Chapter 1 72 American Business Owners on What Motivated Them To Become Entrepreneurs

Tracey Wallace / 23 min read

1. An award winning family idea.

Amy Breaker, Director of Operations, BirdieBall

My dad, with his dad – my grandpa – invented a limited-flight golf ball – the BirdieBall – in 2003.

They invented the napkin-ring-shaped golf ball, that only flies 40 yards with a full swing, as a solution to the overly expensive golf course real estate.

Well, it is the absolute BEST and most realistic practice golf ball ever invented.

We have won numerous awards since the unveiling, and since then, have invented the most realistic indoor putting green on the market.

We specialize in fun, off-course golf products, and are extremely proud of the space we have filled in the golfing world.

We are a family business, and everyone in the family has some part in the success of the company.

2. Making it easy to support our troops.

John Wray, CEO, Hero Care Packages

When we pulled into port in the Navy, sailors who had been at sea for months would wait for hours in line just to see if they got mail, rather than go out on liberty in a foreign port.

But as an officer, I was always brokenhearted when I saw some of my sailors who didn’t get packages – or when they did, the packages often contained things that they couldn’t use or didn’t quite want.

So I tried to figure out why.

Over the years, I talked to family and friends to find out what the obstacles to sending packages were.

The biggest problem?

Sending a care package to a military installation is just too much work.

Between waiting in line at the post office and paying $18 for the “military discount” shipping option, it wasn’t easy to do. And even when loved ones could send things, most people didn’t know what to send.

They’d send chocolate to a soldier or marine in the desert, non-regulation gear to Air Force members staying on an overseas base, or perishable items to a Navy sailor.

But every service has different needs, requirements and regulations.

As sad as my fellow sailors were to get these things, they couldn’t fault the well-intentioned package sender.

Those back home just wanted to do their part.

We created this company to fix all of that. We pick products that we know service members want so you don’t have to.

We coordinate with theAPO and FPO shipping so you don’t have to. And we ensure that it’s easy for you to send a care package to the hero you love.

Because they deserve it.

Our goal is to send as many care packages as we can to our service members abroad.

3. Helping other scientists.

Stan Farrell, President, ComposiMold Re-usable Mold Making Materials

My business started as an experiment.

I started ComposiMold because I was frustrated at how difficult it was to make lightweight plastic shapes for my model rocket and airplane parts.

I tried other materials to mold and cast my designs, but the main options were basically latex and silicone, which are toxic, hard to use, and if you make a mistake you are out of luck, because you have to start again at the beginning.

As a material scientist, I knew there could be something better.

I first started with a couple of product ideas on eBay and since then its grown!

4. Improving an industry.

Mira Herman, Owner, Rose Mira

The motivation to start my own business was a sudden realization that the beauty industry is not what it pretends to be – that false advertising and marketing tactics based on fear were methods employed by the larger companies.

I felt that people were taken advantage of and that companies manufacturing products of high quality with healthy, beneficial ingredients were scarce.

There was a need in the market and since I was already making some products for my own use and that of my friends’ use, formulating more products was an easy next step.

I knew I would make a better product and I felt called to share the information I knew and deliver healthier and better products for my customers and for the planet.

5. Creating out of necessity.

Captain Mike Ortego, President, TackleWebs Inc.

As a 17-year boat captain, I needed a better way to organize gear and keep items from bouncing around or flying out of boats and into the water.

So I taught myself to sew – after starting a sewing class at JoAnn’s Fabric when I walked in looking like a scruffy boat captain – and created, invented, and patented TackleWebs + CoolerWebs.

Now we sell them all across the world.

6. Staying independent.

Erin Mulkeran, Owner, With Luv Design

My father always worked for himself and I believe I always had that same sense of adventure within.

I work more hours than I ever did working for someone else, but it doesn’t feel that way.

I truly love being independent and seeing the business grow each day.

It means a lot to me that I can empower my staff and am able to help them achieve what they want in life.

7. Solving personal pain points.

Hope Dennis, Owner, Border Collies in Action

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention.

When I decided that I needed a border collie to gather and work my sheep instead of using a feed bucket and a lariat, life took a turn.

The border collie then developed a need for a whistle – my natural whistle was pretty pathetic (only carried 50 feet).

Glyn Jones gave me an aluminum shepherd’s whistle with instructions that I’d better know how to use it by the next time I saw him.

Needless to say, after a year of trying to blow something besides spit, plus not grimace at the terrible taste of aluminum, I realized that I was a dysfunctional whistler.

To make a long nightmare short, I couldn’t find an easy-to-blow whistle, so I developed the Montana Lite longneck stainless steel whistle.

The happy ending to the nightmare is that I can whistle and my dogs respond to the whistle!

Now you know how Wild West Dog Products evolved into manufacturing two stainless steel and one brass whistle.

Wild West Dog Products is the world’s largest manufacturer of stainless steel shepherd whistles.

I still run sheep on my Montana ranch with cousins tending the flock while I reside on my husband’s cow-calf ranch in Wyoming. In addition, I maintain a flock of sheep for training in Wyoming.

So between the sheep, cattle, stockdog training, trialing, manufacturing and running Border Collies in Action, I keep off the streets.

8. Built to last.

Chris Angelini, Co-founder, American Bench Craft

Sick of our wallets always falling apart and constantly having to replace them, we decided to make an ultra-durable leather wallet that we could guarantee for life.

We were able to start up our company using sales from those wallets and recognized that many people share similar frustrations.

So, we rolled out an entire line of leather goods and accessories that use solid brass rivets instead of thread stitching.

Leather is an extremely durable material, yet many leather products eventually fall apart.

The reason is thread stitching wears away with heat and friction produced from constant use.

Heat and friction merely polish metal, which is how we are able to guarantee our products for life.

We strive each and every day to challenge the fast-fashion, planned-obsolescence, throw-away culture that we grew up in.

With an unwavering commitment to American manufacturing, we specialize in leather goods that are built to last from one generation to the next.

We focus on offering products crafted with the precision and care consumers expect, and backed by the customer service they deserve.

9. When failure is not an option.

Katie Caudill, Founder and CEO, Sunday Coupon Inserts

I was a senior paralegal for a high-profile family law attorney working a treacherous 60+ hours a week.

In 2011, at the height of the economic crisis, I was laid off due to the firm’s financial difficulties.

I was unemployed, in financial trouble, and my home fell into foreclosure.

The fight was on!

I began couponing to save money, and in a search to get more coupons, I noticed that they were selling in droves on eBay.

It was then I saw an opportunity to make some money.

I joined the ranks on eBay selling coupons that came in my local newspaper, and within 2 months, with the help of my techie brother, launched Sunday Coupon Inserts.

I have experienced an amazing 30% increase in revenue each year since 2011 and have helped thousands of people save money on their groceries.

So, when asked what my motivation was behind the start of the business, it was do or die! Failure was not an option.

10. The sweet smell of success.

Susan Madunich, Owner and Aromatherapist, Aromatic Blessings

I have PTSD due to a bad marriage.

I was introduced to herbal infusions and essential oils by a massage therapist to help with stress and anxiety.

I was immediately drawn to and impressed by their natural healing capabilities and started gathering as much information as I could get my hands on.

I started formal studies and making products initially for myself and immediate family about two and a half years ago.

Friends of friends and family starting asking for assistance and it just grew from there.

It gives me great joy to help others.

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11. The adventure of entrepreneurship.

Jim Taylor, President and Owner, Belted Cow

It was a combination of wanting to be in charge of our own destiny and the thrill of making a high-quality, American-made product that others would enjoy and find value in.

In 2004, we saw an opportunity in updating an existing apparel accessory that had not really changed in decades.

At that time you could still purchase the same style ribbon belt your father and grandfather purchased 20 years before, i.e.: simple repeated clip art designs finished with low-quality materials.

After a couple years of use, it was worn out and you needed to purchase a new one.

We started by using local artists as designers and constructed our belts using the highest quality raw materials.

The result has been much higher-quality and longer-lasting product adorned with unique, whimsical designs (e.g., History of Streaking, Shrimp on the Barbie, etc…).

We wanted to create something new, fun and of value.

I think we’ve achieved that.

12. Bringing a legacy to the digital world.

Brandon Roche, Head of UX/UI and Web Development, Croft Trailer Supply

George and Lena Croft established Croft Trailer and Hitch Company, now known as Croft Trailer Supply, in the late 1930s as a family business.

George was a pioneer in the trailer manufacturing and rental business and invented many towing and trailer products – products that are still in use today.

Croft Trailer Supply is a company of experts that love trailers, and a company proud to call Kansas City home.

Now Croft Trailer Supply wants to bring our hometown expertise to the rest of the nation and the world. BigCommerce is central to that plan!

13. Fulfilling a dream.

Jerry Cunningham, Owner, The Woodland Mills

I grew up in my father’s woodshop, and knew I always wanted to make a living doing something I loved.

I also wanted to be a fireman and an astronaut.

I was a paid firefighter for a year, but I found I was spending all my time at the firehouse wishing I was at the woodshop.

Going to Space Camp is as close as I got to being an astronaut.

14. Growing generation to generation.

Manager of Fox Creek Leather, Fox Creek Leather

The owner moved to Virginia and had a hard time finding a job that would pay him enough to take care of his family.

He started selling leather out of the back of a Pinto station wagon going from motorcycle show to motorcycle show.

He searched for “Made in America” leather and has stuck to that as the years have gone by.

In 1999, Paul’s son Pete created the first Fox Creek Leather website and we have been an ecommerce store ever since.

We do have a retail store in Independence, Virginia and welcome visitors from all over the world.

One big change from the initial start of the website and now is that we used to contract all of our manufacturing to companies all over the United States.

Now, we have a sewing factory on site and we make most of our vests and wallets, and all of our chaps, purses and other accessories.

We have also added elkskin and bison to our line of custom items.

15. Seeking a challenge.

Joe Marks, President, Baudelaire, Inc.

It was 1987, I was 35, and I had already started and sold one business and managed two others.

I was looking for a complicated concept that would keep me interested for longer than 5 years for the sake of a sane family life.

At the time, importing personal care products was pretty challenging.

The most updated technology we had access to was the Telex machine at the local stockbroker’s office.

There were no fax machines, virtually no email services and, certainly, nothing like smartphones, Skype, Google Translate, etc., etc., etc.

That’s how I got started.

16. Humble beginnings.

Tersha Carpenter, CFO, Island Slipper

Island Slipper was founded in 1946 by the Motonaga family.

Takizo Motonaga made slippers by recycling tire tread found on the side of the road during World War II.

His children grew the business with attractive styles for fine men, women and children.

During the ’80s, they were ready to retire and did not have children interested in the business.

The business was sold to my father-in-law, John Carpenter.

John always dreamed of owning his own slipper-making business, and was ready for this new challenge.

John and his wife, Daisy, grew the business to become internationally known, and opened the first retail store in Hawaii.

My husband, Matt and I, decided to move back to Hawaii to continue this family legacy.

17. A curious challenge.

Ecommerce Manager of Terramai, Terramai

In 2002, our founder was traveling around Montana and saw a number of gorgeous old barns in various states of disrepair.

Despite being on a self-imposed, one-year sabbatical from his work in Silicon Valley, he couldn’t help but be intrigued.

Was there a business lying there in the ruins for a curious entrepreneur to develop?

At the time, it seemed like anyone with a chainsaw and a pickup truck (and a dog, of course) could be in the reclaimed wood business.

Being a conservator of resources and holding a deep respect for our environment, he saw an opportunity.

Could he bring some of what he had learned in Silicon Valley to this deeply fragmented and nascent industry?

From that curiosity, he set off to build the leading reclaimed wood brand and company.

18. A comforting idea.

Danielle Rogland, Coordinator, Celebration Ashes

The idea for Celebration Ashes began with just a few families who were familiar with our glass artwork at Glass Eye Studio, and had asked the owner by special request if it would be possible to incorporate cremation ashes into a few of our existing paperweight designs as memorial pieces for their loved ones.

When the artists and owner saw how much comfort these few pieces brought to the families we created them for, they wanted to be able to offer the same service to more people.

It was important to us as a company that we make these pieces ourselves, in our own studio in Seattle, and be able to offer a memorial piece that is coming directly from the artists to the families.

The personal touch made it a lot more meaningful.

19. Impacting new lives.

Maranda Johnson, Co-Owner, The Good Stuff Botanicals

My now-husband had psoriasis when I met him.

We created a cream that heals psoriasis.

A recipe was finalized after two years of tinkering when we found a hot spring in Montana that is known to have the second highest trace mineral content in the world.

Our product is now used in hospitals in Neonatal Intensive Care Units.

An organic + natural product has replaced a steroid cream.

20. A sobering venture.

Daniella Park, Designer and Webmaster, Doing It Sober

Recovery from drug addiction and alcoholism has given me the strength to pursue all my dreams.

One of them was to be a successful t-shirt maker and now it has evolved to much more, even a reality television series!

21. Beautifully inspired.

Anna Sokolowski, Creative Director, LympheDIVAs

The story of LympheDIVAs began in Philadelphia when two young breast cancer survivors, Rachel Troxell and Robin Miller, developed lymphedema, a side effect of breast cancer treatment that can cause permanent swelling in the arms.

Their physicians and lymphedema therapists recommended a compression sleeve as the most efficient way of controlling the swelling.

When they researched the options for the sleeve, they found that the only ones available were rough textured, heavy, hot, beige and bandage-like.

Frustrated and dismayed over the lack of options, they created their own line of beautiful, breathable and comfortable compression arm sleeves.

22. Running with a community.

Melody Tabman, Owner and Designer, Milestones Sports Jewelry

I made a 26.2 Runner Girl anklet to commemorate my first marathon.

When other runners saw it, they wanted one.

I realized that you can’t wear your race medal around to show off your accomplishment, so I create a new line of running-themed jewelry and presented the line to a local running race director for her opinion on whether or not she thought this would be well received.

Her comment was, “You got something special here, girl! Go for it!”

She allowed me to showcase and sell my line of running jewelry at her local race expos and it was a huge hit!

At the time, no one else was doing this commercially.

23. Sharing a passion.

Jack Sullivan, Publisher and President, Blue Music

Our business started so that we could “Share America’s National Music – The Blues.”

Our print publication Blues Music Magazine covers every facet of contemporary blues music, blues musicians and the thriving blues community.

It is published quarterly and distributed globally.

In line with our mission, we created Blues Music Store to provide a genre-specific store featuring blues music CDs, DVDs and books to our global fans.

At the same time, our store provides blues musicians an online genre-specific store for their music because many don’t have global distribution.

24. Passion for freedom.

Josh Gordon, Founder and President, StoreYourBoard

I had been working as a corporate engineer for a few years and decided it was not for me.

I wanted the freedom and chance to make an impact – the kind you get while running your own company.

A close friend and some entrepreneurial books convinced me starting a business was the right path for me.

Being able to combine my passion for board sports and the outdoors with starting and running my own company has been awesome!

25. Creating comedy you can wear.

Kamie Hallock, Direct to Consumer Manager, Goodie Two Sleeves

Our company set out to make awesome, clean, funny t-shirts that are hilarious while keeping it ‘clean’.

We don’t need cuss words to be funny!

From our awesome t-shirt designs to our buttery soft fabrics, we want people to laugh, have fun and feel good on the inside and out.

For over 15 years now we have delivered t-shirts all around the world and are known for our humor and quality.

26. Maintaining a legacy.

Parker Slavin, President, StationeryXpress

Our business is about keeping my uncle’s legacy and love of stationery alive.

It’s a way for us all to stay connected in a physical way in this very digital age.

27. Finding the perfect fit.

Frances Pinedo, CEO and Founder, BePear

Our motivation is to fill the void left by the fashion industry by making clothing designed specifically for pear-shaped women.

There are almost 8 million such women in the U.S. alone and all struggle to find clothing that fits them properly.

We have engineered our designs to solve the pain points they face, all while having our product made in the U.S.

28. Supporting the troops.

Ashli Clubine, Director of Marketing, Nine Line Apparel

Our company was founded in order to provide apparel that would unite the military, veterans, and patriotic Americans, to bridge the gap between those who serve and those who support them, and to be a voice for the American people.

29. Sharing a solution.

Nicole Davis, Owner, Bubble Babez Bath Co.

I started my business because of my son.

He had eczema and I was searching for a solution for his dry, scaly skin and created a few products for him.

They worked and that’s how it all began!

30. Going digital to be rural.

Lesandre Barley, CEO, Rub ‘n Restore

We started our business to share our experience, methods and unique leather and vinyl repair products with the average Joe (or Jane) and simultaneously enable ourselves to move to a rural farming town that could not have sustained us without an ecommerce venture.

31. A solution that took hold.

Lauren Winfield, Wholesale Manager, The Bearded Bastard

Jeremiah sported a “Dali” mustache in 2011 and couldn’t find any mustache wax on the market that could hold his mustache all day.

So he made his own – Woodsman Mustache Wax.

His friends wanted some as well, so he started selling it out of his truck.

Then the facial hair craze hit in late 2012, and it just blew up from there.

32. Taking one step at a time.

Linda Robbins, Owner and Designer, Good Dog Beds

I could not find a dog bed that would last and look pretty in my home.

When I found something close, it was SO expensive!

So, I made my own!

Then, I made some as gifts, did a street fair, a dog show and – whoosh – a business was started!

What a wonderful thing, too.

The more successful we are, the more I get to help dogs in need!

33. The freedom of an online store.

Kim DeVos-Brooks, Owner and Designer, Sun Valley Alpaca Co.

I started back in 1999 after our first holiday season promoting Alpaca in a mall environment.

I thought, “Lets give this online shopping a whirl!”

I was looking for a less costly retail environment and a way to reach a broad audience while maintaining the ability to spend time with my son, who was young and in school.

Online was a perfect fit.

After becoming single in 2004 and with my son entering college, it was paramount that this business work, as it was our sole support.

We were an early adopter of BigCommerce, and since then have grown to 5 BigCommerce websites as well as to selling on Amazon and Amazon Canada.

We are integrated with Stitchlabs as a result of BigCommerce.

My son graduated with a degree in online marketing in 2008.

He now builds our sites and works as a BigCommerce professional with the agency he works for.

He loves getting others excited about growing their business with BigCommerce as he did with his mom (and stepdad too – site in progress!).

As we enter our 18th year, we are growing stronger each year and have expanded from a one-person operation to a still-small organization using the talents of many other entrepreneurs, domestic and international, for projects as needed.

I am also very fortunate to get to work closely with one of my favorite people: my son.

Life is good.

Our BigCommerce sites are:

34. A life saving endeavor.

Co-owner, Founder of Clotacin, Clotacin

I nearly died from a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung) and had to start taking a blood thinner that interacted severely with different food, vitamins, minerals, etc.

When I couldn’t find a multivitamin that was safe for me to take, I decided to create my own, and Clotacin was born!

35. A love for entrepreneurship.

Derek Lenington, Co-founder & CFO, Taylor Street Favors

My (now) husband / (at the time) partner and I were amazed (outraged actually) at the lack of diversity we were finding as we shopped for wedding favors and gifts for our wedding.

As a same-sex couple with an adopted son, we knew there was an unrepresented market.

Modern families are increasingly diverse, but you’d never know it looking at most wedding & baby shower websites. We are creating a business that reflects and celebrates this diversity.

36. An endeavor to strengthen the mind.

Vickie Fournier, So You Need Hardware

In 2012 I was diagnosed with lung cancer, and after surgery, chemo and radiation my doctor told me that I needed to do something that my brain was unfamiliar with.

So, I discovered bag making and found that (especially where we live) there was no place to get beautiful, quality hardware to help show off the beauty of my bags.

37. Made for people.

April Rowden, Owner, Missouri Medical Supplies

I didn’t wake up thinking,

“I’m going to sell medical supplies for a living.”

I started a YouTube vlog as a journal to hold myself accountable while trying yet another diet, all while not thinking anyone one would be interested in my vlog and not realizing people were actually following me!

After losing 65 pounds in less than 6 months, people asked me for help.

Long story short, MMS was born out of helping people be able to easily and inexpensively do the HCG diet.

It is all about helping people.

38. Exploring the possibilities.

Gordie Spater, Co-Founder & Chief Business Officer, Kurgo

Zelda was our beloved Plott hound.

She had a mind of her own and often tried to nudge her way into the front seat.

On one trip, a short stop threw her to the floor of the driver’s side where she ended up wrapped around the pedals.

My brother, Kitter, who designs all of our products, knew he wasn’t the only dog owner with this problem. This inspired Kurgo’s first product, the Backseat Barrier.

Now she’d be safe in the backseat, and we’d be safe in the front.

This lead to the creation of Kurgo to help active dog owners be able to comfortably and safely get out and explore the world with their dog.

39. A store for grandparents and their families.

Elizabeth Curtis, Owner and Marketing Director, The BananaNana Shoppe

Our business began 13 years ago to offer gifts for grandparents and provide a community for sharing grandparent names, stories and ideas.

At this time, there were few resources available for grandparents.

My business partner and I had just begun our “grandparent journey” and we were excited to provide a forum for other grandparents to share their ideas and love for their grandkids.

40. A new family business.

Ana Seidel, CEO and CCO, My Bliss Kiss

I’m allergic to almonds and all cuticle oils have almond oil in them.

I created my own nail oil and 4 months later my nails were longer than they had ever been in my life.

I started selling the oil 3 months before my husband was laid off after 13 years at an IT company.

We worked together to create Bliss Kiss and hit over $1,000,000 in sales by the fourth year. We feel very blessed.

41. A personal challenge.

Gene Constant, President & Founder, True to Size Apparel

I started my business because I thought I could create more wealth for myself, and that I could create something that would be bigger than me.

I did, and I hope the results help others.

42. Crafting a wonderful journey.

Courtney Henslee, Owner and Formulator, Brazen Bee Beauty

I’ve been in herbs and nutrition for over 20 years.

At 30, I found myself spending big money on skin care products because I still had adult acne and was worried about aging.

In a moment of frustration, after spending $50 on a face product, I asked myself why I wasn’t using my knowledge to make my own skin care products.

I began to make face wash and lotion and cleared up my skin completely and then went on to help all of my friends.

They kept telling me they would pay for products and I kept giving them away.

I finally gave in and started a website 5 years ago, and the rest is a wonderful journey.

43. Taking hold of their future.

Angela Adams, Co-Owner, Cypress Bridge Candle Co.

We wanted to work for ourselves and have more flexibility with our children’s schedules. We were gone too much and wanted more time at home.

Even though it was right after 9/11 and the economy was dire, we opened the day after Thanksgiving in 2001, just in time for Christmas, and have been in Abilene, Kansas ever since.

Small towns + social media = success!

44. Made to connect.

James Nguyen, Content Marketing Manager, Wilson Amplifiers

Every time you say to yourself, “If there was only a way to…” or “I wish that…” then it means there’s a problem that needs a solution.

For us, it was having poor cellular reception and listening to others with the same problem.

So, Wilson Amplifiers was built on solving people’s frustrations with dropped calls and slow internet.

45. An inner desire to succeed.

Barbara Huffman, Owner and Eco-Friendly Artisan, Southern Magnolia Mineral Cosmetics

I wasn’t allowed to wear cosmetics when I was young and developed low self-esteem.

Now I’ve had my own makeup business for 14 years and started it up online with $100 using my love of color.

I think I did it out of spite!

46. Catching success.

Katie Bernotksy, Owner, Power Team Lures

We are a husband-and-wife business and fishing is our passion.

We wanted to create products that other anglers can use successfully and have an awesome day on the water.

47. A business honoring family and the military.

Philip Kauppinen, Owner, Grand New Flag

I started my business to honor the memory of my father and hero, Arnold – a Vietnam veteran.

I do so in 3 ways:

  • by giving back 5% of my net profits each year to nonprofits serving veterans.
  • 15% off the entire store to veterans and active duty military.
  • by supporting the American manufacturer.

99% of my product offering is 100% made in the U.S.A.

48. Celebrating man’s best friends.

Michelle Kownacki, President, Paws Pet Boutique

I started my business to celebrate the priceless relationship between people and companion animals by offering unique products to be enjoyed by both – and providing a location for dog-friendly events that make a difference.

49. Childhood dream come true.

Sara Pippett, Owner and CEO, Bad Habit Boutique

I have always wanted to own my own clothing store since I was in the 7th grade.

I have a passion for fashion and making women feel beautiful.

I was a single mother at the time I started my company while living paycheck to paycheck. I wanted to create a life for my child and myself – and I’ve been able to do just that.

50. The opportunity for growth.

Owner, Chief Bakery Engineer, Gluten Free Things

The 2008 housing bust and weak economy had me laid off as an engineer in the midst of new health concerns personally.

It turned out to be a time for a new direction and I took advantage of the growth of the gluten-free-foods demand.

Over the years I’ve used my engineering skills to test and formulate a bread product that is gluten-free, vegan, tastes really good and has wonderful texture like all comfort foods should.

We use half the ingredients of other popular commercial brands, with twice the taste!

Consumers LOVE our product.

51. In the business of laughs.

Mindy Bownds, Vice President, Vulgar Baby

I started my business to bring some humor into the world with a baby clothing line that stands out from the rest in the industry.

We wanted to make designs for parents like us; parents that didn’t want “cutesy” onesies, but instead want a laugh.

52. Doing good for nature.

Susan Holley, Marketing, Holley’s Habitat Homes

Our business started because we recognized the need for naturally constructed habitat homes to offset the loss of forests and farms for wildlife habitation.

53. Finding the career and family balance.

Kira Karmazin, Founder, KiraGrace

I was a single mom trying to juggle parenting, a romantic life and my career.

Needless to say, I was not succeeding in the the first two while working 80 hours a week!

I needed to find a solution outside of the more traditional corporate career path that allowed me to create the family life that was important to me, while still providing the creativity and challenges in the field that I loved.

54. A healthy passion.

Jennifer M. Engelmeier, Owner, Love Your Hot Tub

I started my business because of my passion for healthy hot tub (and pool!) water.

My tubs utilize ozone purification for maximum chemical reduction, which is not only great for the environment, but also healthy and cost-effective for the consumer.

55. Making bath time less irritating.

Owner and Operator at Bathe Happy, Bathe Happy

Commercial soap irritated my husband’s skin, so I started making bath and body products with him and my family in mind.

Eventually friends and people I didn’t know wanted to use them, and a business was born!

56. From lemonade stands to digital stores.

Owner and Designer at Zoey’s Personalized Gifts, Zoey’s Personalized Gifts

I’ve always wanted to be the boss!

From a very young age, my parents will tell you, I was creating and playing “business” where I was the boss.

At around 7, I opened my first lemonade-stand business and was fairly successful.

When I graduated college in 1998, the internet was just starting to become a tool for businesses and I was able to carve out a little niche business for myself as a sole proprietor designing websites for small business.

After the birth of my first child in 2006, I found another need: funny, cute t-shirts for kids and babies.

No one was really doing this yet, so I was one of the first to make a website and start selling.

Now, even though I am just one in a sea of thousands of others, we’ve been able to stay competitive by providing a fast turnaround, great customer service and staying ahead of the competition.

57. Inspiring a love of adventure.

Ferrell Alman, President and Founder, Roanline

Roanline was started from a desire to feature up-and-coming brands in the outdoors industries and brands with a focus on creating cool, fashion-forward products for women.

Our mission is to inspire more adventurous lives spent outdoors.

58. Brightening people’s day.

Kevin Danaher, ecommerce & Marketing Manager, Stuff2Color

We founded the company with the goal of helping people to smile more often through coloring.

Whether spending time coloring fuzzy posters with your kids or feeling a sense of accomplishment at a rehab center, there are many ways to brighten someone’s day with coloring.

59. Helping moms out.

Krystal Duhaney, President and CEO, Milky Mama

After struggling with my breastmilk supply, I wanted to provide much needed breastfeeding support to moms all over the country.

That’s how my business got started.

60. A nostalgic treat.

Owner and Smile Maker at Taffy Shop, Taffy Shop

Taffy has nostalgia to it.

It takes you back to simpler times and makes people happy. That’s why we started our business.

61. A retirement hobby to international business.

Edie Ramstad, Owner, Weave Got Maille

It started 5 years ago as a hobby business after I retired.

I was hoping to have a business that would keep me busy for 8 to 10 hours a week. Instead, it morphed into an international company that sells in 76 different countries and employs over 20 people.

62. Working with your best friend.

Jeff Saporito, Vice President and Co-Founder, Affordable Vet

The co-founder and I have been best friends since 5th grade, and we were always discussing someday owning a business together.

He is a veterinarian and I spent the last decade in online retail, so the opportunity finally emerged for it to become a reality.

63. The fun of running a business.

Jerri Hemsworth, Co-Owner, RP Boutique

My partner, Sandy Allan, and I are women business owners of other businesses.

When one of Sandy’s clients wanted to retire – the previous owner of the online boutique – we bought the company so that Sandy and I could work together.

We’ve known each other for more than 15 years and have great respect for the way we each run our separate businesses.

We waited for the perfect business to buy that we could run together. When it presented itself two years ago, we jumped in.

I run a marketing company and Sandy runs a fulfillment company.

The two of us together operate RP Boutique – formerly Repeat Possessions – and are having a blast!

64. Finding your niche.

Joanne Wood-Ellison, Founder and Chief Executive Collar Crafter, The Artful Canine

I was laid off following the recession, and saw an opportunity to create a product that would fill some voids in the pet product industry.

65. Solving industry pain points.

Kyle Sharick, Owner, TracksNTeeth

I noticed the heavy machinery parts industry was severely under-served online and wanted to fix that problem.

There was a segmentation between the OEM dealers and suppliers and the owner-operators of heavy machinery.

The pain point was lack of access to options, lack of streamlined purchasing at the dealer level and weak presence on the internet.

I knew filling those pain points and helping the people and businesses who are literally building America get back to work faster at lower costs would create a winning model for a strong ecommerce business.

66. A fresh idea.

Nicole Facciuto. Founder, Corky’s Nuts

The desire to honor my father and other farmers who provide seasonal organic food was the main motivation behind starting CORKY’S NUTS.

Growing up on our walnut farm I witnessed the care and passion my father put into growing his walnuts.

It seemed only natural for me to create a company which allows people to experience what fresh, organic walnuts taste like just after harvest, rather than walnuts that sit on store shelves for unknown periods of time.

67. A healthy investment.

Jennifer Lugo, Founder and Product Formulator, Verefina

In 2007, while pregnant with my third child, I became aware of how toxic most personal care products are.

60% of what you apply to your skin is absorbed into the bloodstream!

After countless hours of research, and being unable to find truly pure and safe products to use on my family, a need was born and I created my line of truly pure, natural, toxin-free skin care products!

68. Finding comfort in the little things.

Jen O’Farrell, Owner, Flowersong Soap Studio

The events of 9/11 made me think about the things I took for granted, and soap was one of those things!

I learned to make soap, which lead to a passion for natural bath and body.

69. For families of any size.

David & Brandi Garcia, Owners, Fluff and Familia

We felt that too many retailers were marketing to parents by putting a focus on the parent or caregiver’s individual role(s) of bringing up the child(ren).

We strongly believe on focusing on what is important – family as one, making us whole. That’s what we strive to support each and every day: familia first.

As owners and parents ourselves who have gone through many personal struggles with the support from many, we wanted to create a welcoming place that wasn’t only geared towards moms or parents who fit what society deems an ideal, perfect family.

Our belief at Fluff & Familia is it doesn’t matter whether you’re married, a single parent, raising a child with disabilities, interracial or LGBT, young or old; we support all styles of parenting. We cater to moms, dads, grandparents, caregivers, foster parents, etc.

In the debates such as breast vs. bottle or cloth vs. disposable, we don’t take sides; we offer educated support for either method.

We also feature free shipping on all orders with no minimums to pay it forward to those who helped us through tough times; we believe this makes us stand out from the competition in addition to providing peace of mind and equality for all of our customers.

70. Starting small and going big.

Nick Borrelli, Ecommerce and Marketing Director, NuWave Marine

I was selling motorcycles and got in a bad crash while delivering one. I was fired from my job and I had to move back home with my dad.

At the time, he owned a small marine mechanic shop.

I started digging through his piles of parts and selling them on eBay. I had no ecommerce experience and no boating experience.

It was successful, though, so we started listing new products on eBay and before you knew it we were a full-time operation. The logical next step was to cut out the middleman (eBay) so that we could make more profit.

I got ripped off by 2 web developers before deciding that I would figure out how to do it on my own.

That’s when I met BigCommerce, built a site, taught myself SEO and PPC.

71. Taking life by horns.

Stephanie Richard, Owner, Sparkles & Lace Boutique

My best friend and I started the business together to take control of our own destiny.

We were both in a direct sales company for 10 years and had grown to the top of our company.

In December 2014, that company closed and we lost everything.

Starting our own business is our way of empowering other women, including ourselves, and providing for our families.

72. A call to action.

Jennifer Raines, Chick-in-Charge, Quirks! Handcrafted Goods & Unique Gifts

Quirks originally began in 1997 as Kinks, Quirks & Caffeine.

I was inspired to finally become a store owner after the sudden and untimely death of my beloved mom.

We survived the down economy by constantly flexing and responding to market demands.

We recently moved to a new gallery space on Prince George Street in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg (Virginia)’s downtown area.

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Table of Contents

IntroAmerican Business Owners on Starting, Scaling and Staying Inspired in 2018
Chapter 1 72 American Business Owners on What Motivated Them To Become Entrepreneurs
Chapter 2 These 40 Entrepreneurs Swear by These Marketing & Growth Strategies
Chapter 3 44 Pieces of Entrepreneur-to-Entrepreneur Business Advice
Chapter 4 40 American Business Owners on What Independence Means to Them

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