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15 Entrepreneurs Explain Why They Started Their Business

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 Personal Project

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Photo Credit: Xin Xie

Creating Lifestone was personal to me. My mother had high blood pressure and measured it every day using a mercury hematomanometer and writing down results on a piece of paper. I knew this was not an accurate way to track critical vital signs. Having an electrical engineering background, I knew there had to be a better way and I could help build it. What if you could create a better, portable, accurate device that not only measured vital signs, but also made data storing, charting and sharing results easier? We made a prototype that accurately monitored multiple vital signs and decided to create a startup company that would make tracking a person’s vital signs convenient, accurate and simple.

Thanks to Xin Xie, Lifestone

#2 – Slow Fashion

Photo Credit: Eve Tokens

Photo Credit: Eve Tokens

As a small business owner of a London based sustainable fashion brand, and more recently an online business teaching sewing and patternmaking skills, I had multiple reasons for starting my own businesses. Predominantly however, it was because fashion today is ‘created’ at such a ridiculous rate that I wanted to do something to empower people to slow it down. I am now focused on teaching those people who are interested in making their own clothes to make a difference. They learn design skills alongside sewing and patternmaking, so that there is less reliance on mass manufactured clothing retailers, and they get to wear fashionable, unique handmade garments. It is incredible rewarding.

Thanks to Eve Tokens, The Creative Curator

#3 – Realizing a Need

Photo Credit: B. Alan Bourgeois

Photo Credit: B. Alan Bourgeois

The non-profits and businesses below all came from realizing that I needed some help in an area that was ever changing. When I researched the various avenues to find help, I realized there was nothing specific to what I needed. That created not only the need to fill in the gap, but also to help those, like myself, who were searching for help. I choose to create non-profits as I felt that would give us better opportunities to get financial help, but that did not prove to be the case. I have struggled for five years creating unique programs that has resulted in multiple layers of success for the people I work with. It was that key desire to help people that has pushed me forward through the tough times and to make it work. While over the years, I have seen my hard labor gain results for others, it is just recently that I began to see the results payoff for me.

Thanks to B. Alan Bourgeois, Texas Authors, Inc.

#4 – Professional Claustrophobia

Photo Credit: Angela Bradbury

Photo Credit: Angela Bradbury

One of the reasons I started my own business was because I was suffering from what I like to call ‘professional claustrophobia’. I started out my career at the management consulting firm McKinsey which was a truly wonderful learning ground. However after a while I started to feel confined by the structures in the company (which are typical of most large corporates) and this frustrated me. So I thought to myself, ‘if I don’t want to work in someone else’s construct, then why don’t I just create my own?’. I decided to create my own utopia and build a company, and a context and environment in which I could be successful. Having had that experience myself, it’s really important for me that everyone in the company has the freedom to work in a manner that works best for them”.

Thanks to Angela Bradbury, Chime Advisors 

#5 – An Epiphany

Photo Credit: Brian Davis

Photo Credit: Brian Davis

I decided to start business because I had an epiphany about myself one day. All of my life, I’ve never had a calling, never had one thing that helped define who I was, what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be. I’ve known people with callings, with a field they’ve felt drawn to or an area where they simply shine. I’ve always been good at most things I put my mind to, but never *great* at any one thing. Then I realized what that qualifies me to be: an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs have to wear a hundred different hats, be good at dozens of skills. They don’t need to be a savant in one niche skill; they need to be competent at a wide range of skills and then hire specialists to do what they can’t. They need vision, grit and a certain level of risk tolerance, and I have those things. Curiously, over the last fifteen years I’ve had the same conversation over and over with other people who felt a similar blankness as to their calling in life. I’ve heard the same complaint from so many people: “If I only had a special gift, I’d know what to do with my life.” I believe this stems from the combination of an increasingly niched job market and stagnant inflation-adjusted wages. More economic pressure meets increasing specialization to create more anxiety over choosing a pigeonholed niche. Armchair philosophy aside, I truly believe that people with diverse skills, people who are well-rounded and good-but-not-great in many areas can make perfect entrepreneurs. I would encourage anyone who has struggled in their search for a calling to consider starting their own business – their versatility will come in handy.

Thanks to Brian Davis, Spark Rental

#6 – Giving Back

Photo Credit: Zac Halloran

Photo Credit: Zac Halloran

For every Twill product we sell, another is given to a local friend in need, you choose. Our story began in a mental health hospital when my brother was diagnosed with a complex mental health disorder. My brother was blanketed with love from our family of seven siblings, mom, grandma and many more. However, others were not so lucky. In 2013, I sold my car and began building this business with my brother Jer and dear friend Jac. I said to them, “I have no money and I want to start a giving business, are you in?” We connect with local non-profits, we call our Blanket Buddies. We hand deliver warmth to friends battling homelessness, life-threatening illness and/or temporary displacement. With only 18 months into selling Twill products to date, we have been able to help nearly 3,000 friends in need. Through our website store and our corporate giving program we’ve been able to connect our product and our mission to customers who care about quality products and most importantly giving back to their local community.

Thanks to Zac Halloran, Twill

#7 – Financial Control

I started my podcasting business because I wanted to be in more control of my financial outcome. The real reality that I can be fired or injured putting me out of my job is a fear of mine because I have a family that I am supporting. Besides my career and part time jobs, Skilled Gentlemen Podcast has the potential to bring in more than the other two jobs combined because payment is not based on hours worked but effort put in. Working an hourly wadge has a limit on how much I can make in a day where running a podcast does not. Podcasting has the ability to reach people all over the world with any message that you want to give while building a community of people that want to help each other and in turn make money by doing business with other great businesses with outstanding products through advertising.

Thanks to Clay Bradley, Skilled Gentlemen Podcast

#8 – Almost By Mistake

Photo Credit: Marcus Miller

Photo Credit: Marcus Miller

It may sound a little cliched but I started my business almost by mistake. I was a developer. We built some early ecommerce sites around 1999 and back office order processing systems using visual basic for applications (VBA). It was fun but soon we ended up asking how do we get more traffic to the site?. This led me down a murky path into the world of SEO and digital marketing. Before long I left that job but was slowly but surely building up clients on the side. I got an offer that was too good to say no to and I quit my job went full time. In the last couple of years as digital marketing has got more complex with social media and content playing an ever larger role I needed a team to help me cover all the bases. Further to this I was always fascinated by just how bad most the SEO and digital marketing companies were. They seemed to focus on short term tactics and hacks almost but seemed to forget to do the actual marketing. I always felt I, we could do better and that has and still is a driving force in everything we do.

Thanks to Marcus Miller, Bowler Hat

#9 – Harmony

Photo Credit: Jess Waldeck

Photo Credit: Jess Waldeck

I wish that I could say Maven came from an epiphany one night and work began the next morning. I can’t imagine this is the case too often… As veterans in retail technology, we were focused on changing the retail industry. It was evolving quickly, and the traditional stores couldn’t compete. This created a power vacuum that was filling quickly by Amazon. But it also created an ideal environment for startups. We asked ourselves – How can social media and commerce exist in harmony? Many entrepreneurs have attempted to tackle Social Commerce, but few have succeeded. Our goal was to create a viral environment where personal networks and recommendations helped drive online store purchases. And those that were successful at it by driving sales will earn for their efforts. We like to think of this as the evolution from a ‘Salesperson’ to that of the ‘Shareperson’. From this blossomed Maven. It is one of the first social commerce network that allows everyone an opportunity to earn through personal relations.

Thanks to Jess Waldeck, Maven Xchange

#10 – Changing Investments

Photo Credit: Jim Minnick

Photo Credit: Jim Minnick

My co-founders and I started eVestment for two primary reasons. First, we saw an opportunity to fundamentally change the institutional investment business. By becoming a central, cloud-based repository for data and insight for investors, consultants and managers around the world, we saw an opportunity to change how people did business and create new efficiencies and value for players in the space. We all came out of institutional investment consulting and from inside the industry saw inefficiencies and gaps in data and insight that we felt we could fill. Secondly, we saw the founding of eVestment as an opportunity to create the kind of workplace we’d always wanted – one that was open, collaborative, fun and where people had the opportunity and authority to make decisions and create real impact on the projects and solutions they were working on. We founded the company in 2000 and have since continued to grow our client base and revenues and, at the same time, have been named to a lot of ‘best places to work’ lists, including the big one, Fortune’s. So I’d say our efforts were successful. But that only happened by having those two goals firmly in mind as we got started.

Thanks to Jim Minnick, eVestment

#11 – Mending Relationships

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Photo Credit: Alicia Moss

I have an AMAZING family! But it wasn’t always this way. MossGirls, LLC was birthed out of the need to mend a broken relationship with my oldest daughter. When Kristin started showing signs of rebellion, I did what any concerned parent would do…I yanked her out of public school! What was I thinking? Who does that? At the time, it seemed like my only option. What began as a way to fill those long homeschooling days with educational content evolved into a mother teaching her daughter everything she knew about business…and a teenage daughter finally ready to embrace it. MossGirls allowed my daughter and I to bridge the gap – to speak the same language in regards to a passion that we both loved. By working together, we began to connect, rebuild and restore our relationship.

Thanks to Alicia Moss, MossGirls LLC

#12 – A Great Opportunity

Photo Credit: Jenna Oltersdorf

Photo Credit: Jenna Oltersdorf

Having worked at a number of marketing firms throughout the country, I had a front row seat to not only techniques and processes, but also the relationships … between agency and client, employee and reporter. As I watched, I quickly realized there was a better way to run a firm. Clients needed transparency and accountability from their agency, employees craved trust and flexibility. There was great opportunity to open a firm that did things a little differently, a little less self-serving. And I jumped at the chance. Ten years later, Snackbox is stronger than ever and I’m thrilled my theory was correct.

Thanks to Jenna Oltersdorf, Snackbox

#13 – Out of Boredom

Photo Credit: Dick Kuiper

Photo Credit: Dick Kuiper

I started my business out of boredom. I had retired from a successful 45-year career in technology-based management consulting. Near the end of that career, I found myself getting bored because the challenges were gone. The problems I was solving as a consultant kept repeating themselves over and over until they all started looking identical. The challenge was gone. I tried traditional retirement for a time but that did not work. I ran into the same problem in a different disguise – boredom. But this time, it was not that the job challenges had become bland. It was the boredom of NOT having any challenges to conquer. So I created some challenges by starting my own ghostwriting business. Viola! Challenges aplenty. I solve problems everyday by helping businesses attract more business. I do that by writing for them; web content, blogs, articles, marketing collateral, and the like. I’m having fun again and making money on top of it.

Thanks to Dick Kuiper, GhostWriter Help

#14 – Passion for Fashion

Photo Credit: Steph Michele

Photo Credit: Steph Michele

From a very young age I was extremely passionate about the fashion world and industry. I loved to dress myself and put together cute little outfits. I started modeling and acting at the age of 3, taking days off of school to go on casting calls. As a child what could be more awesome than that! I got to miss class to do something I loved. As adults we sometimes forget to remember our passions and that reaching our goals can be accomplished. We end up in boring 9-5’s or pretty much jobs we simply hate and never imagined ourselves doing, dreading going to
work everyday. This is exactly how I felt. I was tired of working a 9-5. I went to college and got a degree in Office Technology – Medical, but that was just a backup plan. I knew where my heart lied, and as much as I love science, fashion was and will always be my everything (besides my son of course). I then started my own image consulting business. Styling, shopping, and revamping the closets of some of NYC’s most elite. It still wasn’t enough for me, I wanted more. So with today’s fashionista in mind, I created Miss Red Carpet for the classy yet sexy woman. My goal is to make every woman, regardless of size, to feel comfortable and fabulous in their own skin. We are ALL beautiful, we are ALL queens in our own right.

Thanks to Stephanie Summers, Miss Red Carpet

 #15 – Deep and Motivating

Photo Credit: Matt Moulakelis

Photo Credit: Matt Moulakelis

After literally watching my father suffer a heart attack and drive him to the hospital, I also watched as he received over $50,000 in fraudulent and incorrect medical bills that my family later negotiated down to $0. He was insured and employed, with great coverage. I was shocked this type of error could take place and even more shocked that it could be so easily addressed and fixed. Upon realizing that approximately 80% of medical bills contain error and that medical debt was the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S., I quit my stable job at IBM and launched DisputeBills.com. Now, 18 months later, we’re one of the nations leading brands in medical billing advocacy, helping patients save over $3.7MM to date.

Thanks to Matt Moulakelis, DisputeBills.com

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