Entrepreneurs! What’s Your Story?

There's nothing more special and near and dear to the hearts of entrepreneurs than the story of the founding of their company.  So, why did you start your business? What opportunity did you fulfill?



CBNation helps entrepreneurs and business owners succeed with visibility, resources and connections. 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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  1. I started my photography blog, because when I bought my first DSLR camera, I couldn't find a resouce that explained how to use it and digital photography to me in terms that I could understand. The books I bought and sites I found seemed to expect me to have a working knowledge of my camera and to be familiar with the terms. I wasn't.

    I'm not a moron, but even the Photography for Dummies book didn't help. Once I learned how to use my camera, I decided to become that resource for new DSLR camera owners. I write in a way that anyone can understand.

    I love receiving emails from someone who finally get's it thanks for reading my blog or ebook. It's a fantastic feeling when you finally look at your camera and understand how to create beautiful images with it; we invest a lot of money in our cameras and photography gear, too much money to shoot in Auto mode.

    Now, I continue to promote my photography blog and I have two more eBooks coming this summer. I'm having a blast!

  2. My company was founded from inspiration from my father who's been battling cancer. He wasn't comfortable attending events away from home because he didn't have a bag to carry his personal essentials; medications and supplies for his colostomy in privacy. I seen a need to create, design a bag after researching and seeing there was not a bag that fit his and others needs in the market. My brain took off and I designed the WhatchyaGot bag that he and others can carry all their personal essentials while on the go. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that I seen a need and created a bag that helps many in several ways. It is rewarding to get feedback from customers stating that they have a sense of freedom now when leaving home knowing that they have everything they need in one convenient bag. I enjoy building relationships with my customers and hearing their story's and how the bag has helped them live life with more ease and confidence.

  3. Coming form a long line of entrepreneurs I had always dreamed of starting my own company. Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself, I knew this was my big shot to not only start a company, but to start one that would make a difference. With that mindset I went to the drawing board to come up with, thatscaring.com, an eco-friendly gift basket website that provides consumers with “a greener way to give.” The current line up includes over 80 gifts that can be shipped nationwide, making gift giving easy for consumers and corporations alike. Each gift comes with an “educational tag” letting recipients know how the packaging and shipping process has been “greened” as well as creative ways to reuse the tray each gift comes in. We at That’s Caring know that environmentally friendly gift baskets can’t single handily save the earth, but they can sure make a difference. By buying that’s caring gifts purchasers are sure to get that “warm and fuzzy” feeling knowing that they are helping out people and the planet!

  4. This has probably happened to just about everyone who has used the internet. You go online to look something up, you click through a bunch of distractions, and three hours later, you still haven't looked up that one thing you went online for in the first place.

    I realized the culprit was often the start page. I had one of those start pages that had tons of distracting links, and I was losing lots of time as a result. I might have switched to a basic search engine, but that seemed to limited. I also could have switched to one of the mainstream customizable start pages, but those have too many widgets. Why is that a problem? The widgets are things like RSS feeds, social network status updates, games, and more. Not only does this make the page slower to load, it means that every time you start your computer, you'll be faced with a collection of precisely those things most likely to distract you.

    I wanted a fast-loading, customizable site where I could have my favorite links and search tools without anything else. That's why I created Blinkdash.com.

  5. I was inspired by multiple entrepreneurs that had been born out of the recession, and I knew that I needed to get involved in more ways than one. I knew that my company would be naturally tied to social and political causes that could be controversial, but in the end worthy of supporting. I knew that people wanted to have meaning in their purchases, which is why my company's motto is "Sport the Cause". We deliver meaning to you when you choose to buy J.L. Childs by supporting the causes that you care about.

  6. When my son was 18 months old, I was excited to teach the alphabet, teach numbers, teach shapes & teach colors – the basic building blocks of learning! After searching several stores for an all-in-one kit, I settled for buying individual pieces at various teaching supply stores in my area. I filled a box with mismatched flashcards, kindergarten charts, books and puzzles, and called it ‘Mama’s School’. My son and I sat down with ‘Mama’s School’ almost every day for about 20 minutes. By the time he was three-years old, he could read. Parents at nursery school and playgroups began to ask how I had taught him. At this point, I knew I had a viable idea for a business! I have gone on to create the award winning all-in-one learning kits, Teach My Baby, Teach My Toddler & Teach My Preschooler.

  7. I started Julie Melillo Life Coaching in Manhattan, because I realized it is incredibly difficult to gain support for dramatically changing your life — when I wanted to change my own life, I just wasn't seeing the kind of "no advice" help I wanted. I didn't want anyone to "tell me what to do" but I wanted someone supportive to help me discover my own answers, and provide some structure for me.

    I figured, there must be others like me, who were seeking a "no advice" business coaching approach, and I wanted to provide that service.

    When I decided to quit my successful marketing writing career in Arizona (where I'd lived all my life), and move to Manhattan knowing no one, it was a difficult and lonely journey — though my friends and loved ones tried their best to be supportive, they had no idea what an "entrepreneur" really is.

    I got a lot of criticism masked as "helpful" advice or questions: "Do you really think you can pay your bills with your own business? Wouldn't it be better to just get a day job?"

    While it was difficult to move to the city with just a suitcase (and 1 pair of shoes — tough for a girl), I knew it was what I was meant for. And I was excited to support others in making their own big leaps. My coaching business grew rapidly over the years, and I've quadrupled my prices.

    Now, almost 4 years later, I live on Wall Street, with my husband, and I've appeared in numerous magazine articles. Through my coaching, I've worked with top CEOS, entrepreneurs, famous models, actors, artists and financial traders.

    Making big leaps is so difficult, especially for talented, sensitive and intelligent people — and coaching is the support that we ALL need. We are social creatures, and coaching helps provide what we need to move forward rapidly.

  8. When I started my website, http://www.ccs-digital.com, it wasn't a business but a
    hobby. I had a full-time job and sold ink cartridges and electronics on ebay
    to supplement my income. The site was only a forum for me to discuss safety
    online and make an occasional sale. As I added articles, my site began to
    garner vistors and sales, but it was still never more than a sideline.

    Then after years of building website applications for a major television company,
    I was laid off. The job market was grim but by then my site was doing pretty well. In addition to a job search, I studied Search Engine Optimization and investigated buying product direct from China in larger quantities. I moved my site to the top of the search engines and discovered other ways of promoting my business. Sales are increasing every month and income is close to replacing my lost salary. My job search has now become a sideline.

    Now that I understand how to do this properly, I am helping others do the same. I know that one can start a successful business with a thousand dollars or less. I wrote a series of articles for Auctionbytes.com called Make A Fortune on the Net. It explains how to repeat the formula which worked well for me. It feels good to help others achieve the same results.

    The article can be found at http://ccs-digital.com/fortune1.asp

  9. I had spent time in my kids preschool and elementary classrooms, talking about the digestive system and nutrition. The kids were so enthusiastic and excited about learning about their bodies which led me to search for books about the human body, healthy eating and food choices to supplement my talks. In my search for books and resources I discovered there were very few books out there doing this in an engaging, entertaining way. That is when the idea for the Human Body Detectives (HBD) series came to me. I wanted to fill the obvious void.

  10. I started Quincy Tutoring in 07 to provide my students with a resource that provided high quality low cost standardized test prep. My idea has evolved to where I now offer tutors a free platform to market their tutor skills. I also give my tutors the option to write blog posts.

  11. I didn't start my business, it started me.

    After working nearly a dozen years for a successful small business before it was sold, I decided to do something that I think many first time entrepreneurs do who come from the workforce world – I started a business that I thought could do better than the company I previously worked for (after the change of management). I did that for about 8 months before I realized, even though I was good at that skill set/job, it was not good for me, meaning it did not fulfill me. So I volunteered until I was able to decide what I ultimately wanted to do with myself – 3,000 hours after working with teens (in all types of non profit organizations) it seemed that I might do something related to young people, although I never considered doing anything in education/youth in the past.

    I started blogging about my volunteer experience and one of the stories of my teens (unknowingly) got picked up in a national business magazine. Organizations, parents and government agencies started calling me asking me if I can develop entrepreneurship programs for them or work with their teens in an entrepreneurial capacity. A few days later after I commented for the first time on the blog of Mike Michalowicz, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, (about a 15 year old entrepreneur seeking advice for his business). Mike invited me to check out his office in NYC and do a promo video for his upcoming book. 2 weeks later, I traveled to NYC from DC and met him, told him about my experiences and he is the one who encouraged me to create the industry that I saw did not exist – Teen Entrepreneur Coaching with a focus on the demographic under age 18.

    On April 30, 2008 I launched my company without a business model in place for nearly 1 year. I volunteered a lot of time with my teens building success stories, gaining hands on experience since I had no formal background in education or working with young people and created a lot of content with my teen 'clients'. About 18 months later, I was found through Facebook by a Chilean start up and offered a consulting contract to come to Chile, South America and design social innovation and entrepreneurship programs for the most economically depressed schools. I arrived in Chile in Sep 2010 and am currently based here now. 3 of my young entrepreneurs (2 who are teenagers) applied for a government grant from the Chilean government and all were selected for the program – and given a $40k USD grant + 6 months free office space in Santiago. In 2 days the first one will join me here and the others will hopefully follow in July.

    You never know where your dream will take you….so follow wherever your internal compass leads !!!

  12. I founded M & E Painting with only $100 to my name in 2005. I did this after being laid off from the corporate world. This event only reignited my true passion for entrepreneurship, and I have never looked back. _M & E Painting _was founded on the principles that governs my life–integrity, courage, determination, excellence, and passion. Since then, _M & E Painting_ has grown to a multi-million-dollar, award winning company and Northern Colorado's largest and most recognized painting contractor. From 2005 to 2010, the company grew 500%! Local and nationwide press and media recognize _M & E_ as a business of merit that has fostered a loyal and dedicated team and customer base, and the _M & E_ brand is synonymous with pursuit of excellence, growth, superior leadership, commitment to quality and giving back to the community. Since inception, M & E Painting has served over 3,000 clients and maintains a 98% customer satisfaction rating. In 2009, I founded his second company Shoup Consulting. My mission is to inspire entrepreneurs around the world. I do this by speaking, writing, and coaching.

  13. In August 2009, I created Briefs Magazine. Briefs Magazine is an online magazine for men ages 26 to 55. The idea for the magazine came to me in the form of my husband. I needed some time to myself and thought, "How can I get my husband out of the house?" What I needed was a magazine with brief articles on activities that men would like to do. Thus, Briefs Magazine was born with articles on sports, cars, women and man's best friend- his dog.

  14. My microbusiness was founded in 1997 as a response to being downsized from corporate America, over 40 and computer phobic, but skilled in the pet world. There is no other business like it to my knowledge in the entire US, having no precedents has been more fun than scary. Pet Stuff Resale buys and sells new and used pet supplies, saving people money and keeping things out of area landfills. I absolutely love my job even though it requires me to work every weekend, when pet adoptions are the highest.

  15. Several years ago after the birth of my first daughter, I left a career in Corporate America and after a few months of full time motherhood our bills began to pile up and my self esteem plummeted. At the same time, my husband and I had just purchased our first home and as new homeowners, we quickly realized how difficult it was to find reliable home improvement professionals. I'm a networker by nature with a passion for decorating and home improvements and I decided to put all of my talents to work and create a business that would fill this need in our community. Home Remedies is a Homeowner Referral Network (HRN) business that pre-screens and refers a network of more than 50 home improvement contractors (i.e. painters, plumbers, carpenters, General Contractors,architects, etc.) to local homewoners. Contractors in my network pay a pre-negotiated commission for work secured which means that my service is free to homeowners. I launched Home Remedies on an old farm table in my basement with a $5000 loan from my husband's retirement savings plan, a refurbished fax machine, computer and a phone. From that humble start, my HRN business has grown into a cottage industry nationwide and grossed almost $4 million to date. Best of all, I've been able to stay at home and raise my two daughters.

  16. By trade, I am a website designer, though I haven't always been. In fact, it seems now that there's hardly a profession I haven't dabbled in. That's a bit of a stretch, but I really have had a string of interesting – and varied – professions. I had the usual string of jobs in my younger years – paperboy (yes, that's what we called them back in the day), waitress, retail clerk, and the like, and then I met Don, got married, and started a family. I also worked as a real estate agent, a camera salesperson, and I ran my own stained glass studio.

    Don worked as a civilian employee of the US Defense Department, and we've spent most of our lives moving. From Indiana to Ohio, to Italy, to Belgium, to Vermont, to Germany, to New York, and finally to Florida. It's been a fascinating and exciting life, but I really hate moving. And now that he's retired, I've sworn I will _NEVER_ move again!

    I promised Don that when the last kid started school, I'd go to work, but until that time, I was determined to stay home with my babies. But when the last one started school, we were living in Belgium, and there was no work for me. But I did have an opportunity to go back to school and finish my degree, so that's what I did.

    I graduated _Summa cum Laude_ in 1997 from the University of Maryland (European Division) with a BS in Information Systems Management. Since then, I've managed a diverse career in Information Technology and Web Design.

    I served as the Computer Support and Training Coordinator for the Vermont Judiciary, and I could have died happy there. But Don's job moved us to Wiesbaden, Germany, so I was back to looking for work. I took a job on base, working for the US Army, fixing computers and running a helpdesk. It wasn't fun or glamorous, but it was a job, and it was helping me keep my skills current until I could get back to America and get a real job. Or so I thought.

    A few months after I accepted that position, war broke out, and I got deployed to Iraq. I spent six long months away from my family, in the middle of the Sunni Triangle. It was the hardest, most horrible, frightening, disgusting, humiliating, heartbreaking, physically demanding, mentally exhausting thing I'd ever imagined. And it was the most wonderful experience of my life. I have often said, in total sincerity, that it was my honor and my privilege to have served my country and the US Military in Iraq – if not necessarily my pleasure. This blog will give me a chance to tell you more about my experiences there, and to honor the men and women who are still serving in harm's way. I hope you'll stay tuned for that.

    When I came home from the war, I told my husband, "I've learned two important lessons about myself". (You tend to do that when you experience that sort of thing.)

    * I am too damned old to be doing something I hate for a living. I'm not a geek, just trained to do a geek's job. And there's not a job in IT that I would ever aspire to. I don't love computers, and I _REALLY_ don't love working with geeks. I need to get out of IT.
    * I am completely in love with the United States Military. For six months, I had lived and worked alongside men and women for whom "Duty, Honor, and Country" are not just words. I simply had never known a more honorable group of people. If there was a way for me to stay working for the Army, I would happily try.

    So in 2004, we returned to the States, and bought a house in Wallkill, NY. That was about 90 minutes north of New York City, and roughly an hour's commute from the US Military Academy at West Point. I applied for every job they had. I figured I'd do just about anything for a foot in that door – anything except fix computers. I needed a foot in the door, but it had to be a different door this time.

    I took a clerical job that paid about a third of my previous salary, and waited for something good to happen. And then it did.

    The Chief of Staff of the Army – the highest ranking officer in the the Army – had envisioned an online "Leadership Development Tool", that soldiers of any rank could use to help themselves improve their leadership skills. He pointed to the Department of Behavioral Science & Leadership at West Point, and recognizing them as the leadership experts for the Army, asked them to make that vision a reality. They hired me, sent me to some web design training, and put me to work building web pages. Two years later, my husband retired and we moved to Florida. But before I left, I was able to deliver a website with hundreds of interlinked and interrelated pages which had already begun serving as the US Army's Online Leadership Development Tool. Now, I certainly didn't do it alone. There was a talented team of professionals in both the leadership and IT fields that worked to make the General's vision a reality. But the web pages themselves were all mine (except the homepage itself). In the two years I worked on the project, I developed the content and design of hundreds of pages of content, and in the process learned a great deal about website design.

    In 2007, we moved to Florida, and in 2008 we launched Emcie Graphic Design LLC, which is now doing business as Emcie Media. I design websites, and a full range of marketing tools and strategies for small to medium-size businesses throughout Florida and beyond. It took me 50 years and a trip to hell (aka Iraq) to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. But now I'm there, and it's awesome. I get to use both sides of my brain, which I love. And I get to help other entrepreneurs find success and satisfaction in their own dreams. How cool is that?

  17. "My name is Elliot Moskow, I am the CEO and founder of Pricefalls.com. I
    started Pricefalls.com when I was a Junior at Bates College in Lewiston,
    Maine. Currently, I am 23 years old and have relocated the Pricefalls
    headquarters to Las Vegas, Nevada.

    Our founders are a group of young motivated professionals with a unique
    concept. The Pricefalls platform has been built in house from the ground
    up, primarily by a well-educated staff – straight out of college and
    willing to work extremely long hours with the drive and determination to
    make the marketplace tremendously successful in the future. The
    Pricefalls shopping platform is based on an efficient and established
    model, the "Dutch", or descending price auction. We call it gravity

    I am writing in response to your post requesting information from young
    entrepreneurs about how their online business came to be. Furthermore, I
    have provided some insights into the challenges that that I have
    overcome and well as some pros and cons of being a young entrepreneur.
    Furthermore, I have offered some insights into the ways in which
    Pricefalls utilizes SEO/SEM techniques as well as and Social Media
    tactics in order to drive traffic. Here's my story..

    Drawing on my entrepreneurial spirit, I decided to obtain confiscated
    jewelry from police auctions and sell them online. I started with a few
    rings and some of them sold. However, when receiving shipping
    information to send a ring to a foreign country my first thought was,
    "Who the heck from Florida would be buying rings and shipping them to
    Nigeria?" my gut told me this couldn't be true.

    It wasn't. I had received a fraudulent Paypal receipt from a fraudulent
    eBay user. I paid fees to list my items and ended up losing money.
    Because of this frustration, I decided to stop the venture. I'm not the
    only one who has been scammed online. Others have felt frustration in
    many different areas of online auctions. Bidding wars, sniping, inflated
    prices; these are all issues that concern online shoppers.

    At the time I was a Junior economics major at Bates College. Upon my
    return to Bates after the summer, it was a friend that revealed an idea
    born centuries ago: the Dutch Auction. After class, the idea for a
    better online marketplace, that removes the user frustrations of bidding
    wars, sniping, and scams, was developed.

    It would be a site that emphasized a model that could help businesses
    and individuals alike, especially during the down economy. Because of
    the amount of economic disparity in our world, the implementation of a
    system where online shoppers could set their own prices under their
    individual circumstances, was formulated. Pricefalls was established in
    June 2008.

    Aside from our unique pricing model, Pricefalls has drawn considerable
    attention because of its affordability and now personal shopping service
    provided by the customer service team. It has also developed the power
    to provide consumers with an entertaining shopping environment with some
    of the best deals on the web.

    Our company culture is constantly growing stronger, as it is shaped by
    interactions with our user base, mixed in with every unique perspective
    that our young and diverse bunch of employees brings to the table. We
    will continue to develop Pricefalls with the best interest of our
    customers in mind, while shaping an educational and exciting work
    environment. The year 2011 will prove very exciting, and we cannot wait
    to face new challenges that we a presented with every day."

  18. In the summer of 2007, on a family trip to Glacier National Park, we visited an electromagnetic anomaly with "mysterious" properties. I had an idea that this place would be the perfect spot for an access point between dimensions (alternate-earth time-space). As a long-time professional ghost-writer and mother, with my eldest child approaching puberty, I thought about writing a book about a human girl who is raised in an alternate dimension who is returned home to (our) earth as she turns 14 – sort of a reverse _Wizard of Oz_, mixed with _Gulliver's Travels_, _Greystoke: Legend of Tarzan_ and _Harry Potter_.

    After feeling out-of-place for years growing up as a giant in a magical Lilliputian world, Aurora (a.k.a. Rory) finally comes "home" only to be confronted by all the issues facing teens in America today. I wanted to explore the concept of "fitting in" in a way that empowers young teens and confront some of the issues they face without lecturing like a parent. Using fantasy and adventure as vehicles, I wanted the story to teach or at least present issues without giving pat answers or making a parental opinion clear while still providing tools for good decision making. I wanted young teens to get a glimpse into adult decision making where it is rare to have anything other than several, less than optimal, choices. (The usage of Glimpse here is Tongue-in-cheek: The magical creatures in _The Magic Strand_ are called Glymps.)

    Further, I wanted to explore the issue of how the Internet, movies, TV and phones influence our perception of reality without our knowledge or permission, which is a fact of our high technology lives. This isn't necessarily bad and in _The Magic Strand,_ Rorys human education is enhanced by many of the Academy Award winning movies discussed in the book. Rather, the issue is how opinions can be formed and changed without conscious realization by the constant bombardment of images and information that we absorb daily. The formation of critical thinking skills to discern between fact, fiction, opinion and blatant manipulation is imperative for younger members of our society.

    Several teachers who read the completed manuscript indicated that they believed I had created a classic story that could benefit anyone who read it, and it seemed like I had a responsibility to make sure people got a chance to read it. Even though I had professional writing credentials, to date I have been unsuccessful in finding a literary agent. This happens to many thousands of writers, both good and bad. To make light of the acceptance of a difficult situation, I say that I could, "wallpaper my bathroom" with the rejections I have received from the agents I have contacted. I have not given up and will continue to contact them, hopefully strengthening the case for traditional publication as I go. After receiving my 40th rejection, I began to lose hope that the book would ever be published. I saw my dream of making something of value available to parents and children nationwide slipping away. Somehow, I just couldn't let that happen. So I guess you could say that I got angry there is little that spurs me on, and many others I think, than to try to stop me when I want something. When I want something, I go for it. I will not let the lack of inspiration or the understanding of others deter me from doing what I KNOW is right and has value. Perhaps it comes down to determination or stubbornness, perhaps it is faith in myself, perhaps it is the sense of responsibility I feel about reaching children maybe it's a combination of all of these factors.

    As I spent many years as a marketing exec in high technology business and I had a vision the whole time I was writing of what a great movie this story would make, I started thinking that I could make the book available on the net in a really cool and possibly unique way. I liked the idea of taking the elements found in a movie and inserting them into the book and onto a website to spark interest. I also believe that if agents and publishers can get a real feeling about the story from the web site, I might be able to strip the wallpaper away.

    I started with a shoestring budget, pulled and melded together two separate flash templates which I purchased online for less than $200, researched the Internet for the right kind of music and images, wrote all the web text and hired a web design company to get it all up and running. I applied for copyright and an ISBN number and the site went live on April 15, 2011. I give visitors illustrated story excerpts and two sample chapters to read before purchase. There is a testimonial section with comments from other readers, a Q&A section with the author, and photos of actual places that appear in the story. To make sure parents feel comfortable purchasing the book online, I provide a printable document explaining the concept of the book and how to purchase it online. Even if the traditional publishing world doesn't get it, I believe that young readers will.

    Young people love working with online materials and are excited by the kinds of graphics that make reading materials more interesting. Although most 9 to 14 year old readers don't have access to their parents' e-readers, many do have access to a computer at home.

    To meet the growing demand for computer-based reading material, entrepreneurial authors like me are designing their own web sites and graphically illustrating their work to make reading more attractive for online readers from 9-14 and on up, to adulthood.

    Finally, as many teachers will readily admit, comic books have always been an impetus to spur reluctant readers. You have only to investigate the growing popularity of graphic novels (virtually unheard of 20 years ago) to know that illustrated work appeals to a stratum of readers who rarely, if ever, read anything of novel length unless it is illustrated. If I can reach younger readers who do not read traditionally published novel length fiction, especially with this kind of message, so much the better.

    My best advice to new entrepreneurs is "Never say die." There are few things as strong as faith – people are willing to die for it – and I have faith in myself and my book. The hardest thing I face every day is the knowledge that the odds are stacked against me. In some ways that is a freeing experience, because there is no place to go but up, but in others, it makes every activity feel like climbing Mount Everest. I believe in myself and I believe in the quality and intrinsic value of my story and its message. I just keep thinking that I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and that if I can help one kid understand how to make a good decision when there are no good options, it is worth it to me. I think every successful entrepreneur needs that unshakable personal faith and faith in their product or service to succeed.

  19. Laughingstock Design was founded in Duluth, MN, in 2007 by local graphic designer Shane Bauer. Bauer's experience in the industry gave him a great range of business accounts to build on, but a unique sidepiece of the company's work included family and corporate custom greeting cards that paired photographs with whimsical illustrations, which Bauer had been doing for years.

    The custom greeting cards that inspired Laughingstock Design were a great medium of spreading joy to recipients. However, when the economic climate began to change in 2008, fewer customers were able to afford custom design and printing costs. Bauer's inspiration for a new way to share happiness came in the form of a t-shirt: namely, a t-shirt on display in a department store featuring only the words, "Bite Me."

    Bauer created a line of positive-themed designs, Happy Space PositiveWear(tm), to counteract the prevalence of negative messages. Laughingstock Design began printing the intricate designs on casual clothing and accessories and made them available for purchase online in 2008.

    The response to the merchandise was so enthusiastic that two years, and another line of designs (the all-eco-friendly Listen to Nature(tm)), later, Laughingstock Design opened Happy Space and hired its first outside employees.

    Laughingstock Design's mission is to spread joy through the art of communication, and each facet of the company's journey has harkened back to that goal.

    1. Thanks for the inclusion, Hearpreneur! This piece was actually written by me and not by Shane–I don't want readers to think that he refers to himself in the third person. 🙂

  20. I am an entrepreneur in Chicago with a retail store, Roscoe Village Bikes and a website, LittleIndependent.com. Owning Roscoe Village Bikes inspired me to open LittleIndependent.com.

    As I watched my inventory sit at the bike store, getting marked down as we tried to make a sale, I thought of a solution for myself and other independent store owners who may experience the same problems. Little Independent’s mission is to be an advocate for independent retailers while giving savvy shoppers and easier way to find great independent stores and sale merchandise.

    Shopping independent stores means better service and more in depth knowledge of the products being sold. Customer service and inventory decisions are not being made at a distant office but right there in the store by a person who is invested in the business’s continued success.

    Since sending invitations out last week, we have created profiles for seventeen stores and they have uploaded listings, with many options to provide optimal service to their customers. Little Independent launched June 1st.

    If independent stores can work together, we can certainly do more than any of us could individually. Little Independent gives independent stores the online equivalent of having their store on Main Street.

  21. My business was inspired by an angel. After the death of my sister, instead of the usual condolence flowers, a friend sent me an angel figurine that had a comforting inscription on the skirt of the angel. This special keepsake brings fond memories of both my sister and my dear friend. I wanted to provide that same experience of comfort and remembrance to others, so our store was born.

    The concept of a niche store that sells only sympathy and memorial gift items was unique but I felt that it had a target audience that had limited choices of products elsewhere. I am continually searching for items that will honor the memory of a loved one.

  22. My husband and I own a vineyard in the premium Mount Veeder Appellation in the Napa Valley.

    WE OFFER THE UNIQUE EXPERIENCE OF CREATING A BARRELS WORTH OF WINE WITH YOUR PRIVATE LABEL. Each year, we offer less than 25 barrels of cabernet sauvignon . Our grapes are not available to the consumer and are highly coveted in the wine trade.

    We take you from grape to bottle using our mountain cabernet sauvignon. After about 2 years, you have APPROXIMATELY 24 CASES OF CAB WITH YOUR PRIVATE LABEL.
    Our vineyard is hand farmed, hand picked and the wine is hand crafted by our rock star wine maker, Jeff Fontanella.

    WHY WE STARTED THE BUSINESS: We sold our grapes through contract at first (2007 & 2008). We realized that we had very little control even though we were paying for the land and the farming. The contracted winery buying the grapes called all of the shots….farming practices, when to pick at harvest, etc. WE WANTED TO TAKE CONTROL BACK….AS WELL AS TURN A PROFIT.

    Starting a business in our current economic climate was gutsy (2009). It had to be the right product for the right audience. We decided to CARVE OUR NICHE IN THE LUXURY MARKET BY OFFERING PRIVATE LABEL WINE TO INDIVIDUALS THAT HAD THE PASSION AND THE MEANS TO CREATE THEIR OWN WINE.

    It turns out that there is definitely a market for our product. To date, our clients are wealthy men who have just about everything except for a premium wine with their name on it that is NOT AVAILABLE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC. This experience is on every wine lovers bucket list.

  23. I started my business on my kitchen table in order to supplement my teacher's salary and provide my Bi Polar mother with work as a depressed returning to the workforce 50 year old coming through a divorce. These were my goals. Who knew where I was to wind up.

    This notion of having a business serve its employees and its customers became the foundation of my company's mission and the reason for its success. I coming from the world of education had much to learn about business. What did profit mean? What was my true cost? For the next few years I schooled myself, worked full time and mom stuffed envelopes.

    Six years passed and with my original two goals met, our daughter arrived. Keeping my job in the south Bronx was out of the question. The commute was too far, my husband was too worried and I couldn't bear to be away from her for 12 hours. What was I going to do for a salary? My next goal took shape.

    With more time and greater determination, I sat for hours at that kitchen table building a foundation that today helps to supports 15 families both economically and nurtures the growth of the individual. I knocked on doors, sent flyers and made calls as my little girl cheered me on, all the time knowing that I was going to have a business that would support my family and ensure that I nor any of my employees would never have to miss a school play, soccer game or bedtime story. I spent her waking minutes with her enjoying childhood and her sleeping hours working away. I was exhausted, but grateful for the possibilities.

    My husband was growing tired and a bit jealous of the time he was missing with our daughter. He was traveling and significantly under appreciated at his corporate job. My next goal appeared. With my husbands corporate experience and business savvy MBA we could together grow this business to places I could only dream of reaching myself. Magazines did not have the sex appeal that the glamor of big corporate life did, but our daughters smile and love of life convinced him to take the chair next to me at the kitchen table. 24 hours a day we parented and were business partners. At first, and what seemed like an eternity, we struggled to make ends meet. We borrowed from relatives, ran up our credit cards and bartered for services. Our second child arrived without us having health insurance. We still kid him that he was the most expensive child. Our lowest point came when we needed to drive a ½ hour to borrow ten dollars for diapers and milk. Despite the challenges of daily life without enough resources, we knew there was no turning back. The economy was challenging and jobs hard to find. We were even more determined to keep plotting along. Our son was born with medical requirements that took much time, therapy and attention, not to mention that he didn't sleep. Tensions grew tighter and resources grew less.

    When you reach the end of your rope, your angels find you a life preserver. A small customer of ours told us that her company wasted so much money on their periodicals and that we should see what we could do for them. Our angel came dressed as the Director of Purchasing for Drexel Burnham. We called and she asked to see me. This marked the significant shift in the business from small and individual subscribers to a huge corporate account. Linda, at Drexel mentored me and helped to shape a company that would provide value and service to companies all across America and enable us to pay off our sons birth.

    One persons faith in my goals and dreams enabled me to build a company that would balance work life and never have our employees miss a day in their childrens' lives or experiences. We have lived our lives in gratitude for these gifts. My husband has coached for the fathers that couldn't, been on boards and committees to improve community life and has been my partner in both business and life for the last 20 years. I have worked to honor my gifts by ensuring that the parents in our company will never have to decide between their children and their work life. We proudly offer flex-time, telecommuting, insurance, family vacation incentive programs and a respect for the individual. To honor Linda, I keep my hand extended and my heart open, as she did to mentoring women on their journey.

    Who knew, oh so many years ago that we would be selected a Top 50 Women owned Business in New Jersey or the Enterprising Woman of The Year 2008 award or Inc. Magazines 5000 2008, 2009 & 2010 Fastest Growing Companies in the U.S or The Erns

  24. I started my own business so that decisions would be mine, for better or worse. I would be in the driver's seat not a passenger. I would only be limited by my own imagination.

    The opportunity I fulfilled was the chance to have my two sons work alongside me, so they could learn by actual hands on experience what it took to both run every aspect of a business and how one goes about building a business from scratch into a successful one.

    I am also the author of "It's My Money".

  25. My name is Filomena Laforgia and when my only son was diagnosed with Autism (my hardship) at age three, I made a commitment to myself and my son to raise awareness of this condition. As former marketer, my first thought was to develop and sell a product from which a percentage of the proceeds would be donated to Autism related organizations. It was while researching this concept that I realized that I was not alone in my quest to develop a product with a "for a cause" purpose. I found that there are thousands of charities selling cause-related products as a means of fundraising that are struggling to be noticed. It was this realization that led me to create Filanthropists.com for a greater good.

  26. After selling my six year old franchise business in 1997 and then traveling for a few years, I started looking around for a business to buy. I was working with a business broker associated with the largest business broker franchise in the country and the experience was so amateurish, so unpleasant, so unprofessional, so utterly unsatisfactory and ultimately unsuccessful that I thought to myself, "if I can find a decent, ethical business broker, I should be able to franchise his business and, if the standard of service in the business brokerage industry is what I experienced, I should be able to easily take on that competition."

  27. You are so right – entrepreneurs love to talk about business, their own (and in my case) everyone else's! I thrive on chatting up ways for people to improve what they do/what they sell/ how they are marketing, etc.

    Why did start my own business? Because I saw some pretty things and wanted to be a part of it – so I set up a small business and started selling these and many other pretty things. Turns out, I am MUCH better at creating a vision and convincing people to come along for the ride than working for someone else.

    What opportunity did I fulfill? For myself? That's easy – I got to be in charge of my time, my focus, and I found an outlet for my creative energy. I started my first business at age 23 and now 23 years later I am still going strong and loving it! The opportunity for others? To work with a fair (if a bit flighty) visionary, to create fun and fulfilling jobs for the right people, and to have created beautiful shopping places full of pretty things 🙂

  28. It was post 9/11 corporate America and I was laid off. I had just closed escrow on my first home – about a five minute drive from the old office. I was devastated and scared but I knew that the time was right to strike out on my own. My mother was retired and bored and made the perfect business partner. We worked out of the family garage day and night and within six months, we were profitable. Necessity often breeds invention.

  29. I started my own business after I quit my 40 hour a week grind making someone else rich. I am a matchmaker helping people connect with their soul mates. I have never been happier working for myself and helping others at the same time!

  30. I started 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 literally hundreds 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 session, she offered a fee that was over a third of the advance I’d gotten on the book. Did it. Loved it.


    Today while I still write as sideline, I have a very successful speaking and training business. I never enjoyed writing half as much as I love training.

    I never planned to become a trainer. But now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

  31. I started off all wide eyed and motivated to rise the ranks in the corporate world when I graduated from college with a degree in finance. Then I actually got to Wall St. and realized how quickly it can drain your soul and your patience. Needless to say, when the company began offering buyouts because of the financial crisis – I took it and ran. All the way home to Ohio.

    I always loved to cook and I especially always loved good southern cooking and barbecue. I came to the realization that a lot of home cooks don't attempt to barbecue because it seems so daunting, messy, and expensive to mess up. So, I opened up Pig of the Month BBQ -www.pigofthemonth.com- to sell homemade barbecue meats, sauces, and southern favorite side dishes and ship them right to peoples homes. They're frozen and ready to reheat in an hour or less. Everyone should have good cooking!

  32. When breast cancer treatments threw me into menopause with drenching night sweats and I could not find anything comfortable for sleep, I started my own company. I knew if I was having this problem, thousands of other women were sleep deprived too. I took a year to source and plan and then launched my e-commerce store and have been lucky enough to enjoy success from the get go!

  33. I started Jason Sole Consulting LLC to help juvenile and adult offenders get their lives back on track. As a three-time felon and a former gang leader, I went through a great deal of trauma but I turned it around. I am a professor at a university with a year or less left to complete my PhD in Public Safety. I created my business to help others overcome their pitfalls!

  34. I have been in the furniture industry for 35 years. Early on I started hearing the same question being asked over and over again by many different customers. These customers owned homes or apartments or RVs or even boats with very narrow doors, stairways, halls or elevators. The question was,"Do you have any sofas that will fit in my home?" None of the stores I worked with could ever help those customers. The only thing I could do was to direct them to IKEA or some other store that sold inexpensive knock down sofas that could be taken apart to fit through narrow entranceways.

    For people looking for cheap furniture that answer was fine, but most people were looking for something better. They wanted solid hardwood frames, a choice of lots of high quality fabrics, cushions that wouldn't lose their shape after 3 years — in other words they wanted good quality furniture that would fit down their narrow basement stairs.

    After 10 years on the retail side of furniture I moved into a new position that got me involved several large furniture manufacturers. I approached one of them with my idea for making high quality RTA (Ready to Assemble) sofas. They were very interested but six months later came back to me and said they could not do it. They could not figure out how to design an RTA sofa that would look like a normal sofa, be easy for a single person to assemble and disassemble, and not cost considerably more than a normal sofa.

    Three years later I took my ideas to an acquaintance I had been introduced to who built custom upholstery in his backyard shed. Two weeks later Glenn and I had completed our first prototype. Glenn worked 5 days a week at his regular business. On weekends I would drive 6 hours from where I lived in Virginia and we would work 18 hour days on Saturday and Sunday. Then I drove back to Virginia until the following weekend.

    We continued to work like this for over a year. At the end of that time we had a product that looked great and was easy to assemble. The only thing we could not be sure of was whether the costing was where it needed to be as it was impossible for us to get realistic high volume costing from suppliers for a line that had never been made and had no valid sales projections.

    When we were ready I was able to set up an appointment with the top furniture industry financial expert to get his opinion about our products. We rented a showroom. The financial expert came in and took a seat. There were over 20 pieces of furniture in the showroom. We asked the expert if he could pick out which of the 20 pieces were our RTA designs. He picked out 10 of the pieces and was then informed that all of the pieces in the showroom were our RTA designs, including the plush leather sofa he had been sitting on.

    Our financial expert arranged a meeting for us with a company that at that time was the largest furniture manufacturer in the world. They agreed to license our patents and set up a new division just to make our products.

    This furniture was produced from 1993 until 2001 with worldwide sales exceeding $25 million. There was only one problem. The company lost money on every piece it sold. The product was targeted to compete with IKEA at the low end of the market and was sold through catalog houses, mass merchants and other discounters.

    In 2003 Glenn and I got back together. This time we came up with a new design that was less expensive to manufacture and even easier to assemble. Instead of licensing the patents I was determined to build a self-sufficient company that controlled all product design, manufacturing, marketing, sales and customer service. It would also differentiate itself as far as possible from its closest competitor, IKEA.

    Where IKEA's sofa prices range from $299 to $599 Simplicity Sofas starts at $799 and ends at $4000. Where they have 2 or 3 fabrics per sofa style we have 150 fabrics with more arriving each month. Where their sofas take 1-2 hours of assembly, ours can be completed by a single person in less than 15 minutes and there is a YouTube video link on our homepage showing an 8 year old boy assembling one of our largest sofas by himself in less than 5 minutes.

    To maximize profit margins Simplicity Sofas does not sell to retailers, wholesalers or discounters. Everything is shipped direct from the factory to individual consumers all over the U.S. and Canada.

    Selling direct to consumers has several advantages besides the higher profit margins. Probably the biggest advantage is that it allows us to institute a joint customer service/marketing policy that is unique to the furniture industry. Its purpose is to increase sales through its reputation for customer service rather than through discounted pricing.

    The furniture industry has a well-deserved reputation, built up over several decades, as having one of the worst overall records for customer service. One big reason for this is that, despite continual warnings by industry analysts, furniture companies continue to compete primarily on price and to depend on deep-discount sales to bring in customers. This leads inevitably to low profit margins which leads to cost-cutting and one of the first costs to be cut is often customer service.

    At Simplicity Sofas customer service is a revenue-generating department, not a cost of doing business. The company is set up to provide a level of customer service never before seen in the furniture industry, a level of service that can only be provided by a manufacturer working direct with its customers. The company is able to track how many new customers have been brought in by recommendations of family and friends or through positive reviews on blogs and independent web sites. In addition, after more than 1500 customer served, the company has never had a negative review.

    The end result is that Simplicity Sofas opened its doors in November, 2007, two weeks before the official beginning of the recession. During the recession the furniture industry was one of the hardest hit sectors of the American economy. Hundreds of long-term furniture companies shut their doors and most of the remaining companies suffered huge sales losses, particularly small businesses.

    In less than 3 years, during the heart of the recession Simplicity Sofas' monthly sales rose from $0 to more than $100,000. Sales rose so rapidly that after less than 2 1/2 years the company had to move to a much larger manufacturing facility to keep up with the steadily increasing volume of orders.

  35. I started two different businesses based on my passions and learned a lot of hard lessons along the way which fortunately taught me a lot and helped me to succeed. My company CelebriDucks does a whole line of celebrity rubber ducks that were voted one of the top 100 gifts by Entertainment Weekly. I'll post our press kit letter below.

    When I graduated college with a degree in business and religion I really had no direction. I always found that if I wasn't moved to something emotionally, that I couldn't really conceive of it as an area of serious livelihood for myself. One day, I saw an original drawing of Mickey Mouse in a store all framed up hanging on the wall…and for sale no less! I was instantly captivated by the raw energy in the animator's hand drawing. It was one of the actual drawings that was used in a real 1930's Disney cartoon short. I had no idea you people could own these things let alone that they even existed. Ah ha!…direction! I would soon seek out where to get more of these things and thus my original business Name That Toon was born where I would buy and sell original Disney vintage animation drawings.

    The company expanded and eventually I hooked up with some people and together we were going to make a presentation to Fox to market the artwork from the Simpson cartoons. As it turned out, we didn't get the contract. I was really disappointed, but knew that if I continued to follow my heart and move in the direction where I felt inspired, I would eventually be led to something even better for me. And it didn't take long for that to happen.

    I was watching TV and saw The California Raisin commercials. I was amazed! The combination of top notch clay animation with the Motown sound track and witty scenarios was absolutely captivating. To make a long story short, I contacted the studio doing the animation and ended up marketing the artwork from the commercials and cartoons featuring the raisins. So that was pretty much my business up to that point……until one day, fate again intervened.

    One day I was walking down the street and passed a storefront window for Macy's. In the window were all these old vintage Coca-Cola vending machines, old glass bottles of Coke, and other assorted memorabilia. I was dumbstruck. Honestly, it was probably the closest I ever came to having an epiphany. In an instant I felt all the power of those old time commercials, vending machines, all the feelings of nostalgia and old time feelings of time past. I immediately went inside and worked out a deal to buy their whole window display.
    The I called Coke and told them I wanted to market the original artwork from their commercials the way Disney marketed their original animation cels from their classic cartoons. It took about a year for them to totally get what I wanted to do. They were right in the midst of the Coke Polar Bear commercials. Part of the problem was all the animation was done via computer. So how do you get the images out of the computer onto an animation cel like a Disney was doing with their hand-painted work. I mean I'm an English-Religion major from Hobart College without a shred of business or technical training. But you know, how it is…when you feel passionate about something, doors open and you connect with the right people to help you make your dreams a reality.

    Eventually I figured that all out and did in fact get a contract to do this for Coke. I worked directly with the animation studio who was doing the animation on coming up with a process to make it work. Bottom, line, not only did it work, but they went on to become one of Coke's top selling art pieces at that time. We then went on to become the largest publisher of advertising artwork from television commercials in the country. We created the first ever animation art lines for Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Bush, M&M/Mars, Pillsbury, Campbell Soup, Hershey's, etc.. It was all pretty amazing. And all from that one ah-ha! moment standing in front of a old time Coca-Cola display.

    I loved the animation business I was involved with and it did very well, but at certain point I realized that at the end of the day, I didn't create the Coke Bears or the Bud Frogs for instance, and was always working with other's people's creations. I think its common that many entrepreneurs want to create their own brand, their own characters and that's the creative force that drives so many of us. So it was a little scary, but made a conscious decision to completely reinvent my business. Suddenly instead of creating our animation artwork I was going to focus on a whole other business and now we're going to just be making celebrity rubber ducks!….But I always intuited from day one that the concept was unique enough and given time would definitely find it's market…..and it did!

    A common question I always get is: "You just make ducks?…you can make a living doing this?"…well, yeah!…if you make some of the finest ducks in the world and are the only ones in your niche producing them for celebrities, collegiate mascots, Fortune 500 companies, etc., you can easily become a millionaire doing it. Once you recognize that you have the means to create your own destiny, then everything becomes an opportunity, not an obstacle. So rather than wasting time thinking about what I could of or should of done,, I found a way to create something different or better!

    In my case, failure has created all my successes. When I didn't land the rights to market the Simpson's artwork, I detoured into commercial animation art which no-one was doing. When one of the first factories we were working with began to act unethically and they, with a shady client, took us for over $15,000, it led to us finding a new factory with some of the best people possible who we work with to this day. It never would have happened without that misfortune. Misfortune creates opportunities…. I'll give you another amazing story about that:

    Not too long ago we contacted Hershey about doing a Hershey Kiss rubber duck. It was so cute. This little yellow duck popping out of foil and holding Hershey Kisses. Everyone there loved it, the head of licensing, the buyer for all the Hershey stores in Hershey, Times Square, Chicago, etc. It seemed like a home run. At the last minute, the brand manager for Kisses didn't give his final approval. Seems he didn't quite understand the rubber duck concept. It just seemed so bizarre as everyone really loved it. Anyway, I interpreted all of this as a sign that rather than accept defeat, we should instead do our own chocolate themed rubber duck and our own line of chocolates….thus Cocoa Canard was born. Canard is French for duck!

    So we then we developed this line of hand-crafted real Belgian duck chocolates to go with it. We designed the box of the duck and chocolate to look like a French chocolate shop. And we came up with the idea that people could send Canard Grams to people they love of a gift of the Cocoa Canard rubber duck, the chocolates, and personalized note. We contracted out with another warehouse in the Midwest so we could ship chocolate in a reasonable amount of time to most areas of the country.

    And then we thought, hey, wouldn't it be cool if people could do the same concept, but at the same time do something that was environmentally really unique. Thus Green Grams was born, a program to send the first ever totally recycled "green" duck along with a personalized note and our new green soap to anyone anywhere. Oddly, all of a sudden based on Hershey not moving forward, we had a whole new division of our company which has been more fun than you can imagine. We found this lady in Kentucky who made these fantastic hand-made soaps. She agreed (after a lot of gentle persuasion!) to make a green bar for us for our Canard Vert soap. We also plan to extend the green line over time and are even starting a new division to do Green Regattas to put an ecological twist on the traditional rubbery ducky races. So you see, you just never know…which is why I say every failure is an opportunity.

    By the way, this whole new food themed duck line has really expanded. We added Coffee, Wine, and Cupcakes. The Cupcake Canard is now our top seling duck! And this June, our Holy Smoker BBQ Pig arrives which will probably immediately become our top selling item.

    I personally never took a formal business course in my life. But when you feel a passion for doing something, trust me, I find that you will draw in the people around you to provide the expertise for areas you are weak in. Bottom line, your passion and energy will drive the business more than having a traditional business background. I always say that people should read the stories of the people who created such amazing brands like Milton Hershey, Ben & Jerry, etc….it was their vision that made it all work. For me personally, these are the only kinds of business books I read – stories…stories about people…their hopes and dreams and how they made them a reality against all odds. Read enough books like that and you'll feel you can do anything.

    I always tell every budding entrepreneur I meet that they should always know that you are never without options. Or to put it another way….so goes your mind goes the reality in front of you. I'm not talking psycho-babble mumbo jumbo. It's just the way the universe is structured and it's workings are as tangible as touching a table. It's easy to think that when things aren't working out the way you hoped that you can feel trapped. Believe in that and that's pretty much the way things will unfold. But if you can see every misfortune or difficult moment as nothing more than another moment ripe with potential and realize that you always have something you can do…then the energy gets freed up…things happen, orders arrive, people call, etc…so it really is best to never let your mind go into a space where you feel trapped. I don't know why they don't teach that in business school because to me it is at the heart of every successful business venture that had to overcome adversity.

    I also always try to make the point ot every young person that you are your brand. But that doesn't mean you want to self-promote yourself. Your branding of yourself is only as good as your brand. Thus you should always create a great brand and then the natural extension to promote yourself as the brand will happen organically. Promoting yourself first is not only a bit egoic, but has no substance behind it. Richard Branson with Virgin, Steve Jobs with Apple, etc….they all had the brand first and ther personality naturaly followed to become intrinsically intertwined with the brand at that point.

    ….and it's not how much money you make…it's how much you keep!….so overhead is key….it takes down more businesses that you can imagine.

    Anyway, that's pretty much it….again, sorry if it was too long, but hopefully there is something in there.

    Craig Wolfe
    [email protected]

  36. I was introduced to the internet in 1996 when I asked a local company to network my computers. While the tech was at the house I asked about "that internet thing" so he hooked that up as well. I had no clue so I asked him what to do next and he introduced me to his favorite chat room.

    Meeting all the people in the chat room was fun and I learned how they posted photos and made their text look different. It wasn't very long before I started setting up my own free website on Geocities – like all my online friends. My mother told a couple of people that I seemed to have an eye for color and design, she referred my first client in 1998.

    By January 1999 I was making websites part-time while working a full time job. In the fall I was approached by an individual who was looking to invest in a web business. He turned out to be my venture angel and from there I was able to go full time, open an office and hire a couple of graphic designers.

    That's the story – it's been over a decade and I learn more every day. I'm very lucky to have fallen into and in love with this business.

  37. The idea for "PottyCover" was born when our daughter was 3 years old and was just becoming potty-trained.

    It seemed like every time we went out she had to go to the bathroom. As parents know, taking a young child to a public restroom could be extremely stressful. You don't want them to touch anything especially the toilet. And when a child sits on a toilet that is designed for an adult, they hold on to the sides to balance themselves so their hands and fingers come in contact with the sides of the toilet. Also since their feet are not touching the floor, their legs and underwear are dangling from the front rubbing against the front of the toilet. Regular toilet seat covers that are found in most bathrooms are very thin and don’t provide adequate protection for kids. We tried other seat covers that were designed for children, but they also did not cover the sides and the front of the toilet.

    So I designed PottyCover to provide safety for my daughter and peace of mind for me and my wife.

    PottyCover has the largest coverage among all toilet seat covers on the market. It is double layered with soft non-woven fabric coated with a layer of plastic to make it waterproof. And most importantly it covers the sides and the front of the toilet.

    We started selling on Amazon in May of last year. It soon became the Best-Selling, Highest Rated product in its category.
    Now PottyCover is available in all Buy Buy Baby stores around the country and select Bed Bath & Beyond stores.

  38. This is how I started iVi Scents Nontoxic Bath and Body

    Step 1: I Was Laid Off From My Job

    I was working as a middle school history teacher when, during the height of a national recession AND a state budget crisis, I received news that I (along with thousands of other new teachers) would be laid off at the end of the school year. I had put everything I had into teaching: my time, my life, my money, and my heart. I was devastated. At that point I had two choices: I could either cry and let my world come to an end, or I could hustle. Because I'm a fighter, I chose the latter. I took my situation to the Lord, who gently reminded me that He had rescued me from even bigger dilemmas in the past. Comforted by this fact and resting on Faith, I knew everything would be okay.

    Step 2: I Discovered My Plan B In iVi Scents

    The only thing left to do was to figure out exactly what it was that I was going to be doing and how. Ironically, the idea for iVi Scents came to me just two months before I was laid off when I was in search of two things for my classroom: 1) a cheaper and better smelling way to create plugin air fresheners, and 2) a hand sanitizer that didn't smell or make my hands look like a dried up, funky lemon. While in search of these two solutions, I discovered a wide variety of products that could also be made safer, better smelling, and a whole lot cuter. The second thing I discovered was that many commercial companies are aware that their products are toxic, but ignore it in the interest of a higher profit. Floored by the fact that, for years, I had been putting products on my skin that were often worse than industrial detergents, I decided to make my own nontoxic products and share them with others.

    Step 3: I Became A Chemist Sorta

    As a bath and body junkie, I had plenty of experience purchasing these kinds of products, but very little experience making or selling them. So, I spent the next four months researching, experimenting, and testing constantly. It was hard and free time was nonexistent. I was playing teacher by day and scientist at night, basically working two full-time jobs. Eventually, my diligence paid off. Although there were very few successful projects and lots and lots of failures, the successes were a big hit and ultimately became the exact blueprint of the products you know and love today.

    Step 4: I Built A Virtual Network Entirely Through Social Media

    The success of iVi Scents is deeply rooted in Social Media. iVi Scents was officially launched August 11, 2009 – the day our first YouTube Product Review went live. In fact, my first sale was from a person who watched that review on YouTube. As a result of a few successes, I began creating videos, blogging, and tweeting. I must say, there is something about social media that is slightly addictive to me. To my surprise, the feeling was mutual

    Step 5: I Became A Full Time Hustler and Serial Entrepreneur

    The road has been rough, but I have finally found my true life's calling in entrepreneurship. I have built a company that I am proud of: We are able to create products that are good for people, we are able to give love and respect to all those we come in contact with, and we are able to provide job security despite economic uncertainty. My goal, vision, and prayer for iVi Scents is to contend with the best and the brightest companies, to flourish as a rose among thorns, and ultimately to change the way that businesses interact with consumers on a massive scale.

    And That's How It's Done

    This is my story. This is how I did it. It's the story of how my part-time hustle eventually became my full-time gig. It's how my dreams were actualized and my potential realized. It's how necessity was the mother of my invention and how the Lord was the Father of my faith. I pray that you, too, are able to overcome your fears and do whatever it is that you have been called to do.


    Aarin Elizabeth

  39. My name is Amanda Hollowell and I own my own Wedding and Event Planning Company (Savannah, GA) for the past two years. The last year, I finally left my full time job and became my own boss. It is scary every day, but I love it. I am a natural marketer and it is easy for me to promote myself and promote my business. When I was 23 I opened my own public relations company in California, my first client was Dawn Robinson of En Vogue and formerly of Lucy Pearl. They pay was not great, the experience was unique and I stepped back from the business. Now nine years later, I am more business savvy, head strong and know how to get paid. Focus is always a challenge and I now have a board of directors that I call on when I want to go back to a full time job, It has been tough times, but I know it will get better, I have no regrets. My company is JL Events, LLC.

  40. For twelve years I was a property manager for apartment complexes all over the state. My husband and I worked for the same company. While in the process of divorce we agreed that I would be the one to no longer work for the company.

    I took my 2 daughters and with no child support, alimony or other source of income, moved 70 miles away and started my own business.

    At the new location I was offered a salaried position at a higher pay then I had ever had before but realized they were hiring me at "the top of the ladder" leaving me no place to grow. I did not want a job. I needed a career. I felt being self-employed would offer me the flexibility I needed to be home with my children when I needed to be.

    I knew nothing about saving, investing or financial planning and had never owned a CD, mutual fund or anything other than a savings account. I told myself that even if the business didn't work out, the knowledge and experience I would gain would be worth it since what I would learn about managing money would help me to raise my children.

    I found that I really enjoyed helping others determine the goals that are most important to them and help them put a plan in place to accomplish those goals and be financially secure.

    I built the business from scratch to one of the top asset management and financial planning practices in the country with the company. I also became one of the few Certified Divorce Financial Analysts in the State, and have testified in court as an expert witness for divorce.

    With approx. $200 million in assets under management and 1,200 clients, in 2007 I sold my practice. I am now a national speaker to help business owners do a better job for their clients and improve their bottom line and help individuals live a successful life and realize their dreams. I remain one of the few Certified Divorce Financial Analysts in the state. This enables me to help better assure a fair split and that the person hiring me understands what their financial life will be like after the divorce. Since I have "been there", it is important to me that divorce settlements are fair.

    I have been quoted in many local and national publications including USA Today and The Day and have been a speaker for major corporations such as Pfizer, General Dynamics and Dow Chemical. I have also been a guest on several live TV and radio call in shows.

  41. I began my event planning business during the summer of 2009. I was on break at my then job as a dining server at a retirement facility. I was writing a list of some of the goals I had. One of the goals was to decide what I thought I should do as my career. I was talking to a friend. We were discussing how good I was at planning parties and events for our friends and family. Then a light bulb went off in my head. I was like "wait, people get paid to do this". We laughed about it but the friend strongly suggested that I look into it. I decided to do some research on the industry. I asked my family and close friends what they thought about the career decision and everyone was on board. They agreed that I did such a wonderful job when putting together an event. I believe I received my first sense of accomplishment as a business owner when I hosted a drive for flood victims that were affected in my community (The flood of 2009 that hit Cobb County Georgia pretty bad). I hosted a two day drive, collecting items for families who had lost everything. On the final day we had families come out and pick up items. We also served food and beverages. I felt honored to help those in my community. Just the simple thank you comments I received from the families touched me. I knew then that this was what I wanted to do. I celebrated my first official year in business on April 17th 2011. I am learning so much with every event and I am looking forward to pursuing this full-time upon completion of my Marketing Bachelors Degree!

  42. My husband and I started our business because I couldn't find a job that interested me after being laid off. We had talked about being entrepreneurs since we were dating (more than 34 years), and finally decided it was time! We determine if we kept letting life get in the way, we would never realize our dream. So at 52 and 54 years old, we put the corporate world behind us. We created a personal property inventory service because so few have this much-needed document. The main reason is that they don't realize that even with insurance, one needs to provide a list of each item they want to have replaced. We fulfill the need for this information for home owners, renters and business owners. Our Turnkey Business Package followed once we established a professional service. This company assists others start their own inventory business so they, too, can help others be prepared for a disaster and properly recover. This opportunity – to mentor and coach others – fulfills our desire to help others while fulfilling their desire to be entrepreneurs, too!

  43. had returned to Los Angeles to care for my aging father after the unexpected loss of my mother. Despite knowing it was absolutely worth it, I was heartbroken that I had left my successful position as a Target buyer (both a job and company I loved) to return home. It was soon after I returned that I stumbled upon an experience that soon launched itself into what would be my new company, Retail Path. I was invited to use my buying experience to be a panelist at Spark & Hustle, a women's entrepreneur network. What first was a whim because it sounded fun, turned into follow-up inquiries and conversations with entrepreneurs who are now my clients. It never occurred to me that people out there would pay to learn how a buyer chooses products…and that there are very few buyers who translate their buying experience into a consulting business. Now, I'm running a thriving retail strategy consulting business and meeting many amazing entrepreneurs in every stage of a business who are looking to earn their first spot on shelf or are looking to broaden their distribution in existing channels. It's fulfilling to leverage my knowledge and background to help grow small businesses across America, while allowing me to stay engaged in my first love, the retail and consumer products industry. And, I didn't have to sacrifice my career after all to return home.

  44. Hello, I started my business for several different reasons. The first was because I have always wanted to be my own boss. The second reason I started my business was to sell my inventions and creations. I couldn't compete with the larger corporations, and decided that nobody would sell my things like I do. And last, but not least, because of my children. I want to leave a legacy behind, and not just a life insurance policy. It is important to me to show my 4 sons that nothing can stop them from being or doing anything they set their minds to. I hope I am an inspiration and an example to them.

  45. Thanks for asking for my story. We often get annoyed by different things and we often dismiss them and move on. This time I didn't :). Here's my story, which led eventually to Tennis Round.

    In 2007 Id moved from San Francisco to Miami Beach. I went to the Flamingo Tennis Center looking to play tennis. I asked how I could find people to play with. They said they had a tennis ladder (challenge system), which cost $20. I paid and asked for printout of the players. They didn't have printouts, nor a website. Instead, I was pointed to a bunch of magnets with people names and numbers on the side wall. Next, I had the pleasure of writing them all down by hand and then for extra fun calling people, leaving messages and playing phone tag, only to find out half of them had already left Miami. I thought about making a website, where players could interact with each other and update their status. Not just for the Flamingo Tennis Center, but for every tennis court. Then I called a few friends and we had a team working on the site.

    In August 2010 we launched – http://www.tennisround.com – a website that connects tennis players and helps them find tennis courts anywhere in the United States, in over 4,200 cities. 2,000 players from 600 cities have registered and exchanged nearly 3,800 match scheduling messages. Ive played about 16 new players through Tennis Round in Seattle and my brother Martin has played as many in San Francisco. When I travel, I ping players in that city. When I get a new match invite, it comes in my Gmail and I can respond to it from my phone.

  46. My daughter Lucia (now 4) was working with a speech therapist for
    the past 3 years to help her speech development. (She has had both
    physical and speech developmental delays due to what the MRI showed was
    reduced white matter in her brain.). The speech therapist suggested
    that I put together a photo album for her with pictures of her family,
    toys, body parts, and other objects that she could name by looking at
    the photos in the book. Lucia quickly destroyed the album that I made
    for her, so then I began trying to figure out a more kid-friendly

    I had the bright idea to create the Take Your Pix® board book photo
    album (patent pending) with thick pages (like the kids board books that
    Lucia loves so much). Now we're just diligently trying to spread the
    word and help others. We could really use your help sharing our story.

  47. I am what you may call Entrepreneur by necessity.

    My previous employment as a Business Support Officer, was with a non profit organisation (EBSP LTD) based in Cardiff, United Kingdom. We were funded by the Welsh Assembly and the European Union governments to reach out, by way of business seminars and road shows, to ethnic minorities all across the nation to challenge them to consider self employment as an alternative to unemployment and underemployment. At the height of the economic downturn, in 2008, our funding ceased and that aspect of our operation had to unfortunately wound up, thus my being laid off.

    After about 6 – 8 months of unsuccessfully getting a job. I started my business VIKE INVEST (UK) LTD, a business consultancy firm. And a year after wrote my first book "The Business You Can Start – Spotting The Greatest Opportunities In The Economic Downturn".

  48. My name is Michelle Dunn and I am a success story. I grew up in Rhode
    Island, not in the best of circumstances. I was the oldest child in my
    family and the only girl. Both of my parents worked and I wore a house
    key around my neck on a dirty shoelace. Since I was the oldest, I
    would get home from school first, and be there when my younger
    brothers arrived. We would do chores while we waited for my father to
    get home from his job. When my father would arrive home he would cook
    us dinner, and we would either go fishing, go visit his friends or go
    sit in the truck at the bar while he was inside.

    I grew up without any confidence and was constantly being beaten down
    and made to feel I was unworthy. I was called stupid, I could never do
    anything right and any achievements I made went by unacknowledged. How
    I envied the kids whose parents hung up the notice from the paper that
    they were on the honor roll on the fridge for everyone to see.

    Ever since I was very young, my goal in life was to gain my parents,
    my teachers, my peers or anyone's acceptance, attention or love. I
    wanted to be like the women I read about and saw on TV, I wanted to be
    beautiful, smart and talented but everywhere I turned I was told I was
    the exact opposite and that would never happen.

    I did very well in school and was on the honor roll often, I was an
    energetic child and was constantly in trouble for talking, fooling
    around and fighting. I also had a period in 6th grade where I would
    pretend I was sick every day so I could go to the nurse. I wanted to
    go home, because I knew my mother was there and I wanted to be with
    her. This just caused my mother and the school to be upset with me.

    As a young girl we had different family members who would sometimes
    live with us, one of them sexually abused me for a very long time. I
    never told my mother until I was an adult but I did tell my father, my
    aunt and the principal at my school. At that time, the response was,
    just don't tell anyone, especially your mother, another response was
    you're lying, you need to learn to behave and be more respectful and
    go home. So the abuse went on and I started running away frequently.

    I got pregnant at 17, the same year my parents moved away and left me
    on my own. I quit high school and worked 2 jobs as well as receiving
    state assistance in order to afford an apartment. I wanted to keep my
    baby but had lost my apartment and was told by my mother that I had
    created this situation so I had to deal with it on my own, so I could
    not come and live with my parents. Being homeless, I had to give my
    baby up for adoption.

    I was homeless for a while, sleeping in the back seats of abandoned
    cars, under bridges, in the woods or anywhere I could find. I worked
    at Wendy's before, during and after my pregnancy and met someone there
    whose parents let me stay in their basement. I went back to high
    school to finish my senior year and graduated, my parents did not
    attend. I then enrolled in a community college and went there for 2
    years while working a full time job and a part time job.

    I got married and eventually moved to NH where I continued to educate
    myself with correspondence college courses. Living the life I led, I
    have a very strong work ethic and am a very driven person. I am very
    proud of myself and feel as though I have accomplished much in my
    life. My biggest accomplishment was having faith and never giving up
    on my self when I had no support, setting goals and meeting them,
    turning my life around and becoming a smart, beautiful, successful
    business woman, mother, and friend.

    I started my own collection agency when I was getting divorced so that
    I could be home with my children and be there for them. My children
    did not have to live through the childhood I had, they have no idea
    such a childhood exists and I hope they never have to.

    I started my Credit & Collections Association when I started my
    collection agency because I was looking for information on starting an
    agency and not having much luck. As I found more and more information
    based on my research, my thought was to create a place where credit &
    collections professionals could go to learn more about the industry
    without having to go through all the research and searching I had to.
    It was my thought that if I had already done all this work, I could
    save someone else the time and effort and they could become successful
    more quickly if I shared my knowledge with them.

    And so, my Credit & Collections Association was born. I am proud to
    say this association comes from my hard work, blood sweat and tears
    and has been in business since 1998. My members make my association
    possible, they support, they help, they contribute and they care.
    Without my members, there would be no association. I am now an award
    winning author of over 14 books and a self syndicated columnist.

  49. In the fall of 2009, Michael suddenly found himself without a job. He had
    been working in the healthcare field for many years. So he began thinking
    about career alternatives. Inspired by his daughter who asked "Dad, what do
    you really like to do?" He began talking with his next door neighbor and
    good friend Rid about their common love of food and cooking.

    Rid's 30 year career as an Art Director was slowing way down, since his
    talents as an award winning freelance Art Director were being affected by
    the sluggish economy. Rid began creating recipes for a few simmer sauces
    that people could use with chicken, pork or fish. Michael added to the
    recipe pile and together they gave birth to four beautiful gourmet simmer
    sauces! The four sauces include: Lemon Piccata, Roasted Red Pepper & Basil
    Cream, Mediterranean Tomato and Marsala & Tarragon.

    What they quickly learned was, first, people loved the sauces they had come
    up with. They were delicious, all natural AND they discovered they were
    gluten-free as well! The sauces provided a quick and easy way for
    consumers to prepare a gourmet meal in under 20 minutes. Perfect for those
    with a busy lifestyle or for those who just weren't confident in their
    kitchen skills. They contracted with a co-packer in Lancaster, PA and began
    turning out 16oz. jars of their creations, ready for the marketplace.

    Lizbeth Lane Simmer Sauces are now sold in finer gourmet stores in 12
    states. They hope to continue their growth by also working with distributors
    and Brokers to market their sauces to finer food store chains. "The
    challenges continue", says Rid. "Setting up distribution channels is tough.
    As a new brand, many are hesitant to take our line. Some even say that the
    sauce category is "over SKU'd". This is not true however. These simmer
    sauces have been carefully positioned in the marketplace and represent a
    unique niche within the sauce category. There aren't any sauces out there
    quite like theirs. They also aren't overly exotic and are purchased
    frequently by consumers for weeknight dinners as well as enjoyed by singles
    who don't have the time or skills to prepare a great meal easily. Most
    sauces and glazes are used infrequently- only 2-3 times per year.

    Rid and Michael are finding out one thing during their food adventure. It
    takes time. And lots of it. Things move slowly in the food business.
    "Getting right back to you" means possibly not hearing from a broker or
    distributor for 2-3 months. So patience is the key. Rid's background in the
    advertising business meant deadlines and quick turn-around. "There's no such
    thing as quick turn-around in the food biz", states Rid. But Rid and
    Michael are determined to make these sauces and their company a success.

    "We will be exhibiting our line at the Fancy Food Show in Washington DC this
    summer" says Michael. "This is a great opportunity for us to meet with
    buyers and brokers that come from all over the USA. We'll be able to demo
    our sauces and strike up new business relationships–to keep our momentum

    They are on the right path to success. It just takes time, patience…and
    determination. Oh yes, AND a great product.

  50. A few years back I got myself into trouble with credit card debt while trying to start a business. I had always wanted to be my own boss, so I made some foolish decisions while trying to make this happen. Sadly I reached a point where the debt far exceeded the income, so I had no choice but to give up. A few years later, as the Internet became popular, I once again had the desire to start my own business. I learned about affiliate
    marketing (where you sell other people's products, much like a sales rep). After a few bad ideas, I ended up starting a debt-related website to share all the lessons I had learned the hard way. Now, about 10 years later, the website is still going strong.

  51. I started my own law firm because I was tired of busting my butt for "The Man" while they got rich off my efforts. I also realized that I frequently knew more about the law than my supervisors. When I got laid off at the start of the recession I considered it a blessing in disguise because I no longer had to fear leaving a steady job to take the risk of having my own business.

    That was four years ago. It took about two years before I was making the same amount I had been making at my previous firm, but I'm working a lot less and enjoy not having to answer to "The Man" anymore.

  52. We started Lab42 because we wanted to help other entrepreneurs succeed. We were built out of an incubator, and realized that market research was a key to the success of the companies around us, allowing them to pivot effectively. Market research often runs in the tens of thousands of dollars, making it unpractical for most small businesses. We decided to leverage social media in order to cut down costs and make the product available to small businesses and eventually help them succeed.

  53. The idea for our company began with a cry in the night. Well, many cries in the night, actually. My sons both had acid reflux as babies, and they didn't sleep well. They cried–a lot. The record number of wakings was 11 in one night, or at least that's when I stopped counting.

    In desperation, I talked with their pediatrician, a wonderful doctor and also a mother of four, including twin babies at the time. She called me one night after work and talked with me for more than a half hour, explaining how she had solved her own twins' sleep problems. Her method would call for more tears on my sons' part, and more tears on mine, but it had worked for her, she explained. Her reassurance and her experience gave me the courage to try it, and it worked for me too.

    Over the years as a writer, I've interviewed hundreds of doctors. Every now and then, a doctor would say, "When my kids were little, I . . ." That always piqued my interest. If a physician juggling a busy practice and a hectic home life or a resident working 110 hours a week used a tip, no doubt it worked. And I figured that if it worked for her, it'll likely work for me too.

    In 2008, I had the incredible good luck to meet Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH. That year, we worked together on a few projects. Then in early 2009, we decided to join forces to publish the Mommy MD Guides, a series of books filled with tips that doctors who are also mothers use for their own families. To accompany the book series, we also created the website MommyMDGuides.com. Our first book The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth came out in 2010, and our second book The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year is "due" in the fall.

    Our team is now more than 100 Mommy MD Guides strong!

  54. The NYT bestseller, Born To Run, almost single-handedly ignited a trend in barefoot running, walking, and hiking. But many potential barefooters are nervous about treading on unfriendly surfaces. And others, once they discover the benefits of being barefoot, want that "barefoot feel" all the time… and find that they can't get into stores or restaurants without shoes. Finally, many people don't fit comfortably in shoes; the shape of their feet doesn't match the shape of a mass-produced shoe.

    To address all of those situations, I created a high-tech upgrade of the Tarahumara huarache running sandal and launched http://www.InvisibleShoe.com. With just a thin, strong, flexible layer of rubber beneath your feet, Invisible Shoes give you the closest thing to a barefoot feel, but with a layer of protection. You can wear them for anything from walking to running an ultra-marathon. And Invisible Shoes are custom-made to perfectly fit your foot, either with a simple DIY kit, or made professionally, by us.

    Why I started the business is a classic case of accidental good timing. I had been making Invisible Shoes as a hobby when a local barefoot running coach, Michael Sandler of http://www.runbare.com, said, "If you had a website, I'd put you in our upcoming book." I pitched the idea to my wife, who summarily shot it down… so I waited until she went to bed and built a website ;-). Within 3 months of launching, http://www.InvisibleShoe.com was our full-time job, and now in just over a year we've sold over 5,000 pairs in 35 countries.

    The rest, as they say…

    Steven Sashen
    CEO, Invisible Shoes
    [email protected]

  55. Mom and entrepreneur, Michelle Rubin, created her own business in 2003, running it right out of her home- selling “memory blankets”. Customers send in their special clothing items, such as baby clothes, old road-trip t-shirts, and team sports jerseys, to Willow Creek Studio. Their sentimental items are then pieced together into a one-of-kind, handcrafted memory blanket. Michelle’s crafty idea allowed consumers to preserve their memories, where they can be cherished for a lifetime instead of being packed away in storage.

    Michelle decided to spread the word by writing her first press release, which she sent out to the three magazines she subscribed to at the time: "Child," "Parent" and "Fit Pregnancy." When the editor at “Child” called confirming interest, Michelle’s business quickly started to take off. When the magazine hit the newsstands, awareness of Willow Creek Studio grew, and production became growing and ongoing.

    Today, Michelle’s memory blankets have graced the pages of numerous publications and have even fallen into the hands of celebrity parents, like Jessica.

  56. H.BLOOM's founding story is unique; our founders, Bryan Burkhart and Sonu Panda, knew nothing about flowers when they incorporated the business in 2009.

    When we started selling flowers in 2010, Bryan and Sonu went to a local flower shop, picked up a bouquet, switched the labels, and sold it to our first customer – at a revenue loss. At the outset, we didn't have a cooler – a necessary but expensive tool for keeping inventory fresh in any floral business – so we used a dorm-room fridge. The flowers stuck to the sides, and we had to keep buying new batches – again, at a revenue loss.

    Bryan, our CEO, is incredibly passionate about building a business that delivers delight to customers all across the country, and about creating an organization that fosters growth for young businesspeople and offers impactful work for creative thinkers.

    As we've ramped up production and hired talented floral designers, quick-thinking floral buyers, and hardworking young salespeople, and built up to several hundred customers, we're just starting to see the very beginnings of what this business can do to achieve those goals.

  57. I'm a nurse by profession, but at the tender age of 40 I met somebody sailing around the world in a 28' boat and decided to join, not knowing anything about sailing! We sailed through the Med, across the Atlantic and sailed around the Caribbean for the next 7 years. I certainly learned to sail and am now using all that information/experience in the company I started when I was 51. My company is a charter brokerage, which means that I arrange other people's vacations on boats.

  58. I'm the founder of MeetingWave.com. My inspiration came when I started traveling for work and I would often find myself at a hotel where my options were eating alone in my hotel room or watching 30 other people eat alone at the hotel restaurant.
    I would often wonder if there were any potential clients, fellow alumni or business contacts available for dinner of coffee. So, I decided to build and launch MeetingWave.com (described below). I'm also the co-founder of http://vrfy.me (see http://nyu.vrfy.me) which allows alumni or others with common affiliations to verify their affiliation once and then gain access to multiple deals, offerings and services for those affiliations.

  59. Even though I live in a fun city, San Francisco, my Saturday nights were rarely yielded the wild and crazy experience that I expected them to be. That's why I chose to start a business that would guarantee me lot's of personal interaction and adventure every Saturday night. The concept came from a photo scavenger hunt I'd done right after moving to the city and the wide range of sports leagues I'd began playing. The California League of Adult Scavenger Hunters (CLASH) is a company that hosts an extreme scavenger hunt every Saturday night in a different San Francisco neighborhood. Currently about 50 'young professionals' come out each week to engage in a night of fast paced wild adventure as they crash the streets in search of clues, characters, historical quirks, hidden people and bizarre challenges. Of course there is plenty of drinking involved along the way.

  60. I started Chipkos because I knew that people were concerned about protecting our environment, but I didn't feel that an easy and proactive avenue existed to do something about it. Aside from just recycling or buying organically, I wanted to give people the opportunity to do more for our environment, but in an easy, fun and fashionable way. Chipkos sells sandals, but we also sell hope for the future; for every pair of sandals that we sell, we adopt 100 square feet of the rain forest. Chipkos sandals are a wearable badge that let you express your support for nature preservation, while showing off your unique and diverse style at the same time. The only way to create widespread change is if we all stand together, and I started Chipkos to give the public a platform to stand together, unified in our goal of protecting our natural resources.

  61. For me, the inkling came from need. Both my husband and I were out of work, so I decided to start a business. But what. I took my sister's suggestion to make adult bibs. But the real turning point came from the comment, "Adults don't want to wear bibs." That's when I designed the Cravaat™ by DinerWear™ and realized I had a business with huge potential. It's a stain resistant, machine washable scarf that is the perfect way to protect your clothes from food spills.

    Its fun to watch faces light up when people "get" the purpose of this stylish scarf. Most people identify with the need and are thrilled to see a classy way to address it. We want to replace the adult bib so seniors can maintain their dignity while eating. And although it was designed for seniors, we quickly realized that any adult is a potential customer. Ever eat in the car and end up with a spot on your shirt? Business men and women, travelers, or anyone who is dining challenged, can save themselves embarrassment by making it through their day stain-free. Reasonably priced at $19.95, it's certainly worth the price of a tie or

    As we like to say, an ounce of protection is worth a pound of laundry. It's fashion with function. And let's face it: spills happen. With a Cravaat by DinerWear, stains won't!

    Knowing that we are filling a need with a classy product was not only the inspiration to start the business, it's the inspiration to keep working hard to be the next big thing.

  62. Cliche Cosmetics is a dance focused cosmetics company founded by Jessica Lighter, a dancer and makeup artist. As a dancer, Jessica saw the opportunity for a cosmetic company geared toward the dance community.Cliche Cosmetics is also unique because it allows customers to customize their makeup at an affordable price. And after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, she had the perfect opportunity to build her dream while keeping her mind off of what she was going through. Since its creation in 2007, Cliche Cosmetics has participated in and sponsored a number of dance events and competitions including the Next Gen Insider and the Starbound National Competition, the largest dance competition in North America.

  63. I did not start out with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur. A scientist by trade, I'm a prime example of the saying "Necessity is the Mother of Invention."

    I loved my successful career as a geologist in the petroleum industry and my former bosses had always been very accommodating when it came to taking care of my special needs daughter by permitting me to work a flexible, telecommuting-based work schedule. Then a new manager, who did not believe in telecommuting, forced me to make a decision: care for my daughter at home or return to the office full time. It was a no-brainer: I chose my daughter and found myself facing the financial burden of a 60% decrease in our family income.

    We live on a farm, and nearly all of our 200 animals are rescues. Over the years my main hobby had been creating products to improve the quality of their lives. When covering the food and medical bills of all of our animals while staying home to care for my daughter became impossible, I was inspired to form Crazy K Farm Pet and Poultry Products, LLC to manufacture and market my unique, patent-pending inventions.

    From the beginning, caring for my toddler daughter and running my business complemented each other. Because her illness required her to be breastfed frequently and for an extended time, and I was unable to pump due to a medical issue of my own, my daughter and I needed to be together for much of the day and night. She spent a lot of time playing and learning in my home office while I worked, and she attended trade shows with me happily dressed up as a chicken or cat to attract distributors, retailers and consumers to our booth. It was no surprise to anyone that the first words my daughter recognized and spelled were "Crazy K Farm."

    My business is the epitome of a successful Mom-owned business: The operation of Crazy K Farm Pet and Poultry Products was originally organized around my child's requirements, and as she began to outgrow the illness that so deeply affected her physical and emotional well-being, so did the business grow and transform, all the while enabling me to fully accommodate my daughter's needs; By the time my daughter was well enough to start school this past February, my business had grown from its very humble origins as a manufacturer of pre-paid, made-to-order items sold solely via my personal EBay account, to my products being manufactured by the tens of thousands in Bangladesh and sold in stores across the US, Canada and the UK.

  64. I started my business, professional organizing because I was always helping friends and one day they said to me, you really should do this as a business, I would pay you and I thought no one is going to pay me to do this and so I thought about it a little and then researched it and realized that Professional Organizer existed as I came across NAPO the national association of professional organizers.

    I wanted to help other Moms who were just like me trying to raise children and keep up with maintaining a home.

    There is so much more to organizing than how clean a house looks and that is my passion and my reason for doing what I do so that I can educate and teach people how to live simpler lives in a stressed out world!

  65. The story of GovernmentAuctions.org, a site that compiles and provides information about government auctions of seized and surplus merchandise from all over the country, started with an idea to be free from the mundane office lifestyle.

    I co-founded GovernmentAuctions.org with my drinking buddy after having clerked for the late Honorable Milton Pollack of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. I hold a law degree from Fordham Law School — where I was Editor-in-Chief of the Fordham Journal of Corporate & Financial Law — and bachelor degrees from Rutgers University. We created this site because it was a niche that was wide open. There were limitless opportunities by simply selling the information. We figured that people really didn't want to call dozens of different counties to find an auction near their home, so we did the legwork and put all the data into one east to use search engine. We update regularly, so people never have to worry about missing out on auctions that are close to them.

    Not having a lot of money to invest into a business, we built the company ourselves from scratch, and launched only six months after we started development. I coordinated the site design, marketing and business planning, and my co-founder (who was working as a software developer at that time) developed the site programming-wise. It took us a month to plan the business, four months of development and alpha testing and a month more of marketing, site redesign and beta testing before we launched. Upon launch, we invested $5 into advertising and it returned $40. Our only startup expenses were our sweat capital, domain names, hosting and the initial $5 spent on ads, and we made that back after three sales—after that, we were off to the races.

  66. The founding of Fortunes to Live By was inspired by a fortune from a cookie received nearly 40 years ago! I was recently engaged and at a Chinese restaurant with my fiance. My fortune was "Your future will be built on firm foundation." It couldn't have been more appropriate for me at that moment — my husband and I would be building a foundation for our lives together. I was young (by today's marriage standards) and in love. I tucked it in my wallet and started my new life. It moved from wallet to wallet over the years. and as far I can tell it made each adjustment well. One of the times I found it was seven years later when I was going through a divorce. I was about to become a single mother and my thought was that I'd be building a firm foundation for my daughter and myself. Thank goodness was I was part of the to working women era – I was happy to have a career and knew I could do a good job at building our foundation. Seven years after my divorce I found it once again. I was about to get married again and embark on a live-in blended family. Suddenly were were a family of four with two daughters! The fortune was meaningful no matter what stage of life I was in. After about 25 years of living in wallets my meaningful fortune moved out on it's own! I like to think that my foundation was solidly built but the truth is a life foundation can always be improved upon. I missed it and thought about it occasionally. At some point I had a vision of a vertical pendant that would hold my special fortune. I left my challenging corporate job a while back and transitioned into semi-retirement. My occasional thoughts turned to: I should do something with my idea, I have time in my life, I am capable, if I don't do it now I'll never do it.. etc. etc. Two years ago (15 years after I lost the fortune) I took action. I made the decision in April 2009 and seven months later I was introducing my product at the Women's Conference held by Maria Shriver in Long Beach, CA. A little bit about the product: The Fortunes To Live By products consist of a necklace and keychain the heart of which is a locket-style pendant which holds two "fortunes" (sayings) back to back in a window display. The purchase includes a starter set of fortunes as well as a template that allows fortunes to be easily created, printed and cut to size. When personalized it makes the perfect gift. But more importantly, it's something that allows women to wear (or carry) what matters most on any given day. It can communicate whatever is meaningful — an inspiration, goal, sense of humor… the sky's the limit.

  67. I was diagnosed with a ulcerative colitis during college. Despite what could have been a setback in finding out I had a lifelong illness, I put my creativity to work and developed the bluehealer® diary. For consumers who are concerned about their health and wellness and who want to make the most of their doctor visits, the journal helps them take charge of their experience and become an advocate in their own health care. This journal enables users to track not only daily work and family activities, but also exercise and health events on one page, all at-a-glance. By doing so users can bring order and peace to their lives and even make a connection between daily activities, stress and health.

  68. Everyone always says, "Find something you love and the money will come." Living in New York is a food lover's paradise. I eat out 8 days a week and am always stumbling onto new places. About a year ago I started writing down specials at some of my favorite places. I didn't want to spend $100 all the time! Before I knew it what I loved became my book, 365 Guide. Drink. Eat. Save. Every Day of the Year. 365 Guide is packed with a food and drink deal for every day of the year in New York City. Now my love of New York can be shared with the world! So for me, finding what your passionate about really does inspire creativity to follow your dreams. It is just a matter of figuring out "how." So my advice…think about what you love to do. Write it down and let the juices flow.

  69. I formed my company, Professional Games, Inc., after developing a board game as a Father's Day gift. The board game (Lawsuit!) was meant to teach my kids what their father did as an attorney. Given the feedback I received, I decided to mass-produce the game. The game has since won 4 "Game of the Year" awards.

  70. I began my business in early 2009 out of necessity. The plan was always to start a consulting firm but the initial idea was to do so in 2011. I spent several years in the wedding industry working in luxury reception venues and took a promotion at another company in early 2009 with the intention of staying there for a few years to save up for the business.

    Six weeks later, I put in my notice- with no job prospects, a terrible economy… and not to mention that my fiancee and I had just bought a house and were about to pay for a wedding.
    Luckily, I had the support of my now husband Travis who said- well if youre bold enough to leave your job in these circumstances, why dont you go ahead and just start the business too?

    I officially started OFD in May 2010 and its been an amazing ride. I spent the first few months devouring every small business workshop, etc I could get my hands on, as well as developing my business plan and offerings. My business has been built on my relationships from the wedding industry here locally and now I work with clients across the country. My business has grown over 100% in the last year alone, and Ive had the pleasure of traveling to Ireland twice in the last several months for speaking engagements. Last Fall, a local publication Style Weekly named me Top 40 under 40.

    What I like most about my story is that I spent the first year out of college serving in Americorps (I worked in the inner city schools locally) despite all those around me against the idea. Im pleased to say that Ive proved them all wrong and happily enjoy my life as an entrepreneur, and Ive just turned 30.

  71. The two met at the company they worked for before becoming partners. "We became friends," says Jennings. "We loved creating hunts together and we always said one day we'd open a company that did nothing else but treasure hunts and a couple of team building events. The "couple" of team building events has swollen to 80 "off-the-shelf" events and we're constantly creating customized events for our clients!"

    Jennings opened Wildly Different in 2003. It took Jane longer to free herself from the golden handcuffs of a high-paying corporate job. She formed Masters of the Hunt in 2006. "Originally, we said we'd "help" each other out on our respective companies, but after finding we loved to do everything together, we married the companies (and sometimes it feels like WE are married as a result)," explains Jennings. "We see eye-to-eye with each other and complement one another beautifully as there's things I hate to do that she loves to do and vice-versa, but we are both creative!"

    Both love what they do and would not have it any other way. "I have always wanted to have my own company," says Lipps. "I started talking about that back in the mid-90's. I love being creative and getting people out of the norm and 'playing'.

    And Jennings adds: "I've wanted to own my own company ever since I entered the workforce. It was jut a matter of getting the money, the experience – and the guts – to do it! Eventually I realized, if I could make it happen for my employer, I could make it happen for myself and I made the leap!"

  72. I never imagined owning my own business. As a matter of fact, I was
    content working in corporate America. I loved my job. When I went back
    to school to get my MBA, I steered clear of the entrepreneurial track and
    concentrated in operations management. Then, one day at work, we were all
    called into the conference room for a meeting. We had no idea that we
    were going to be offered the opportunity to voluntarily separate from the

    At the time, I was pregnant with my second child. I was working eight to
    ten hour days and driving one hour each way to and from work. Although,
    the idea had never hit me, this was an opportunity to spend more time with
    my family. I considered taking the package, but only for a moment because
    I still had to help feed, house, and clothe my 2 children.

    When I told my husband about the opportunity, he immediately said take
    it! I still wanted to make sure that this was the right thing and I was
    still worried about our financial future.

    We are a military family, so we've moved around quite a bit. We've chosen
    to buy houses at each location instead of rent. Some of them, we have
    decided not to sell but rent out to other people. Unfortunately, we've
    not had very good luck with property managers so we've managed our
    properties on our own for the majority of the last seven years. We'd
    talked about how much better we are at it than people we've hired and my
    husband has always had an interest in real estate. We figured that once
    he retired from the military, he would still be pretty young and he would
    dabble in real estate; but this may be the time for me to take the
    severance package and start our real estate business now.

    With the economy in a downward spiral and job security questionable, we
    decided that it was best that we choose his military career over mine and
    I would go ahead and start a property management business, Absolute
    Property Solutions, LLC. That was in 2008. The decision has been one of
    the best I've ever made because I am more available for my family, I'm
    offering a service that we found from experience was needed, and I'm a
    much happier person.


    I launched Positive Living Inc., an environmentally green company, to take advantage of emerging opportunities in research, product development and lifestyle programming.

    I always maintained that better nutrition and high quality, life-improving products… whether in food, skin care or wellness programs could lower health care costs – and make a difference in so many lives.

    In addition to the above, I felt that I could contribute greatly in areas of nutrition, disease intervention and prevention, dermatology, pain and stress management – including fitness.


    As an award-winning Canadian inventor in beauty and health, I understand that innovation plays a significant role in company creation – and in the economy. It transformed my life, career and business. Today, the remarkable health successes with clients, outstanding author credits and the sustainable technologies (in cancer, food, skin care) serve as validation. When innovation ignites the daily ritual in your business life, it becomes your gift of opportunity to change the world in such an amazing way.

  74. A little about myself: My name is Tiffany "The Budgetnista" Aliche, and Im a preschool teacher/tomboy/travelnista/social butterfly/chatter-box, turned financial coach. I specialize in teaching fun and engaging financial literacy under my company. C.L.D Financial Life.

    I began my business while I was still a preschool teacher. It began out of necessity, because so many people reached out to me asking for help with their finances. My father is an accountant and taught my sisters and I early on how to properly manage our money. I became pretty good at it, saving $10,800 in one year, while only making $12/hr, and saving $40,000 in 2 years while making $35,000/yr as a teacher.

    People quickly took notice and asked me to show them how I managed my money. I started by helping my family and friends, then I began volunteering my services to churches, nonprofits, and other community based organizations. As a result, my expertise grew as well as my client base. I began getting paid for my services and started working with larger clients like, American Express, Columbia University, Princeton University, Newark Housing Authority, The Boys and Girls Club and the like.

    I recently wrote, completed and published the first (of many) books, The One Week Budget. With book in hand, I've increased the number of my speaking engagements, seminars and workshops. This has enabled me to be able to do The Budgetnista full-time.

    How I got the name, "The Budgetnista"…

    Three years ago when I was registering my business, I was looking for a name to call myself. I Googled a number of names: The Budget Queen, The Budget Diva etc… Luckily, all of those names were taken. Desperate, I asked my youngest sister Lisa, who was 19 at the time, for a suggestion. She said, What about Budgetnista? The Nista thing is really popular now. So I Googled Budgenista and found nothing. Soon after I bought the domain name and trademarked the word! The rest as they say, is history…

  75. Our kids started taking martial arts lessons a few years ago and I really enjoyed it, too. In 2009, the school they were attending was very small but the owner wanted to see it grow. I and another parent created a business plan for a martial arts school that would offer a variety of training options to families in our area.

    We joined with the senior instructor at our kids' martial arts school, and created All American Martial Arts. We located our facility in an area of town that did not have a tremendous amount of options for martial arts training and have become the fastest growing martial arts school in the OKC metro area.

    Why did we decide to do this? A passion for teaching and for seeing the lives of adults and young people powerfully impacted by the martial arts. We strive to offer a variety of training and services not available at other martial arts schools, and to be creative in how we deliver both.

    A key element of our business is our after school program that provides a better alternative than daycare or latchkey programs for parents who need an after school activity for their children.

  76. I was 18 when I fell in love with real estate. My parents were buying their first house, and I realized how big of a financial opportunity their realtor came across just for being cordial while providing them with something they were already on the market for. I immediately went after my realtor's license. After college, the market crashed, and everyone seemed to be running away from real estate. Determined to make things work, I came up with the concept of a company that would purchase homes at a deep discount so they can be renovated and provided to investors and homebuyers. At 23, I pursued the manifestation of this concept and launched RER, LLC. Despite holdbacks typical of a small business— going completely broke from bootstrapping the company and pulling in below zero revenue the first year— the business is alive and kicking today, now overseeing millions of dollars in investment funding, initially solicited by dispensing free real estate consultations to eager investors. My company survived because I didn't listen when I failed the first try and everyone warned me against spending another dollar on a fallen dream.

    I was in high school in the midst of quitting a fast food job I've had for just a few days when I promised myself that I'd never work for anybody other than myself— to this day, I've kept that promise.

  77. Intersections was founded by Jasbina Ahluwalia, a former attorney with a graduate degree in Philosophy, second-generation Indian-American turned Relationship Expert, Matchmaker & Radio Show Host.

    Intersections is the only national elite personalized introduction and dating coaching service designed for selective South Asian Singles nationwide (currently U.S.) interested in optimizing chances of meeting that special someone.
    The uniqueness of Intersections is in part a function of its Founder, Jasbina Ahluwalia. As a former practicing lawyer holding a graduate degree in philosophy, Jasbina can relate first-hand to the demands and challenges facing her accomplished clients.

    The service provided by Intersections differs from online dating, as it involves a highly-personalized, consultative and feedback-centric process.
    Before a client meets any matches, Jasbina learns the client’s particular needs, wants, values, priorities, lifestyle, personality and background via an extensive and interactive Personal Consultation.

    Intersections’ is specifically designed to take over the time-consuming task of screening so that its clients are able to strategically spend their limited time focusing on matches with real potential.

  78. Imagine starting a business in a country in which you’re not a citizen and have not mastered the language — starting a business in an industry you know nothing about — a place where you have no family, money or any contacts to help get you started at all.

    Welcome to the amazing story of Geir Ness, a boy born in Oslo, Norway to a humble home and loving parents who taught him that the greatest gift anyone could offer in life is to love, care and share with those less fortunate. His mom taught him that you should never give up on your dreams, to stay focused on your goals, get a good education and with dedication and hard work you will succeed.

    Early in his teenage years, he knew that he wanted to do something with his life that had meaning and would make a difference in the lives of other people. He started working as volunteer at a specialized school for handicapped and disabled children. This volunteer work gave Geir a lot of experience and a better understanding of how important it is to give love and kindness. In return Geir received from these kids so much more than he could ever expect. That experience gave him the compassion and dedication to want to do more with his life.

    He realized that it will take more than compassion and inspiration, but also money. He always wanted to travel and see the world and decided to combine his desire and need for making money. He began his journey, overcoming obstacles most of us will never even encounter. He answered an ad in the local Oslo newspaper for tour guides in Mallorca Spain. He did not speak a word of Spanish nor had he ever been there before, but he thought he would give it a try.

    After convincing the interviewer that he could speak the language and that he understood the culture, he was asked to wait for the Spanish teacher just to make sure he passed the written test. It was through luck the teacher’s car broke down and he was not able to travel into the city. With lady luck on his side he got the job and two days later he was on a plane to Spain. Once he arrived he was picked up by another tour guide and was instructed to be ready in the morning for his first tour with a Swedish Family. He could barley understand what the young man was saying, but he studied in enough Spanish in two days to understand a few words. The next day, he managed to communicate with the Swedish family and to understand their wishes. He carefully listened and would read his tour guide book and told the family what to see and do and even ordered a car using a few Spanish words. He is still amazed after all these years that he managed to do it.

    After the family returned from their tour they were happy and told him he did a great job with restaurant and sightseeing suggestions.

    After one week he was called in the office of the manager and he thought, “This is it, I am finished.” They know I faked it.” But as lady luck was on his side again he was actually promoted because the family he guided on the tour the first day was good friends with the company’s owner and they told him how nice and amazing he was. He was more than happy and excited. He also spoke pretty well, but basic Spanish since he used every minute he had to himself to learn the language.

    After several months on the island he decided it was time to move on and deep down in his heart he had another interest – – acting.

    At young age he developed a passion and love for theater and film. With that in mind he decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. To make ends meet, he worked as a fragrance model at a major department store. His looks and accent caught the attention of the public, and he was constantly asked where he was from and what kind of fragrance was available in his homeland.

    Realizing that Norway had no fragrance yet, he thought how cool would it be if he were the first Norwegian Fragrance designer and what a great way to honor his mom. His mom was always his inspiration and support and he decided that his first fragrance would be named after his mother, Laila. To show a deeper appreciation and love for her, he copied her signature and placed it on every bottle.

    In a business world where only a few survive and where everyone will tell you why you can’t succeed, Geir was determined and ready to take on the challenge. He knew he had one thing he had going for him and that was the belief he had in himself and his ‘go-get-it’ attitude and to never to accept ‘no’ for an answer.

    Selling most of his cloths at garage sales, reaching the limits on his credit cards and borrowing money from his only friend in the Unites States, Geir started his business in not only in an industry he knew nothing about, but also one that is less welcoming of new comers.

    The odds of surviving were staggering; the odds of becoming successful were astronomical. But Geir Ness doesn’t know the meaning of words like “no, can’t and shouldn’t”. His determination to make his mother proud of his life’s accomplishments has pushed him to heights most would say is impossible. But for Geir, impossible is simply an opinion and that word does not exist in his vocabulary.

    Armed with a $5 suit, a red carpet found in the trash and a photographer who couldn’t afford film for his camera, inviting his fellow students from the acting school to pretend to know him as the mega celebrity from Norway, Geir staged a publicity event at Nordstrom’s, ultimately landing him his first order of 1000 bottles. Nordstrom’s believed the order would last 3 months; instead Geir sold out in one hour and had a waiting list of 50 people!

    Ever since that moment Geir was on a roller coaster ride of events from Beverly Hills to small towns across America. From disasters in manufacturing, to an industry that wanted to see him fail, to an absolutely grueling 300-day a year travel schedule filled with personal and motivational television appearances and radio and magazine interviews. Geir maintains the most positive upbeat and optimistic outlook on life you will ever encounter. Norway’s morning show “Good Morning Norway” featured him as special guest and Norway’s television network did a special on him for prime-time television about his incredible life journey and story.

    Today, Geir has not only surpassed his goals but also helps many people he encounters. To make his appearances more special, whenever possible he and his mother Laila together make special appearances throughout the United States to promote the company he started and now is an established million-dollar fragrance company. Not only is he a successful fragrance designer, but Geir became a motivational speaker and speaks at schools and seminars throughout the USA and Europe to help others stay focused on the road to success. His success story earned the attention of Hollywood and he is currently having discussions with them to have his story turned into a screenplay and feature film!

    In the words of Geir Ness…..”The American Dream can come true and it does not stop here, always more to come!”

    Always remembering what his mother taught him, where he came from and his goal to help others, Geir donates both his time and money to a list of foundations such as the Los Angeles Aids Ride, Norwegian Cancer Society, Chicago’s Children Medical Research Foundation, Susan G. Komen Foundation and just recently he joined the I am 4 Kids Foundation to help bring awareness to education and the importance that each child can achieve anything in life as long as they believe in themselves.

    To add to his efforts, last year he teamed up with Norwegian Olympic Gold Medalist, World Champion and 9-time New York marathon winner Grete Waitz to run the New York Marathon in November of 2009. Since Grete was not able to run due to chemotherapy, Geir ran the marathon on her behalf to raise money for cancer patients. He ran the marathon in an amazing time of 4 hours, 28 minutes and raised close to $300,000 for the charity. He always strives to make a difference and help the less fortunate to succeed.

    At the end of 2009 Geir released his first pocket book “Letters from a Son to his Mother” which he dedicated to his mom. After all these years she is still his biggest supporter and always keeps encouraging him to pursue his dreams and goals. The book not only shows his love, dedication and appreciation for his mom, but also that you need the love and support to be who you want to be. His pocket book is available online.

    Geir’s talent just doesn’t stop by designing fragrance and beauty products; since he has a passion for fashion, he wanted to incorporate it in his product line and he began designing handbags for “the woman on the run”. As it turned out it was a smart move on his part and his handbags are best sellers; always selling out in the first couple months once on the market. His handbags are sold with products which give the customer the chance to purchase an amazing gift set for the price of just the fragrance.

    A year ago he added a new product called “No Baggage” which is an eye treatment and also a shower gel. Since he always strives to create new products, he is currently developing the first Laila skin care line.

    Today the Laila Perfume Company is featured in gift baskets for events such as the Tony Awards, the Grammy’s, MTV Awards, Miss Universe, Miss Sport Football and the Euro-Vision Song Contest.

    Geir continues his grueling travel schedule but had to reduce it to 285 days a year. With personal & television appearances throughout the United States, and since Laila Perfume is now one of the best selling specialty fragrances at Nordstrom’s nationwide, high profile boutiques and one of the top selling fragrances at Disney’s Walt Disney World Theme Park and Disney Cruise, most of his time is now spent at these locations.

  79. CasaQ Ornaments by Darlene One Christmas I wanted ornaments that had a little Latino flavor to them for my tree. I searched up and down, high and low but came up with nothing. So, in 2007 I decided to design two hand-painted glass ornaments "Pancho Claus" a Santa riding on a piata and "Sancho Snowman" a guitar-toting snowman wearing a poncho and sombrero.

    They sparked an immediate interest from the Latin GRAMMY(R) Award producers who called and asked for them to be featured in their official celebrity gift baskets. They had only seen pictures of the designs online, which were not yet available in stores. The ornaments were finished, fedexed and made it into the hands of celebrities just in time for the show.

    Since then CasaQ Ornaments have received much press because of their intricate and beautiful designs which have been given as gifts at numerous celebrity driven events such as Alma Awards, People en Espaol's Christmas Party, CBS' A Home for the Holidays TV Special and American Music Awards Gift Suite.

    Now they can be found at Macys, Museums and specialty shops across the nation.

  80. From 1993-1995, Strauss served the Clinton Administration in the White House in the Office of Media Affairs under the Office of Communications, as the first-ever White House Radio Director. This Administration was the first to make talk radio a strong priority and we provided the talk radio community with direct access to the White House. As White House Radio Director, he was responsible for creating and implementing the radio communications strategy for the Clinton Administration. While working at the White House, he coordinated and produced President Clinton's weekly Saturday morning radio address, booked and implemented talk radio interviews for the administration, and coordinated live remotes and other radio events and projects for the Executive Office of the President.

    Following the news of President Clinton's healthcare plan, Strauss realized the importance of talk radio in getting any message across on the radio, and proactively brought talk show hosts to the White House to be directly briefed by the President. This was the first time that stations were able to broadcast live at the White House (with the exception of Paul W. Smith of WWDB, who was the first to broadcast on the White House lawn a few months earlier).

    Before working at the White House, Strauss served as the Director of Radio for both the Clinton for President campaign and the Clinton/Gore transition team. One accomplishment that I am particularly proud of was when I created a multi-tiered 800-number that could be used to obtain breaking news-worthy campaign soundbites. This "rapid response" plan that he implemented helped me to land my position as the first director of radio at the White House.

    Strauss left the White House in January, 1996 to start Strauss Radio Strategies, a communications, public relations, consulting, and strategy firm specializing in radio. This year, we are celebrating our 16th year of excellence in helping companies, organizations, and PR firms to realize the integral role of radio in PR campaigns.

    One of SRS' greatest strengths is its relationship with the talk radio community. We have many longstanding personal relationships with talk radio show hosts and producers at the nationally syndicated, statewide, and local levels. We have worked with such national shows as Westwood One's "The Jim Bohannon Show", NPR's "Talk of the Nation" and "The Diane Rehm Show", Air America's "The Tom Hartman Program", American Urban Radio Network's "The Bev Smith Show", the "Ed Schultz Show", Doug Stephan's "Good Day", as well as many other nationally syndicated and local talk radio programs. In his own life, he connects with talk media by interacting with hosts on a regular basis to pitch them radio interviews.

    In addition to founding his company, Richard Strauss has been a member of the DC chapter of the Entrepreneurial Organization for the last eight years, most recently serving as President of the chapter.

    Radio as an industry continues to evolve and extend its reach. With more stations being purchased by large ownership groups, it is increasingly important to form working relationships with decision-makers at large entities. The Internet has infused more power into radio, especially since most networks and stations now stream live. There is also certainly more competition from personalized radio websites such as Pandora and mp3 players such as iPods.

  81. Because there had to be a smarter way for consumers to find and hire great, local contractors in Toronto – a better answer to the question: "uknowa great contractor?" Two key events led to the creation of uknowa.com: 1) After quitting the corporate life, hitch-hiking across Asia, and then returning to start my own freelance businesses, I found it very difficult to connect with customers in need of my services; 2) I returned home to find my sister and her husband involved in a complete, renovation nightmare, unable to find a good contractor (http://goodcontractor.uknowa.com/). There had to be a better way for customers in need to connect to trustworthy, local small businesses.

  82. The owner RON KOPF is as pure of a person as they come. He is all things good and honest – and he says, "As early as middle school, I had a passion for jazz. Being a musician, I've always known that I wanted to actually make my living playing this beautiful music. My Aha Moment was at 24 years old when I decided that I wanted to create a company of artful musical acts, using the very best musicians, in the corporate special event / convention industry, and set a new standard for doing business Having used the Ray Kroc business model, and learning from Dr. Deming that quality is really in consistency, I set out to create business systems to solidify the standard of my company's framework. It began with the branding of my acts, the promotional materials that would go out to clients, and the structure for how to take care of business at events. With all of this in place, I am now able to provide multiple acts for any given evening, and guarantee our clients the same outstanding level of quality. Now 18 years later, I'm always thrilled to grow with new ideas and creative concepts, as well as to express myself musically with amazing musicians."

  83. In 2011 the time had come. I was ready to take all the knowledge of the past decade and create the Event Company I had always dreamed of. EQUILIBRIUM EVENTS. Equilibrium Events is a multifaceted company once division of the company being corporate and dedicated to giving concierge level service at an affordable price. This is achieved through the relationships we have, the in-house capabilities we possess and the amazingly talented team. The other division is Social, this is where my creative juices get flowing and my passion shows. In addition to celebrity clients and high end social affairs we dedicate ourselves to creating Same Sex Marriage Experiences for couples all over the country. As the country learns to except people and understand that Love is just that Love, we are there to make every girls and boys wedding fantasy come true. Weddings all have the same key element; Two people in love! It is so exciting to me to meet with a couple who are so in love and proud of their relationship that they want to share it with friends family and the world. My passion is to create one of a kind experiences and through Equilibrium I am given that chance."

    So how did he get to this place? "In the mid 90's after graduating with my degree in Psychology and a minor in business I took a job at the NYC Mayors office (under Giuliani), my responsibility was for community outreach, in his Community Assistance Unit. Thought this was a great job and gave great experience, I started volunteering at the events department. This was awesome, I was in my early 20s in New York City and working or going to EVERY major event in NYC. I found my calling. Through hard work and many late hours I became the Director of Events for the mayors CAU office, my new responsibilities included creating the Mayors Town Hall Meetings and the SAPO (Street Activities Permit Office), I then decided it was time to make a switch and accepted a position at NYU in the University Events Department. My goal here was not only to learn the world of Non-Profit but attend school (employees of NYU attend school at no cost) This was another win-win situation for me. Through this position I was fortunate to not only expand my education but work and meet many of the members of the board of trustees. In the Summer of 2001, a major trustee made me an offer I could not refuse, he wanted to back me in my own company and move me to Florida (to handle his and his friends Palm Beach Events). As I was deciding on this move the day everyone will always remember 9/11 took place. EVERYTHING CHANGED. Although the new company was now not an option, I survived 9/11 and decided to make the move to FL. With no job or plan it just felt right. Soon after moving to Florida, I met Barton Weiss of Barton G. and was offered a position to create a new DMC division in his growing company, this lasted for 1 ½ years, at Barton G I learned a lot about what I want, what I was willing and able to do as well as what I do not want. Overall this was an amazing experience that I would not change. Following Barton G., I moved around and made sure I worked in all aspects of the Special Events Industry."

  84. I was living on auto-pilot. I was in a decent job working long hours on top of a 4-hour commute. The work was fine but I had no passion for it. And I never saw my 1-year-old daughter. I'd leave in the morning, she'd be sleeping. I'd come home at night, she'd be sleeping. And Days turned into weeks turned into months.

    _You ever feel like that, when you feel like you're running in place and you know you want things to change but you don't know what to do about it? _

    So there I was, lunch time on a beautiful Monday afternoon in Manhattan, sitting outside eating my chicken salad sandwich, and getting away from the constant noise for that moment, I realized "This is not the life I want, never seeing my daughter, 4 hour commute, exhausted all the time. This is not the dad I want to be", but I don't know what to do about it. I'm the sole breadwinner…I'm stuck…but I can't do this forever….it's just not acceptable. The costs are too high"

    And right there, in that moment, I made the decision that I was going to take back my life- no more floating down the river. I asked myself, "What is one small thing I can do to get started here?" And I decided to start by having breakfast with my wife and daughter the next morning and go into work 20 minutes later than usual.

    Well, the next morning happened to be September 11, 2001 and I worked on the 96th floor of the WTC. So when the first plane hit my desk, I was still in the subway on my way to the office.

    It was terrible. My boss and most of my team were up there, but that small decision I made saved my life.

    At first, I was stuck looking back – why me, why them? Then I realized I had to look forward with a completely new sense of responsibility – What do I want to do with this gift that I've been given?

    But I want to point out that the most important thing is — I made the decision on Sept 10th when life was fine. A day that looked like any other day. September 11th just confirmed that I could never go back.

    After that experience, I still had no vision of where I wanted to go. I thought of everything I could think of and was coming up empty. I did not know what my path was. I did not have a journey, and I had no clarity. However, because of what had happened on September 10th and 11th, I knew that I had to own that journey. I was open to new possibilities and always on the lookout for a sign or a lead. I was just having a hard time figuring out where to start.

    And then one day, six little words gave me the catalyst I was looking for. We were in the kitchen on a weekend and my wife's friend Jen was over. I don't recall why but she casually turned to me and said, "You would make a great coach." Initially, that meant nothing to me. I said, sure when my daughter is older I'd love to coach her in little league and soccer. She said, "No you moron! You would make a great life coach."

    I asked her, "What the heck is a life coach?" I had never heard of that phrase before, though it did sound intriguing. She went on to tell me that it was something she had recently learned about, and when she had heard of it she immediately thought of me.

    I was flattered she thought of me but I wasn't sure what to do with the compliment. On any other day I would have likely thanked her and then let the thought slip past like so many hidden treasures that go unrecognized despite their unlimited but invisible potential.

    But I was in a different place mentally. I had been on the lookout for a sign and I decided to latch onto to this idea and see what it might bring. I immediately went upstairs and started researching the term, and as I'm researching it more and more, it all started making sense I thought, this is exactly who I am, and for the first time, I felt pulled towards a world I felt compelled to be a part of.

    Those 6 little words had unlocked a world of new possibilities for me, a world that 5 minutes earlier didn't exist for me. Yet it had been there the whole time. My entire life shifted from that one statement and I have never looked back.

    I tell this story now as if it was a magical moment where the clouds parted and the sun shone through–and in a way it was–but I also want you to see that the day Jen stood in my kitchen was just an ordinary day. It was an ordinary day like any other day, but it was an ordinary day with possibility. Every day has that possibility inherent in it. What made this day different was my openness to that possibility.

    As a result of that experience and the subsequent journey, I redefined myself as a Human WakeUp Call and created my company which provides coaching and consulting that helps individuals and organizations unlock their potential and create new possibilities for growth and success, without waiting another precious day.

  85. Why did I start my business? The last two words of my question is the answer because I always wanted to have my business. Being an employee is great if you're treated nicely, have a great working space, and what is more important, earn enough to satisfy all of your desires. About 3 years ago I realized I won't be able to make all of my dreams come true working for a boss. I had to become a boss myself. When working for a firm, you eventually realize that you know everything about it it's flaws, mistakes, good sides and bad sides. This gives you a great opportunity to create a similar business of your own, taking all those issue into consideration (this works out if you really love what you do). So after spending couple of months analyzing the firm I worked for, I quit and started building my own business. It still hasn't grown much due to lack of funds and thousands of competitors, but frankly speaking, I am making more than I used to when being an employee. I can make decisions, mistakes, and plans…and I will be the only one responsible for my doings. Period.

  86. Studio 40 was an "unintentional" business, in the beginning. I had no plans to open a gallery when, in the fall of 1979, I was showing my handwoven clothing and accessories at a small craft show in Beckley, WV, and was approached by two ladies who were artists-in-residence at The Greenbrier. They purchased some of my work, and they told me that there was a vacant studio in the Artists Colony at the resort and that I should stop by on my way back home to the Eastern panhandle of WV. I had never heard of The Greenbrier and had never visited Greenbrier County. To make a long story short, I moved to White Sulphur Springs in March of 1980 and opened my weaving studio in cottage #40 on April 1. One year later, having barely been able (as a one-person studio) to keep up with demand, I formed a sort of co-op situation with some other women artists from the area, and they worked occasionally in exchange for being able to sell their work out of my studio. This worked well for a couple of years until I was finally financially able to go to some of the well-known wholesale craft shows (where I had formerly shown my own work!) and buy from artists whose work I admired. Things took off from there! Now, 31 years later, Studio 40 at The Greenbrier represents around 125 American artists creating wearables, jewelry and fine craft. Studio 40 in downtown Lewisburg, WV represents about 140 American artists and craftspeople. I no longer have time to pursue my weaving, but Im surrounded by the beautiful and astounding work of many other artists every day.

  87. Between my years as a homesteader-mom of four, and going back to college in my early forties, I worked in a fine art and craft gallery for a year and a half. Being in such a beautiful environment, and given the job of display stylist and assistant manager, I found I was very comfortable in that venue. After two years at Hollins College finishing my English degree, I headed back to Lewisburg,WV, a small mountain town, for lifestyle choice and to open my own gallery. It was time to do something for me. I used the $20,000 profit from the sale of our renovated home, a line of credit and a credit card to launch my business. At first much of my stock was on consignment from women artists I had met and I purchased art jewelry and fine crafts locally and at juried shows. I rolled the profits back into stock for three years and into a divorce before I got a paycheck. The urgency for a salary got me into ready-to-wear clothing geared toward the creative women who were my main customers. I am now more a boutique than gallery. After 20 years of making a modest salary, I am also supporting a full-time manager, my daughter. As the town's tourism has grown, so have we. Our repeat business comes from a radius of 2 hours, topped with tourists visiting the area.

  88. I launched Positive Living Inc., an environmentally green company, to take advantage of emerging opportunities in research, product development and lifestyle programming.

    I always maintained that better nutrition and high quality, life-improving products… whether in food, skin care or wellness programs could lower health care costs – and make a difference in so many lives.

    In addition to the above, I felt that I could contribute greatly in areas of nutrition, disease intervention and prevention, dermatology, pain and stress management – including fitness.

    As an award-winning Canadian inventor in beauty and health, I understand that innovation plays a significant role in company creation – and in the economy. It transformed my life, career and business. Today, the remarkable health successes with clients, outstanding author credits and the sustainable technologies (in cancer, food, skin care) serve as validation. When innovation ignites the daily ritual in your business life, it becomes your gift of opportunity to change the world in such an amazing way.

  89. My 40th birthday was looming and I had the perfect dress for a fabulous party … or so I thought! As the big day approached, I would try on the dress and it just didn't look the way I wanted. (Or perhaps I should admit that it was I who didn't look the way I wanted! Bumps and ripples in all the wrong places.) I went in search of shapewear and just couldn't find anything suitable. Fabrics were heavy, too tight in all the wrong places, seams were painful.

    With a background in medical compression garments, it dawned on me … the same science that applied to medical garments could be used in shapewear for women; tighter weaves where needed, looser in other areas, breathable fabric, minimal seams. LIPO IN A BOX was born — and has been a best seller on QVC for nearly a decade. I am so pleased to provide lifestyle products for women that include Lipo in a Box (believe me, it's NOT your grandma's girdle anymore, girls), Underology Skin Care products (short ingredient lists of all the good stuff without the fillers) and now a gorgeous line of bras that FIT called Go2 Bras.

    I am passionate about sharing tips and secrets of the "unseen essentials of style" and am dedicated to helping women feel and look their absolute best at any age and any size.

    I am also pleased to be able to give back as often as I can by supporting the YWCA, domestic violence prevention, breast cancer research, and Soles4Souls.

  90. As a female entrepreneur, I am living proof that when you do what you love, the money will eventually come. Being blessed as a mother and being surrounded by a loving family has allowed for my creativity to excel and my unique business to flourish.

    As a young girl living in Camp Hill Pennsylvania with my younger sister and two older brothers, I was taught that diligence, hard work, and the importance of family above all else were core values of success.

    At a very young age, I learned to sew and was able to create anything from doll clothes to bridesmaid's dresses. I was hopeful that someday my love for sewing would turn into a career. I just didn’t know at the time what kind of business it would be and how successful it might become.

    In 2003, after having worked years in various jobs that didn’t give me anything back, I decided to take a chance and start my very own company called Willow Creek Baby.

    I started sewing vintage-inspired patchwork baby blankets and began building credit for the company. In 2004, when I gave birth to my son, Ryan, it was then when I was inspired to create my first memory blanket.

    Baby clothes that held so many precious memories for me as a mom and my family were pieced together and hand-sewn into a blanket. Why should my son’s clothes be packed away when his childhood memories could be cherished for a lifetime? This memory blanket was the first of many to come.

    With the growing success of my re-named company, Willow Creek Studio, I have been fortunate enough to create thousands of memory blankets. One of my favorites was a memory blanket that I created for a soon- to- be grandmother. This particular woman was about to become a first-time grandmother and she wanted to present the perfect gift at her daughter-in-law’s baby shower. She collected clothing from when her son was a baby, and also collected clothing from when her daughter-in–law was a baby, and sent them all to me. I was able to create the most precious baby blanket with a combination of both parent’s clothing. I was later told that this particular gift was the highlight of the shower and brought many people to tears. Although each of my children have their own memory blankets, I have now started saving additional clothing that will someday be combined with their spouses baby clothes to create a very special memory blanket for my first grandchild.

    This brings me to my second favorite blanket I made for another loved one. My grandmother had passed away a few years ago, and I had been collecting her special items of clothing in hopes to create a special blanket made out of her most memorable pieces. My grandmother always wore the most beautiful scarves, with such intricate detail and vibrant colors. She was also an avid gardener, so I had set aside her favorite pair of gardening gloves to include. Lastly, I couldn’t forget the wonderful aprons that she wore so elegantly when preparing meals. Gathering these items, I was so excited to create this blanket, because I knew that it would be filled with all the special memories of my grandmother.

    We all have fond memories with beloved friends and family that will last us a lifetime. I thoroughly enjoy giving my customers a tangible, profound, gift that holds such immeasurable value to them. And that is the best part about my career. I am able to give people such a significant piece of work that not only touches their hearts, but my own. I finally found something that gives me back what I put into it. Each blanket I create takes several weeks to craft together. My hard work is paid off when I hear the stories of customers who literally cry when they first receive their memory blankets, because it brings back such special moments in time.

    My business has come a long ways and continues to grow as we gain more delighted customers.

    Today, these memory blankets have graced the pages of Parade magazine, Parents, Family Circle and have been featured in newspapers across the US. The blankets were also named one of the “Top 10 Green Gifts” by Natural Home magazine.

    I am just so blessed that I can finally do what I love and make a living, too. The best part of my job is giving others the opportunity to reminisce over something so meaningful to them. It’s really a special thing to be a part of.

    About Willow Creek Studio
    In 2003, Michelle Rubin started her own company, Willow Creek Baby, where she created baby blankets made out of old baby clothing. Willow Creek Baby blankets have graced the pages of numerous publications and have even fallen into the hands of celebrity parents, Jessica & Jerry Seinfeld. Due to popular demand, the company expanded their original offering beyond baby blankets. Now, called Willow Creek Studio, the company provides a unique way for everyone in the family to preserve their own precious memories. Visit http://www.willowcreekstudio.net for more information.

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  93. I started http://www.RememberMeGiftBoutique.com because I have such a compassionate heart for those grieving. I am slowly beginning to realize the need for inspiration, and am constantly adding items that will help to those grieving to be inspired during their healing journey. I offer personalized service to enable my customers to find the perfect Sympathy Gift for their loved ones.

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