Company Founding Stories That Will Capture Your Heart and Make You Believe Anything is Possible
From the outside looking in, it’s not difficult to see why entrepreneurship is often glamorized. We love to see visionary leaders dream big, bring a passion or vision to life, and achieve remarkable success.
But what we often don’t see are the challenges that inevitably accompany entrepreneurship. Some entrepreneurs start their companies out of a painful personal challenge, while others struggle to find the funds to gain traction or compete with companies with deeper pockets.
Yet, despite these challenges, many founders dare to dream and achieve success despite all odds. Take it from the following 37 women leaders from the Dreamers & Doers collective. Before they started their businesses, many were industry newcomers, had underdog stories, or faced extreme challenges. But they tackled it all with unwavering courage, a deep sense of resilience, and good old-fashioned hard work.
If you’re on an entrepreneurial journey yourself and are feeling defeated, take a moment to read these inspiring company founding stories. We’re confident they will capture your heart and instill the belief in you that anything is truly possible.
Founder of Hugimals World, an award-winning, weighted stuffed animal for adults and kids that “hugs you back” to ease anxiety and bring calm.
My story: I created Hugimals for my own anxiety. I had a weighted blanket, but I found it way too hot and smothering. So I started using my partner Mike's arm as a mini weighted blanket to help me fall asleep, but that wasn't exactly a sustainable solution. When I couldn’t find a design-forward weighted plush, I created Hugimals.
Creating a product during a pandemic was not easy. I faced many hurdles and setbacks, including production delays and early advisors steering me in the wrong direction for the company. I had to extricate the company from a bad partnership and start over, which delayed the launch by nearly a year. But the feedback about Hugimals’ efficacy from our pilot program in hospitals was so incredible, I knew I had to leave my full-time job at an established tech startup to become a full-time founder.
Founder and CEO of PathMatch, the first career navigation app for Gen Z and talent development and recruiting platform for the companies that hire them.
My story: I spent 20 years in the recruiting industry helping build iconic companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Warby Parker. Over that time, I filled more than 10,000 positions and screened over 4 million resumes. My experiences gave me a front-row seat to the differences between career winners and losers, and also gave me the unique experience to build a career navigation app that can change the lives of millions of people.
Despite my previous successes, I had to learn how to fundraise and overcome the obstacles that female entrepreneurs face. I pitched 126 investors to raise our $2.2 million pre-seed round, getting more no's than yes's. To overcome the no's, I worked with a pitch coach to tell our story more effectively to investors and I learned the nuances of the fundraising game.
Founder and CEO of Joy Meets Home, an interior design and lifestyle brand on a mission to create approachable and elevated interiors that inspire a sense of joy.
My story: I created Joy Meets Home from my own need of wanting help with my home design but not being able to find good quality and approachable design help within my budget. Interior design is seen as a luxury. As a minority homeowner, I didn't see many people who looked like me in the space and I didn't find many people willing to help if I wasn't providing a six-figure luxury budget.
There is a billion dollar buying value in the home design/decor industry and there's a guarantee most don't have a six-figure budget for upgrades. That's why I wanted to create a space where others could feel welcome to shop for home, get design help, and inspiration to achieve a home they love within their budget.
Founder and CEO of THR3EFOLD, a platform offering ethical sourcing and sustainability training for apparel brands.
My story: I was craving more meaning in my career in fashion when I went to Zimbabwe and saw firsthand the need for sustainable employment for parents to provide for their families. I knew I wanted to create a company that helped provide better jobs for people in the supply chain but I wasn't sure how. So I set off for India for a research and development trip.
It was there that I encountered incredible factories employing women rescued from sex trafficking, large H&M factories that provided daycare for employees' kids, and machines that dyed denim with one glass of water. I was amazed at what was possible through safe supply chain jobs. However, their factory websites were terrible, making these factories difficult to find. So I set off to create a platform where brands could easily find ethical factories around the world to make their products. Thus, THR3EFOLD was born.
Founder of Meshin Movement, a brand and story strategy consultancy that weaves narratives to unite people and inspire movement.
My story: I was working as a brand strategist when I had a vision for a meal experience with a narrative of connection woven into it and a pay-it-forward element to benefit community organizations in need. From that moment on, I was pulled by a sense of wanderlust to pursue more connection and meaning in everything I did.
I left my job and started my company, Meshin Movement. I committed to social impact in every aspect of my work, from pledging 10 percent of my profits to the most effective charities, to using my story and strategy resources to create change in the world. My business has been an engine to move me beyond the limitations and “shoulds” that contained me and has allowed me to rewrite my story for the woman I want to be.
Founder of For Sea and Oats, a Brooklyn-based skin and body care brand that formulates all-natural, oat-based products for sensitive skin.
My story: I struggled with severe acne growing up and wanted to share the soothing benefits of colloidal oatmeal with others facing similar issues. Meanwhile, my background in environmental science led me to be concerned about the impact of ocean plastic pollution.
During the 2020 pandemic lockdown, I came up with the idea of starting a company that focused on both issues. I completed a diploma program in organic skincare formulation and took online courses about wholesale/retail before launching the brand.
For the past two years, I've dedicated most of my weekends and evenings to building the business and developing products. We've made significant progress since our launch in 2021, including opening a physical location and expanding to over 15 independent retailers nationwide.
Founder of Vitaminis, a functional food and beverage brand, with great flavor and no added sugar or mystery ingredients.
My story: I was laid off during Covid-19 and started my company when I couldn't find another job. I got pregnant during that time and gave birth to both of my "babies"—company and daughter—in the same month. I found out after the fact that my daughter has a rare genetic condition, causing her to be born deaf and lose her vision over time. Rather than causing me to give up, I take inspiration to build my company knowing I'm showing my daughter that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible, even in the face of daunting challenges.
Founder and CEO of Soapbox Project, a friendly community for busy people to conquer their climate anxiety through a combination of personal responsibility, collective action, and fun.
My story: In November 2018, my partner’s hometown, Paradise, was decimated by the Camp Fire—the deadliest and most destructive fire in the history of California. At the time, I was working only three hours south of Paradise as a tech consultant with Accenture. I had no formal experience in disaster planning, crisis response, or volunteer management. However, days had passed and no one at my company seemed to be mobilizing to respond. Though I was barely a year into my first “real” job, I put together a proposal for leadership and got funding to take a team to the Paradise area for a month to study and assist with community-driven resilience.
This experience made me realize that any ordinary person can have an outsized difference. Thus, the seed for the Soapbox Project was planted. I’m now the leader of a social and environmental justice company that makes it easy to take action on issues you care about!
Founder and CEO of Evergreen Activewear, a mission-driven, sustainable maternity and postpartum activewear brand made by moms for moms.
My story: Evergreen Activewear came out of my deep need for support and comfort in movement during my pregnancy, after an especially dark time in the early pandemic. After months of searching for the right products, I knew I had an opportunity to change the face of the market. I started working with a product and design team on our first sketches the week my son was born, in July 2020 at the height of the pandemic.
Starting a business and having a baby in the same week was honestly insane. I look back on my early postpartum period and wonder how I made it through. Today, I am proud to say I have a super fun kiddo and growing business with a community of supportive folks to keep me grounded.
Founder and CEO of 101 before one, a comprehensive baby-led feeding program created by a team of pediatric experts that helps parents introduce solid food.
My story: As a first-time mom, I had no idea how to introduce solid food to my baby. When our pediatrician didn't give us much direction, I instantly knew I had to do something about it. With the help of a team of pediatric experts, I dedicated all of my free time to self-publishing a printed book on everything parents need to know about serving solids to their baby.
We self-published our book in just six months, and have sold more than 5,000 copies all through social. In a competitive market, we've differentiated ourselves and established 101 before one as a market leader in just two years.
Founder and CEO of Chuan's Promise, a natural skincare brand focused on sustainability and inclusivity.
My story: A few weeks into the pandemic lockdown, my world was turned upside down when my dad fell and was hospitalized. At the age of 27, I became his primary caregiver and medical advocate. While I was caregiving for him, I stopped taking care of myself and the stress impacted my skin and overall health. When I couldn't find options to treat my skin, I created them.
My experience taught me the true importance of self care and made me remember my dad's way of saying goodbye. Before sending me off, instead of saying “bye,” he'd make me promise to take care of myself. Chuan's Promise is named as a dedication to my dad and his request for a promise: a reminder for all of us to take care of ourselves.
Sydney Sherman de Arenas
CEO of Montie & Joie, an ethical home goods and clothing brand that focuses on financially empowering women around the world.
My story: In 2019, I had a growing business, a new business partner, and an opportunity to raise more money than I had dreamed of. When 2020 hit, the funding opportunities dried up, and my business partner started using money in ways that went against my morals. I attempted to undo the partnership, and it ended terribly. I not only lost everything professionally but also financially, which was especially devastating considering I was pregnant at the time.
Since then I have bootstrapped my first business to replace my lost income, built a hostel and restaurant in Guatemala, and started rebuilding the business that was destroyed while also growing a family. We're not in the same position quite yet, but I have learned to do a lot with very little, making me a better entrepreneur every single day. I am on track for even greater success than before.
Founder of Mastermind Business Services, an operations consulting agency supporting small businesses and nonprofits to create the internal infrastructure they need to scale.
My story: I got my first entry-level management job at 17 and became enamored with team leadership and finance. I found out a year later that I was pregnant with my first daughter. By 2020, I had worked my way up the corporate finance ladder to complete burnout and hit a ceiling. I started freelancing right before the pandemic hit my area. Once it did, my job wasn't flexible with my family's needs and I struck out full time on my own. I have entirely bootstrapped my business from the beginning and have been able to create a space for my team and my clients to feel truly supported and create a more meaningful impact themselves.
Founder and CEO of GeekPack®, helping women achieve economic independence through digital and tech skills training.
My story: I used to work for the U.S. Intelligence Community and during my first deployment to Afghanistan, I met my husband. We fell in love, got married, and I moved to the U.K. and became a military wife. This meant leaving my career with the U.S. government and leaving behind career progression.
I started teaching myself tech skills but I wanted to quit so many times because I kept coming across mean and unhelpful people who didn't think I was worthy because I didn't have any formal education. I ended up starting my own online business as a web developer and eventually started GeekPack, where we teach women in-demand tech skills alongside a supportive and encouraging community.
Founder of The Citrine Compass, a boutique travel advisory group that helps busy, sophisticated world explorers create curated, authentic trips.
My story: I had been dreaming, passionately blogging, and working on business plans for my travel company for years but the timing never felt "right" to leave my full-time job. Timing seemed even worse with a three-month old baby who kept me busy, exhausted, and overwhelmed.
As I sat in my chiropractor's office one afternoon nursing my daughter, I realized that my chiro only had one thing adoring the wall. It was a sign that said, "What are you going to do with this one wild life that you have been given?" I came home from my appointment, set about hiring my replacement at work, and started gearing up for my soft launch. Six months later, I was live!
CEO of GSD Solutions, a digital solution hub for small and medium-sized businesses to get more done.
My story: After shutting down my last startup, getting a "real" job was the best next move. I would get in around 8:30 a.m. and all my work would be done by noon. I started to daydream again, to ideate, write, and think. The ideas just wouldn't stop.
On my lunch break on a May afternoon, I went ahead and incorporated my next business. The entrepreneurial bug won again. I didn't tell anyone I was a founder again. I wasn't ready for the public feedback, but I knew in my heart being a founder and working with other business owners was where I was meant to be.
Founder and CEO of BetterMe, a health and wellness platform that caters to over 150 million users by providing a tailored, bio-individual approach to fitness and well-being.
My story: Once as a shy, chubby child, I learned that if you have low self-esteem, society will take advantage of it. Thus, it was hard to believe in any of my ideas.
At 24, I started BetterMe first as a weight loss app, now as a holistic and inclusive health and wellness platform. I was a young, female entrepreneur, trying to earn her right to be trusted. I scaled the company worldwide and tested every possible idea to solve the problems of our clients better. I accepted that if you are persistent enough, your plan B will work, or at least plan D, or W.
Founder and CEO of Brilliantly, wearable technology that delivers full-body, natural-feeling warmth with the press of a button.
My story: Being my mother’s caregiver while she died from breast cancer in her 40s has deeply shaped my identity and sense of purpose. Ten years ago, when I was in bed recovering from my preventative mastectomy, I knew I had to do something more meaningful with my life if I was ever going to let go of my pain.
Through conversations with hundreds of women in the breast cancer community, I became inspired to start Brilliantly, which has been truly bittersweet. The challenge of starting a business has pushed me into a new phase of my personal development and given me proof that I can move through my own pain to create something meaningful.
Founder and CEO of Better Together, galvanizing positive change for purpose-driven organizations through creative strategies, messaging, and branding.
My story: Better Together is my passion, founded with the goal of making a positive impact in the world. I aim to help organizations ensure they are not just providing lip service to social responsibility, but that they are actively taking steps to make a positive impact.
My journey to starting Better Together was not without its challenges; I left my previous job due to a racist employee. Ultimately, I was able to overcome them and achieve my goal of starting a socially-responsible business that could make a real difference.
Founder of The Modern Gardens, a premiere marketplace focused on high-quality brands and beautiful modern products for your indoor and outdoor garden spaces.
My story: I founded The Modern Gardens after my youngest daughter was in the hospital and on a ventilator for eight days with RSV at only five weeks of age. I came home from the hospital, quit my comfy tech job, left half my equity on the table, and decided to take a bet on myself. My perspective on life changed completely and I knew it was time to live my life for me and my family, work on projects that fulfilled me wholly, and provided me with the flexibility to be an amazing mom who my four kids could look up to.
Founder of AOMA Coliving + Coworking, designed to help individuals connect to their life force through nature, inspiration, and interconnection.
My story: I sold my New York apartment to buy a piece of land in 2019 and my first meeting with the architect was the first day of the Covid-19 lockdown. For two years, no bank would talk to me about a construction loan. I kept developing the project, paying for all the fees from my own pocket as I continued to work as a digital marketing consultant with New York-based agencies and direct clients. One big win was finding the most energy and water-efficient material to build with and my architect being able to find a supplier in Portugal.
Finally, in May 2022, I was able to get a construction loan. Then, in December when I started to finally get quotes from the contractors, the prices had gone up. I'm now having to raise additional money to be able to do the project. The obstacles are huge but I believe I will bring this vision to life, even on a slightly different scale or with some changes to the project without compromising its integrity.
Jordan Schanda King
Founder and CEO of Easy Scaling, a consultancy and agency that combines effective strategy with done-for-you execution.
My story: As soon as I started Easy Scaling, I decided to heavily invest in Facebook ads for our marketing strategy by committing to a four-month, multiple-five-figure agency retainer. Two weeks after the investment was made and the strategy was set, I found out I was pregnant with our second kiddo. Any woman juggling motherhood with work knows that pregnancy presents all kinds of unique challenges that can’t be planned for or avoided.
While the timing was overwhelming, I believe it ended up being one of the best things that’s ever happened to me personally and professionally. It gave me clarity on my priorities and forced me to work smarter rather than harder. Ultimately, we were able to build a multi-six-figure agency within the first year and are on track to continue to rapidly scale at just 18 months in.
Founder of Wonder Woman Media, a full-service media firm that specializes in helping female-led or owned businesses with their marketing, social analytics, and event planning.
My story: In 2010, right out of college, I suffered a traumatic brain injury that left me struggling hardcore. I experienced memory loss, cognitive impairments, and learning disabilities. A bachelor of science in psychology would be unhelpful in getting a job, so I turned to my first love: writing. I began editing and blogging. Freelancing for a client or two turned into a full-scale marketing, PR, and event company.
While I have taken on a 9-to-5 to adjust and help with my new married life and children, I continue to bring clients into the ongoing Wonder Woman Media roster. The No. 1 takeaway here is that one must learn the art of the pivot.
Chief Strategist at Realign Consulting, a business strategy firm that helps impact-driven small and micro businesses build sustainable business models that align with their values.
My story: I started my business in 2008 as a newly-divorced mom of two boys under five. This was the height of the financial crisis in our area, and I was leaving a very successful career in commercial banking. My boss wanted me to stay. She assured me that I would be back in three months and I would still have a job waiting for me.
It took me seven years to bring in the same income I had been making in banking. But I’ve never looked back because helping impactful community-minded businesses succeed brings me greater satisfaction than approving loans ever could. Being driven by a vision of what the world could be kept my small team and I going for years before the market started to shift toward values-aligned cultures.
CEO of HAPPYBOND, extending dogs’ quality of life through clean, transparent, and science-backed nutrition.
My story: I am a passionate animal lover and always felt drawn to help them. I am a biotech scientist by training and have been able to create in-vitro test systems to avoid animal testing in rheumatoid arthritis drug research.
When my dog, Tony, suffered from arthritis and could not skateboard anymore, I created a patented Collagen-based joint supplement that brought Tony back on his skateboard. The story inspired other pet owners and celebrities, and so started my brand to help more dogs live healthier and more fulfilling lives!
Founder and CEO of Advocate, a technology platform that helps injured or ill Americans access disability programs and benefits.
My story: April, 2011. I was standing in the parking lot of the rehabilitation hospital and a social worker handed me a list of government programs and said, "Look into these." And that was the only guidance about disability benefits we received after my father's stroke.
Twenty years later, I founded Advocate to fix the broken system that leaves too many families confused, frustrated, and scrambling when they need to file for disability benefits. I've brought together senior government officials, technologists, and private equity to build the solution that's so desperately needed.
Founder and CEO of PositiveHire Inc., connecting Black, Latina, and Indigenous women who are experienced scientists, engineers, and technology professionals to management roles.
My story: In 1989, the devastation of Hurricane Hugo in South Carolina changed the course of my life forever. Witnessing the destruction and displacement of countless families propelled the 12-year-old me to pursue my career as a civil engineer.
As my engineering career advanced, I realized that the engineering construction industry lacked diversity, equity, and inclusivity, making it difficult for Black, Latina, and Indigenous women to succeed or want to stay in the industry. That's why I founded PositiveHire, a platform that aims to increase internal mobility, reduce turnover costs, and provide opportunities for underrepresented employees to showcase their skills for promotions.
Founder of Bliss'd Co, creating easy-to-use journals to help moms live more joyful, fulfilling, and connected lives.
My story: I discovered my love for journaling after the birth of my son in 2019 when I experienced postpartum depression. At the suggestion of my therapist, I started journaling as a tool to help alongside medicine. Both helped immensely—and journaling stuck with me, long after the medicine finished. However, I had a hard time finding an easy-to-use, five-minute journal, so I decided to create one. Three years later, here we are. I took the format that I was using daily and turned it into our Anytime Reflection Journal!
Sally Joy Wolf
Founder and CEO of LightWorks, empowering executives and their teams to flourish both professionally and personally.
My story: My founding story is rooted in my breast cancer journey. It's been seven years since my first diagnosis, and I've lived with a metastatic diagnosis for the past five. One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that even in moments of profound darkness, we can find light, particularly when we understand how to make meaning out of our challenges. But most people aren't taught these tools in our school systems or traditional professional development. LightWorks brings these tools into companies through keynotes, workshops, and advisory work to empower employees to flourish as individuals and teams.
In moments of self-doubt and worry, I reminded myself that I had just been thrown into cancer without any experience, and I not only survived but also thrived during that time. Being able to now support clients through the pandemic, layoffs, and whatever else they are experiencing makes me incredibly proud and certain I have found the work I am meant to be doing.
Co-Founder and CEO of Card Shop Live, the trusted spot for all your buying, selling, sports card, and culture needs.
My story: In early 2022, I joined a group of collectors to launch a new shopping experience app. We knew it could have a major impact on the future of how consumers shop and small businesses interact with customers. We were a scrappy team fueled by excitement and passion. We launched our beta product a few months after conceiving of the idea and it caught on.
We achieved steady growth, and then the economy and economic worries shook our industry. I remember the team huddles we had as we tried to assess the best strategy forward. Our strength as a startup and being in an agile workflow helped propel us into new areas of growth because we were so turned into our customer's feedback and user experience. We are just about to reach the one-year milestone since our launch, and we are continuing on a rapid-growth trajectory.
Founder and CEO of ThyForLife Health Inc., the only self-management tool and global community platform that provides support for all thyroid conditions.
My story: I am inspired by my own experience of going through thyroid cancer and living through the pain of trying to keep track of my own health data. I am passionate about providing a solution to the more than 400 million people around the world who currently suffer from a thyroid condition.
After struggling to keep track of numerous daily medications and monthly blood test results, I decided to create an app to help thyroid warriors have all of this information at our fingertips. I was simultaneously becoming a first time mother—having immigrated to Canada in my third trimester—and welcomed my daughter into this world around the same time as launching ThyForLife.
Founder and CEO of The Path, a meditation community.
My story: I had panic attacks as the Co-Founder and COO of a scaling tech company. As a woman founder, I struggled to have the confidence to be myself as the leader of a tech company. Ultimately I left the company to get healthy, find my confidence, and take a trip around the world. During that time I fell into meditation in India, and decided to launch a company to help others overcome fear and anxiety.
Founder of Wildes District, an NYC-based design studio that specializes in luxury and e-commerce brands in the fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and health and wellness sectors.
My story: Only 1 percent of all design studios are run by women. For most of my career, I worked in very male-dominated settings, even though most of the work we did was targeted at female consumers. After over a decade of this, I ultimately decided to open my own design studio to fill the void. Now, we are the go-to studio for women's luxury and e-commerce brands, and people seek us out for our expertise and deep understanding of these markets.
Co-Founder and CEO of So Syncd, a dating app that matches compatible personality types.
My story: So Syncd was born out of a breakup. Prior to setting up the company, I worked in investment banking and ended up moving to Australia with my boyfriend at the time. However, we broke up and at the same time I was leaving my job. I decided to take a year off to travel, explore, and learn. I had been interested in personality types for many years, and the breakup sparked a deep interest in how they play a role in compatibility. I spent the best part of my year out researching personality type compatibility and the findings laid the foundation for So Syncd, which I founded with my sister.
Co-Founder and CEO of Learn Grant Writing, helping those looking for more flexibility build a meaningful career in grant writing.
My story: I didn't have an email list when I was ready to launch my online course. So, I decided to host a huge live workshop at a theater. Scared, I called mentors for advice. One said, "Meredith, can I be honest with you? I've seen your type. Insist to do it your way and they never really amount to anything." Ouch. Those hurtful comments, however, fueled me and, three years later, my co-founder and I have a seven-figure business with a team of eight.
Founder of Be Spotted, a pet marketing agency empowering pet businesses through course, community, and coaching to become the go-to in their niche.
My story: Back in May 2020, I was working at my full-time job and starting my first business. I spent so much money on merch, printed pitch decks, and a very custom and dynamic website—only to learn that my ideal customer wasn't in need of my services. This was heartbreaking. However, through my journey I was continually asked for marketing advice from professionals in the pet space. I would happily hop on a call but wouldn't have the bandwidth to support them further given I was working so much on my original business.
What I learned to do was lean in. By leaning into what my customers were telling me they wanted, I pivoted my business and now have made back all my investments that I made in my first business within 3 months.
Founder of Give Her Dollars, an initiative and call-to-action to help women build wealth for themselves and other women.
My story: Despite battling depression and weekly panic attacks and feeling aimless and unfulfilled during my first few years in the corporate world, I refused to let my struggles define me. Instead, I channeled my energy into creating a platform that would empower young women to better advocate for themselves. Many people doubted that I could ever achieve my dream of living in New York, especially at such a young age. However, I continued to excel in my full-time job at a global tech company and, in December 2021, my employer transferred me from Dublin, Ireland to New York to support one of our biggest clients, a Fortune 30 company.
Throughout it all, I remained committed to breaking down barriers and helping women overcome obstacles in the workplace and beyond. The move to the US allowed me to scale my advocacy work, launch a podcast, and collaborate with inspiring female entrepreneurs on gender equality initiatives. My journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and determination in the face of adversity.
All individuals featured in this article are members of Dreamers & Doers, an award-winning community that amplifies extraordinary women leaders and entrepreneurs by raising their profile through PR opportunities, forging authentic connections, and curating high-impact resources. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and get involved here.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.