Every entrepreneur has a story about what prompted them to start their business. Perhaps it was a personal challenge, a past experience or simply an opportunity they spotted—and leapt on.

We asked entrepreneurs what sparked their business idea. These stories are worth reading because they can provide inspiration and ideas for how to start or expand your business. Here’s how they responded:


Solve a problem

I visited a friend whose son was sick in the hospital and realized there was very little stimulation for kids confined to their rooms. So, with the help of passionate teachers and parents, I created hospital bed sheets that double as game boards and play areas.

Kevin Gatlin, owner, Playtime Edventures, Monroe, North Carolina


Follow your passion

Before I hung my shingle as a freelance copywriter, I had been in the marketing field for over a decade and had a broad range of experience, including advertising, market research and branding. Many people encouraged me to open a full-service marketing agency, but that just didn’t feel right. The saying “Do what you love and the money will follow” kept running through my head. Sure, I could do all those things—but I didn’t enjoy them. My passion was writing. I’m now in my 13th year in business, doing what I love.

Linda Coss, founder, Plumtree Marketing, Lake Forest, California


Build an online niche

I sell live crickets online. While working in a job that involved ecommerce, I came up with this business plan after I realized that “live insects” was a popular online search term with low competition. So, I put together a website and found a supplier and now pull in about $15,000 per month in sales.

Jeff Neal, founder, The Critter Depot, Lancaster, Pennsylvania


Spot—and test—a market opportunity

I spent about 18 months traveling the globe, taking a break from the startup world. I was spending a small fortune renting automatic transmission cars—since most of the world drives stick shift. I decided to take a lesson during a trip back to the U.S., but realized it was nearly impossible to find anyone who would teach me. Most driving schools don’t offer it. Given my background in marketing, I was curious to see if there were other people like me who want to learn to drive stick shift. I put up a website in one weekend using a Weebly template and ran about $50 in Google ads. I basically took a “lean startup” approach to testing my idea. Once I launched the site, my phone wouldn’t stop ringing.

Giuseppe Frustaci, founder, Stick Shift Driving Academy, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts


Find a better way

I run a direct-to-consumer bedding company that makes sheets from 100% organic eucalyptus fibers. Before I started my company, I was at my wits’ end with cotton bedding and couldn’t understand why I was waking up with night sweats and breakouts. I set out to find something that was softer, more breathable and more sustainable, and discovered that eucalyptus offered all of these qualities.

Elle Liu, founder, Eucalypso, Chalfont, Pennsylvania


Create the lifestyle you want

I started a property management company after practicing real estate law for 12 years. I had already been managing my own properties—which had become a bigger and bigger burden over time. When my son started high school, I wanted to be able to watch his sporting events, and that would not have happened if I was still working as a full-time attorney. The transition was a natural fit.

David Roberson, principal, Silicon Valley Property Management Group, San Jose, California


How did you come up with your business idea? Let us know in the comments section below!

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