How Small Business Owners Got Their Start

We’ll all heard the traditional “rags to riches” entrepreneur story. In reality, business owners come in all shapes and sizes. Small business owners often beat out the odds to become the successes they are today. Owning a business isn’t easy, and we could all use some inspiration when the going gets tough.

While not all small business success stories are the Cinderella fairytales they’re made out to be, there’s a lot we can learn from how these owners below got their start. Let’s see how these inspiring men and women made a name for themselves in this competitive time.

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1. Two College Students Start a Nut-Butter Company

Who doesn’t love nut-butter? Few people, apparently, if these college students turned entrepreneurs have anything to show for it. Keely Tillotson and Erika Welsh started as college roommates at the University of Oregon in 2011. They experimented making their own peanut butter in their tiny college kitchen until they actually ended up on Shark Tank in their junior year.

They reached a point where they had to make a hard decision: stay in college and give up the business or drop out and go for their dreams. As you might have guessed, these young entrepreneurs went for it and dropped out of college to become full-time business owners. Today, they run Wild Friends, a nut-butter company that makes over $7 million annually with distribution across the country.

What we can learn: Sometimes it pays to just go for it! Sure, you need to know a thing or two about business. With a little help from The Complete Guide to Small Business Marketing—Wave Blog and some motivation, anyone can make the dream work even from a tiny college apartment.

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2. From Homelessness to Cookie Company

You might know the name Sweet Mission Cookie Co. from its red-carpet appearances and Oscar parties, but it didn’t always have such a glamorous reputation. Sweet Mission’s founder, Jason Mercando, did not have a traditional business upbringing. In fact, he isn’t even a chef. He learned everything he knows about baking delicious cookies from Google and watching cooking shows.


Before he launched his company, he was addicted to drugs and in and out of jail. He started his company in 2013 when he was homeless and looking for a simple way to make money. After the recession of 2008, he needed a way to support himself. When presented with an opportunity to join an extended education class on starting a business, he took it.


Today, Mercado’s company is a raving success. He’s a living example that hard work and dedication pays off, even if you have to get through the hard times on your own. Just don’t forget the sweeter things in life!

What we can learn: Success takes many forms. You might never guess who’s destined to be the next big entrepreneur. As long as you have the passion, you can make a name for yourself.

3. From Med School to Digital Nomad

Brian Dean is a household name in the SEO world. As CEO and founder of Backlinko, he helps big-name businesses get noticed online with Search Engine Optimization. You likely won’t run into him in any office since he currently is traveling the world and working on his business remotely. Check it here to learn more about remote work today and calculating time remotely.

Dean started his career studying medicine and nutrition. He had his heart set on the sciences and becoming a professor. After a few years of studying, he realized it wasn’t for him. He quit his Ph.D. program and found himself without a job in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis. While stumling into life as a freelancer, he discovered a passion for SEO as a way to make a passive income. Thus, Backlinko was born to help other businesses master their online content.

What we can learn: Sometimes opportunity comes disguised as failure. Take every new path as a chance to discover something new and grow your business. You might just find yourself traveling the world and working from a laptop.

As you can see, there are so many small business success stories to draw inspiration from. There is no one-size-fits all, so go write your story today. No matter where you’re from, you can define where you’re going.

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