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Small Business Success Stories

Posted Friday, February10, 2012

When economic hardships befall the business landscape, it can be disheartening, to say the least. We've all heard stories of a promising venture that fell short, a circumstance of being perhaps in the right place but sadly at the wrong time.

But we hear a lot of good news in the business world, too. Every day, we meet new entrepreneurs who have made success their story. We find inspiration from their experience, and, rather than ruminate over the remains of what didn't work for some, we'd like to celebrate what did work for others. Courtesy of Inc.com, we introduce you to ten small business success stories, which tell the tale of turning an idea into an enterprise.

Chris Zane of Zane's Cycles

    At age 12, Chris Zane began repairing bikes in his parents' garage. Four years later, he took over the lease of a failing bike shop, borrowing $23,000 from his Grandfather at 15% interest. His first year gave him $56,000 in sales, and this year he expects to bring in $21 million.

Liane Weintraub and Shannan Swanson of Tasty Brand

    In the 80s, Diane Keaton starred in Baby Boom, a film depicting a mother who launches a gourmet baby food line from her kitchen table to potentially every grocery shelf in the country. Meet Liane Weintraub and Shannan Swanson, the real-life women who have done something similar, but with an organic twist. Their Tasty Brand brand is available at Whole Foods, Fairway, Tops, and other chains, and is set to chart $2.5 million in sales this year.

George Vlagos of Oak Street Bootmakers

    His father was a cobbler who wanted him to seek a less-difficult profession, but George Vlagos's quest for a pair of quality shoes returned him to his father's craft. With global sales soaring, there's now a six-week wait list for a pair of his boots.

Limor Fried of Adafruit Industries

    With a masters in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT, Limor Fried was poised to do something spectacular, and she did. Her creation, Adafruit Industries, sells do-it-yourself electronics kits designed to equip customers with the resources they need to become innovators. From a $10,000 seed, Adafruit Industries now ships between 150 to 200 orders daily.

Kenny Lao and David Weber of Rickshaw Dumpling

    It started as an entry in a business plan competition in 2004. That business plan may have placed second, but Kenny Lao and David Weber took the idea and opened their first store in 2005. After a second store opened and nearly bankrupted the pair, they took their chances with a food truck with much greater success. Today, Rickshaw Dumpling employs 70 people.

Erin Baker's Wholesome Baked Goods

    Set-backs can be a company's undoing, or they can be backwards pull before the forward thrust that launches you to great success. At least, that's the way (we can't help ourselves) the cookie crumbled for Erin Baker. In 1994, she started baking healthy breakfast cookies; five years later, a fluke of communication pushed her product into the Weight Watchers spotlight as a 2 point treat, catapulting her staff from two to 100 in 1999 alone; then, Weight Watchers changed their system and the company lost about 60% of its distribution. Where did the turn-around occur? Baker turned her sights to a new market with new products, leaving the diet niche behind.

Scott Harrison of charity: water

    A vacation typically brings rest, relaxation, and respite from the daily grind, and for Scott Harrison, a revelation: despite having all he ever could want in life, he wasn't satisfied. Two years after that vacation in Uruguay, the 30-year-old Harrison founded charity: water that has, to-date, brought clean, safe drinking water to 1,794,983 people in 19 countries. The next rung in his charitable ladder is to raise $2 billion to help 100 million people in the next 10 years.

Jason Toews and Dustin Coupal of GasBuddy.com

    This is a tale of perseverance: Jason Toews and Dustin Coupal launched and subsequently nurtured GasBuddy.com for nearly a decade before mobile apps hit the mainstream. Now, over 6 million users have downloaded the app for iPhone and Android phones and it is expected that the number of users who access GasBuddy from their mobile will surpass those who access it online.

Oren Bloostein of Oren's Daily Roast Coffee and Tea

    It all began in 1979, when a then 23-year-old Oren Bloostein was miserable at his retail job. He bided his time, saving funds, and in 1986, he opened Oren's Daily Roast on Manhatten’s Upper East Side. Fast-forward twenty-five years to today, where Oren's Daily Roast is a near $10 million business.

Joanna Meiseles of Snip-its

    Any parent knows the heart-swelling emotions that accompany their child's series of firsts: their first smile; their first word; their first step. But it was her son's first haircut that pushed Joanna Meiseles to a new brain-child: says Meiseles, she wanted to create "the most amazing place for a kid to get a haircut." And then she did. Snip-Its is the largest kid-centric salon chain in the nation with 63 locations and plans for expansion to the U.K.

Read their complete small business success stories at Inc.com, and we'd love to hear about yours, too. Be sure to join us on Facebook and Twitter to continue the conversation.