8 successful business stories where entrepreneurs overcame adversity

8 successful business stories where entrepreneurs overcame adversity

The economic forecast for 2023 indicates that this year will be a tough one for many. However, there are plenty of entrepreneurs who have gone through adversity and achieved their goals, so here are 8 successful business stories to provide some entrepreneurial inspiration.

1. James Dyson’s 5,126 failed prototypes

James Dyson is one of the UK’s best entrepreneur success stories. Dyson’s name is synonymous with the vacuum cleaner, and his eponymous company employs more than 14,000 people and has a presence in more than 80 countries.

However, before becoming a household name and creating the best-selling bagless vacuum in the US, he went through 5,126 failed prototypes and 15 years’ worth of savings. In an incredible showing of persistence, he finally got the recipe for success right on the 5,127th try, and the rest, as they say, is history.

2. Fires, floods and The Great Recession

Rachel Watkyn founded the ethical packaging firm Tiny Box Company right before the Great Recession of 2008, and in addition to battling economic hardship from the outset, has had to overcome being blacklisted from Google, their first warehouse catching on fire, and another being flooded.

Despite this, the Tiny Box Company is another UK entrepreneur’s success story. The sustainable packaging business has been profitable since its second year of trading and Watkyn has managed to grow it by 40% YoY for the past 15 years.

3. Bouncing back from bankruptcy to become one of Sweden’s best entrepreneur stories

Back in the 90s, Swedish entrepreneur Konrad Bergström was riding high as the founder of a successful distribution business for board sports brands and apparel. However, after making several significant mistakes, he found himself in considerable debt and was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2004.

Four years later, in the middle of the 2008 financial crash, he founded Zound Industries, a tech company that produces electronics for Marshall Amplification and Adidas, leading the company to record revenues of £157m in 2019. The serial entrepreneur is also the founder of electric boat manufacturer X Shore.

4. From ridicule to one of the most sought-after firms in its industry

Coming from a family of teachers, Sean Reddington was keen to do well in his GCSEs. Sadly, things didn’t quite work out as planned and in what turned out to be a key moment in this successful entrepreneur story, Sean was mocked for his GCSE results over text.

However, this spurred him on to prove them wrong and led to him founding THRIVE Learning, an intuitive learning and skills platform. As its CEO, Sean has grown the company without any private equity backing or VC funding to one of the most highly sought-after firms in its industry: in the first half of 2022 alone, Reddington turned down an incredible 83 acquisition attempts for THRIVE.

5. Tackling teenage trauma

Joseph Williams is the founder and CEO of Clu, the SaaS platform that helps organisations to inclusively build high-performing and diverse teams. However, Williams lost his mother and was kicked out of his home as a teenager. It wasn’t until he was fifteen years into his career that he realised the trauma from these events was stopping him from reaching his full potential.

Williams also had to deal with bias and discrimination at work, as well as imposter syndrome but has successfully overcome these obstacles to become one of the UK’s most successful small business stories.

6. Raising funds whilst preparing to raise a child

Many entrepreneurs have had to juggle parenthood whilst trying to grow their businesses. Many have also faced the challenge of trying to acquire external funding. However, not many have had to go through the already difficult process of raising funds whilst pregnant.

The same can’t be said for Plenish founder, Kara Rosen, who managed to attract one bid from 30 investors and also had her team’s concerns to address during her pregnancy. Today, the native New Yorker has grown her B Corp-certified plant-based juice company to revenues of $30m in 2021.

7. Multiple promotions whilst battling Parkinson’s

Gary Shaughnessy is one of the most inspiring UK entrepreneur success stories. The current Chair of Parkinson’s UK and the Z Zurich Foundation, Shaughnessy has been living with Parkinson’s disease since 2015.

But despite dealing with the incredible difficulties that came with his diagnosis, Gary was promoted to the CEO of Global Life at insurance giant Zurich in the year he was diagnosed. The following year, he was promoted again to CEO for Europe, Middle East & Africa. Gary has since stepped down from the role, but the non-exec regularly takes part in various fundraising challenges to raise money for Parkinson’s UK.

8. Going from homeless to a household name

Today, Inger Ellen Nicolaisen is a self-made multi-millionaire. The Founder of Nikita Hair, Nicolaisen has successfully grown the company into a global chain with over 150 locations and more than 1,000 employees.

However, the Norwegian entrepreneur has had to overcome more obstacles than most in order to get where she is today. Raised in a small Norwegian town by an alcoholic father, she became a mother at the age of 15 and has even struggled with homelessness, an experience which she says drove her to develop the skills required to succeed in the business world.

Read More