Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Magnificent Seven Entrepreneurs

The Secrets of Success in the Small Business Enterprise--Part II

Stories to inspire you!

As you may have read the last blog about famous entrepreneurs such as Disney, Ford, Steve Jobs, and Colonel Sanders, you may think they are larger than life--and you are right, they are.  

Here, you will see that it has nothing to do with those days or these days.  If there is a difference it’s this:  Now it’s much easier to become a successful entrepreneur.  You don't have to be Henry Ford, Disney or Emerson to become rich.

1. Brian Scudamore
Sources: 1-800-GOT-JUNK and others

Lesson: You can even make money from things people through away!

Scudamore started his company, which he describes as “the FedEx of junk removal,” 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was founded in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1989 after seeing a junk hauling truck in front of him at a McDonald’s Drive-thru.
Brian purchased a used pickup truck for $700 and came up with the name The Rubbish Boys and the slogan "We'll stash your trash in a flash."  As the business grew, Brian began to hire other students to handle the workload. In an attempt to boost sales, his crew would "junk patrol" alleys looking for junk that the city wouldn't take away.
In 1998 he changed the company name to 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and began franchising in 1999, opening locations in Toronto, Ontario and Oregon. The company has since grown to more than 220 locations throughout the US, Canada and Australia.

2. Judi Sheppard Missett
Sources: Jazzercise, and others

Lesson:  You can actually dance all the way to the bank!

The founder of this wildly successful fitness company started teaching dance classes after hanging up her professional dancing shoes. When turnout dropped, she came to realize that the women weren’t coming to class to learn the precise steps to a dance, but to lose weight and tone up. Judi picked up the pace, turned up the music, and created a fun class that was soon packed.  

One of her students suggested that she was combining jazz music with exercise and should call the concept “Jazzercise” and this stuck.  Later, she used the VHS to produce tapes of her classes and distributed to clients nationwide.

From there it seemed natural to sell franchise opportunities and these were snapped up both across the nation and in a variety of countries overseas.   The company now has over 7,500 locations worldwide, a clothing line, and an extremely loyal fan base. All started from a dance class.

3. Siamak Taghaddos and David Hauser
Sources: Got VMail/Grasshopper and others

Lesson: Help small business to compete with big dogs!

"Dial 1 for sales, dial 2 for support..." Ten years ago it cost over $10,000 to get a phone system with the advanced options we're used to hearing when we call big companies. Having a professional-sounding phone system was a surprisingly big challenge for small businesses short on cash. Enter Siamak and David got their startup money the hard way, by asking friends and family to help fund their business.

They launched their business with under $200,000 in capital and bootstrapped their way to profitability quickly, and are now driving over $10 million in annual revenue.

The idea for GotVMail was to give smaller companies a way to sound as professional as larger, established firms, allowing small businesses to set up voice-mail boxes that can route calls to cell phones and get messages via e-mailed MP3 files. GotVMail, now Grasshopper, generates about $5 million in revenue per year.

4. Jill Blashack Strahan
Sources: Tastefully Simple and others

Lesson: Passion pays off.

In 1995, Jill Blashack Strahan and her husband were barely making ends meet. Like so many of us, Jill was eager to discover her purpose, so she splurged on a session with a life coach.

In her own words: “I remember sitting outside one day, thinking we were three months behind on our house payment, I had two employees I couldn’t pay, and I ought to get a real job. But then I thought, No, this is your dream. Recommit and get to work.”

The positive attitude worked: Jill’s backyard company, Tastefully Simple, is now a direct-sales business, with $120 million in sales last year. And Jill was named one of the top 25 female business owners in North America by Fast Company magazine.

5. Dineh Mohajer
Lesson: Being hip pays off too!
At age 2e, Dineh Mohajer, and her sister Pooneh came up with a dazzling Idea: Funky colored nail polish. Her start-up Capital: under $6 dollars--Cost of a few bottles of nail polish.
Dineh was looking for the right shade of blue to match her strappy blue shoes. She was off for the summer holidays before starting medical school and wanted to kick back and enjoy some mindless fun. A few mixes of polish later, and she had the perfect match. She wore the shade out and was nearly attacked by a saleswoman in Charles David. It was then that Pooneh and Dineh decided to seriously consider pitching the idea of new nail polish in creative shades to the department stores.
Today, Hard Candy is sold in fine department stores such as Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus. They have 56,000 employees worldwide and own a large portfolio of companies in the following industries: Wine & Spirits, Fashion & Leather, Perfumes & Cosmetics, Watches & Jewelry, and others.

6.  Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield
Sources: Ben & Jerry’s and others

The now-legendary duo decided to open a business after taking a correspondence course on the art of ice cream making. They discovered that just about the only college town without an ice cream shop was Burlington, Vermont.
With $8,000 in savings and a $4,000 loan, they leased an old gas station in Burlington, purchased equipment, and began coming up with ideas for “unique” flavors.  Twenty years later, the company was taking in $237 million in annual revenue.

7. Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff

Source: Honest Tea


Barry Nalebuff, one of Seth's business school professors, found that he and Seth shared a passion for the idea of a less sweet, but flavorful beverage during a class discussion that involved a Coke vs. Pepsi case study. They agreed that there were tons of sugary sweet options and lots of new waters, but there was nothing in between to fill the void.

Fast forward to '97, when Barry  returned from India (where he had been analyzing the tea industry for a case study), he learned that most of the tea purchased for bottling by American companies was the lower quality dust and fannings left after quality tea had been produced. Barry had even come up with a name to describe a bottled tea that was made with real tea leaves - Honest Tea. When Seth heard the name, the bells started ringing - it was the perfect name to fit an all-natural brand that would strive to create healthy and honest relationships with its customers, suppliers and the environment.

Seth took a deep breath, quit his job at the Calvert Group, and started brewing batches of tea in his kitchen. Five weeks after taking the plunge, he brought thermoses of tea and a bottle with a mock-up label to Fresh Fields (Whole Foods Markets). During that meeting, the order came for 15,000 bottles, and so did the heavy pause as Seth's mind raced, trying to figure out how they would produce that much tea. They were, at that moment, in the tea business. Honest.

That was 14 years ago. Today, Honest Tea can be found in glass bottles, plastic bottles, barely sweetened, or even 'a tad sweet' in tens of thousands of stores across the US. The company has applied its passion for social responsibility to initiatives in the environment and to creating partnerships with the growers, cultures, and communities behind the teas. 

As you may have noticed, you don’t have to start with a business plan or a big financing.  All you need is passion for what you are doing.  Just move on the things you like to do: Commit to it and you shall reap the benefits. I would love to write about you one the next issues. Make sure to let me know about it.

You just go for it, you hear? 


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