How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m an entrepreneur, but it’s not a job – it’s my calling.”
That’s the kind of passion that encourages people to start their own businesses. It’s an alluring promise – you can carve out your own space and work on what truly drives you. But how do you find that calling in the first place? For some, it’s a matter of talent fit and opportunity. Others face hardship and come out determined to make a difference in the world.
I asked nine entrepreneurs to share their journeys and reveal what encouraged them to forge a path in their unique industries.
Find your calling as an entrepreneur!
Digital nomads and remote work
Rachel Azaroff, CEO and founder, 312 Society:
The idea for my business, 312 Society, came from a combination of personal experiences. 312 Society is an online community and marketplace of digital tools, resources and partnerships curated to support every step of your three-to-12-month nomadic journey. I’ve always had an affinity for helping people make the most of their lives.
The idea for 312 Society was actually sparked in late 2020 when I sold half of my belongings, took a month-long leave of absence and drove cross-country from Seattle to my family in North Carolina. I had firsthand experience with all that goes into living nomadically, and many people from my network reached out to me for advice. It was then that I knew there was something bigger I could do for people looking to live on the go.
I decided to take the plunge with 312 Society in May 2021 after conducting market research. I learned that the group of people we could serve was much larger than those taking a sabbatical or leave from work. From remote workers to retirees, there is an appetite among many different groups of people to live nomadically.
Legacy videos and family documentary production
Lauren Ferrara, Founder, Why Wait Stories:
I spent my 20’s and 30’s working in TV newsrooms, a job I adored. It felt more like a calling than a job. Becoming an evening news anchor in Colorado was what I always wanted, and I enjoyed every minute of it. But the part I loved most was sitting down on someone’s couch, finding out who they are and what makes them tick. I wanted to learn about the legacy they hoped to leave behind.
When my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer, I wanted to interview him so that my child, who was just a baby at the time, would know him through his stories. I wish I could say I have this beautiful film my kids can watch, but I don’t. I waited, and now I’m on a mission to help other people preserve their legacies before it’s too late. Why Wait Stories turns two on April 2nd, 2022, what would have been my dad’s 72nd birthday. I haven’t looked back!
Writing, editing and proofreading for self-publishing authors
Tenita C. Johnson, CEO, So It Is Written:
I started my editorial, writing and publishing company because I was not only passionate about writing, but I was tired of seeing typos and errors in self-published books. As a person who thrives on excellence and quality service, I wanted to use my skills to help authors stand out in the marketplace. Just because someone is a self-published author doesn’t mean their project has to look like a DIY project. I’ve had the company for 12 years, but I was “pushed” into my purpose when I was laid off last from corporate America on July 4, 2017. Now, I have a new definition and meaning for Independence Day. Today, I help speakers and coaches package their expertise into a bestselling book and build a brand around that one book.
Eco-friendly construction resources
Corinne Segura, Business Owner, My Chemical-Free House Consulting:
I started my website about green building materials because I was building an eco-friendly tiny house. I noticed that, at that time, the information I needed to build was not online. I’m someone that likes to organize information, so I found a need that I could meet – to organize that information and make it available.
While I worked on the website and furthered my education in construction, it became a passion project as much as a job. That’s how the website and consulting grew into a successful business in a field that was new to me. It grew slowly, steadily and organically from a part-time side gig into a full-time job.
Adelle Archer, Co-Founder and CEO, Eterneva:
My journey in this industry began after experiencing the deep personal loss of my dear friend and mentor. I was looking for a new way to memorialize their remarkable life, but I found the memorial options for ashes and remembrance underwhelming.
After an extensive search, and all of the emotions attached to it, I decided to create a more meaningful experience. I wanted one that could live up to the memory of the loved ones we cherished and acknowledge the tremendous impact they had on our lives. It was through this terrible loss that my business began.
Bea Chan, Founder, AKITA ‘A Kick In The Ass’ Agency:
I decided to “take the plunge” and launched into the psychedelic industry in Spring 2021. I was in Mexico, diving deep into sacred plant ceremonies. It became crystal clear to me that I didn’t find meaning in helping my old seven- to eight-figure E-commerce clients make even more money.
At the same time, I realized that I personally participated in and passionately believed in the healing benefits of psychedelics, when done with intentional use. I mean, it’s hard to deny when I see the positive changes in myself!
So, I decided to use my marketing superpowers for good, and now I help female psychedelic coaches expand their heart-based business with web design, branding and marketing automation. I find so much more fulfillment in what I do and who I help now!
Orly Zeewy, Facilitator of Lightbulb Moments, Zeewy Brands:
I grew up on three continents and four countries. Each time, I had to learn new languages, and as a result, I became very adept at reading body language. When you don’t know a language, you have to pay attention to subtle forms of communication. That skill led me to the work I do, helping companies clarify their why and communicate it clearly to their ideal customers.
In addition, my personal identity – who am I and where am I from – has always been a challenge to answer without going into my whole history. I have been doing “identity’ work my whole life. It was a natural progression into a career, first as a graphic designer, and now for the last 20 years as a brand consultant. I love the process of getting to know a company and helping them translate their ‘why’ into marketing language.
But it wasn’t until I realized that I was particularly drawn to startups that I landed on the work that I’m most passionate about. My father was an entrepreneur, and I grew up watching him struggle to build a sustainable company. When I work with founders, I think not only of helping the founder but the impact that their success or failure could have on their family. For me, It’s not just about business, it’s personal.
Bonnie Tyler, CEO, Airigan Solutions, LLC; Founder, Negg Egg Products:
Like many new inventions, the inspiration came from a moment of my frustration. One evening, I agreed to bring a dozen deviled eggs to a party; however, I grew frustrated as I peeled off the shells – and parts of the egg! I love deviled eggs and honestly thought inventing a portable hard-boiled egg peeler for consumer use would be a part-time hobby.
Deviled eggs serve as a special reminder of my humble beginnings. I decided it was time to launch because I saw a dreaded kitchen task and recognized an unmet need to address a major pain point in meal prepping for home cooks. An opportunity at my local library allowed me to create a 3D-printed prototype of the Negg Egg Peeler, which makes the task of peeling eggs fast, easy and fun. As a grandmother turned inventor, I’ve proved that it’s never too late to develop a big idea!
Emotional development tools for children
Anna Schwengle, Founder, Owl & Oak:
Growing up as a young child with ADD in the ‘80s was no cakewalk, to say the least. At that time, nobody cared or talked about mental health in children, which left me with an overwhelmed mother, school bullies and dismissive teachers.
When I turned 40, I decided to embark on a deep emotional pilgrimage. Why did it feel like my childhood experiences were still in full control over my life? I thought about how different our childhoods could have been if society gave our parents the permission to ask for help and the tools to deal with their children’s emotions – as well as their own. It could have normalized discussions about mental and emotional health and celebrated parenting as a team effort rather than a competition.
So I went out and founded Owl & Oak. A place where we can generate conversations that scare us. Actively seek to create more safe spaces where we’re free to talk about our children’s emotions and our parenting struggles without shame. To connect more deeply with ourselves and with our children.
Looking for more insights on starting your entrepreneurial journey? Read “Ah-ha” Moments: The Inspiration Behind Starting a Business.