10 Fearless Entrepreneurs

They turned their start-up dreams into successful businesses

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Kathy Davis

At 36, Kathy Davis was facing single motherhood with a big mortgage and no income. A former artist, she created greeting cards in her free time, and a friend urged her to attend the National Stationery Show. Her watercolor creations were a hit at the show, and she licensed her designs to numerous manufacturers. Today Kathy Davis Studios has 14 employees, seven designers and $15 million in annual revenue.

Photo by Anna Wolf

Mary Clare Murphy and Christie Miller

In 1997, both Mary Clare Murphy and Christie Miller had left their jobs to care for their children. Murphy and her husband were having trouble selling their home so they decided to sell it on their own. Murphy’s husband suggested creating a Web site to advertise their home and others. Murphy asked Miller to help her work on the site and in February 1998, they launched FSBOMadison (for sale by owner) with 10 listings. For $150 they’ll feature your house, manage inquiries and provide a teal yard sign. Today, FSBO has listings for over 2,000 houses and the women earn annual salaries in the six figures.
Photo by Bob Stefko

Rachel Greenwald

Greenwald left her corporate job when she was pregnant with her first child. As she wondered about her next move, this Harvard Business School grad realized that she was always offering dating advice to her single friends. Her tips employed all she had learned at Harvard: branding, packaging and niche marketing. Greenwald found a way to profit from all of her expertise: a matchmaking business. Today, she is responsible for 712 marriages and wrote a dating advice book that ended up on the New York Times’ Bestseller List.

Gail Dosik

When Dosik was laid off from her corporate job in 2003, she took the opportunity to explore a new career. She had been baking for years and finally decided to pursue her passion by enrolling at the French Culinary Institute. After she completed the program, she furthered her education by interning for a cake decorator and working at a popular bakery. In the summer of 2005, Dosik launched One Tough Cookie Inc.,  a bakery that uses cookies for decorations on cakes. A write up on UrbanBaby in 2006 boosted the bakery’s visibility, and the orders have poured in!

Jaszy McAllister

McAllister was bored in her job as a criminal psychologist and turned to crafts as a way to exercise her creativity. Jewelry making grabbed her attention, and she began researching gemstones, beads and the mechanics of stringing and wiring. When friends expressed interest in her jewelry, she started hosting parties and taking orders. Feeling ambitious, she brought her products to a small upscale boutique and they purchased everything she had and ordered more. Her jewelry is now sold in four cities in southwest Florida, and you can purchase it here.

Katie Johnson

Johnson loved wearing long pants with high heels, but hated when her pants would get stuck in her open-backed shoes resulting in a "heel wedgie." Inspired by the QVC/Oprah "Search for the Next Big Idea" project, Johnson filled out the registration form and caught the interest of producers but didn’t make it to the final eight. The competition motivated her to patent her idea and create Kix by Katie.

Carrie Bell

Bell was a stay-at-home mom when she was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. One of the symptoms is significant hair loss and Bell felt self conscious about her appearance. She scoured the malls, catalogs, and online sites for a colorful, comfortable baseball cap, but couldn’t find one. So she decided to make one herself. Now three years later, Mad Capz, sells fun, unique, feminine caps and visors to women all across the country. She also sells wholesale to hospital gift shops, oncology boutiques, golf pro shops, golf retailers, gift shops, and small boutiques.

Debbie Davis

A trip to Puerto Vallarta proved to be a life-changing event for Debbie Davis. She fell in love with the ocean and snorkeling but felt unattractive in her wetsuit. While working in real estate, she spent her free time sketching wetsuit designs with princess seams and taking sewing classes. She perfected her pattern, found a surf-clothing manufacturer and a few months later launched Sea Dreams Wetsuits. Though she still supports herself with real estate investments, Davis has left behind her day-to-day real estate job for working with wetsuits.

Linda Holt

Holt worked as a recruiter for major companies like Nabisco and Ralph Lauren. One day, while at a convention, she noticed koi fish in the hotel lobby. Inspired, she took many photos of them and upon returning home raced to her paints and easel that she hadn’t touched in years. She began concentrating on her art again and expanding to paint other animals. Commissions quickly came in and she was financially able to leave her corporate job. Her paintings line the walls of institutions like Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Citigroup in Manhattan. View them here.

Linh Reilly

Linh Reilly was working as a full-time benefits consultant when her hobby of making homemade Asian sauces turned into a booming business. She started selling bottles at her daughter’s school Christmas fair, and her product sold out in an hour. She then distributed sauces to homes and small businesses around her community. After doing more research in food processing, Reilly launched Asian Creations and in 2005 she quit her full-time job and committed to her sauces-a wise decision. A year later Whole Foods decided to distribute Asian Creations creating an even bigger buzz around her already successful company.
Photo by Jurgen Frank

First Published Wed, 2009-09-16 13:19

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