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 be the same. No matter the tale, the background behind each and every business is what fuels each and brand.
We asked some entrepreneurs and business owners, why they started their businesses:
#1- Out of necessity.
For the previous twenty years I had actually worked in emergency response, as a firefighter, medic and police officer. Unfortunately after twenty years working such demanding jobs I was no longer able to physically do the work. This lead to me needing to find a new career, and fast! Several years prior to this my wife started a newborn photography business, over time I became more involved in the back end operations of the business and within several years had helped her grow her business into a full-time professional position. She now photographs thirty newborns a month! After thinking about how much I enjoyed helping her business grow and learning all I could about business structure, marketing, SEO and social media to name a few, I decided to take these new skills and help other small business owners. My company now helps any new or existing business grow and succeed.
Thanks to Sean Matula, Small Business Consulting Strategic Marketing!
#2- Raise and support our family on our own terms
My firm, atCommunications, LLC—a Chicago-based Web development and digital marketing agency—is this year celebrating its 20th year in business! My parents were also small business owners. My father was a podiatrist and my mother ran his practice. My number one goal in 1999 when my wife (fiancé at the time) Abby and I started our firm was to create a business that allowed us to raise and support our family on our own terms—just like my parents’ business allowed them to do for more than 30 years. Over the course of the last two decades, we have had the privilege to work for clients spanning the spectrum of industries and service sectors—from Fortune 500 companies like McDonald’s, Microsoft, Pepsi, Pfizer and State Farm, to Grammy-winning songstress Shakira’s charitable organization, the Barefoot Foundation. In that same time, I’ve been able to coach both of my boys’ travel hockey teams—to leave work a little early when their teams had 5PM practices or to take off on Fridays when they had out of state tournaments. Sometimes I’ll stay up late or work on Saturday because the work still needs to get done. But I can say with a great deal of pride and satisfaction that I can’t remember the last time work caused me to miss one of my boys’ school plays, holiday concerts, or sporting events. And that’s exactly why I love owning my own business.
Thanks to Terry Kasdan, atCommunications, LLC!
#3- Solve a problem I encountered
While I was contracting for the US Army in Arlington, VA, I ran into a problem: there were no existing systems capable of processing a massive amount of data streaming in in real time. From a personal perspective, this presented a compelling engineering challenge. From the perspective of the public good, I felt like I could make a difference that mattered. So my co-founder, Amit Vij, and I built a new database from the ground up, centered around massive parallelization combining the power of the GPU (typically used to quickly process and generate graphics in video games) and CPU to explore and visualize streaming and historical data in space and time—an approach that we then patented. Turns out, most industries need to analyze and react to data simultaneously—they need continuous analysis of streaming and historical data, location analysis, and AI/ML-powered predictive analytics. It’s a repeatable model that we’ve been able to apply globally to everything from autonomous vehicles to drug discovery. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and of all of our success, and I’m still excited about the work I get to do to continue to evolve our platform.
Thanks to Nima Negahban, Kinetica!
#4- Innovate something more gratifying
I spent the last 25 years leading digital marketing initiatives for brands like Century 21 Real Estate, Barnes and Noble, FreshDirect, and 1stdibs. And although I enjoyed my time in all of those roles, I’ve learned on my entrepreneurial journey that innovating in the healthcare space is extremely gratifying. I’m incredibly excited that every day I have the opportunity to use my tech background to make it easier and more affordable for the 35 million Americans with hearing loss to receive high quality, audiologist-backed hearing care.
Thanks to Adam Karp, Lively!
#5- I sucked at the previous business
I had planned to be a motivational speaker, which I wasn’t bad at. But I was bad at the “business” of being a motivational speaker. I just could not sell myself. Meanwhile, I was doing a great job creating content for my website and ranking in the search engines – so good a job, that people wanted to hire me to handle their content and SEO. So, I started doing that. To be able to serve more clients, I created an agency, with more writers and a team to help promote our clients. It turns out that I am much better selling my team than selling myself. And that’s how The Happy Guy Marketing was born.
Thanks to David Leonhardt, THGM Writers!
#6- Take my working future into my own hands
I’m a middle aged, former stay-at-home mom. Prior to stepping away from my career to raise a family, I was the big earner in our family. But as I watched my kids grow, I also watched my husband grow in his career. When our second child headed off to college, I found myself at a crossroads. I realized that I didn’t have 20 years left in my working life to achieve what my husband had. I knew that if I wanted stimulating, strategic, and well-paying work that I have to take my working future into my own hands. I wasn’t wrong: starting my own business has truly been one of the most thrilling and satisfying things I’ve ever done.
Thanks to Dawn LaFontaine, Cat in the Box!
#7- Save on expenses
My mother in law died in 2013 without any life insurance. A funeral is the third-largest expense a family will incur. After going to through such a traumatic experience and dealing with a huge financial burden a light bulb went off. I can speak from experience that getting my life and health insurance license was the best thing I have ever done. I started out working two days a week helping people with life insurance and quickly realized my income from those two days was more than I was able to pay myself from the spa in a month. I was still running the spa and being a mom. What started out a part-time deal or side hustle quickly evolved into a very lucrative career for me. Was is easy when I got started? NO, nothing worth it ever is. My faith, courage, and work ethic have provided for me and my family in a way that I never knew existed. I sold the spa in 2014 (age of 37) and I have never looked back, not once.
Thanks to Katherine Adams, Creative Legacy Group!
#8- Make a sustaining income
I am the wife of an Army soldier and we have had seven addresses in the last ten years. I began my business beautyofselah.com in order to make an income that would sustain us enough for my husband to get out of the military and do something that he loves in a city we can settle down in. Now that we have children, moving becomes more stressful on the entire family. I can’t wait to get to the end of my husband’s current contract and move to our dream city!
Thanks to Elizebeth Gidley, BeautyofSelah!
#9- Sell reusable and sustainable alternatives
In 2018 my wife and i drove from London to Cape Town along the west coast of Africa. This amazing adventure was the inspiration for our business. With little in the way of formal infrastructure, everywhere we went we saw people repairing items or reusing for another purpose. Old milk cartons became the latest kids toy and canvas advertising banners were turned into boat sails. It opened our eyes to the disposable ‘throw-away’ lifestyle we have been accustomed to in the West. That’s why we founded Reco, an E-commerce store that sells reusable and sustainable alternatives to single-use products. We also educate and inspire people to move away from a single-use lifestyle to a multi-use one.
Thanks to Andy Smith, Reco!
#10- After several financial setbacks
From as early back as I can remember, I had always wanted to be a writer. I would write stories on cursive-writing papers and staple them together. Since both sets of my parents went through bankruptcy while I was a child, learning about how to manage money became almost an obsession of mine. After getting laid off from a job back in 2008, I decided I would put all my passions together and become a personal finance journalist. After several rejections, a friend told me that you could actually just start a blog. So, I opened up Frugal Confessions in 2009, and built a business from there.
Thanks to Amanda L. Grossman, Frugal Confessions, LLC!
#11- Make a bigger impact
I became a business owner because I knew the specific areas I was passionate about and felt the rest was bogging me down from living out my true purpose. I felt confined in my 9-5’s and wanted to make a bigger impact across companies and cultures instead of living inside of one. My greatest motivator is creating happier people experiences and helping them grow with the right support. I do this through motivational speaking, leadership and business coaching, HR consulting and writing and I the impact I make is what keeps me going even when times get rough.
Thanks to Heidi Lynne Kurter, Heidi Lynne Consulting!
#12- Follow my passion
I left the practice of law after more than 25 years to follow my passion and start a bakery. I had always talked about starting a bakery as I loved to bake for my family and friends and they had always encouraged me to do so but I always found excuses or reasons I could wait or postpone this dream of mine. It was my daughters’ who finally encouraged me to follow my passion. My oldest daughter was graduating from college and wanted to pursue her dream of a career in stage management. I heard quite a few comments from others that we should encourage her to do something more traditional, easier or something that would ensure her financial security in the long run. We encouraged her to follow her passion and pursue a career in what she loved to do. One of my other daughter’s then pointed out to me that I had always wanted to open a bakery and maybe it was time that I followed my own advice and pursue my dreams. It was that little kick and reminder from my teenage daughter that I should allow myself to follow my dream and take the risk. It was scary at times and hard to believe I did it, but it is now more than three years since I launched Subarzsweets, LLC and I haven’t looked back!
Thanks to Daphne Subar, Subarzsweets!
#13- Create a legacy
Starting a business wasn’t something I did as a luxury, but rather out of necessity. I came from very humble beginnings where I watched every adult in my family live from pay check to pay check. At the age of 5, I remember saying I would become a business owner so I could help get my family out of the hood. At the time I had no clue what I wanted, but I knew there had to be more to life than sleeping with rat and roaches on the floor. I vowed that I would create a better life for myself and future children. Today, my goals remain the same. I launched my first business in 2014 and 5 years later, I’m still in the game. The life of entrepreneurship is definitely overly glamorized on social media. There’s been plenty of time when I wanted to throw in the towel, but then I’m reminded of my why! I’m here to make an impact and leave a legacy. That’s why I started my business and there’s no greater feeling.
Thanks to Kendra N. Jones
#14- Help women of domestic violence
I was married with two kids and not sure what I wanted to do with my life other than being a stay at home mom. Then my marriage started to go south. I had another baby and before she was born we started the divorce process. Things turned negative very quickly and I became in a high-conflict case. I seen a legal system that was not working as it should. I need something was going on and got very quiet. I then went back to college to get my degree because I knew eventually I would be starting a business dealing with family court. Then my former spouse got custody of my children and my children were concealed from me. I started researching all the players in my case and discovered that the guardian ad litem sold custody to my former spouse. When I released this information into the community my life became in danger. I created a couple products to help women of domestic violence with counselors and court services. I did more research and then started making blogs with creative ideas to change family court and help parents.
Thanks to Deanna Kloostra, Art Soolk!
#15- Inspired by a photoshoot
About 5 years ago I was involved in a photoshoot where I was asked to wear a mermaid tail by the photographer. I absolutely loved it! I saw that the spectators were also in awe and asking all sorts of questions. I heard about a mermaid swimming school in Europe and immediately knew that’s what I wanted to do. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, even as a kid. I started a window washing business and then studied business at HEC Montreal University. After graduating, I was working at a traditional job until I could figure out what I really wanted to do. I started the first AquaMermaid swimming school in Montreal and have since expanded to cities across North America and even overseas. I’ve combined my passions of fitness, swimming, and mermaiding into a business and couldn’t be happier!
Thanks to Marielle Chartier Henault, AquaMermaid!
#16- Treat employees in a better way
We started Prestige Transportation, LLC a Kansas City based Black Car Limousine Service because I was working part-time for another Limousine Company and my girlfriend was convinced we could do it better. The company I worked for did not treat their employees very well and we knew by treating our staff better we would outperform the competition. She went out and formed the company and is the owner which is now a WBENC certified business. We are now considered to be Kansas City’s highest-end transportation provider.
Thanks to Jason Taylor, Prestige Transportation!
#17- Solve my skincare struggles
I realized that many current skincare ingredients, such as fragrances or fillers, break out my skin, so I created my own skincare products in my kitchen. I documented my struggle on my YouTube channel, which now garners over 70M views. Eventually, my followers saw great results on my skin and encouraged me to launch my own business. Now we are a diverse team focused on inspiring confidence in others.
Thanks to Daisy Jing, Banish!
#18- Build relationships
Our first year of business was all about cultivating the relationships that would get us to our second. Fortunately, we are lucky enough to call ourselves profitable in just our first year. We began by being content-producers focused on serving the 18-24-year-old demographic right after graduation from Virginia Tech. What we initially achieved was a small audience between 200-800 for our podcast. Our podcast then turned into a book and we were off to the races. We hired a consultant to promote the book, allowing us to reach 14 different Amazon Bestseller lists and selling over 1,000 copies in the first 48 hours. The next logical step was to give it away for free! In doing so, we were able to provide value to students while being able to build relationships with those who actually had the budget. This was with the companies who wanted to hire them. First, we built relationships with 10+ colleges, getting distribution rights to their students. From here we sold ad-spaces in our book to companies that wanted to get in front of this audience.
Thanks to Alex Strathdee, Practically Passionate Podcast!
#19- Fill a need and research
I’ve been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. From selling bobby pins at 5 to creating a magazine at 12, stepping out on the edge has always been a part of me. I’m currently a tech founder, my company is a sponsorship matching platform Vettdeck. I started securing sponsorships for friends and family 10 years ago. 7 years ago it was time to start a consulting business, which was a great start for the tech platform I later created. It was important for me to be able to scale and drastically increase my teams capactiy. We went from being able to work with 20 clients to 200. I created VettDeck to fill a need and research on how marketing dollars are being spent in terms of sponsorship, who is getting what dollars and why. We have clients nationally that are event organizers and fortune 500 brands.
Thanks to Enovia Bedford, VettDeck!
#20- Two related problems
I set up Amplio Recruiting to address two related problems i..e the fact that refugees are being resettled, but not given opportunities to work and the huge labor shortage in the U.S. I began by connecting talented employees with jobs but soon had to close the business due to a lack of a solid business model. However, with the help of a staffing consultant and microfinance funding, we were able to come up with a working business model and since then have linked dozens of companies with the talented refugee
workforce. The company has also grown from one Atlanta-based office to four offices in Dallas, Houston, Raleigh, and Detroit .
Thanks to Chris Chancey, Amplio Recruiting!
#21- Master my own destiny
My entrepreneurial journey started because of some serendipity and an amalgamation of factors. After working in insurance in my early career, I had decided that what I really wanted was to be the master of my own destiny. Following a stint in Australia, I came back to Ireland and noticed a gap in the market for actuarial recruitment within the Irish market. I had seen a desire for actuaries to speak with another actuary when contemplating their next career move in Australia, but this wasn’t happening in Ireland. So I thought, why not apply the same business model in Ireland? The timing was right; the idea was right; I was young enough to have the energy to get the idea off the ground and had the hunger and desire to succeed. 21 years later I’m still in business, so I must be doing something right!
Thanks to Paul Walsh, Acumen Resources!
#22- Quest to find a better, easier way
I founded Nufabrx in 2011 after a trip to the dermatologist where I learned that pillowcases are one of the leading causes of acne and blemishes, and that we are supposed to wash our pillowcases every two to three days. As a teen male in college, I realized there was no way this was ever going to happen! So, off I went to find a better way. Our first product was the Nufabrx Pillowcase, a bamboo pillowcase embedded with tea tree oil and lavender that release while you sleep. This is just the first of many really exciting products designed to make a person’s life just a little bit better, a little bit easier. Welcome to the world where textiles are the next forefront in drug delivery; and learn how everyday clothing is actually one of the best ways to solve patient compliance.
Thanks to Jordan Schindler, Nufabrx!
#23- Work while still in college
The reason I started my own design company 11 years ago was to give myself a great opportunity to work on actual projects while I was in college. I knew that if I was doing work for real clients instead of the fake portfolio work we were doing in art class, I’d learn a lot more. Not only about art, but also about running a business, managing finances, and interacting with clients. Plus, the stakes would be higher and I’d produce better work. After school was over, I worked a corporate job for 18 months, while still running Creative80 on my nights and weekends. Eventually I discovered that the only way I was going to be able to do the kind of work that I love, I’d have to go full time on my own. That was over 7 years ago. Creative80 has continued to grow year over year. The best part about it is that rather than working for customers I’d never have a chance to meet with or even talk to, I get to interact with our customers on a daily basis. There is nothing more fulfilling that hearing that our work has made a significant impact in their lives and the lives of their families.
Thanks to Anna DiTommaso, Creative80!
#24- Fed up with other people’s lack of integrity
I started my own business because I witnessed early on, the less people did the more money they made in Corporate America. That made me angry. Then I realized, the more you share the gifts you have to give with others, the more you change lives. Find a problem and solve the sucker. Running my own company was a way to truly set myself free from the restraints put on by other CEO’s or managers who prevented me from helping mankind in profound ways. Now I can give value away without having to explain myself. This always comes back around via more business and more generous clients. Ultimately it leads to a life more fulfilled.
Thanks to Julieanne O’Connor, Spelling It Out!