10 Small Business Success Stories To Inspire You to Greatness
Check out their examples below, and read through the key takeaways included with each story. Put their advice into practice as you get inspired to make 2017 the year of your own successful business.
Kettle & Fire Bone Broth
In 2014, Justin Mares – a self-described paleo diet follower – noticed a trend in his community. Though many websites were touting the benefits of “superfood” bone broth, he couldn’t find a commercially available product anywhere.
Seeing opportunity, Mares created a simple website – before he’d even begun sourcing his product – and sent paid traffic to it through Bing Ads to prove his concept. When he received orders for his pre-launch product, Mares knew he was onto something. Five months later, Kettle & Fire bone broth formally launched and has gone on to do six-figures in sales using a testing and validation process Mares describes on the Sumo.com blog.
Takeaway: Before diving into product development or sourcing, validate your idea within real market conditions. The insight you generate will inform everything from whether or not you should move forward to your eventual pricing.
The Presentation Source, Inc.
Founded by Laure & James Widmaier in 1997, The Presentation Source was originally intended to promote the adoption and use of quality color presentations.
Seeing substantial opportunity as technology grew and developed, however, they were able to adopt more advanced product offerings and transform their business into a $3.7 million company with 15 full-time and part-time employees.
Takeaway: Never stop looking for new opportunities. New products, services and technologies may create innovative new ways for you to serve your customers.
Starting a business is challenging under any circumstances, but for Just Cookies CEO Jason Mercado, the process was complicated by his layoff and subsequent homelessness resulting from the Great Recession.
Taking advantage of Philadelphia’s free entrepreneurial guidance and commercial cooking spaces in local churches, Mercado perfected his cookie recipes, which he advertised on his website and on Facebook. Savvy networking led to the opportunity to share his cookies at a post-Oscars party in 2012 and to the use of a full-time kitchen in Huntington Beach, CA.
Reflecting on his success, Mercado is excited to give back:
“My eventual goal with the company is to use it as a way to teach at-risk youth and young adults to become entrepreneurs. With me being homeless before, I understand all of those components. What you did in the past is your past. Let’s talk about what you want to do today.”
Takeaway: Don’t let obstacles stand in the way of your entrepreneurial dreams. If you’re serious about your business goals, you’ll find a way to achieve them.
View from the Wing
Frequent traveler Gary Leff had a problem: his friends were getting jealous of the way he regularly used his frequent flyer miles to book First Class travel. After fielding the same questions over and over again, Leff decided to start a small business – View from the Wing – which he used to book miles travel for a fee.
Though he initially started the company on a whim, his service now brings in more than $100,000 per year, according to an interview with Tim Ferriss. While anyone can book points-based travel on their own, Leff found his niche supporting those who didn’t understand the systems or who didn’t want to deal with the hassle of contacting airlines and comparing options.
Takeaway: Business inspiration can strike from the most unlikely sources. Think about the things friends and family members are always asking you for, and you might find opportunities within.
Dixie Belle Paint
The Dixie Belle Paint company arose out of founder Suzanne Fulford’s frustration with the lack of affordable home decor and chalk paint options on the market. In a profile for Tampa Bay’s SBDC, she states:
“I saw a need for more size choices, more color choices, and there was a large gap in the market that I knew needed to be filled.”
After experimenting with her own recipes and testing the viability of her business model, Fulford went to market with her new creations and is currently in the process of expanding her Dixie Belle Paint line internationally.
Takeaway: Look for holes that have gone unaddressed in your marketplace. There are always gaps that can be filled by savvy, forward-thinking entrepreneurs.
Music Teacher’s Helper
Brandon Pearce was a music teacher who struggled to remember which of his students had paid and which ones hadn’t. Assuming that, if it was a challenge for him, it was likely a challenge for others, Pearce coded up a quick up app that could be used to track payments.
Fast forward a few years, and his Music Teacher’s Helper tool was joined by a DIY website tool, lesson management feature and billing portal. In late 2011, the suite was generating nearly $25,000 in monthly revenue with a 70% profit margin.
Takeaway: The struggles you face in your day-to-day life can provide a wealth of ideas for new products and services. If you’re struggling with something, chances are others are too!
When P90X enthusiast Bob Maydonik realized his standard-sized yoga mat wasn’t cutting it for his workouts, he took matters into his own hands and formed Square 36, a company that produced a 6’ x 6’ square yoga mat.
Described as the largest yoga mat on the market, the Square 36 generated $10,000-$25,000 in monthly revenue as of Maydonik’s last report.
Takeaway: Think outside the box. A square yoga mat makes perfect sense – yet no one had brought the idea to market before Bob Maydonik’s Square 36.
D.C. Mosquito Squad
As the owner of the Washington D.C. franchise of the Mosquito Squad business, Damian Sanchez juggles business ownership alongside his work as a firefighter and dad to four children.
Sanchez originally launched the business to enable his wife to stay home with the family, but thanks to his great services and savvy tech usage (as profiled on the Infusionsoft website), he’s grown his gross revenue to $1.7 million, spread across a customer base of 3,500 clients and managed with a team of 40 employees.
Takeaway: Look for tech tools that’ll make your life easier. Damian Sanchez used Infusionsoft to simplify his business management and marketing needs, but there are many other options out there that can transform the way you live and run your business.
A business of one, Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer focusing on serving clients within the financial space. While many freelancers find themselves scrapping for every penny, Marquit – in an interview with Ryan Robinson of Creative Live – shares how she built a strong reputation over time:
“Big brands, often some of my best clients, are the result of building my reputation over time and being active within my niche. I focus mainly on content about finance, and over time my associations with other influencers and the work I’ve done, have created a body of work that has gotten me noticed.”
Thanks to her ongoing efforts, Marquit now boasts a six-figure annual income from her freelance writing efforts.
Takeaway: Industry authority isn’t created overnight. It takes time to build a strong brand in your niche, but this kind of reputation pays off in the long-run.
The Barefoot Executive
Led by Carrie Wilkerson, The Barefoot Executive brand encompasses a website, community, and book that offer guidance to entrepreneurs and work-at-home executives. Though it’s built on Wilkerson’s success growing multiple six-figure business, she shares accessible startup wisdom in an interview with Entrepreneur.com’s Kelsey Humphreys:
“I started my business like everybody does — with just who I knew. I sent out an email, I worked with one client for free for two months to get my systems down, my processes done in exchange for her recommendation and her referrals.”
Takeaway: We all start from the same place. Wilkerson was able to raise children, lose 100 pounds and pay off six-figures of debt while growing her companies, but she launched them the same way new entrepreneurs do all over the world – by starting small and tapping into her existing networks.
Have another great example of a small business success story? We’re all ears! Share yours by leaving us a comment below: