly what I did and how it made people feel. In my fifth year, when my 5-year-old son had a career day at school, he was asked what his mom does. His response: “She takes people’s movies and makes them better.
Thanks to Dana Goldstein, Digital Shoebox
Photo Credit: Bruce A. Hurwitz
Serving those who serve us all
My motivation in starting my business was, and is, to help veterans find employment. While I work with everyone, I believe it is our duty to help veterans find employment. They make the best employees, so it is a smart business decision for employers to hire them. But it is also in our national security. If members of the military cannot find work when they are discharged, why would they volunteer to serve? We have to get them meaningful employment.
Thanks to Bruce A. Hurwitz, Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, Ltd.
Photo Credit: Gary Brose
Bitten by the management bug
I started my business in 1981 because I was bitten by the bug. The management bug, that is. I mostly studied urban planning in college and thought that would be my career. But I took a job in the transportation industry straight out of college just to make some money for a while and found I really liked it. They were growing fast and kept moving me up the ladder and at 25, green behind the ears with nary a business class to my credit, I found myself managing one of their stations in Richmond, Virginia. They moved me up to Cincinnati and then Chicago. It was a blast. The company was young and entrepreneurial and I was getting a ton of experience. It was like running my own business … until it wasn’t. The company grew tremendously fast and then got bogged down in bureaucracy. Soon they started handing down edicts from above that I found impossible to support. I no longer wanted to follow my leaders so that is when I realized that I needed to own my own business so I would never ever again have to put a happy face on some error-filled policy. So I moved back home to Seattle, bought a small courier company and was happy to make my OWN mistakes. Haven’t worked for anyone else since.
Thanks to Gary Brose, US Dispatch Corp
Photo Credit: Tosin Williams
To provide parents a better alternative
The creation of The Learning Period was so that I could provide parents a better alternative. At the Learning Period, I offer employment only to state-certified, credentialed teachers with a significant level of both classroom and private tutoring experience. My tutors must demonstrate that they are knowledgeable in the subject matter, are personable, and are effective communicators. I have found that students who work with a teacher-turned tutor are very satisfied with the progress they make during the tutoring session.
Thanks to Tosin Williams, The Learning Period
Photo Credit: Harriet Hoffman
To help boomers and seniors make good choices
Several years ago people started asking me questions about how to best access their Social Security and/or Medicare benefits. Because my professional background had included both government healthcare funding and senior services programming, I understood health care terminology, government regulations, compliance and budgets – just what is needed to navigate the Medicare “maze” and avoid the Social Security “traps.” By then I myself was enrolled in both Medicare and Social Security, so I knew how impenetrable and complex the system had become, and I freely gave advice to help others make the most of the benefits they needed and would use for the rest of their lives. Then, along came the economic downturn and I decided to reinvent myself (I had been working as a grant writing consultant) and charge a fee for what I was offering. My new business, *Make the Right Choice*, is now about 18 months old and is doing well. I’m thrilled to be helping people save money and time, avoid stress and make the decisions that can help assure their future health and financial well being.
Thanks to Harriet Hoffman, Harriet Hoffman Consulting
Photo Credit: Marla Martenson
Because I wanted to call my own shots
I started my own business at the age of 47 because I wanted to call my own shots. I was stressed out working long hours for an unethical boss. I didn’t want someone else to determine how long I had to eat my lunch, how many days I could go on vacation, be told how to dress or wear my hair, among a dozen other things. i finally realized that after seven years as a matchmaker, I could do the same job working for myself from home. I was scared stiff at first, but I took baby steps starting with one client at a time. I slowly learned what I needed for my business such as an LLC, business account, payroll service etc. I have to admit that starting my own business was the best risk I ever took in my life. I am happier than I have ever been, I am connecting people with their soulmates, and no one is pulling my strings!
Thanks to Marla Martenson, Cupid For Hire
Photo Credit: Anthony Casa
To deliver a committed customer experience
Since my very first job as a dishwasher , I have always looked at the way any business I was employed by was run, and how it could be better. After spending almost ten years in the mortgage industry as a loan officer, sales manager, and in multiple executive management roles; I made a decision that there was a major opportunity for a company in the industry that offered competitive rates, low cost, and excelled in customer service and ability to close home loans within 21 days. Although the companies I had been employed by during my career had good values, they did not make the commitment to delivering a customer service experience that I believe could separate one mortgage company from all of the rest. In my time as President of Garden State Home Loans we have made the commitment day in and day out to be the industry leader in customer service and complete start to finish customer experience. We make sure we are the best priced and lowest cost lender in all of the markets we do business in, we have a 21 day origination to closing average close time on all conventional loans, and we hold every member of our team to the very highest standard when it comes to customer service. It is who we are, and the key to our overall success as a company.
Thanks to Anthony Casa, Garden State Home Loans
Photo Credit: Stella Shamoun
Because I wanted to be healthy
It was in 2005, when I used to get sick easily. I was struggling with cold and flu. Taking medication and antibiotics for several months didn’t help. Because I have a sensitive stomach and I started having a lot of stomach cramps and pain. Because I am into organic and natural ingredients I decide to heal myself with herbs, spices, seeds and roots. I have always believed Mother Nature is the best physician, and food is the best medicine. I started studying and educating my self for several years and was inspired by the healing power of herbs and spices to boost my immune system, help cold &flu and mostly to help my digestive tract and over all well-being. The more I learned, the more I became fascinated, so I started blending special formulas of organic herbs and spices to help reenergize and balance my body. By brewing and drinking these delicious herbs and spices teas every day, I felt great. Their healing benefits have exceeded my expectations. Soon I was selling my tea to family, friends, co worker and friends of friends. Because people are more into natural ingredients and healthy living, I had an opportune time to start a business that helped people.
Thanks to Stella Shamoun, Chaidon
Photo Credit: Jeff Bollow
Because I couldn’t find any screenplays to produce
I teach people how to write movies. Not by choice, but by necessity. A movie starts its life as a screenplay (a written version of the movie) which is used to attract investors, assemble the elements, and guide production. As an independent film producer who has been in the film industry all my life, my ambition was to launch an independent film studio to produce 3-6 films a year. I spent thousands of man-hours searching for screenplays to produce, but came up empty-handed every time. It was excruciatingly frustrating. People have great ideas for movies, but there was never a clear path for turning those ideas into screenplays someone like me could use in the real world. So I spent over a decade building one. I wrote a booked called ³Writing FAST: How to Write Anything with Lightning Speed² to help anyone tap into their creativity quickly, and then I expanded it into a year-long, detailed, step-by-step process for tapping the writer¹s originality and turning it into screenplays producers can use. I believe creativity is our purpose, and sharing stories enables us to learn from one another and push forward into a prosperous future. I started my business to solve an industry problem, and with it, I hope to inspire writers and audiences to reach for the impossible.
Thanks to Jeff Bollow, FAST Screenplay
Photo Credit: Brad Kinder
To give those with money troubles someone to talk to
I started Kinder Coaching because if a person or family is having problems with money, I want to talk with them and teach them things that change their lives. A person with money problems is stressed and if you are married, you are fighting with your spouse (due to the money problems). My wife and I started out our marriage out like this 15 years ago, we speak from experience. These things hurt and it doesn’t have to be this way. I didn’t like that about my life. We learned some things and over time, we learned to handle money properly. I realized it is not necessary to live that way and there is a better option. I don’t want people to go through life failing to handle their money properly, I want them to succeed. Eventually, we found a way to make things better, a better life. The most important thing was we began to dream. We could dream about what we wanted in the future. We saw we had some control over what we wanted for our future. Now I want to help and encourage others so they can do it too.
Thanks to Brad Kinder, Kinder Coaching
Photo Credit: Dean Jenkins
To help families eat healthier
My journey in starting PapayaHead, Inc. started in 2000 when my father passed away suddenly from a heart attack. I knew that my family had a history of heart disease and I knew that I had to manage my own health better. I searched for a website that would help me figure out how to eat healthy and how to get a healthy dinner on the table for my family. Although there are hundreds of websites with recipes and advice, none really made planning meals easy, for me. I had just finished getting my MBA at the University of Washington and had experience with managing technical projects through my job as a program manager with Intel corp. I began doing research and talking to friends and putting together a plan. In 2006 we launched the company with a small investment from myself and two friends and got the site launched, mostly with people working for sweat equity. We launched the site in 2009 and a year later won a contest sponsored by the first lady Michelle Obama! It has been a great journey and I am thankful that we had the courage to take the big leap of starting this company. My family eats the meals that PapayaHead publishes and we are healthier because of it and we are making a difference for many other families as well.
Thanks to Dean Jenkins, PapayaHead, Inc.
Photo Credit: Todd R. Tresidder
Because of a burning need to separate financial advice from investment product sales.
I started my business because of the burning need to separate financial advice from investment product sales. I was just foolish enough to believe I could actually help ordinary people achieve extraordinary financial results through a purely educational model that never pitched investments. In the past, most people got their advice from same person selling them the investments. It is an inherent conflict of interest that both biases the advice you receive and limits the scope of the advice. Smart financial strategy to build wealth is a much broader topic than just opening a retirement account and stuffing it with used stocks and bonds. Retirement planning has completely changed with increasing longevity. It is a new financial world and technology has opened the door for alternative business models that make sense.
Thanks to Todd R. Tresidder, Financial Mentor
Photo Credit: Jean Meyer
To build the most private and efficient dating platform out there
While Balazs Alexa and I were getting our MBAs at Columbia University, we co-founded college dating startup, DateMySchool to safely and easily discover new people on campus and campuses nearby. We got the idea after a woman in the nursing school complained how hard it was to meet guys since her department was mostly female; we were in the business school which was mostly men and we wanted to meet women, too. We couldn’t find a better solution out there to help students meet on campus and we wanted to solve the major problems with online dating sites and social networks: lack of safety, privacy, and efficiency. So, we built the safest, most private and efficient dating platform out there, which only permits verified students and alumni to join and lets members control who can and cannot view their profile by restricting schools, departments, age levels and individuals.
Thanks to Jean Meyer, DateMySchool
Photo Credit: David Bravo
To help people live powerfully
On September 10th, 2001, while looking up at my 96th floor office in the World Trade Center during my lunch break, I had a moment of truth about my life. I decided that I would take the later train to work the next morning so I could have breakfast with my wife and daughter (I had a 2 hour commute each way so I would never get to see my daughter awake during the week). Because of this decision I was still in the NYC subway when the first plane slammed into my floor and hit my desk on 9/11. As a result of that experience, I have transformed my own life to serve as The Human WakeUp CallR for others, using my own brush with tragedy as a message of self-discovery and empowerment. My company helps people LIVE POWERFULLY. Through my programs and services people reignite their focus, confidence, and energy to bring an “anything is possible” attitude to their personal and professional lives and wake up to their potential, without losing another single precious day. In my first book, WAKE UP! Your Life is Calling. Why settle for FINE when so much more is possible? (published earlier this year), I have taken my experience as a 9/11 survivor and share my powerful, and touching story of how it served as my WakeUp call. Through this powerful message of self discovery and empowerment, I guide participants to identify their own WakeUp moment and use it to explore what’s possible, stay committed, and get started on the path to achieving extraordinary results, starting today.
Thanks to Mike Jaffe, The Mike Jaffe Company
Photo Credit: Armen Berjikly
To connect people with shared experiences
I had a friend with a serious illness, and I moonlighted by building a small web site for patients to learn about the latest treatments and support each other emotionally. One morning, I received an email from a user that said he was on the verge of suicide, until he found the site and had a small amount of hope restored. I quit my job immediately, and started Experience Project, with a goal of extending the concept of connecting people who understood each other because they shared experiences to absolutely everyone. 25M experiences and 100s of millions of users later, the experiment was a success.
Thanks to Armen Berjikly, Kanjoya
Photo Credit: Sam Lundin
To save people time on researching recreational activities
I launched Vimbly in 2011 to save people hours of time unnecessarily wasted when researching & booking a recreational activity. I was trying to find a photography class in New York. I Google’d it and a slew of options came up — but half were in the wrong part of town. The rest were on bad days for me, at the wrong times, and hard to reach. When I finally found a class that worked, I had to email back and forth three times to lock it down. In total, I spent hours going through this process. There had to be an easier way. On Vimbly, users can immediately see the nearest photography classes on a map — and all of the time slots over the next week are on the *same screen*. They can click on the time slot and easily book on the spot. The multiple hour process now takes ten minutes.
Thanks to Sam Lundin, Vimbly
Photo Credit: David A. Houle
To bridge the gap between the way the ultra-wealthy invest and the way everyone else is told how to do it
Historically it has been only the ultra-wealthy who have had access to the most sophisticated and finely-tuned investment strategies. Meanwhile, the vast majority of investors are undeserved with plain-vanilla products and approaches. The ultra-wealthy look beyond traditional stocks and bonds for opportunities while the majority of investors are sold stock/bond/cash portfolios. The ultra-wealthy also implement innovative and proactive techniques for protecting their capital as they grow it while everyone else is simply told to “ride it out”. Our firm offers something completely different for those who want to move beyond the shortcomings of the traditional model. We’ve created an investment firm that prioritizes bottom-line results, values transparent communication and eliminates all the unnecessary fluff that is so prevalent in our industry. In short we like to keep score and give our clients a clear view of the scoreboard.
Thanks to David A. Houle, Season Investments
Photo Credit: Andy Nathan
To help entrepreneurs help generate leads through social media
In 2009 I was at the my wit’s end. The mortgage industry tanked, bringing my client base along with it. I started looking for new ways to find clients, and my girlfriend, now wife, signed me up on Facebook in 2008 to help me. As I continued to navigate through Facebook and Twitter, friends and family started asking me for help with their own social media campaigns. Soon I was spending more time on Twitter, and more time infuriated with loans that would take 6 months to close. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the $12 commission check I received on a mortgage. The bank made a mistake, and did not alert me until closing that after working 6 months I would make $12 for that effort. I mentally checked out from mortgage business that day, and built a business around helping entrepreneurs develop their lead generation pipeline through social media.
Thanks to Andy Nathan
Photo Credit: Alec Houle
To strive for a better life
Growing up in the 60’s and being a child of a divorced parents, I realized that my mother always found finances very difficult and that gave me my roots to strive for a better life. My mother worked two jobs most of her life and I credit her with the work ethic that was instilled in me and my siblings. I worked in the corporate world from the age of 19-21 and realized corporations can smother a person and their ideas. Many times making poor decisions that you have no control over. At 21, I started my own business, working tremendous amounts of hours to succeed. Forty two years later I’m still going strong. I have tweak the business as to the direction I wanted to be in over the years and have enjoyed a very successful and rewarding career. Being a carpet & upholstery cleaning company, I feel I have developed so many friends/clients I have been blessed. Best decision I ever made.
Thanks to Alec Houle, Alec’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning LLC
Photo Credit: Teri Freeman
To help people get their ‘perfect gift’
I was always pretty good at “guessing” which gift would be a hit but over the years I came to learn about a number of misses that made me sad. My Husband was always terrified every Valentine’s Day, Anniversary, Birthday and Christmas when he would desperately want to buy me something that showed his love and made me happy but he isn’t psychic and one can only hint so much.. My Husband is also one of those “hard to buy for” people so it made sense to ask him to think about a wishlist of his own that everyone could look at. When my nieces turned 18 and started getting tatoos that was the last straw. I could no longer give ca$h as a gift, in good conscience, and I admitted I needed help. I worked with several talented Software developers to create a user friendly web site for everyone to use to create their wishlists. When I announced to my family that only those who helped me out and made a wishlist would be getting presents it took about 15 minutes for nearly everyone to create a list of 20-30 items that I could choose from. Those who didn’t make a registry got a card with best wishes. I know it sounds tough but it had to be done. Now everyone is happy because they get a gift they actually want, in the right size and color. Other people have discovered MyPerfectGift and started asking their Friends & Family Circle to make registries for year ’round gift giving for every occasion. We recently received the Parent Tested Parent Approved award from PTPA media for our Kidlet Registry where kids can safely make an online wishlist of their ever changing desires.
Thanks to Teri Freeman, My Perfect Gift