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Why Did You Start Your Business? Week of April 7th

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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.

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Because I wanted to make a difference

I run a digital marketing practice that specializes in developing revenue generating marketing strategies and programs for b2b tech startups and medium sized businesses. I’ve been a consultant for most of my career, but a three year stint in a full time role reminded me why I loved consulting in the first place. It was my desire to make an impact. Therefore, my recent return to entrepreneurship pointed me in the direction of Silicon Alley. Rather than general marketing, I focused squarely on my niche – technology companies. And by working with startups and medium sized businesses, I get a direct line to the C-Suite which eliminates red tape and untimely delays in program execution. That gives me the unique ability to develop strategies and implement marketing programs that can have a direct and measureable impact on the bottom line. Now my company, Kaye Media Partners focuses on a select group of clientele to provide holistic b2b marketing campaigns that include strategy, design, content development, media planning, event management, mobile marketing and social media. My practice specializes in targeting marketers and IT professionals which opens the doors to numerous types of clients including cloud applications, SaaS/PaaS firms, mobile apps and other innovators in the space. My mantra is “Great Marketing Rocks” and whether we work with the C-Suite, marketing teams, sales divisions or if we’re lucky – a combination of them all, our goal is to make our clients achieve rock star status making my job not only ripe with opportunity, but loads of fun.

Thanks to Karen McFarlane, Kaye Media Partners

Related Post: Improving Office Culture with the Right Technology

 

Quitting our jobs to start a business we needed

I’m an ex-Canadian with a degree in Health Administration from the University of Victoria. I came to the US about 20 years ago and I’ve been a licensed health insurance broker since then. For many years, I studied and spoke on the differences between the American and Canadian health care systems (as well as the American and Canadian people). About 4 years ago, as Healthcare Reform was gaining popularity, I was in charge of reviewing new insurance products/companies for my employer at the time. During that process, I learned about non-insurance healthcare benefits (like being able to call a doctor 24/7 and get prescriptions, help organizing/negotiating medical bills, etc.) and thought, “based on what Canada went through when they moved to socialized healthcare, that’s EXACTLY what Americans are going to need in the future!” After trying multiple unsuccessful attempts at convincing my employer to move forward with it, my wife planted an idea in my head: quit your job and start your own company. So, we did it! Today our company, freshbenies, helps busy families save hundreds to thousands of dollars on healthcare costs and we help employers provide these vital benefits to their employees!

Thanks to Reid Rasmussen, freshbenies

 

It started  with a goal

designs4good started with a goal. We’re two friends who’ve had a lot of good things in our lives: families, friendships, careers, education. . . and the good fortune to be able to travel to some of the most fascinating areas in the world. Our journeys have given us a deep appreciation for these other countries, their cultures and traditions, and the beauty of their crafts. However, we have seen that many of the people live in extreme poverty and face great hardships just trying to survive, let alone improve their lives or make things better for their children. We contrasted this to the experiences of our own children and the opportunities they’ve had. Our objective was to find a way to help, especially with the needs of children and mothers. An online store was our best solution to accomplish our goals. The result is designs4good: a social entrepreneurship venture using on-line retail sales to generate significant donations to selected international charities. Human need is universal and ongoing. But so is generosity. You don’t need to be a millionaire to make a difference. Here’s what you can do: shop for gifts at designs4good.com. Why? Because every purchase from this collection generates a donation to alleviate some of that need.

Thanks to Keating Vogel, designs4good

 

Shaping a family business

One of the great strengths of a family business is the immediate access that the next generation has to shape the course of the business. The third generation can be the driver for change and reinvention.For two generations, our business had operated as a regional conventional egg supplier producing a commodity; but as our industry consolidated, we remained small and lost our ability to compete. Pursuing the only option for survival, my parents began to transition our business away from commodity egg production and into niche organic egg production. I joined the family business in the early stages of the transition and felt as though I had an immediate connection to our small but growing consumer base. I believed in what we were becoming, and my values were aligned with our customers. As the third generation to run our family egg farm, I had the opportunity to influence the direction and growth of the business at a very pivotal transition. I entered the business with a perspective more aligned with our consumers than with our industry. I was able to immediately shape the direction our business would take. I brought energy, optimism and insight that fueled growth of more than 30% for the next 13 years. I never would have imagined that our business would grow like it has. We have grown from a small family farm with two flocks and a small regional market into a multi-million dollar business producing eggs in partnership with more than 40 other small family farms and supplying the Eastern U.S. Running this business without sacrificing my commitment to small-scale farming has been a challenge; but by producing eggs sustainably and ethically, we’re doing exactly what our customers expect of us.

Thanks to Jesse LaFlamme, Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs

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A seed planted by life’s experiences

My purpose began as a seed planted by life’s experiences and then it blossomed. After a year of living in Africa and putting on business information sessions in 10 different countries I saw something special. It was the spark in entrepreneurs that were committed to starting or growing businesses that created income and impact. I had been a small business expert and development consultant for years. From my experiences came the inspiration for two books Your Big Year and From Payne to Power.I strive to inspire individuals to take action and eliminate personal and professional roadblocks to small business success. This is how Soul Purpose Company came to be. We provide business and professional development training for entrepreneurs that want to live their purpose by building profitable impact-driven businesses. I believe that purpose actually supersedes passion. The purpose clarifies the end goal and that’s what we empower businesses to work towards. Soul Purpose Company’s make more money to serve more people and create a bigger difference in the difference in the world.

Thanks to Jamila Payne, Soul Purpose Company

 

Because hiring sucks

I’ve run businesses of various sizes before, and regardless of what the business was they all shared a common pain; hiring new employees. At the same time, your employees are your company; they are the ones who ultimately determine the success or failure of your business. But there I was, slogging through hundreds of resumes per job, hoping to uncover the diamond in the tremendous pile of ‘rough’. In my last business we were lucky enough to get to to the size where we could afford to use recruiters, so we had the luxury of paying 20% of a new employee’s salary to not have to review hundreds of resumes. And yes, the process was smoother because I only saw qualified candidates, but I know first hand that not everyone can afford that. So we created jobdreaming; a better way to match candidates with employers. Think of it as a dating site for jobs. We start by allowing candidates to tell us what they want, allowing them to get back to their existing jobs while we search on their behalf, and employers and recruiters shortcut the process by only seeing candidates that meet their specific job requirements, and are interested and available. Hiring is a painful process for everyone-candidates and employers-but with a smarter process it can be better. Maybe even enjoyable.

Thanks to Kevin Watson, jobdreaming

Related Post: When to Hire a Consultant

Because we were ready to change our lives

Our business began with a list fueled by a quote and sustained by passion. Mary had written a list of things she’d like to accomplish years before the creation of the internet. One item was to have a portable business that could be done anywhere believing it might be something like writing how-to booklets. Years later and while sitting at her corporate desk she came upon a quote and link on a website that read “Are You Ready to Change Your Life”? Eagerly waiting for 2-3 weeks of vacation a year, sitting through appraisals, and asking bosses for time off to care for children or parents was not the life we wanted. We both had a strong desire to leave the corporate world to create financial security and a lifestyle where we controlled what we did and when we did it. Mary clicked on the link which became the impetus to create an informational website about porches. Because of our passion for our business and its success, we’ve been featured in publications and on national television as kitchen table entrepreneurs. Our website is portable and allows us to visit grandchildren when we want, travel anytime we want, and more importantly, create financial security for our family. When friends ask when we will be returning home from a trip, we honestly reply, “We have no idea”!

Thanks to Dave and Mary Morris, Front Porch Ideas and More

 

A passion for people

Life is bustling with work, technology and everything else that consumes our days. Through the years, I met and engaged with many individuals and couples who either felt like they were in a rut, complained with no action to create change or just didn’t feel the zest and passion for what they were doing. Many couldn’t figure out why and just accepted where they were but were not enjoying or living life to the fullest. I started Desert Coaching to partner with individuals and couples to move forward in a positive and productive manner to achieve the results they desire. People tend to place focus on their past instead of moving forward. I use a forward focused approach just like a marathon runner. A runner does not look back at where they have been. They keep their focus forward to attain their goal which is exactly what I do as coach. Using techniques to discover what is really important to an individual or couple, identifying obstacles, creating action plans and accountability lead to achieving desired results whether in life, career or relationships.

Thanks to Peggi Peaslee, Desert Coaching

 

To create a private dating intelligence tool for women

My first job after studying law at the London School of Economics was working at Ricall, a music licensing start-up. From that moment, I was hooked on the energy and sense of infinite possibility that defines start-up culture. Inspired by the drive and entrepreneurial energy around me, I knew from that moment that I wanted to launch my own venture. I was constantly on the look-out for an idea to run with and it finally came to me after a particularly bittersweet Valentine’s Day date. The guy was perfect! Just not perfect *for me*. I realized that there was no good place to gossip with my girlfriends, who were scattered all over the world, and I decided that girls needed a place to sing the praises of guys they adored, just not *like that*. Available on iOS and Android platforms, Lulu is a mobile app, created by women, for women, where ladies can privately dish about the men in their lives. Through Lulu, you can read and write reviews of guys, which are pulled from a variety of tools, questionnaires, and fun features. The reviews show numerical scores across a number of categories, putting the emphasis on collective wisdom. To date, over 4 million reviews have been read on Lulu, and the typical user spends upwards of 45 minutes per week on Lulu!

Thanks to Alexandra Chong, Lulu

 

Because we had an overweight dog

SlimDoggy.com is based on our experience with Jack- a Yellow Lab that we rescued in August 2011. He was 105 lbs. and on both Prozac (for anxiety & hyperactivity) and Rimadyl. Jack was ‘unadoptable’- he was in the shelter for over a year before we took a chance on him. Using scientific research and guidance from our orthopedic vet, we created algorithms to figure out portion sizes and calorie targets, and we had him on a proper diet and exercise program quickly. Within 3 months, Jack was down to 85 lbs, off of both medications, and a happy and healthy dog. Little did we know that there are a lot of dogs like Jack: there are almost 40 million overweight/obese dogs in the US and the incremental cost in vet/medicine bills for this is an estimated $6-8 billion annually. Upon learning these startling statistics, we decided to share our work and attack the dog obesity problem head on. SlimDoggy was born.

Thanks to Steve Pelletier, SlimDoggy

 

To encourage traveling in South East Asia

Out of passion for traveling since my university days, together with my university friend, Juergen Gallistl, we decided to start Lagisatu.com, a meta search engine which removes the hassle of sifting through endless hotel websites and trying to find the best rooms for the lowest prices, offering travelers across the globe a way in which to streamline their results and find their perfect destination for less. Malaysian loves to travel, and We envisage our new search engine as a saving grace for Malaysian. We hope to expand the concept to the whole of South East Asia and encourage traveling among the people. I truly believe in the notion that traveling expands your mind and to meet new people and indulge in new culture is the most beautiful experience one can ever have. We hope that with our effort, more and more people in this region are encouraged to start a journey for their own.

Thanks to Faeez Fadhlillah, Lagisatu.com

Related Post: Tips on Dealing with International Clients

It started out as therapy for a brain injury

This business started out as therapy for a brain injury. I was in a car accident in Spring of 2011. Hit my head, suffered a concussion and then post concussion syndrome. During the year plus that followed, focus was difficult to achieve and clarity almost impossible. A mental storm was my daily companion and I searched for a way to control, calm and quiet my thoughts. Had an opportunity to take a woodturning course. All of a sudden I had moments of singular focus. Turned out I was pretty good with woodturning as well. Started making pens and small bowls as therapy and posted pictures on various social media outlets. Then it happened…someone offered me money for my creations. Being a life long businessman I jumped at the offer. Next thing I knew there was a new business and I was being called an Artist! How cool is that?

Thanks to Jeff Hornung, The Walnut Log

 

Doing our own take on the classic rocking horse

As recent architectural grads, my girlfriend Catherine and I were trained to take a set of parameters and design a functional piece of architecture to address the particular issues. When, in our last year of school, we were planning to travel to Ireland to visit relatives that had just had a child we decided to solve our own problem of wanting to bring a gift by designing our own within a set of parameters like we were taught in school. Namely, we decided to do our own take on the classic rocking horse and from there we knew we needed it to fit into our luggage to travel overseas and we decided that we wanted the toy to be flat-packed in our luggage and then be assembled with no tools or hardware once we had arrived. After several weeks we had a prototype that got such a good reaction from friends, family, peers and professors that we decided to begin a business around the toy. Wee Rock Toy Co. launched in the summer of 2012 and we filled out our line of rocking toys with, of course, a horse but also a rhino, giraffe, elephant and a gorilla. All our toys are made in Miami and are made from a beautiful bamboo plywood that is not only sustainable and FSC certified, but is guaranteed to emit zero VOC’s since it uses a soy-based adhesive rather than more conventional urea-formaldehyde formulations.

Thanks to Mike and Catherine, Wee Rock Toy Co.

 

To help my military community overseas

I am in the US military overseas (Germany). Many in our overseas military communities create home based businesses as a means to supplement their income and express their creativity. My wife and I have both actively done this throughout our time in Germany. I realized that most businesses were run solely by word of mouth and that people needed a community and a better way to make sales. I am now in the process of launching a website www.osfair.com which is tailored to the thousands in the military overseas. Members can sell their handmade products directly on the site through PayPal. Everyone with military addresses receives free shipping to offset the normally difficult shipping methods Americans overseas usually experience. I feel very good about providing a service to the community of which I have been a part of for a few years now and know very well. In my years to come after leaving the military, hopefully I can make this a full time endeavor.

Thanks to Nathan and Jenna Page, osfair

 

A need for functional yet chic travel accessories for the career woman

After a career in politics, I followed my love of fashion, design and travel and founded Hudson + Bleecker, a travel and lifestyle brand for discerning travelers. While preparing for a business trip in 2007, and after an unsuccessful search for a functional and chic travel shoe bag, I was led down the unfamiliar yet incredibly fulfilling path of becoming a designer of fun and functional travel accessories. As a designer I am inspired by my travels, my South Asian cultural heritage and achieving a harmonious balance between classic design, ethnic influences, fashion + modern elements. I sketch my designs, search the globe for the finest quality trims and works on every detail of every bag from the style and color of each zipper, to the texture and finish of our textiles. In addition, for every accessory purchased, Hudson + Bleecker donates a percentage of the profits to support local and national charities and philanthropic causes. I created Hudson + Bleecker not only as a platform to do what I love, but also as a vehicle to give back.

Thanks to Eram Siddiqui, Hudson+Bleecker

Related Post: How Women Can Level the Playing Field in Business

Making it on my own

My company actually has its roots in a freelance writing business I had from 2006 until 2009. I was a freelance writer, editor and eventually social media consultant, and had written for dozens of national, regional and local magazines and newspapers as well as for websites and blogs. I’d sort of backed into social media as a creative outlet rather than as a business — I’d discovered Twitter in 2007 and loved the ability to connect instantly with fellow creatives and writers around the world. I’d not in a million years ever dreamed that I could make a living out of it, but eventually I started getting gigs from companies who were interested in using social media for their own business. At some point I landed a full-time gig as a content manager for a rapidly growing social media startup, and that’s when it hit me that one could actually make a living offering social media services to other companies. I parted ways amicably with that company after two months and officially relaunced my independent career on January 1, 2010, only this time I decided to launch it as a company rather than as a freelancer. Within six months, I had enough business to justify hiring my first part-time employee. Although I — like many entrepreneurs — go through periods of doubt and frustration, whereby I find myself scrolling through the classifieds wondering if I should just chuck it all and go back to full-time employment again — I realize in my heart that I’m meant to be an entrepreneur and thrive best where I have the opportunity to grow a company and provide value to my clients as well as my employees.

Thanks to Marjorie R. Asturias, Blue Volcano Media

 

To help college women let go of perfectionism and lead with resilience

In 2001, I graduated summa cum laude from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY with a 3.92 GPA ­ the first woman in my family to earn a degree. I completed a double major in English and history, a writing minor, a concentration in women’s studies while working two part-time jobs on the side. My resume was perfect but I was a wreck! I had a panic attack in the bathroom during a final exam. I graduated with stress and anxiety induced health problems. I survived. According to the latest available figures from the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, 92 percent of our nation’s female college students reported feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do in the previous 12 months; 86 percent reported feeling exhausted, though not from physical activity; 57 percent reported feeling overwhelming anxiety and 50 percent reported feeling things were hopeless. Did you also know that suicide is the leading cause of death among college students, second only to accidents? I founded Campus Calm® to create a space for the next generation of rising women leaders‹your daughters, nieces, and neighbors‹to ditch their inner perfectionists so they can lead with resilience. A 2010 Accenture research study titled, “Women Leaders and Resilience” found that more than 71 percent of corporate leaders report that resilience is very to extremely important in determining who to retain. Resilience is our greatest leadership advantage in the 21st century. After keynoting a women’s leadership conference at the University of California, Merced, I received the following email from a student: “Maria, I was so stressed out I was planning on dropping out of college. After hearing your powerful presentation and story, I’ve decided to stay in school and I’m excited to get involved in the organizations I’m most passionate about!” Can you think of a better reason to be in business?!

Thanks to Maria Pascucci, Campus Calm

 

A business to place me on the same side as my clients

I had worked in the brokerage industry for 20 years and was increasingly uncomfortable with the nature of the industry and its approach to handling investor’s money. As brokers we were touted as advocates for clients but our worth and value as brokers was determined by the level of gross commission produced. The clients mattered only as vehicles to produce commission revenue. The firms were creating immensely complicated, illiquid products to trap client money at the firm even though that was not in the client’s best interest. We did not get paid much more or less if the investments we made went up or down. What finally broke through to me was that I was getting paid not to make clients money but to move their money and that buying and selling are not good for the client. I created a business that places me on the same side of the table as our clients, sells only my brains, my time and my experience and elevated our standard of care to that of a fiduciary rather than the lower suitability standard of the brokerage industry. We have grown the firm from zero assets to $1.4 billion in assets.

Thanks to Dennis R. Gibb, Sweetwater Investments

 

To join the modern world

To join the modern world. In the summer of 2000, I dropped out of Temple University and left the suburbs of Philadelphia to “live off the land” and be “off the grid”. We lived without running water, electricity or a toilet. After six years my wife Tavia and I decided we wanted to joint the modern world. As there were no jobs in rural Central New York, we had to make our own. We bought a laptop and a generator and started an online business selling pet memorial stones. To say it was slow at first is an understatement. In the past 7 years we’ve grown to the point where we no longer can do all the work ourselves. Now we are in the position to provide jobs in our area. I had life pretty well figured out for if civilization fell apart but not if it kept going. I feel like we really know what its like to build something from nothing and I’d love to do it again. We now have electricity, running water and a toilet. Clearly we’ve arrived.

Thanks to Jeremy Pellani, Adirondack Stone Work LLC

 

Sprung from a series of bad luck

You’ve heard all the clichés like make lemon out of lemonade or there’s a silver lining behind every dark cloud. These are all true for me because my business happened mostly from a series of bad luck. I was a poor student in school, but I still tried college, guess I just wanted to see how bad I could really be, and I was terrible. So I went to a vo-tech school for fashion merchandising and did pretty well — but as fate would have it the recession of 1974 would happen and much like today nobody was hiring, gas prices were sky rocketing, and my industry, fashion, was taking a beating. But I had to have money so I took a job selling flags for a company in Dallas, Texas. Soon I was homesick and deflated, so I moved home to Little Rock, where I started Arkansas Flag and Banner by occupying a desk at my father’s small business and selling flags door to door. I had $400 in savings which I used to buy business cards, an order pad, and a yellow page ad. I worked odd and part time jobs for nine years, while I grew Arkansas Flag and Banner. Finally it paid off. Now 38 years later I am proud to boast a strong internet presence and sales of $3 million. Necessity really is the mother of invention. You could say I reinvented myself.

Thanks to Kerry McCoy, Arkansas Flag and Banner

About Gresham Harkless Jr.

Profile photo of Gresham Harkless Jr.
Gresham Harkless is a Media Consultant for Blue 16 Media and 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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