3 Inspiring Stories of Entrepreneurs Building Businesses from Nothing


When you have nothing to start with, you might think that you can’t go anywhere. But that’s not true. There are many people who have started with nothing and have created thriving businesses with little more than a great idea and a passion for what they do. So if you don’t have venture capital or a way to mass produce products, don’t let that be the reason that you hold back from your entrepreneurial dreams. Here are 5 inspiring stories of entrepreneurs just like you, who started with nothing and built their own business empires.

Little Passports

In January 2009, best friends Amy Norman and Stella Ma went to an investor conference to pitch their idea for a new product. They were looking for $500,000 to help pay for marketing and production of a kids’ activity kit that they called Little Passports. The subscription-based business model would deliver geography-themed activity kits to children each month, for about $11 per month. They were shot down by every one of the 75 potential investors there, and were told that they simply couldn’t make it work.

But 8 years later, they have four product lines and are grossing tens of millions in revenue each year. Failing to get investors didn’t stop them from growing their business. In fact, they say that it actually had some benefits; with no venture capital to spend, they had to learn to be very careful with the funds they did have, and not waste it on unnecessary expenses. “We had to stand on our own two feet early on,” Norman says. “We’ve had to use a lot of financial discipline.”

Now, these two moms have a highly successful product that educates and engages kids all over the world, and a thriving business to boot. The moral of this story: Don’t let rejection from investors get you down. Pursue your entrepreneurial dreams anyways.

Puzzle Break

Some entrepreneurs hold back from pursuing their business ideas because they don’t think they’re qualified to start a business. They think they need to graduate Cum Laude with an MBA in order to be a business owner. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Take a look at Nate Martin. He’s the founder and producer of the iconic escape room Puzzle Break, which has grown into a global sensation.

Smith was far from a stellar student. In fact, he calls himself the “worst student to ever succeed in business.” He explains: “Prior to founding Puzzle Break, I completed my undergraduate degree. After 9 years. And one drop-out. With a stellar 2.59 GPA. Additionally and unsurprisingly, I was rejected by all but one MBA program. Thankfully, I’ve had a better time with business than with academia.”

While a business-based education certainly doesn’t help if you want to found a company of your own, it’s far from necessary. In fact, most of the skills you need as an entrepreneur can’t be learned in a textbook or a classroom; it takes hands-on, real-life experience to get good at running a business. And the only way to develop those skills is to start that business you’ve been dreaming of.

OVENS International

Speaking of starting from nothing, let’s paint a picture: $30,000 in student debt, unemployed, and working out of your parents’ garage. That’s pretty much as close to rock bottom as you can get. But that was just the groundwork for OVENS International, a multimillion-dollar, global consulting firm that also teaches others how to start their own consulting businesses.

When Sam Ovens, the founder of OVENS International and Consulting.com, started out, he had no business ideas, no money, and no clue where to go from there. But, according to him, that’s the perfect starting place for a consulting firm. After his initial success developing an app, he was able to build his global corporation from the ground up—and let’s just say, he doesn’t run it out of his parents’ garage.

So draw a little inspiration from these 3 stories and remember: starting with nothing simply means you have a blank slate on which to paint your future.

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