Entrepreneur Success Stories

Lori Soard
Woman at Computer

Inspiration and perspiration are the building blocks of many entrepreneur success stories. As this article shows, another key factor in entrepreneur success stories seems to be the ability to look at a circumstance, product or service differently from others and come up with a novel idea.

Waste Not, Make a Lot

Photo of Tom Szaky

It started as "Project Worm." Digging through the garbage of Princeton University's dining halls to explore a business idea is not the typical Ivy League way, but students Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer were convinced they could "bridge the gap between capitalism and environmentalism." In 2001, the pair created a plant food from worm waste and packaged in used soda bottles, and the company TerraCycle was born.

Now, run on the brain power of researchers at the Rutgers University EcoComplex and a staff of nearly 30, TerraCycle has expanded its "waste" products line and formed a charitable bottle recycling project with schools and organizations across the United States. TerraCycle products are in major retail outlets such as Home Depot and Walmart, and the 2006 anticipated revenue is $2 million.

Beyer graduated from Princeton in 2005, and is the company's chief technology officer. Szaky took a hiatus from college to assume the role of CEO of TerraCycle and is a much sought-after speaker at entrepreneurial classes around the nation.

Helping Others While Building a Business

Pamela Garber

The Internet is a part of everyday life, so it only makes sense when building a counseling business that Pamela Garber included therapy sessions available via Skype. She also offers in-person and telephone sessions for her clients. Her online therapy sessions include people in the finance industry and those a part of Fortune 100 management teams.

After graduating with a master's degree from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 1997, she started her own independent psychotherapy business in New York City. She started the business because she was motivated by the pluses of running her own schedule and having the self-sufficiency of being self-employed.

Pamela Garber shared, "The rhythm of coordinating all of the facets of a small business, from the work itself -which in my case is psychotherapy to adults dealing with depression and anxiety- the marketing/development, accounting needs, supplies and dealing with vendors as needed appealed to me."

Garber used one solid principal to build her business - simply doing good work. "While doing good work often leads to maintaining an existing client, it can also lead to referrals and positive reputation building." In addition, she met with people who would be ideal referral sources and also contacted them via e-mail.

Her best tip for other entrepreneurs or those wanting to start a business is to make lists each morning. "If you are not busy with customers, then that is the time to work on administrative needs, shop for supplies, etc. Keep the momentum going in a 'build it and they will come' mindset. Certainly, put your time and effort into developing a strong website."

Give a Dog a Bone

 Martin Glinsky

Seeing a real need for a bone that was safe for dogs but still provided the chewiness that dogs crave, Martin Glinsky, Ph.D. and his partners created the first enhanced smart bone. He is the Chief Science Officer at PetMatrix and co-founder of the company.

PetMatrix was founded in 2008 and has offices in Hawaii, Arizona and New York.

"We started this company when we recognized that many dog owners had decided not to offer rawhide to their pets. Many pet professionals, including Veterinarians, are concerned with some of the problems reported with feeding rawhide," said Glinsky.

In a focus group study, they found that 30 percent of dog owners refused to ever feed their dogs rawhide and an additional 10 percent only fed it infrequently. However, dogs need to be able to chew for both dental health and to satisfy their instincts. To meet this need, PetMatrix came up with the chicken and vegetable dog chews available today. They are 99.2 percent digestible and made to please a dog's palate.

"We feel we've been successful by offering the dog owner a viable, healthy and safe alternative to rawhide. We made it look like a rawhide product, but distinctly identified the package as 'NON-RAWHIDE'. The extremely good taste insured that once the dog started to chew the product, in most cases, they wouldn't stop until it was completely devoured, unlike rawhide which is often found in a corner days later coated with dust and grime."

Getting the Word Out for Others

Terry Zelen

Zelen Communications is a marketing and web development company owned by Terry Zelen. He has more than 25 years of experience in the advertising world. You might be surprised to learn that Terry has degrees from the University of Tampa in Marine Science and Biology. He also has a minor in art. It is the combination of science and art that allows him to bring online marketing to life for his clients.

"I started Zelen Communications because I was not wired to work in the corporate world. Too many egos. Too much politics. Too many roadblocks to doing great work with clients. So, I went out on my own and did it my way."

The company was started in 1992. Zelen credits his success to tenacity. "Never giving up and never saying we can't. No matter the project or size of the client, as long as we had the expertise, we would take on anything that came our way. From Fortune 1,000 companies to startups, we have helped companies achieve their goals and in return, they have passed our name along to others."

Leading America One Person at a Time

Roxana Hewertson

Roxana (Roxi) Hewertson is known as the "Dear Abby of Leadership". Through her consultation business, Highland Consulting Group, Inc., she mentors business owners and leaders, answering questions, bringing them into the fold of a community and offers a free assessment tool called the Leadership Wheel. The business is based in Trumansburg, NY, but serves customers all over the country.

Nine years ago, Roxi started her business with no clients, but a passion to help others. "I've learned to trust my instincts and listen when I have a strong sense it's time to make a shift. When people around me began asking more often for my help and I discovered how much I loved this work, I knew I'd have to take the risk eventually," she shared.

Since starting the business, her executive coaching business has increased mainly from word of mouth. Her business has been featured by some big hitters like Forbes, Fox News and Business News Daily. You might think with that kind of exposure that she works with huge Fortune 500 companies. However, Roxi's real passion is working with mid-size businesses and teaching those leaders how to make a company thrive.

When asked what helped her find success, she was very clear on the traits needed to run a thriving consultation business. "Laser focused and clear vision, non-stop hard work, resilience, flexibility, great clients, fun, and a very strong family support system that never let me doubt myself."

Securing Success

Phrantceena Halres

Phrantceena Halres, founder, chairman and CEO of TPS Global Security (TPSG), is the first woman to own a nuclear security business. During her time as CEO of TPSG, Halres saw more than $60 million in revenue. Halres saw a need for nuclear security and started the business. By June of 2002, the company was staffing nuclear plants. Today, the company staffs around 300 employees, had an annual 2012 revenue of $11 million and is still growing annually.

Her company was awarded the 2013 Small Business Institute for Excellence in Commerce (SBIEC) North Carolina Excellence Award.

In addition to helping secure our nation's nuclear assets, Halres recently added a division to her business called the National Security Begins with You Tour. Through this educational program, she is working to help secure our schools, the nation's borders and even neighborhoods.

She credits her success to "the manner in which we managed relationships with external and internal stakeholders. It's all about human capitalization. That is the core of everything. You can talk about numbers all day, but if you don't have relationships, then you don't have anything," said Halres.

Getting the Word Out One Client at a Time

Merilee Kern

Kern Communications is owned by Merilee Kern. This boutique PR firm serves mainly entrepreneur clients. She managed PR and marketing communications at various large corporations and startups, with direct oversight for very big, expensive, layered New York-based PR agencies her employers had retained. "I quickly realized that my skills equaled and, in many cases, exceeded that of the 'specialists' we had hired and paid a veritable fortune for. This inspired and gave me the confidence to break out on my own and start my own PR business."

The company was founded in 2001, however, Kern has been "marketing and publicizing multi-industry B2B and B2C programs, products and services since 1994". She holds an MBA from Nova Southeastern University. Kern works one-on-one with each business to come up with a promotion plan to help the company achieve growth and success roles.

In 2007, she was named finalist in the Stevie Awards for Women in Business. She believes paying attention to details and being disciplined have helped her succeed. "One must remain motivated even in the toughest of times, and not become complacent and lackadaisical when times are good."

She also believes that entrepreneurs must have the ability to multi-task as they are required to handle multiple situations and roles all at once.

Waging a Battle on Obesity

David Roddenberry

David Roddenberry, co-founder of HealthyWage.com, was working in New York City in finance back in 2008 when the markets collapsed. He needed to find a new career and he'd been reading with interest about cash incentives to lose weight and how successful that model could be. Since he'd studied health care policy in graduate school, the idea interested him.

"Since obesity is such a large public health problem, I saw great opportunity to work on new/different solutions to obesity," said Roddenberry.

Launched in 2009, the company offers incentive-based challenges by working with Fortune 500 companies to encourage employees to reach goals that will help them become healthier, but they also work with individuals. Participants pay a fee each month for three months. For example, to join the team challenge, you pay $25 a month for three months or $75 total. Cash prizes vary based on goals and accomplishments. Weighing in requires either recording a weigh-in at home or going to a local participating gym for a weigh-in. Participants can win $100 for achieving a healthy BMI and even bigger prizes for winning challenges.

According to Yahoo Finance, in 2011, the company's membership grew 500%.

The brilliance of this company is that they earn money through partnerships with companies, who save money on healthcare costs if employees are healthier, and by advertising to the dieters signed up through them. Roddenberry shares the keys to continued success, saying, "There are many, many road blocks to success. I do not allow any of the road blocks to affect my belief in the size of the opportunity or our ability to execute against it as a team."

Plan to Succeed

As CEO Phrantceena Halres told LoveToKnow, "Entrepreneur success depends on the individual. You shouldn't let other people define who you are. And it's not all about revenue. It's about whether you can provide the supply for what the market demands. Figure out how to fail, first. Then you will succeed. Entrepreneurship is different from an institution. It's about following your passion and your own vision."

Entrepreneur Success Stories