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I Built a $1 Million Business While Overcoming a Disability — Here's How I Did It When facing struggles and setbacks, dream big, embrace your true self, and disregard any limits others impose on you. Ultimately, what truly counts is the effort you put into achieving your goals.

By Trevor Rappleye Edited by Carl Stoffers

Key Takeaways

  • Trevor Rappleye's story highlights the power of authenticity in business and in life.
  • Facing bullying and ridicule as a child, he chose to confront challenges head-on, practicing relentlessly and seeking therapy, instead of succumbing to them.
  • Despite the naysayers and the challenges, Rappleye has built a thriving video production business.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

My story is a rollercoaster of highs, lows and everything in between. I've been the founder and CEO of a booming seven-figure video production business, FranchiseFilming.com, since 2020. We help franchisors share their journeys through authentic storytelling that drives franchise development. I've been filming since I was 13 — back when VHS and DVD were still a thing — and it's been my one true passion in life. I've never had another job.

But trust me, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. I had to fight tooth and nail to get here, starting with a struggle that initially seemed insurmountable — my stutter.

Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now and take this survey to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.

Daily ridicule

As you can imagine, growing up with a stutter wasn't a walk in the park. I faced daily ridicule and bullying and it took a toll on me. My 6th-grade teacher, Mrs. Andrews, would let me leave the classroom when it was time to read out loud — Yes, kids have to learn to be tough, but the ridicule every day was hard. Once, in junior high, everyone was required to speak in front of the class. While everyone else took two minutes, I took what felt like 15 minutes to get through my speech. We all know how mean kids can be and they were all laughing at me. But I refused to let it beat me down — I decided to face my speech impediment head-on.

It wasn't easy.

There is no sure way to correct a stutter — some people can train their vocal cords to not stop and some can't — all one can do is go to therapy and practice. Fortunately, my parents always believed in me and spent the time and money on therapy to make sure I improved. I was just as determined to solve my stutter. Every day throughout junior high and high school, I would choose a random chapter of a book from school and read it out loud.

Related: 6 Famous People Who Have Overcome Stuttering

First speaking engagement

When I became a successful business owner, I realized another hurdle was waiting for me: public speaking. I was honored to begin receiving invitations to speak at various franchise-related events in 2022. I was also terrified. But instead of hiding behind my fear, I decided to own it. I embraced my authenticity, stutter and all.

The night before I spoke at my first franchise conference I was so nervous and so scared that I almost drafted an email saying I had COVID and could not go. I was up all night pacing around my apartment, practicing my opening. I walked out on my balcony, smelled the air and I started crying. I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of the entire industry. I woke up my partner and he said I was being ridiculous and went back to bed.

That's when I realized he was right. I had to do this, I had to grow. I got on stage the next day and said, "Hello everyone, I am — what felt like a 15-second pause — T-T-Trev-or Rappleye of FranchiseFilming." I wonder if people thought I didn't know my name?

Nevertheless, I made it through.

Related: Find Out Which Brands Have Ranked on the Franchise 500 for Longest, Earning a Spot In our New 'Hall of Fame'

700 franchisors

For my first big speech on stage was at the 2023 International Franchise Professionals Group convention in Florida. I practiced for a solid two weeks — it was like I was back in high school. My whole team knew that I was practicing a 45-minute speech in front of 700 franchisors. I was so well-rehearsed that I slept soundly the night before.

When I was onstage and showing our videos, I saw people were engaged, they were watching and taking notes. After the speech, I was completely humbled to see there was a line of more than 20 franchisors wanting to talk to me.

Related: How Immigrating From Argentina to the Bronx at 11 Prepared Her For Life as a Franchisee

The naysayers

Oh, the naysayers. They told me I couldn't do it alone, that I was dumb for even trying. And for a minute there, I almost believed them. But I wasn't about to let anyone dictate my success — and neither should you. So I put my head down, devoured every business book I could get my hands on and refused to give up.

Being true to myself in every facet of my life paid off, big time. Heck, I even came out as gay when I was 22 and living my truth was the best decision I ever made. And get this — people admire my honesty and courage.

Running a seven-figure company once felt like a far-off dream, but in 2022, Franchise Filming hit the elusive million-dollar mark. It wasn't easy, but if you want something bad enough, you'll do whatever it takes. So if you're facing struggles and setbacks, remember my story. Dare to dream big, embrace who you are, and don't let anyone tell you what you can or can't achieve. Because in the end, the only thing that matters is how hard you're willing to fight for what you want.

Trevor Rappleye

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO & Storyteller

Trevor Rappleye has been an entrepreneur since 2013 - beginning his first company at age 13 converting VHS to DVD. He now owns CorporateFilming.com & FranchiseFilming.com and is obsessed with storytelling, leadership, video marketing and filming social proof for brands.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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