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Meet Your Heroes: 11 Small Business Success Stories

high-five-business-success

No two small business success stories are ever going to be the same. 

Most small business owners that make it big will tell you that it is all about hard work, determination and an air-tight business plan.

But, aren’t you sick of hearing generic advice about company culture and values for small businesses already? 

This time, we’re going to analyze small business success stories and the entrepreneurs behind them, to give you a real education in how businesses make it big.

1. Zoom, by Eric Yuan

Zoom is a video calling software company that is as popular in high school as it is in Silicon Valley as it is on Wall Street in New York.

For a decade, videos, video calling, and conference calling have been getting progressively better on mobile through apps like Facetime and WhatsApp.

It’s part of the rapid switch to mobile devices, which now contributes to 51% of all web traffic. But stop for a second and realize that means that 49% of video calling is still on computers.

Sure, working from your mobile is likely coming soon. But, right now, millions of people require computers for work. 

Since 2019, Zoom has increased its quarterly revenue by over 1000% because it didn’t take its product for granted on desktop or on mobile. 

When we needed to talk with our team members, friends, and family members across the country the most, Zoom was the best option on the market at exactly the right time.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Don’t ignore existing markets
  • Always invest in user-experience

2. Arianna Huffington

Co-founder of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington redefined content for the social media generation.

From day one, Huffington Post stories were designed to be shareable on social media. That meant making posts shorter and content more viral at the same time.

It was this effort that brought the company from a small venture with a few journalists into a business success with millions of visitors every month.

CEO Arianna Huffington realized that the engaging content of a blog format could also work for news and politics. 

Her stories all but transformed new media journalism by aggregating popular content from more established news sources and presenting it in a viral format.

By stamping its logo across every story that went out, The Huffington Post soon established vital customer trust in their content.

At its peak, The Huffington Post was bringing in around 100 million unique users every single month. 

Actionable takeaways:

  • Focus on customer trust
  • Established brands aren’t always effective brands

3. Red Rabbit, by Rhys Powell

It might sound like the plot to a straight-to-DVD movie, but the truth is that Red Rabbit has been feeding schoolchildren across the USA for over 15 years.

Rhys Powell’s company didn’t stop there though. His values as an entrepreneur saw his company move from catering services into education and charitable causes too.

Powell had a computer science education, but decided to start a business providing healthy school meals in New York.

Powell knew that the US National School Lunch Program would reimburse schools up to around $3 per meal.

All Powell had to do was prove he could provide healthy food for under $3 per child, and he knew he would be looking at a win-win of massive proportions.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Own your business values from day one
  • Always look for new funding sources for your small business

4. DC Mosquito Squad, by Damian Sanchez

Pest control isn’t the most glamorous of business ownership opportunities, but Damian Sanchez knew that the people of Washington D.C would always need the services of his company.

The problem was that even as a small business he wasn’t able to keep track of all his leads in Washington D.C., and that was putting a limit on his businesses productivity.

Sanchez invested in software to automate his sales and marketing options and take care of everything in between. 

He started tracking data and found he could onboard his team faster, renew customers with just an email address, and scale his small business into something much, much bigger.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Invest in automation software
  • Analyze your company pain points for growth solutions

5. GooRoo, by Scott Lee

Gooroo’s value statement couldn’t be clearer: “everyone deserves a good education.”

As a small business owner, Scott Lee had a problem: how do you tackle something like education?

His business solution was to draw upon his own experiences of tutorship in high school. Incredibly, even at that time he managed thousands of Korean students with mentors.

Lee refused the one-size-fits all approach. Realizing that no two students have the same needs, devised a small business platform to connect students with the perfect tutor.

These days, the GooRoo team includes over 1000 tutors in New York alone, with more in training across the country.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Use your unique experiences to your advantage
  • Build your small business on airtight values

6. The Presentation Source, by Laure and James Widmaier

Even in the saturated market of the late 90s tech boom, Laure & James Widmaier saw a space for opportunity in audiovisual services.

True entrepreneurs understand that if you can innovate effectively, then there is always room for a small business to grow into a large one.

Rather than focusing on selling to other businesses, The Presentation Source directly targeted government sector organizations that often have big budgets and one eye on the future.

After 20 years integrating its technology into large government organizations, outside investors finally saw this success story for the huge opportunity it really is and bought out the founders.

Overnight, Laure and James Widmaier went from entrepreneurs and small business owners to multi-millionaires.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Research your niche thoroughly, there is always space for innovation
  • Use new technology to solve old problems

7. The Body Shop

In 1976, Anita Roddick opened the first Body Shop in Brighton, England with 15 products and no training or experience in business. 

A small business no more, these days The Body Shop boasts more than 3000 stores in over 70 countries. 

Roddick’s business success was built on her experience and her ethics. Her travels had brought her into contact with women around the world and the natural, reusable products they used to clean and care for their bodies.

Just like that, her small business was born and in a time of growing resentment towards big cosmetics companies, stories like Roddick’s began to resonate with the general public.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Pay attention to social trends
  • Analyze your competitors for pain points and complacency  

8. Canva

Entrepreneurs and Canva co-founders Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht are sitting on a 6 billion dollar business. 

The DIY graphic design software will be familiar to most people, and you’ve probably used it yourself. After all, Canva is free and so much easier to use than Adobe’s creative suite.

Just like Slack, Canva had to overcome the freemium paradox. Millions of people love your service, but millions of people will never, ever pay for it either.

Business stories like this are everywhere in the SaaS era, but Perkins had a plan. Invest in UX, offer professional tools, and a subscription will be cheaper than hiring a graphic designer.

In the age of social media, every small business needs slick graphics. If you’ve got an eye for design, you can do it yourself in minutes without having to hire external help.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Invest in UX
  • Try alternative business models

9. Getty Images

Whenever you read a page online, you’re going to see images too. Look at the small print and the chances are that it will read something like this:

 ‘Getty Images. All rights reserved. Copyright 2021’

As small business stories go, the experience of entrepreneurs and founders Mark Getty and Jonathan Klein is a classic.

In the 90s stock photos were just as prevalent as they are today, but with no platform to licence them on the web in existence the pair spotted a huge gap in the market and became the very first business to do so.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Identify fragmented markets and take advantage of them
  • Research new technologies that can impact small businesses

10. SurfHappy

SurfHappy is a small business with one goal: spread positivity.

Founders Erin Champ and Josh Hallmark knew everything about their community and used it to build a surf brand.

As quickly as they could, they put together an eCommerce site and started selling their products.

As expected, the efforts of the two friends paid off, the clothes were an instant sell out, and the experience was a success. 

Now, the founders are slowly expanding their line and staying within the needs of their community.

Actionable takeaways:

  • Build your brand around a community
  • Only invest in products that you really understand 

11. Lapsa

Agne Kairyte Founder Lapsa
The creator of Lapsa, Agne Kairyte-Timinskiene

Lapsa is a sustainable fashion brand from Lithuanian designer and founder Agne Kairyte-Timinskiene.

Breaking into such a saturated niche is never easy, but by focusing on providing high quality designs and cruelty free products, Lapsa soon made a name for itself.

With just an online store and a powerful brand identity, Lapsa went from a hobby to a full time business.

Kairyte-Timinskiene credits her brand values for the rise of her company, constantly communicating the things that make her products unique has brought her the success she deserves. 

Actionable takeaways:

  • Communicate your unique selling point in your business branding
  • Focus on one aspect of your niche and perfect it

What are you waiting for?

Most of these people started small with a bright idea and grew their business into what it is today.

Focus on your own experience, use what makes you unique to identify a niche, and do it in the way that no one else knows how to do.

If you don’t know how to get started in business, or think that you don’t have the money then check out our guides for new entrepreneurs. 

It doesn’t take much to start that online shop or that blog just like The Huffington Post. And with Zyro, you’ll be up and running in minutes.

Written by

Author avatar

Damien

Damien is a self-professed, semi-obsessed, word-freak that wants nothing more than to tell small-business stories in a big way. Always scouring the market to find the right tools for the job, he is focused on finding creative ways to bring them to the people. When not writing, Damien is known to be a massive music bore, amateur-radio enthusiast, and woodland wanderer.

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