Most successful business stories don’t follow the conventional narrative. Many a successful entrepreneur will tell you that the road to fame and fortune is paved with headaches, hang-ups, setbacks, and downright hair-splitting challenges.
What makes a business successful is the owner’s capacity to persevere in the face of adversity and be willing to fearlessly walk down the road less traveled by. In case you don’t believe us, listen to the small business success stories of our favorite entrepreneurs.
In each of the cases we’ve listed below, determination and sheer willpower were enough to take an original idea and convert it into a hugely profitable venture. Learning from their experiences can help any aspiring business owner take their venture to new heights.
D.C. Mosquito Squad (Damian Sanchez)
Damian Sanchez mastered the art of running a successful business as a part-time effort. As a Washington, D.C. firefighter and father of four, Sanchez started the D.C. Mosquito Squad to offer low-cost mosquito treatments and traps for residential and commercial properties in the Metro D.C. area.
Since founding the company, Sanchez has grown the business into a major success. Today, the D.C. Mosquito Squad generates gross revenues of more than $1.7 million and a team of 40 employees. Sanchez makes use of successful business leadership practices to maintain a loyal team that service over 3,500 customers in Metro D.C.
The Bottom Line
Sanchez, despite being strapped for time, saw an opportunity in the market and went all in. If you want to know how to make your business successful, follow in Sanchez’s footsteps by envisioning creative ways to solve common problems in your area. Although mosquitos are pervasive in the DC area, Sanchez was the only entrepreneur bold enough to put a solution forward.
HuffPost (Arianna Huffington)
Arianna Huffington was raised in Greece in a single-parent household. Even though she didn’t speak English, she relentlessly pursued her dream of getting a prestigious English education. This brought her to Cambridge University, where her stand-out success eventually brought her to New York where she co-founded Huffington Post with Kenneth Lerer in 2005.
Even after enduring harsh criticism from the journalism community, Arianna persisted and eventually grew the small alternative online newspaper into a major media conglomerate. Today, Arianna’s net worth is estimated at over $50 million and her company was valued at $1 billion and is owned by AOL.
The Bottom Line
Arianna Huffington created one of the greatest recent small business success stories simply by learning one of the cardinal rules of building a successful business: knowing the market. While other media giants like the New York Times were focused on expanding their print and text media, Huffington specialized in leveraging social media and online videos to generate buzz.
The Presentation Source (Laure & James Widmaier)
In 1997, Laure and James Widmaier founded The Presentation Source to sell digital audio and visual solutions to government and non-profit sector organizations. Headquartered in Pittsford, New York, Presentation Source quickly established a strong foothold in the Northeast United States.
In August 2018, the Presentation Source was acquired by Solutionz Inc. for an undisclosed amount. With the help TPS’s proprietary audiovisual technology, Solutionz has grown into one the biggest players in the New York audio-visual industry and has acquired numerous other competitors in the field in recent years.
The Bottom Line
Even saturated markets, like the corporate audio-visual industry during the tech boom of the late 1990s, have room for innovative new players. As many entrepreneurs will tell you, one of the keys to success in business is researching the market to find where new technologies can be applied to old problems.
Gooroo (Scott Lee)
Founded in 2015 by New Yorker Scott Lee, Gooroo Inc. is an AI-powered learning platform and tutoring hub that uses cutting-edge technology to personalize learning experiences. In only a few short years, Lee has been able to employ data-driven AI insights to drive innovation in the online learning space. Lee’s company employs more than 1,000 tutors in New York State alone.
Gooroo isn’t Lee’s first foray into business ownership. Before founding Gooroo, Lee created a Korean tutoring company, served in the Korean military, started a clothing company, and worked briefly in the US financial sector and advised the organizers of the 2018 Olympic Games. Using his diverse work experience, Lee learned how to make a successful business from scratch.
The Bottom Line
Scott Lee’s GooRoo proves that success doesn’t always take a linear form. Sometimes, entrepreneurial success is the result of a life-long tenacity and a recognition that diverse experiences can lead to new, innovative ideas.
Zoom (Eric Yuan)
When Eric Yuan founded Zoom Video Communications Inc. in 2011, an audio-visual cloud conferencing platform, he envisioned a way for long-distance partners and team members to stay in touch. Based in Silicon Valley, Yuan first arrived in the US after immigrating from China on his ninth attempt.
When less-determined entrepreneurs would have given up, Yuan kept applying for new work visas to keep the dream alive. After several years of applying, he was finally approved and quickly rose to the rank of Vice President of Engineering at Cisco. Shortly after, he founded Zoom, which now employs over 1,300 people and has a market valuation of over $1 billion.
The Bottom Line
Knowing how to run a successful business is one thing but knowing how to rise above seemingly impossible odds is a whole other skill. Yuan’s experience is a testament to the tenacity and strength of will that many immigrants must have when chasing the American Dream.
Red Rabbit (Rhys Powell)
Rhys Powell, a former Wall Street equities trader, started Red Rabbit in 2011 after becoming disenchanted with the world of finance. Initially, the company was founded as a novelty service providing nutritious school lunches to New York City private schools, the company has since shifted its focus to helping the underprivileged.
Red Rabbit provides healthy lunches to public programs for under $3 each. Although many assume that catering to low-income populations can’t net a serious income, Powell’s Red Rabbit has rapidly grown into an enterprise that employs over 100 people and generates revenues of more than $10 million.
The Bottom Line
Don’t be afraid to dip your toes into riskier markets. Powell, now 39, left his lucrative position in the finance industry to provide a public service to children from low-income families. Using his financial expertise, Powell managed to turn a somewhat philanthropic effort into a successful business.
How to Find Success Yourself
A million successful business tips and success business stories won’t translate into material wealth for yourself unless you’re willing to put in the work. Creativity, consistency, and determination are aspects of character and mind that are cultivated through real-life entrepreneurial experience, not through osmosis.
Knowing what makes a successful business is not the same as knowing how to build a successful business. From applying for small business loans and grants to securing working capital in the early stages of your startup, there are countless aspects of entrepreneurship that make the difference between a dud and a stud in the market, including:
- How to keep financial records
- How to analyze your competitive advantage
- How to generate new ideas
- How to stick to a long-term vision
- How to make sacrifices
- How to be consistent
There are plenty of guides available to teach you how to become a successful entrepreneur, but few that are willing to tell you about the “intangibles.” Cultivating soft skills like persistence, combined with hard skills like market analysis and research ability, can make the difference between a failed startup and a booming enterprise.
Learning from Others’ Success
The success of other entrepreneurs and small business owners gives you the chance to stand on the shoulders of giants. However, if you want to know how to have a successful business then you must be prepared to do the legwork.
Working hard is important but learning the ebb and flow of entrepreneurial life is equally so. In cases such as Eric Yuan and Arianna Huffington’s, pushing through adversity and overcoming challenges is what caused their businesses to take off. Alternatively, Rhys Powell and Scott Lee exemplify the boldness and ingenuity required of a business magnate.
Small business success stories can plant the seed that inspires innovation and ingenuity in entrepreneurship. However, motivation alone won’t turn a mere idea into a multi-million-dollar enterprise. As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, strength of character is the true test that every wishful business owner must eventually answer to.