The Ultimate Secret for Successful Startups

If necessity is the mother of invention, you could say unfortunate circumstances are the father of innovation. Life never goes as expected, and when you’re trying to run a business, that can be a good thing. Some of the greatest examples of successful startups came when clever entrepreneurs adapted to the unexpected. See what lessons in success you can learn from these amazing startups.

Wine & Design

designThere are some life events we have time to prepare for, like having a new baby. And there are some we’re often blindsided by, like being laid off. When Harriet Mills found herself in a situation where both overlapped, she had almost no savings to fall back on. So, she packed up and moved back in with her parents.

Just kidding.

She took a deep breath, had a glass of wine, and made plans to start her own company. Inspired by her experiences at a local paint-and-sip studio in Charleston, South Carolina, Mills opened Wine & Design, a place where friends get together, drink some great wine, and paint their next masterpiece.

“I call it my brushstroke of luck,” Mills said. “It hit me that this concept of group painting for fun is a largely untapped business opportunity. I didn’t create a masterpiece painting on my Charleston trip. But I eventually created a master plan that would make this business take off.”

Mills took an experience she enjoyed and replicated it in her own community. What started as a single-studio startup in Raleigh, North Carolina, grew to a franchise with close to 100 locations across the nation, earned Mills the Triangle Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Award in 2016, and led her to strike a deal with Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary in 2017.

startupEveryone knows you never go into business with family, especially not your significant other. Nellie Akalp decided to ignore this advice. Shortly after marrying her husband Philip in 1997, the two started a new business,, in their living room. As you might expect, it was a rocky road, and 8 years later, they left their company — after selling it to Intuit for $20 million!

“We took a few years off,” says Nellie. “In that down time, we realized we were too young and too motivated to retire early!”

The Akalps could have retired at the ages of 30, but they chose a different path. Entrepreneurs at heart, Nellie and Philip jumped into their next adventure with in 2009, creating a website which helps small businesses file all the necessary paperwork. Now with 4 kids and 2 companies under their belts, Nellie and Philip are certainly grateful they didn’t let everyone else’s doubts stop them from pursuing their startup dreams.

The Newsletter Pro

Team ribbon cutting at Newsletter Pro in BoiseYes, we’re going to toot our own horn just a little bit.

If you’ve been on our newsletter list for a while, you might have heard this one before: At 16 years old, Shaun Buck learned his ex-girlfriend was pregnant, making him a soon-to-be dad. Shaun quickly realized his part-time gig as the dancing mouse at Chuck E. Cheese’s wasn’t going to cover diaper costs. Hustling to make ends meet, Shaun opened his own pager company — right as pagers were going out the door.

Far from discouraged, Shaun went on to sell hot dogs, Apple computers, and even run a dry-cleaning establishment. But this self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” found his true calling in print media when his startup, The Newsletter Pro, opened its doors in 2011. Since then, Shaun earned the title of GKIC Marketer of the Year in 2014, saw his company grow over 2,975% in just 3 years, and saw his company voted one of the “Best Places to Work in Idaho” 3 years in a row.

The 1 Way to Succeed in Business

never give upThese successful startups are just a handful of business success stories that start with entrepreneurs taking action in an inspired moment. In just the last few months, we’ve also looked at the incredible stories behind Trader Joe’s and the Power Rangers. And when you read all these stories, you notice they have something in common. They’re evidence that there is no one way to succeed in business.

No matter what online blogs might claim, you won’t find a one-size-fits-all secret that’s going to send your company into the stratosphere. But you can follow the example of every successful entrepreneur: Don’t give up.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t walk away from a bad deal when you see it. Instead, when life tries to “sweep the leg” like Johnny Lawrence from The Karate Kid, take a page from Daniel-san and crane-kick life in the face.

Don’t let the doubters hold you back, and never let anyone tell you that you can’t succeed because of your lot in life. If you look at the hand you’ve been dealt and find the deck stacked against you, will you fold? Or will you go all-in and fight your way to success?

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