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- To build a community
When I left McKinsey to start my own independent consulting practice, I loved the autonomy but missed the ability to reach out to another member of the firm to ask for advice or expertise. I wanted to be a part of a community of consultants that would provide me with the opportunity to build relationships with other practitioners, share lessons learned, and periodically collaborate. No such community existed, so I decided to build it. I began connecting with other McKinsey alums who had also set up their own consulting practice, and the people I knew introduced others. I began organizing in-person professional development events for this community, and then clients began asking me for help finding the right consultant for a project. So, Umbrex evolved out of a community that I started to meet a need that I felt myself.
Thanks to Will Bachman, Umbrex!
#2- Was laid off from a job
I started my business because I was laid off from a job and realized that I didn't want someone else to have control over my future. I had already been freelance writing for several years and decided to turn it into a business, creating content, ghostwriting, and teaching businesses to use storytelling and Cause Marketing through keynotes, trainings, and my books. Running my own business has been terrifying at times, but having the freedom to work when I want and with who I want has allowed me to dedicate time to my true passion – animal rescue. This makes all the stress worthwhile.
Thanks to Sheryl Green, Sheryl Green Speaks!
#3- Due to financial difficulties in my family
I started my business when I was forced to drop out of Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA due to financial difficulties in my family. As a student with a high GPA and dreams of becoming a corporate attorney, I was heartbroken. But instead of staying upset, I took advantage of my position of being debt-free and became a real estate agent. I now am the CEO and founder of Berri Properties in Asheville and Charlotte, NC. Our business is based on content marketing and digital media, which has allowed for our success to flourish.
Thanks to Matthew Myre, Berri Properties!
#4- I was put in a position to fail
I started Ignite Visibility because I was working at a company where they put me in a position to fail. I was working on 30 clients with limited support. I knew I could work on less than half the clients, make better income and do better work for the clients I was working on. I started Ignite Visibility so that I would never have to put staff in the same position and so that I could be proud of our work. But another reason was I defined my mission in business. When I help other people through skills in digital marketing, I'm able to give more to clients, employees, my family and the community.. I love that the harder I work, the more I get to help others. Starting a business is the hardest thing you will ever do. That is not a joke. But for some, the benefits are better than the cost.
Thanks to John Lincoln (MBA), Ignite Visibility!
#5- Teach others about manufactured housing
In almost all areas of the country, there is a need by thousands for affordable housing. Things are no different where I live in the Phoenix Metro Market. As prices of traditional homes continue to rise, potential homebuyers are getting priced out of the market every day. For years, if not decades, the manufactured housing industry has been looked upon as a second rate choice. Having been in the real estate industry for years, I saw things differently. I started Mobile Home Friend, LLC with my son back in 2015. We buy, sell, renovate, flip, rent, and anything else we can legally do with mobile or manufactured homes. Response to this low cost alternative to traditional housing has been nothing short of stellar. Whether we’re working with sellers, buyers, investors, or investing ourselves, our goal with our company is to teach others how to get involved in the culture of manufactured housing, and how to benefit from this popular choice for affordable housing!
Thanks to Chuck O’Dell, Mobile Home Friend, LLC!
#6- To foster human connection
I came up with the idea of my company, TTYL, a week after I graduated from college while on vacation in Scandinavia with my family. On that vacation, I found myself stalking my friends’ Instagram stories because, yes, I had FOMO—even from Europe. At dinner with my family, I expressed how ridiculous I felt and how I wished there was a place to go without your phone—a place you’d be required to check your phone at the door that would be filled with nostalgic activities to fill your time. Naturally, my family thought I was crazy. After that vacation, I began to limit my usage but instantly noticed how hard it was. I constantly felt the pull to use my phone but couldn’t quite understand why I felt that way. A few months later, I went on a five-day social media detox, which I had (ironically) discovered online. The year is now 2017, and the concept of being off your phone seemed offensive to many, but I was determined to test myself and see if it would make a difference. Flash forward five days. I found my productivity and creativity had increased… as well as my boredom. That’s right. Perhaps the most significant “ah-ha moment” I had while disconnected from social media was that I actually enjoyed the feeling of being bored. Let’s face it—there’s nothing quite like having nothing to do, yet endless options at the same time. After this mini-experiment, I knew my idea to provide individuals with the space to disconnect from their digitally-connected lives and replace it with nostalgic childhood activities—was needed in today’s society. So I got to work and jumped in on starting my business, TTYL—a tech-free community
dedicated to human connection.
Thanks to Liana Pavane, TTYL!
#7- Follow my passion and live my dreams
I started my business because I am really passionate about storytelling & events and my company Babe Crafted is the perfect combination of those two things. I also wanted to be able to go on vacation when it suited me instead of when it suited my employer. It has always been a dream of mine to live in London and be able to spend a season there, so now that I'm 3 years into owning my own company, I am very close to being able to work remotely for long periods of time and get to travel more often. I was even able to spend a month in my favorite UK city in 2019!
Thanks to Gina Moccio, Babe Crafted!
#8- Serve a niche I was part of
I started Pressed PR to serve a niche that I was a part of myself – independent musicians. In my personal experience as a musician I was finding a gap between those who were just starting out and those who were already established…… however, BOTH needed the same thing: a team to support their efforts. I became that team for musicians starting out and as my business grew I realized we could do this for other creatives as well. Now we serve musicians, filmmakers, and other types of independent creatives (even athletes!). Nobody can do everything themselves – you need a team that will help you be successful, and we try to be that team.
Thanks to Dawn Jones, Pressed PR!
#9- Bridge the distance between friends and family
Nowadays, friends and family can live all around the world. Despite every effort, it’s easy to lose touch or have large amounts of time pass without seeing each other. We created KOYA to bridge the distance. With KOYA, you can easily treat your co-worker to a class at their favorite yoga studio in New York or surprise your partner with a personal message at the park where you first met. It’s the little things that make people smile and it is our hope that KOYA initiates frequent moments of joy.
Thanks to Courtney Werner, KOYA Innovations, Inc!
#10- During a random conversation
Right before I started my business, I was in a rough patch of postpartum depression, trying to figure out how to get out of it. I was working hard to climb the ladder in the car business and had been helping customers at work with budgeting, and building their credit. During a random conversation, my husband suggested I begin charging clients for my help. It was that small nudge that reminded me of my childhood dream to build a business and a lifestyle for wealth so I went for it. Three and a half years later, we are a thriving six-figure company and growing quickly.
Thanks to Felicia Y. Kelly
#11- After a tragedy
For me, one of the most stressful and upsetting moments of my life became the catalyst for starting my business. At four months pregnant, I was told my contract wouldn't be renewed by my employer. This came around a month after informing them, and four months after receiving a promotion and a pay rise. In the end, this became the best thing that's ever happened to me as I took the skills I had and started my own business. Running my own company has allowed me financial freedom, I currently earn more than I was paid at the height of my corporate career and pay myself a higher super (401K) contribution of 15%. On top of this, my role allows me greater flexibility and a daily sense of accomplishment helping other female entrepreneurs make money and put their best foot forward through beautiful branding and website development.
Thanks to Nikki Gaastra, Seedling Digital!
#12- Saw an opportunity
Put simply: I saw an opportunity. I found myself frustrated doing some marketing tasks that were very time and labor intensive, and there were no solutions out there that could sufficiently help me out. I asked around and colleagues had the same problem with no real solution. So, I decided to build the solution myself.
Thanks to Andy Cabasso, Postaga!
#13- I needed to pay my rent!
In 2004 I was a part-time flight attendant with a 10-year-old son living in Los Angeles. My husband had just lost his job—it was time for me to step it up. I went to bed and prayed for some guidance, and as odd as it sounds, I dreamed about a new product to invent, Finders Key Purse(r). I created a rough prototype and showed it around to my friends who all thought it was a great idea, and of course I knew it was awesome. Though I was told by many in the gift industry that a business cannot exist with just one product, I had faith that I could pull this off. I launched Alexx, Inc. in December of 2004 with just our one little product, and by the end of 2005 we had sold 1 million Finders Key Purse(r). As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. It was necessary for me to provide for my family so no matter how many obstacles got in my way I just pushed forward.
Thanks to Sandy Stein, Alexx, Inc.!
#14- The idea haunted me in my sleep!
Call it CRAZY passion or entrepreneurial insomnia; I decided to start my 2nd business right around the time I conceived my second child and it has been a whirlwind since. I already have owned a local art school/studio for the past 4 years and somehow got this hare-brained idea for a brand-new way to teach children to draw. So after many sleepless nights I launched Guide Dots, a subscription box/online art curriculum for children. The business has been growing and so has my mama belly. I am now 34 weeks pregnant, ready to pop, and running two growing and bustling businesses. The passion still keeps me up at night and I imagine between the new baby and the business I won’t be getting sleep anytime soon!
Thanks to Cindra McCoy, Guide Dots, LLC!
#15- To take a quick inventory of my life
I started my coaching business because on December 13, 2017 I had to take a quick inventory of my life and it didn’t look the way I wanted it to look. So for several months as I was on forced downtime I contemplated and realized that what I was called to do was help women step into their power. That’s why in October of 2018, after being laid off from my last position, I started Sedruola Maruska Coaching. You see, on December 13, 2017 I was diagnosed with “Invasive Lobular Carcinoma,” aka Breast Cancer. That was the catalyst I needed to say ‘today is the day’ and I’ve not stopped pushing forward ever since.
Thanks to Sedruola Maruska
#16- To be accountable to self
I had a taste of self-employment when I was in college with a part-time sales gig. Working my own hours between classes and studying, I learned quickly to budget my time and expenses. After I graduated I went to work for several companies. While I worked hard I watched as my co-workers got away with doing as little as possible. Miserable, I jumped at the first opportunity to get back to being accountable to myself. Self-employment truly is its own best reward.
Thanks to Chris Castanes
#17- After multiple setbacks
For years, I worked on-site at a nonprofit while picking up client work on the side. I had freelanced full-time after college, so I knew my way around this line of work. I continued to take on more clients and learn new skills. I loved my client work. It was rewarding in a way my day job never was. But I liked the staff and the steady paycheck, and it had great benefits. When new management took over, they slowly started stripping the job of the little things that made it a nice place to work. A few months later, I got into a car accident and suffered a concussion. I was out of work for five weeks and didn't fully recover for three months. In that time, the management at my day job were unsupportive and petty, causing me to experience multiple setbacks. On the other hand, my clients were endlessly supportive and genuinely concerned for my well-being, and each put aspects of their own business on hold during my recovery to give me time to recover without worrying about losing work. This experience made me realize what I wanted from my career, and within a month of being back to work full-time, I put in my notice and started my business.
Thanks to Jennifer Johnson, JenTimeCity Consulting!
#18- Create the work-life blend that was right for me
In late summer of 2016 I was deep into the biggest crisis of my life. I had spent much of the previous decade running other peoples business and it had cost me a lot–a marriage, for example–but I was not going to let it cost me my relationship with my kids, and I was not going to go through life feeling like a drone that someone else was controlling. I started my business because I needed to create the work-life blend that was right for me and a saw a huge gap, and opportunity, based on my work with consultants. I got so tired of consultants giving me plans or products that we couldn’t implement. I was often left asking, “Who the hell is going to do all this work?” I created Gyolai Consulting to bridge the gaps between vision, plans, and results. Think of it this way, you now those best-selling business books that tell you do this and after reading it you say, Yeah, great ideas. How I am I supposed to actually make that happen? Frustrating, right? I am the person that actually works alongside business leaders to make those great ideas happen.
Thanks to Kevin Gyolai, Gyolai Consulting!
#19- I had no viable employment options
In the fall of 2016 I had an unexpected job loss. Although this was a huge disappointment, initially I wasn't too concerned because I had a track record of securing jobs. But this time, despite all of my efforts, I wasn't able to secure a job. By the summer of 2017 I had reached my limit of having no interviews, call backs or job offers. I couldn't even get positions through temporary employment agencies. So I started my business, not because I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but for survival purposes. The process of building a business from a penny budget with no business expertise is full of challenges, but now I see my job loss as a blessing because I love being an entrepreneur! I used a quote by A. G. Gaston as my inspiration when I started my business, Find a need and fill it. Successful businesses are founded on the needs of people. I combined my journalism and public relations expertise to create a business that helps others effectively leverage LinkedIn for results. Ironically I discovered this to be a need when I was attending job seeker networking groups. Sometimes after the meetings I would meet with my fellow job seekers to help them navigate LinkedIn. The more sessions like this I had,I began to realize that what I did with ease was not second nature to others. Sometimes they just need someone to guide them through the process. Now my passion is helping others to Shine Online!
Thanks to Clarene Mitchell, TCM Communications!
#20- After being passed up for a promotion from work
Clearly the more qualified candidate, I watched as this job was given to a colleague who had more tenure than I. This day was a wake-up call for me. On this day, I remembered my dreams and goals and realized I had become comfortable in my position and stopped working towards my goals. I had dreams and visions higher than this job, yet I was settling for collecting a check every two weeks. Deciding to no longer settle, I began working hard on my business. By building my business I am creating a legacy for my family, while building time and financial freedom for myself. No longer will I have to depend on another person to pay me or promote me. I will not have to punch a clock. I will be able to be there for my kids events and special moments without having to worry about having enough paid time off. I started my business to build generational wealth and leave a lasting legacy for my family.
Thanks to LaWann Moses
#21- From the best inspiration ever — our daughter
Our road to becoming parents took many twists and turns including various IVF procedures, and when our daughter was finally born, we wanted only the best for her. Like myself, we soon discovered that she also has very sensitive skin. After studying the skincare products that were currently on the market we decided nothing fit our needs, and we had to create a line with ingredients we consider safe for a newborn. Luckily I grew up in the skincare industry as my father has been a pioneer creating natural skincare products for adults for over 30 years. After a year of experimentation and reformulation, Zoey-Naturals was born. The good news for consumers is that the line is always evolving as our daughter grows, with new hair care products coming out this spring to address the needs of toddler hair.
Thanks to Danny Richards, Zoey-Naturals!
#22- We had to
I lost my job when my (wonderful) boss passed away, and then soon afterward I was diagnosed with a serious chronic disease. My husband Arthur had just taken a year off to build our home, and we had to find income right away. So he started a handyman business: just a Craigslist ad, a truck and some tools. Five years later we've turned that into a business making custom built-in bookcases. We're hoping to expand soon and start making cabinets we can ship throughout the US.
Thanks to Faith Teel, Artisan Built-ins!
#23- Become the bridge between freelancer and small businesses
Before my business came around, I saw a real gulf when it came to opportunities for companies to get their feet wet in terms of content marketing. They didn’t have the expertise in their companies to create effective e-books, blogs, or other content, or the budget to reach out to top agencies. I built this company to fulfill that essential niche, sourcing writers who are experts in top niches, as well as being able to offer prices that are accessible to those smaller companies. We are that bridge for companies that are tired of dealing with freelancers and want to go to the next level.
Thanks to David Tile, Article-Writing Co!
#24- Help businesses with compliance operations
Before founding Hyperproof, I worked at Microsoft where I led the development of Microsoft Dynamics, Access, and Excel. My experience in enterprise tech solutions brought me to my next venture as co-founder of Azuqua, a cloud-based workflow company, which was acquired by Okta in March 2019. I left Azuqua when I felt like the product was in a good place. It was while at Azuqua, however, that I recognized an unmet need for organizations across a number of sectors: compliance operations. That’s why in 2019 I launched Hyperproof to help organizations navigate the complexities of our current regulatory environment and meet their compliance obligations. while still being able to tackle business strategy and growth. Overall, my experience has been in identifying significant industry pain points and providing a solution that meets the actual needs of the business in question.
Thanks to Craig Unger, Hyperproof!
#25- For several reasons
In a very practical sense, my work with institutions and corporations as a professor picked up dramatically in 2015-2016 and I was receiving requests for professional services 2-3 times a day! As a full-time professor and center director, there simply wasn’t enough time in the day (or week) to meet the overwhelming demand. I also got advice for several faculty-leader mentors that I should start a business as a way of drawing bright(er) lines of distinction between my “work work” and my consulting gigs. These were personal advisors in other disciplines/fields like nursing, medicine, and law where professors regularly own their own practices, offices, or revenue-generating services. I did just that—start my own business—for this very practical reason. But, I also started my company because I saw a problem that we could address for our clients in a way that was unique and leveraged our success in other areas like research, grant writing, and public speaking. For instance, college enrollment rates are declining across the nation—we’ve got 230,000 fewer students in college this year than last. This impacts us all, but it hurts small colleges and HBCUs particularly since they tend to be enrollment-driven and tuition-dependent. I know from research, some of which is my own, that we could help these institutions develop fresh enrollment management plans that identified new growth markets, conduct campus climate surveys that inform decisionmaking, and take action to provide a sense of belonging for ALL students, giving the school a competitive advantage to thrive! That’s what we do.
Thanks to Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, Do Good Work Educational Consulting, LLC!
#26- Inspired by a Boston dentist
I started my first company after being inspired by a Boston dentist who needed to be able to measure the bite pressure of his patients. From that original invention, I created and patented a pressure mapping sensor that could help detect pressure ulcers. Today, it's used in hospital beds and wheelchairs around the world. I recently realized that this technology could also be used in residential mattresses to help people obtain quality, restorative sleep at home, since 45% of Americans report sleep problems. A team of investors and I launched the ReST Bed, an AI-powered smart mattress for the general public, to help people achieve a new level of health and peak performance.
Thanks to Rob Golden, ReST!
#27-After a debilitating car accident and resulting depression
After a debilitating car accident and resulting depression, I was unable to hold a job due to pressures, deadlines, quotas and began assisting my husband with a freelance digital marketing business. I flourished working without a boss and we have grown our business, in just a few short years to employ 15 people and specialize in helping small business owners get their message out to consumers. I absolutely love what I do and wouldn't change a single thing.
Thanks to Michelle Faulds, SlyFox Web Design & Marketing!
#28-After my own experience
Out of all the industries out there, I never really thought I’d take interest in remote staffing. It all started 10 years ago when my husband and I had a need for assistants to grow our business and got burned really badly by the direct-sourcing platforms we turned to. After that experience, we decided to take a leap of faith and hire, train, and grow our own virtual assistant team. Our VAs helped us rapidly scale our business and our system began to attract the attention of friends who were also business owners. They wanted to know how we made it work with virtual teams. I realized how valuable well-trained virtual teams can be to business owners and so began working on a business model. I learned everything I could about finding, vetting, hiring, monitoring, and mentoring virtual assistants. I guess you could say the rest was history. Now, matching business owners with the perfect VA has become my passion. It’s a lot of hard work, but I love what I do.
Thanks to Catherine vanVonno, 20four7VA!
#29- Out of happenstance
I started my business out of happenstance, because I couldn't find what I needed on the market. I searched everywhere and because I couldn't find what I was looking for, I decided to make one, a leather laptop case. And surprisingly, friends loved it. Their reactions were the catalyst to starting my company and just going for it. I had no background in the industry, but a little googling, my curiosity to see if I could actually make this work, and networking helped set all the parts in motion. A friend set me up with another friend, a creative designer who could help me manufacture it in downtown LA. It really felt so easy and effortless, like the stars were aligned. I started my business Ella Skye LLC a little by chance, but that is not to say it hasn't had its challenges. But, when it's your passion, you face the challenges with different energy, greater tenacity and gumption. I'm so happy I made the leap, because I've met amazing people, discovered new aspects of myself, and found myself working really hard. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would have happened. And now, I literally can't imagine working any other way, without the challenges and excitement it brings.
Thanks to Pernilla Nathan, Ella Skye LLC!