Take a Break From Embracing Failure and Be Inspired By 6 Huge Business Successes

Entrepreneurs need to be stoic about the long odds against a new business thriving but it's also true that the greatest successes of our time started small.

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By John Boitnott

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Starting a new business is a daunting task, especially considering that the majority of startups fail. But there are good reasons for those failures, many of which can be traced back to poor planning or unoriginal ideas. One way to increase your chances of success is to carefully study the market to determine what works and what doesn't. It's also a good idea to read success stories regularly. Here are six of them that not only help you understand what works, but provide an inspirational break in your day.

Related: Need Inspiration? Here Are 9 Ways to Find It.

1. Google. One of the biggest tech companies of our time, Google began as BackRub, a search engine operated by two college students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They registered the domain Google.com in 1997, naming it after the mathematical term "googol," which refers to ten raised to the power of 100.

In August of 1998, the company received $100,000 in funding from Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim. Soon after, Google filed for incorporation in the state of California. Working out of a garage initially, Page and Brin began getting notice for their product's uncanny ability to return relevant search results, appearing in such high-profile publications as PC Magazine. It's said they earned favor primarily because their product simply worked better than their big competitors' search engines did.

2. GasBuddy. An eye doctor and computer programmer came up with the idea for a service that helps mobile device users find the cheapest gas prices nearby. But when Jason Toews and Dustin Coupal founded GasBuddy in 2000, phones were not yet "smart" and tablets weren't even on the horizon yet. Drivers had to log on to the website to find low-priced gas and list the prices they saw at gas stations around town. Mobile has driven the site to become even more successful, since drivers can now check prices from the very place they normally would want to: the car (while parked of course).

3. Amazon. The Internet was still a young concept when Jeff Bezos founded Amazon, inspired by an article about the future of web commerce. Bezos made a list of a few of promising products for online sales and settled on books because of the low price point and large selection.

Within two months, Bezos was raking in $20,000 in weekly sales for his garage-based business. Unlike many other tech companies, Amazon survived the dot-com bust of the late 90s and has slowly grown to sell much more than the books, movies and music originally featured on Bezos' "most promising products" list.

Related: 10 Must-Read Inspiring Biographies of Business Leaders

4. Pandora. New users may not realize that Pandora is based on a technology called "musical genomes," which mimic the way human DNA passes from generation to generation. Music experts identify 450 unique characteristics of each song, using this information to determine a song's individual qualities.

Musician Tim Westergren came up with the idea and put it to use to create Pandora Radio, which sets up an individual radio station unique to a user's individual musical tastes. The company has been forced to endure many legal challenges over the years but it has survived, now boasting more than 200 million registered users.

5. Edible Arrangements. In 1999, floral shop owner Tariq Farid had an idea for an alternative to bouquets of roses and wildflowers. His love for fruit had inspired him to create Edible Arrangements and use his knowledge of the floral delivery industry to bring the same concept to edibles.

Soon after, a billboard for the business caught the eye of Chris Dellamarggio during rush hour traffic. He approached Farid about the possibility of turning his shop into a franchise. Dellamarggio opened his first Edible Arrangements near his home in Boston the following year. In the coming years, Dellamarggio, Farid, and his brother Kamran worked to expand Edible Arrangements into a national franchise, sometimes working around the clock to meet demand.

6. Starbucks. At one time, a cup of coffee was something you requested at a café or diner with breakfast. You often paid less than a dollar for the privilege and your choices were usually limited to black, with sugar, or with creamer. Starbucks revolutionized the concept of designer coffee, starting with its first store in Seattle in 1971.

Ten years later, Howard Schultz tried Starbucks coffee for the first time and was impressed. While traveling the globe, he was inspired by the coffee bar experience in Italy and wanted to bring that same sense of community to coffee shops in the U.S. In 1987, he gathered investors and purchased Starbucks, gradually growing it into a global sensation. Today there are more than 21,000 Starbucks stores in 65 countries.

Innovation and timing are at the core of success for any small business. Even though not everyone is meant for this kind of triumph, it's nice to know that with the right idea and enough support, an entrepreneur can beat the odds and grow an idea into a long-term enterprise.

Related: Timing Is Everything

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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