Each business has a story. No matter if the business is a Goliath like Wal-Mart, or a local business owned by a couple or family, the business has roots in an idea. For each business owner, the story of their journey can range from monetary needs or the passion for a unique project. Each story is different though the reasons may remain the same. No matter the tale, the background behind each and every business is what fuels each entrepreneur and brand.
1) Discovered an Opportunity
When I was younger, my mom was an incredible artisan. She was quite the talented maker, and she had a talent that I am convinced skipped a generation. In the summer of 2011 I had a truly serendipitous collision of events in my life: 1) My mother was struggling to sell her wares with local boutiques wanting
to take a 50% fee. 2) My corporate job (which I will still say to this day is a great place) had started to wear on me, control me and left me feeling discouraged and beat down. 3) I read an incredibly inspirational book about the importance of freedom in your life. 4) I found a minor weakness in an industry giant. Within these completely unrelated experiences, I discovered an opportunity. This was when I made the biggest decision in my life: do I do something to change my life or do I sit back and let others control my destiny. That serendipitous collision pushed me to create aftcra, an e-commerce marketplace just for American handmade artisans to sell their beautiful goods. We are focused on helping American artisans share their handmade products with the world. We aren’t some Silicon Valley giant. We are just us, a family in the Midwestern that loves the talent of makers and their handmade goods. And aftcra, she’s a new marketplace, but she’s growing with dedicated makers and shoppers who treasure handmade goods.
Thanks to Erica Riegelman, aftcra!
2) Make a Change
I started my business because so many people feel stuck in life. They feel stuck in their current situation (be it health, work, or a relationship) and do not feel like they have the capabilities of making a change. I could not disagree more. My take on life is, if you woke up with a heartbeat, you have the power to make a change. Although change can be scary, and sometimes the path to change may seem hidden, it is still possible. Most people just need some guidance, motivation, and encouragement. I started The Lifestyle Project as a means to provide the tools people are looking for to make positive and sustainable changes to their lifestyle. Changes that last a life time. Changes that would enable them to live the long, happy, and healthy life of their dreams.
Thanks to David Didier, The Lifestyle Project!
3) Stellar Customer Service
I started my business because I truly felt there was a lack of stellar customer service at other companies in our industry. I wanted to launch a business that entrepreneurs could use as not only a service, but a resource for information when they are stuck or confused. My goal is to help entrepreneurs navigate the murkey waters of legally starting a business in a fast, reliable and affordable way.
Thanks to Nellie Akalp, CorpNet.com!
4) Legal Way to Share The Love
I decided to start Noble Brewer to give great homebrewers an easy and legal way to share what they love doing and to give craft beer lovers a way to try amazing beers that the homebrewing community is creating. I wanted to use technology to connect consumers and homebrewers so that when one of our members is drinking a beer we feature they can have (almost) the same experience as if they went to a small brewery and had the brewer serve them beer and tell them about it. Ultimately, it’s about connecting homebrewers to craft beer lovers through the product they both care so much about, beer.
Thanks to Claude Burns, Noble Brewer!
5) Insane Work Ethic
I have always had an insane work ethic, where I always gave my job everything I had. After helping startups go through the growth and acquisition cycle, I knew I could do this for myself. The benefit was that I as channeling all of my energy and hard work into something that was mine, but it has also given me the opportunity to be the kind of leader and employer that I want without the red tape of a large company to contend with. If someone isn’t performing, it’s time to say goodbye, and if someone is doing great things, I have the flexibility to reward them for it.
Thanks to Danay Escanaverino, LunaSol Media!
6) Gap in the Market
When the recession hit in 2007, I was really excited for the art world. I thought new artists were going to be showcased more because auction houses would not be able to sell high-priced works. But they played it safe and continued on the path that had tried true. I opened my business because I saw a gap in the market – both in art and in fashion – where new artists and new designers had no idea how to brand themselves, market themselves, or get into the niche they had a passion for because there were no doors open for them. I manage up-and-coming designers who create exclusively for my store, and only six of each garment are ever made. It is truly wearable Fine Art; and within that, I give the art world something to look at and the fashion world something new.
Thanks to Alexx Shaw, Alethea Spectacle!
7) To Give People Back Their Dreams
People’s homes are where all of their dreams start. Whether it be creating a start-up business from the garage, a blog from the den, or just raising kids in a happy healthy environment, the home is where it all begins. Our customers in the restoration business find us when their homes are in the most devastating circumstances and we take pride in being able to get the work done well and quickly so they can get back to living in their homes instead of out of them.”
Thanks to Idan Shpizear, 911 Restoration!
8) It Wasn’t Fulfilling
The reason I started my business is because my background has always been in non-profit mental health agencies, but I was finding that I was just not able to do the therapy work in the way that I wanted to do it–it wasn’t as fulfilling as therapy work should be. In the non-profit world there are lots of constraints, grantors to answer to, and policies about how therapy should be done. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time learning much of what I know from the non-profit world. However, there came a point where I knew I just wasn’t able to provide the depth of healing that I wanted to (not to mention the crazy politics on the non-profit world). Thus, I made the leap and decided to go out on my own and start my own private psychotherapy practice. That was almost one year ago and I would not have it any other way!
Thanks to Shirani M. Pathak, Relationship Center of Silicon Valley!
9) Better than the Status Quo
I had co-founded my first company in the music software space back when digital meant taking something that was formerly analog and rethinking it. I created the first MP3 DJ tool while studying computer science at the University of Marburg and at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). I didn’t wake up one day thinking, how can we kill music on vinyl. We just wanted to give people who wanted to learn or explore a different way the means to. Subsequent to its sale to Native Instruments GmbH, I further developed and optimized the product into “Traktor” – the leading DJ software that has revolutionized the industry. So the patent that we ended up getting opened the world of DJing up to everyone. Things like automatic recognition and matching of tempo, phase and pieces of music increased creativity. So when we co-founded Babbel in Berlin in 2007, we just wanted to develop something better than the status quo. We wanted to do something we were passionate about, rather than try to disrupt industries for disruption sake. My cofounder wanted to learn Spanish but didn’t really find anything online that was that good so he built his own vocabulary trainer. He was using it and learning so we all decided to try it and we all loved it. So we said, why not focus on building a fun and easy language learning product. We weren’t trying to reinventing learning. Apps can’t do that, nor can they replace classrooms or books. Instead, we wanted to build a good learning app that made use of proven language learning methodology and adapt the reception to modern mobile technology. This alone has a massive impact and is improving two essential points: How can learners integrate the courses into their everyday lives and how can they stay motivated. Being able to learn wherever you are and on-the-go for example is a huge step forward. Also, the use of game mechanics for maximum motivation is key for learning success. Babbel customers stay with us much longer than 12 months on average which is a big step ahead, compared to CD-ROMs or audio cds. That idea grew into Babbel, the language learning app. Babbel is now growing fast and witnessing strong international demand, with up to 120,000 app downloads daily.
Thanks to Thomas Holl, Babbel!
10) 1/4 Ego, 1/4 Passion and 1/2 Desire
1/4 Ego, 1/4 Passion, and 1/2 the desire to scratch the itch and bring down the horrible ideals and image that skincare has on Men. As a young male living in California at the time, I was very uninterested in skincare. I was currently in fashion but I found that the skincare industry was lacking in something huge, a sort of black hole to say. Some of my friends were into products that were terrible and the others did not care at all. Why was that? Engagement. Men’s skincare products are just not engaging enough for them to slap on a couple serums or cream a day to look good. Hair styling or even wearing a bow tie is in. So why not skincare. It just dawned on me, like an electric current. My company was born on that day.
Thanks to Rodrigo Diaz, GOA Skincare!
11) Fear of Lawyers
I started my law firm, Legal Direction, three weeks ago because I wanted to represent microprenuers, solopreneurs, entrepreneurs and small business owners in North Carolina. Over the years, I’ve learned that many business owners are scared of lawyers. They don’t want to look stupid because they didn’t successfully form their corporation. They wrote their own contract, and couldn’t do anything when the other side abruptly cancelled the contract for no reason. They signed an unfavorable 7-year lease without having an attorney review it because they didn’t realize it was negotiable. And above all, they are afraid of the cost. Legal Direction started with as little overhead as possible to keep fees low. Wherever possible, I use flat rates or project fees so legal fees can be predictable and budgeted.
Thanks to Donna Ray Berkelhammer, Legal Direction!
12) Failed Fashion Week
Nineteenth Amendment began with a failed fashion week. As a designer turned entrepreneur, I experienced first hand how funding and connections were a bigger factor in breaking into the fashion industry than talent and drive after making it to the final round of London Fashion Week. One collection, one hundred thousand dollars, and one plane trip later, it was time to break the cycle. Nineteenth Amendment was created on the idea that fashion is a choice and that the garment production process for manufacturers in the US needed a makeover. And, just like its namesake, Nineteenth Amendment believes everyone has a right to choose how to make the system – and their closets – a better place.
Thanks to Amanda Curtis, NineteenthAmendment.com!
13) Always Had an Interest
I had been working in the beauty industry for over 12 years. I started my business because I always had an interest in fashion, particularly swimwear. My summer trips to Mediterranean islands inspired my designs. I learned so much throughout my cosmetics career, and I wanted to apply that knowledge to a business I could grow on my own. When you work for a larger company, you are limited to a specific role. I wanted to be involved in the whole creative process of a brand. I really enjoy designing a bikini, choosing the colors and prints, building a campaign and all the creatives behind it, as well as creating the website and forming new partnerships with retailers. When I had my daughter, I saw that as a perfect opportunity to work from home to be there for her and to set an example of how you can do anything you put your mind to.
Thanks to Maggie Kombogiannis, Meli Beach Swimwear!
14) To Repair & Revolutionize
If you had told me a few years ago that I would be the CEO of peach a company with a fresh approach to lingerie and basics, I would not have been able to see it. I never expected to find life and purpose in lingerie. When my co-founding partner Derek Ohly (COO of peach) and I learned that 80% of women are in the wrong bra size and 95% of women hate the shopping experience, we sought to repair this broken method and to revolutionize the way women think about shopping for intimates. We soon realized that bras were just the start to the pain point and decided to expand our vision to include other ‘must have’ items for a woman’s top two drawers. We believe that when women wear intimate and basic apparel that fits, feels and looks fabulous, they feel more at ease, more confident and more energized from the first to last moments of each day. We also believe that when women experience being cared for and part of a community, they feel beayoutiful from the inside out. My love for personal selling inspired the idea of bringing peach to women in the comfort of their own home. Derek and I shared a passion for helping women tap into their entrepreneurial spirit and reach their goals, which allowed us to see in peach a way to encourage and champion women to build their own independent businesses.
Thanks to Janet Kraus, peach!
15) My Dad’s Struggles
I watched the struggles my dad went through finding, hiring and managing reliable in-home care for my grandma. I quickly realized that the country’s home care system was old, antiquated and had been grossly neglected by the tech industry for too long. It was only inevitable that a marketplace company would come in and consolidate this highly-fragmented market using technology. In doing so, we could help millions of families afford quality home care, and disrupt the fastest-growing industry in America.
Thanks to Kyle Hill, HomeHero!
16) It Was Crazy It Didn’t Already Exist
My name is Anastasia, and I left google a few years ago to start my company, called Hatch.co, which is a marketplace for independent designers & professional makers who create original & unique products (we’re often referred to as “The Best of Etsy”). hatch also enables consumers to easily customize or personalize the majority of Hatch products, thereby creating an interactive shopping experience that enables sellers to present their inventory in a creative and engaging new way without taking on additional inventory risk. The reason I started Hatch was simple: it simply seemed crazy to me that an interactive shopping experience like Hatch didn’t exist in the world. Every single shopping site out there forced customers to make a yes or no decision for every product they sold and a customer either had to love a product exactly as it was or settle for something “good enough,” which was a very black-or-white decision to be made. At Hatch, we pride ourselves on working with designers and makers who are able to take a product and tweak it based on the customer’s unique request, favorite color, or preferred material to create something exactly as they want it.
Thanks to Anastasia Leng, Hatch!
17) Improved the Wheel
Back in 2008 I was searching for a digital agency to manage seo for my very small online skincare business. I contacted a few companies and all quotes I received were $2k+ p/m, with no guarantees or assurances. At the time, I didn’t have that kind of money, so I learnt SEO for myself. Unlike today, seo in 2008 was quite easy, so I thought, why not offer businesses an affordable seo solution with guarantees & assurances. I didn’t re-invent the wheel, I only improved it.
Thanks to Nick Bell, WME!
18) Fixing a Problem
I didn’t originally set out to become an entrepreneur. I was a new mom and just had my second child. I was getting frustrated with my baby’s socks constantly falling off their feet and I couldn’t find socks in baby stores that were constructed well so as to avoid this nuisance. I found a void in the marketplace and took it upon myself to fix the problem and come up with a solution that I knew other parents were looking for. That’s when I became an entrepreneur and created babyfitFOREVER. My friends and I used to always talk about creating a “product” and “selling” it. But that was always just “talk” until one snowy day, sitting in my house, I decided I would GO FOR IT!
Thanks to Erika Sheby, babyfitFOREVER!
19) My Next Job to be More than a Job
I had been CMO of an online ad network and wanted my next job to be more than a job, to serve a cause I cared about. For me that cause is animals. I have been an ethical vegan for many years and do not wear clothes made of animal-derived materials such as wool or silk – these are not always very easy to find. But something I could never find were quality, fashionable handbags that were not made of leather or other animal materials. That was the moment I decided to create Jill Milan. I wanted to set a standard that no company had achieved before: offering vegan fashion that would be recognized for its style as well as for its compassion. We have achieved that, as publications such as W Magazine have recognized Jill Milan handbags multiple times on the strength of our style. And we are able to support non-profit organizations which help animals. Creating Jill Milan was my opportunity to create a business with a purpose to do more than just make money.
Thanks to Jill Fraser, Jill Milan!