Let’s be honest – success can be elusive and sometimes harder to figure out than advanced calculus for a 5th grader. Whether you’re working with a team of one or ten — success begins as a simple idea that’s transformed from a problem into a solution. Those who work smarter — not always harder — then create ways to make money around those solutions and sell them for others to purchase. The best create ways for them to purchase over and over again. Ideas come a dime a dozen.
However, it’s no small feat to transform an idea from a hobby or passion to an empire. Each of the three women below are masters of monetization and have created success on their own terms, with each of them grossing well over $1 million in revenues – all from a simple idea, great product, well-executed strategy, and an unshakeable belief in their vision.
Here, they share their secrets of success, to inspire you to build your next million dollar business.
Lisa Price, Founder, Carol’s Daughter
Price founded Carol’s Daughter initially as a body butter company created in her kitchen, but through her sales at a local Brooklyn flea market made the transition to natural hair products. Through consistent persistence, her business soared with features on Oprah, a launch on HSN and in Target eventually becoming a part of the L’Oréal family with her product in 30,000 retail stores nationwide. As one of the pioneers of the natural hair care movement, Carol’s Daughter made history by being the first on exhibit in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.
“I grew slow and steady intentionally knowing I couldn’t afford to not pay my rent. I didn’t have much business experience and I had filed personal bankruptcy. I determined early, if I tried it and did well, I’d simply keep reinvesting to buy more supplies. It was that type of organic growth that got me started taking from my personal household budget to prepare for holidays only making bets I was pretty sure about. I knew I couldn’t take too much of a risk. This level of organic growth allowed me to grow myself to $2.2 million in sales, then I needed investors to grow beyond that hump.” – Lisa Price
She recognized early on her business needed to transition and did the work it took to evolve, shift, and start again when failures came.
April Walker, Founder & CEO, Walker Wear
Walker is a pioneer and credited as the creator of the streetwear fashion category that now commands billions annually. “Walker Wear” was created in the early 90’s, but had no ad budget. April instead became one of the first to implement product placement with celebrity endorsements putting her fashion in music videos from Notorious “B.I.G.”, Beavis and Butt-Head, and Tupac. Using guts, grit, and gumption, April began with 10 buyers in 10 different cities. Using licensing to grow, she expanded to 25 and then the world. The styling fashion division has been featured in countless concepts for artists like RUN-DMC, Snoop Dogg, Queen Latifah, and Aaliyah and for movies like “Straight Outta Compton.” Her clients currently range from the National Basketball Association to Major League Baseball, and from Miami to the UK.
Her secret? “The key was getting started for me was once you commit to it, the world will assist to it. I had no ad budget so I got creative and became one of the first to do product placement in videos with superstars from Biggie and Tupac to Nas and Queen Latifah.” – April Walker
She recognized a demand and missing piece in the market and used strategist creativity to grow – even without having the financing to do so.
Tammie Umbel, Founder of SheaTerra Organics
The mom of 4 who built SheaTerra Organics from the ground up has always emphasized the integral keys to success as having, “guts, belief, and a confidante.” She began with $1,500 working primarily as the sole member of SheaTerra Organics making skincare products sourced from Africa. In five years, Umbel diligently grew the business to 300 products and built the business to over $2 million dollars with products sold online and in The Vitamin Shoppe. Her dedication is unmatched, homeschooling 8 children and working in her factory well into the evening to ensure the success of her business.
Her secret? “I started with $1,500 and no real business sense. I built my first website on Yahoo web builder. Had I known all the things you needed initially I never would’ve gotten in business. 20 years ago, people weren’t concerned with toxins. In Africa, they had beauty traditions that women took from nature and when I reluctantly decided to start my company, I did so focusing on natural skincare using remedies from Africa to naturally cure ailments. It didn’t exist in the market, but I knew it was necessary.” – Tammie Umbel
She used her passion for shea butter, organic products, and unwavering belief in her faith to establish a business positioned to widely expand African ingredients to the Western world.