It can feel like we hear the same entrepreneurial story over and over again: I quit my job, worked hard, and now I have a business. While that may be true, as a general theme, there are many unique stories that have yet to be told – and those stories are the ones that truly inspire. They’re not one-dimensional; they’re real and raw and most of all, relatable.
We've found four women who embraced their originality, thought about things differently and as a result have found success in their field. Take a read of their stories to reignite your own passion and help spark some original ideas of your own...
Lori Cheek, Founder, Cheekd: “I’ve learned to welcome the mistakes.”
You’ve probably rarely heard a story like Lori Cheek’s – which includes a lot of failing and an unsuccessful stint on Shark Tank (which ended up working out even better than she’d hoped). But that’s not where her story starts.
Cheek started learning how to welcome mistakes and challenges well before she could even get to Shark Tank: “After finishing off my savings from my 15 year career in architecture, I had to get extremely creative to continue funding my business,” which included selling all her clothes (for $75K), doing focus groups, testing apps, house sitting, and even putting her West Village studio on AirBnb while she couch surfed – for 14 months. While the latter made her the largest chunk of pre-investment money, she nearly got evicted and lost her lease.
With money in her pocket, she was off, and the mistakes didn’t stop with almost losing her apartment. She partnered with the wrong people and made “lots of bad decisions” and a few major “rookie mistakes.” Still, she was determined to find a way to take her business to the next level. That’s where Shark Tank comes back into the picture.
Despite high hopes, she was turned down by all five sharks, but what came next made all the hard work worth it. After being on the show, her site hit 100,000 visitors and she received thousands of emails, nearly 50 of which were from investors looking to help. Fast forward to now, and she owns a thriving business, did a TEDx talk, has been featured in national publications like Entrpreneur, Wall Street Journal and NY Times, and was named one of the 12 most inspirational women in tech.
“When most people would have quit years ago, I only hustled harder to keep my dream alive! I could be the walking poster child for the age-old phrase, ‘What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.’ It wasn’t an easy ride but I’ve never been happier in my life.”
Nancy Friedman, Founder and President, Telephone Doctor: “Laughter has been my drug of choice for years…and motivates me to do better each time.”
Nancy Friedman is so much more than a female executive. She’s an expert on customer service, communication and telephone skills and a motivational speaker, voted Favorite Speaker in a national poll by Meetings & Conventions Magazine.
On her journey from 'nothing to success' she developed her unique view on business:
“Some folks are motivated by money, some by power, and some by title to gain success. None of those has ever motivated me personally. The experiences I found that motivated me personally to the success I have been blessed with is when I hear my audiences laugh during a training session or presentation.”
This laughter has motivated her all the way to building an empire. She’s the author of nine books on improving customer service and communication skills and she’s also appeared on Fox News, The Today Show, Oprah, CNN, and CBS This Morning. She’s also been featured in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
While it may seem odd to say that laughter is the key to success, this business woman has found a blueprint that fuels her and her business: “Laughter and the customer and employee relations lessons I teach my audiences make my speeches memorable and fuels references and more speech bookings.”
Elena Carstoiu, Co-Founder and COO of Hubgets: “Success doesn’t just happen because you work hard.”
We’ve all heard it a dozen times: if you work hard enough you’ll reach your goals. Elena Carstoiu, who’s been an entrepreneur for more than 17 years, feels differently: “Working hard is awesome, but you need more.”
Carstoiu’s unique view on business is an important one because her point is simple: “Behind any business ever built, there is someone with an idea. The road from that initial idea to the product or service ready to go to market is long and bumpy.” This is why hard work isn’t enough. From the idea needs to come the important pieces, including long-term vision and strategy.
“No major structure – start-up, team, product, or service – can be built in one day. It takes time, patience, resilience, and fine-tuning. You need to execute, fail, and repeat it over and over again until you'll make it,” explains Carstoiu. Yet, all too often this is missing, which is why so many businesses fail.
Her unique view must be working because Carstoiu was also instrumental in the start and growth of 4PSA, which she helped grow from ground zero to reaching five continents. Now, her focus is on creating and improving company processes and overseeing daily operations at Hubgets, where she’s doing a lot more than just working hard.
Donna Baxter Porcher, CEO and Tech Diva, Soul Pitt Media: “I am my brand.”
Donna Baxter Porcher knew there was a gap to be filled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: “After coming here from a small town nearby to attend the University of Pittsburgh, it always stayed in the back of my mind how difficult it was to find resources for my friends and myself as regards to the African-American community in the city. It was often difficult to find the black churches, hair salon, products, entertainment, etc.”
That’s how Soul Pitt started, which is a member site focused on events, business and information geared towards the Minority community. She quickly realised however, that to be successful she needed to meet the people she was inviting into her membership community. This pushed her to participate in organisations for women business owners and become an active part of the minority community in this region.
“It’s not enough to just set up a community website without the community getting to know who’s behind it. I am my brand and I’ve quickly come to realise that. Participating in events as a judge or even sponsoring a community seminar goes a long way with the people wanting to support you back,” says Baxter Porcher.
This female business owner now runs Soul Pitt Media, Soul Pitt Quarterly, a print magazine, and her original members site, Soul Pitt. What got Donna Baxter Porcher there? Literally showing up.
“Building a minority business in a city like Pittsburgh isn’t easy. Our professionalism and consistency has helped us gain corporate advertisers who support our mission and want to reach our audience.”