Sometimes, reading about actual people who took actual steps to achieve success is more rewarding than yet another list of “Top 5 Secrets” to achieve A, B and C.
Maybe it’s because “listacles” are often reduced to convoluted and over-generalized advice. More likely, though, the reason success stories work is because we can relate to subjects’ backgrounds and ambitions, and we hope their lessons will light our way.
In that spirit, here are the condensed stories of people from socially or economically disadvantaged backgrounds who overcame the odds in establishing their businesses. I hope they’ll inspire you.
From the Streets of L.A. to a Food Truck Empire
National Public Radio recently featured the story of Roy Choi and his unlikely rise in the world of Los Angeles food trucks. Choi has a book coming out on Nov. 5 about his transformation from troubled beginning to business success.
After seeing the success of Latin American food trucks, he decided to lean on his Korean roots and opened the Kogi BBQ truck. Choi’s big breakthrough is credited partly to smart marketing: He was one of the first – if not the first – to use social media (specifically Twitter) to tell fans where his truck would be parked.
NPR says he hired a “new-media consultant” to make Kogi go viral. It soon had over 8,000 die-hard followers.
Years later, Kogi has several trucks, new restaurants and even a café in an L.A. high school. Now, says NPR, Choi wants to use his fame to bring healthier food to urban areas.
“My dream is that in 20 years, we won’t have this same society where inner cities have no options for food except fast food,” he said. “I believe we can change it because of what happened with street food.”
Businesses Talk Overcoming Adversity in Business Forum
Several successful business owners got together recently in Charlottesville, Va., to share their secrets to beating adversity, according to a report in The Daily Progress.
Among them: Daphne Maxwell Reid, who found national fame portraying “Aunt Vivian” on the 1990s TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. These days, she and husband Tim Reid run a film studio. She says it wasn’t easy, but you must be dogged in pursuing your goals.
“It does take you putting one foot in front of the other,” she told the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce Minority Business Conference. “You’ve got to continue to pursue. You can’t let ‘No’ stop you.”
The owners of another business, Stevie G’s Gluten Free Bakery, maintained full-time jobs while getting their business off the ground. Owners Stephanie and Sue White said their success required late nights, sheer determination and a willingness to leverage personal and professional connections.
“There are no coincidences,” they said, according to the newspaper. “You may only have a conversation with them, but you’ll change somebody’s life.”
Success Stories Galore from Fast Company
The blog Fast Company does a great job celebrating – and chronicling – creative minds who found ways to make themselves successful.
Among the recent entries is the tale of Gail Dosik, who decided to start a gourmet bakery at age 50 after hanging up her career in the fashion industry. Her genius stroke, according to this blog item, was to email a blogger in New York City. The resulting write-up garnered publicity that sent her on her way.
Dosik tells Fast Company she turned to social media time and again to grow her business. That includes using Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.