It's fascinating to hear other people's success stories. One of the most interesting parts is learning how successful entrepreneurs got their start and how they overcame challenges and adversity. Did an idea flash in their minds like a lightning bolt? Or was it something that percolated over the years? How did timing play into their launch? Did experience or desperation drive their plan forward?
When I researched my new book, Secrets of Millionaire Moms, I asked 17 highly successful business owners for the personal inspiration and catalyst that moved them to take action. For each woman, it was different. Some were motivated by years of experience and the seed money that enabled it to happen; others launched out of a financial or emotional need.
The common ground all these entrepreneurs shared was financial success and the gratification of creating something larger than themselves. Here are a few excerpts of their experiences:
Rachel Ashwell, founder of Shabby Chic
Ashwell left school at age 16. In her twenties, she married and had two children. But after she had seperated from her husband on the cusp of turning 30, she decided to follow her parents' passion for selling vintage fabrics and clothes at flea markets and launched her own retail business--Shabby Chic. With her babies by her side, she scouted flea markets for items she could refinish. Her pieces became an instant hit in her California store. The rest is history. Her company has since expanded to include a national line of slipcover furniture, bedding, home accessories, a TV series, design books and a line of home furnishings called Simply Shabby Chic sold exclusively through Target stores.
Julie Clark, founder of The Baby Einstein Company and The Safe Side
Money was never the motivating factor for Clark. A teacher, she founded her first company, Baby Einstein, to provide educational videos for her own babies--something that was lacking in the marketplace when her children were young. Clark grew Baby Einstein into a cultural phenomenon and sold it to The Walt Disney Company for $50 million, using some of the proceeds to launch her newest venture, The Safe Side--a company that produces products to help keep kids safe from strangers and child predators. "I didn't start Baby Einstein or The Safe Side because I felt like I was going to make a million dollars," said Clark. "I really started them because they were something that I loved and wanted to do."
Tomima Edmark, inventor of TopsyTail and founder of HerRoom.com and HisRoom.com
Edmark was working a corporate job in the late 1980s when she felt she'd hit the glass ceiling. She knew this wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life and took action to make a change. She had an idea for a hair accessory, but didn't have the funds to build the injection mold to manufacture it. So she wrote a book on kissing, sold it to a publisher, and used the proceeds to launch TopsyTail, which became an overnight success and garnered more than $100 million in sales. She has since built on the success of TopsyTail by launching Internet retail websites HerRoom.com and HisRoom.com .
Teri Gault, founder of The Grocery Game
In 2000, Gault was working three jobs and knew there had to be a better way. So despite the lack of funds and lack of time, She got creative and managed to stretch both to get her concept--The Grocery Game--off the ground. (She used rolled coins to purchase her business license.) Today it's a multi-million-dollar service business that provides members with information on rock-bottom sales at their local grocery stores--matched up with available coupons to help save shoppers up to 70 percent off their grocery bills every week. She found inspiration in the money-saving strategy she'd been using in her own life, which she expanded to help more than 100,000 members nationwide.
Maxine Clark, founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop
Clark was highly successful when she began creating the Build-A-Bear concept. A seasoned retail executive with more than 20 years' experience (including three years as president of Payless Shoe Source), she fully understood the power of merchandising, marketing and product development. She harnessed that power to create a vision for Build-A-Bear. She used her own savings and with the help of an investor, launched the company in 1997. She says that she could have easily retired on her earnings from the corporate world. But instead she was inspired to build something special that would touch the lives of children across the world.
Debi Davis, founder of Fit America
Her first business failed and forced her into bankruptcy. But Davis refused to wallow in self-pity, so she sold her wrist watch and used the proceeds to fund what became a $45 million business--FitAmerica. Faced with a major business obstacle again, years later--her business went from $45 million to $5 million in an hour, due to circumstances beyond her control-- Davis once again faced the prospect of failure. But she reinvented her business yet again, and today, FitAmerica MD is a highly successful company that helps people lose weight and live healthier lives.
What inspires and drives you? Is it a great idea, a lack of fulfillment in your current job, the excitement of taking a risk or the fear of not taking one? Whatever your motivation, I encourage you to look to those who have beaten a path before you. These people, for very different reasons, all ended up in the same place: at the top of multi-million-dollar companies where they call the shots, make the money and have the flexibility in their lives to create their dream.