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 and brand.
#1 – A Different Direction
I started my business because I wanted to have the freedom and flexibility to take my practice in any direction I wanted. As a boutique reinsurance practice, I needed to be more nimble and creative than my biglaw competitors. We work very closely with our clients to structure our work and fee structure in a fashion that best suits their needs. Most law firms are chained to the billable hour paradigm. We could, over a beer, set a fee structure – whether it was hourly, a blend rate, a per project rate or contingent fee structure that worked for our client. We also work closely with them to put our approach to handling their matters into a format that works for them. We don’t want to simply tender everything to litigation and drag it out for years to generate billables. We sincerely try to put together an approach to handling our clients’ matters that makes the best sense for them on many fronts. We have built a massive international client base over the years and been able to secure work that would have traditionally gone to a much larger law firm.
Thanks to Steven G. Bazil, Esq., The Bazil Group
#2 – A Dishonest Industry
It’s no secret – the marketing industry (and SEO in particular) is full of snake oil salesmen, dishonesty and at times downright lies. I was working as part of an in-house marketing team at a major online retailer and became seriously fed up with being pitched to with marketing ideas ranging from sleazy to downright illegal. I remember one day, after sitting through what must have been the 15th meeting that week with sleazy salesmen, thinking There has to be a better way…. That night I started working on my business plan for what ultimately became Piccana – an inbound marketing agency. The aim from the start was to shake up the industry – starting local and growing global. Everything was to be honest, from client reporting and expectations down to employees knowing how much everyone earns. 100% transparency was to be the main core value. It turns out the people out there were just like me – fed up of the sleazy side of the industry. We grew from one man in a bedroom (me!) to 6 staff in a prestigious office complex in just 12 months – and the growth doesn’t look like stopping. The best part though? I’m restoring people’s faith in an industry I love.
Thanks to Neil Andrew, Piccana
#3 – Changing an Old Problem
My biggest influence by far is my father. He was a big entrepreneur, he grew a farm from zero to 3000 hectares by himself in 20 years. He just did it by pushing himself very strongly. He was the one who brought a lot of new commodities to places where it didn’t use to grow. In turn, I had the possibility to change an old problem in a traditional industry I love, to find new and better solutions and help promote it, that’s what it comes to in the end. I was born and raised in a family of farmers. Through my fathers’s business but also while working at The Giumarra Companies, I saw that cash flow was always a huge problem for farmers. I realized there was a pain point and I had an idea to solve it. I was doing an MBA at Cornell University at the time and they have a strong entrepreneurial program. After spending 6 months on the market validation I pitched them my idea and partnered with the first investors. That allowed to launch our product in September 2015.
Thanks to Pablo Borquez Schwarzbeck, ProducePay
#4 – MLM Obsessed
I was so intrigued with MLMs when I was in High School – I mean, seriously, obsessed. I didn’t even have a job or an allowance and I still wanted to go to every single Mary Kay or do Terra party because I thought they were so intriguing. All the women at these parties were in business for themselves, and they inspired me to do the same thing. I tried a few different MLMs – while successful, I didn’t have a knack for sales. Then, when I heard about the Virtual Assistant industry, I knew exactly how I could help the industry that made me fall in love with entrepreneurship. I started my business to help these other women entrepreneurs achieve success and sell a product they believe in. Not many people get to say that they’re achieving their dreams by helping others achieve *their *dreams! I feel so fortunate every day.
Thanks to Braelin Andrzejewski, Virtual Assistant Link
#5 – Eliminate Headache
I started Homebase to eliminate paperwork and headaches for small businesses with hourly workers. Two people important to me: a childhood friend, a restaurateur, and my younger sister, a bartender, were both dealing with paperwork problems that seemed crazy to me: running payroll required hours of manually checking for errors, work schedules were being built by hand and taped to the wall, and employees still had to call in to know when they were working. I made it my mission to build modern, easy-to-use free software that could eliminate this paperwork once and for all. Homebase’s free cloud based software helps thousands of small businesses eliminate the paperwork of managing hourly and freelance employees.
Thanks to John Waldmann, Homebase
#6 – Sub-par Performances
I started my company in 2011, after witnessing first-hand the sub-par performance some companies operated with because they were only in the homecare business for financial gain. It was increasingly frustrating because I believe that people deserve the best care available — and that should be the most important thing to a business in this industry. When I started Sunny Days In-Home Care, I was the first and only caregiver, working around the clock caring for clients and learning their needs. During that time, I also managed all other functions of Sunny Days, essentially acting as a one-man band for the first few months. I eventually recruited my wife Evelyn to quit her full-time job and join me at Sunny Days and since then we now serve 200 clients, maintain nearly 250 employees and generate about $5 million in annual revenue in just five years. Plus, we’re in the first year of a brand-new franchise program to spread our Sunny Days vision. Starting this company was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Thanks to David Ellenwood, Sunny Days In-Home Care
#7 – Gut Instinct
It all started working for my father, who runs a clothing wholesaling business, Almacenes Maria’s in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. A place I worked every weekend since I was 10 years old. A lot of Spanish-speaking women were coming in and looking for shapewear that was stronger and more durable. As I got older, I saw the demand, researched and decided there was a niche market no one had tapped into yet. I followed this gut instinct and launched HourglassAngel.com during the summer of my junior year at the University of Michigan: a site created with just a $4,500 investment. Inventory focused mostly on waist cinchers called fajas, an item my father had been selling for the past 30 years. But, I saw something more than just corsets. I could service the customer better than anyone else, and not just this; women could now get this same shopping experience and buy shapewear online with just a click. I went back to school and took customer service calls on a second cell phone (tricky explaining to girls that you have two cells phones to help women browse for girdles) and answered emails related to shapewear sizing while listening to lectures. Today, HourglassAngel.com is a 20+ person company with a 2015 revenue forecast of $12M. And to imagine, it all started thanks to $4,500, resourcefulness and hard work during a time when shapewear was unmentionable
Thanks to Ruben Soto, HourGlassAngel
#8 – Making a Desired Product
I grew up in a factory that made baseball pitching machines, which my dad basically invented, and I was always amazed to watch him work. If he didn’t couldn’t find the right tool for the job, he’d just build it himself. So when I couldn’t find a rewards chart app with the features I needed to manage my three kids, I decided to make my own. What I created is called Smiles & Frowns, and it’s loaded with useful features no other app has – specifically because no other app has them. The lesson? When you can’t find the product you would gladly buy, the alarm bells should ring. You’ve probably thought of something others would gladly buy, too!
Thanks to Tom Giovagnoli, Smiles & Frowns
#9 – My Dream Career
I’ve been a military spouse for 10+ years, and due to the nature of my husband’s career, my career plays second fiddle to his. Building a career as a mil spouse can be trying when I’m tasked with embarking upon the job search process every two to three years, AND the job prospects are slim in the areas we’re stationed at. Instead of complaining, I decided to become the captain of my own destiny and decide to explore the world of entrepreneurship. While I’d never had the desire to start my own business, I was intrigued by the possibility of helping others make the shift to thrive professionally, doing work I loved on my terms AND having the ability to take it wherever I go. Entrepreneurship has put an end to my new base, new job search cycle, provides me with longevity and stability in my career, and allows me the much needed flexibility to serve alongside my husband as duty calls for our family.
Thanks to Cachet Prescott, Shift Matters, LLC
#10 – Work and Life
I started Hilary Young Creative because I wasn’t happy with the lack of work/life balance and family values at my company. I was there for years and it didn’t bother me until I was 6 months pregnant and realized that the corporate culture wasn’t going to work for me. So I built a website in my spare time and by the time I was 7 months pregnant, I had started doing some outreach to friends to try and get clients to commit to me before going out on my leave. When I finally went out on maternity leave, I had 3 clients, and was somehow able to get back to work 6 weeks postpartum! Since I was running my own business, I was able to work from home and worked when the baby napped. It was perfect–I was able to manage my own schedule, spend quality time with my new baby, and find time to rest as a new mom. A little over a year later, my business is thriving. I now have 9 regular clients and continue to build my business while also balancing being a mom. It’s not always easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding. Leaving my full-time job to start my own company was the best decision I have ever made!
Thanks to Hilary Young, Hilary Young Creative
#11 – A Positive Environmental Impact
Polar Ambassadors was launched with the goal to assist in the effort to save the polar bears, and to spread awareness of their plight. When we heard that there are only 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears left in the wild – a smaller population than most US suburbs/towns – we knew we wanted to help. Without intervention, scientists estimate that two-thirds of these will be gone by 2050. Starvation and drowning are real risks to the bear as arctic ice recedes. In poor health, the bears also have fewer cubs, and cubs frequently don’t survive into adulthood – a real danger long-term. Polar Ambassadors offers apparel items, and 10% of all profits go to organizations which help to save the polar bears and the arctic ice on which they depend. In addition, the shirts themselves help start the conversation about conservation. By making a purchase, a person becomes a ‘Polar Ambassador’, helping to save these great animals.
Thanks to Kate Kennedy, Polar Ambassadors
#12 – A Provoking Thought
I started my business as a result of a thought that provoked 10 years ago. Back then, I was driving home while listening to a radio broadcast about a police officer who was killed in line of duty. I remember that an idea sparked in my mind on the need to commemorate the officer on line. I started developing more on the idea and eventually after so many years it morphed into a social website that allows users to blog their heart out on variety of subjects and at the same time setup some parameters to automate issues surrounding their afterlife. The site allows users to commemorate loved ones and provides a forum for exchanging ideas on prolonging life and determining the things that are more important in life while at the same time provides mechanisms to manage digital assets of users after they are passed away. My goal in establishing this business was to make a positive difference in society and I my hope is to see it become true.
Thanks to Masoud Salehisedeh, MySolace
#13 – Doing Something More
It all started with the feeling that I was not on my right path, that there was something more that I could do to affect the world. I was not happy constantly dealing with the pettiness and vindictiveness in the corporate world. I took a good hard look at my skills, my creativity and my drive and felt that I could become an entrepreneur. Making a contribution of my own, under my own name, was a huge inspiration for stepping out of the corporate culture. I run a multi-platform company: a product line, coaching/teaching and media (radio/magazines). The satisfaction of small successes continues to build into larger successes – all due to my determination, my skill set and the customer service that I provide. There is no going back to working for someone else!
Thanks to Melinda Carver, Melinda’s Positive Products
#14 – Healthy Alternative
I have been involved in the sports supplements industry for several years. As a parent and former college athlete, I was asked by parents “what is healthy to feed my son or daughter after their ballgames or workouts?” After looking at the sports drinks and protein shakes being marketed to our children and seeing all of the artificial ingredients, I knew there had to be a better way, So I set out to create a 100% natural, nutritionally correct protein shake for kids. I had two primary objectives. First I would use only the finest all natural ingredients that would actually enhance athletic performance and second it had to taste great. After two years, eight different manufacturers and over fifty different formulations, we created Phenom Nutrition and our protein powder called “Young Athlete”(available in “Natural Chocolate” and “Natural Vanilla”). Even people who have been in the Health and Sports Supplements industry for years agree that there is nothing else like it. We have recently started the marketing of Phenom Young Athlete and our plan is to market it worldwide.
Thanks to Ken Muller, Phenom Nutrition
#15 – Social Awareness
GiftAMeal is a startup company that’s centered around both financial and social awareness. Too often is it that an understanding of the bigger picture is lost in pursuit of financial success. What we here at GiftAMeal wanted to do was shift the tide to focus on both charity and sales. With the success we’ve already had so far, we’re proud of our ability to show that business and philanthropy don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The premise of our business model is as follows: we partner with different restaurants across the country (these restaurants pay a fee to be a part of our platform). If any of our app users eats at one our partnered restaurants and takes a photo using our app, we donate a meal to charity through a local food bank, and if they post this to social media, we donate an additional meal. So GiftAMeal was created to help those in need, but we’re not sacrificing the efficacy of our business model in the process of doing so. We work to make both a difference and a profit, and we hope others follow in our footsteps.
Thanks to Andrew Glantz, GiftAMeal