Entrepreneurial Success Stories – How These Brands Overcame Failure!

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Photo Credit: iStock.com/Artist's jesadaphorn

Its fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure

According to a stat on Forbes.com, 90% of all startups fail. Needless to say, the road to entrepreneurship is rocky at best and is wrought with its fair share of failures. It is important to know that failure is not an alternative to success; rather it precedes it. Even the most successful people will start off their stories with a slew of botched first attempts. Is it because they did not believe in their missions enough? Quite the contrary actually; it is because they believed in their goals so much that they were willing to risk everything for them. And the fruits of their labor were sweet. Check out how these former entrepreneurial ventures overcame failure and went from forgettable brands to success –

1. ‘HowAboutWe.Com’ Journeys from Faulty Startup to Popular Dating Site

The founders of the dating app were thirty something entrepreneurs and had no former background in business or technology. In fact, they spent most of their twenties teaching at charter schools in an attempt to, as co-founder of the online dating site ‘HowAboutWe’ Aaron Schildkrout says, “reform the American educational system.” Needless to say that the odds were against them as Schildkrout himself claims, “’HowAboutWe’s’ early days were filled with constant thoughts of failure. Thousands of startups, not to mention dating sites, fail every year. Practically every dating business created in the last 10 years has failed. The odds were against us – resoundingly…But the idea of creating something out of nothing, something millions of people could use to find love, was worth facing failure for. So we learned to fail more quickly, pushing through bad ideas to arrive at great ideas (and)…never making the same mistake twice.”

2. How ‘The Muse’ Came to be

‘The Muse’ is the brainchild of Kathryn Minshew and is a tool for job searches or career advice. It was launched with a fledgling budget and a small team of editors and writers. ‘The Muse’ now boasts of over a million monthly users.

However, the road to success for the online career resource was far from straight especially when Minshew faced a setback when she couldn’t log into ‘PYP Media’, a website that she created before. All of her life savings were in it. What was the cause? According to Minshew, a disagreement between the four co-founders put her in the middle of a disturbing power struggle which eventually escalated with disastrous results. The feud ended up blocking all web access for her team. After losing all of the company’s savings, Minshew decided to use the failure as a stepping stone to a better deal.

All of the people who worked in ‘PYP Media’ left it to work towards The Muse. It was a resounding success. According to a post on Entrepreneur.com, ‘The Muse’ had over 20 million users by the end of 2012 and the backing of big brands in business such as ‘Sephora’, ‘Pinterest’, ‘NPR’ and ‘Twitter’. Minshew explains her motivation, “It was painful, but being forced to start over was a unique sort of gift, because having been through a lot together, the team comes out of it with the confidence that nothing is going to stop us.”

3. ‘Lucky Iron Fish’ Overcomes Arrogant Failure

A post on Forbes.com relates how creator of ‘Lucky Iron Fish’ Christopher Charles “overcame arrogant failure” to make his venture a success. Charles’ case just goes to show that even when it seems that you have the solution to a global problem, doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed success. Most entrepreneurs know this all too well and one of them found it out the hard way. Before the creator of ‘Lucky Iron Fish’, Christopher Charles came up with the idea, he tried to convince Cambodian women to drop a small block of iron into their cooking pots in a bid to reduce iron deficiencies in the populace. After securing a hefty fund from his university and the Canadian government, Charles assembled a sales team to sell his product door to door. The move failed since they only managed to sell one fish a month. Armstrong explains why, “It was an arrogant failure on my part…We didn’t factor in that we had no trust in the community.”

Armstrong decided to take a different approach to the dilemma and sought the help of Cambodian aid organizations instead. While the prospect was hardly easy, the venture eventually persevered and now, ‘Lucky Iron Fish’ is thriving. The Clinton Global Initiative University honored it twice with a Commitment to Action award as well numerous others and has helped over 10,000 families in Cambodia.

4. Scott Adams Saw One in Ten Ventures Fail

The creator of the ‘Dilbert’ comic strip is also the owner of several business ventures from two restaurants to multiple computer software firms. However, not all of his entrepreneurial escapades paid off. In fact, according to Adams, only one out of ten made it. Even after so many failures, Adams refuses to give up on his goals. He explains why, “I go into risky projects (and those are the type I prefer) with two contradictory thoughts: one, this sort of thing is unlikely to succeed and two, this will totally succeed. I hold both thoughts until the last dying gasp of a project. I can’t think of a time I thought I would fail without simultaneously thinking I would pull a rabbit out of the hat at any minute. But that’s just me. I’m an irrational optimist.”

5. Apparel Startup ‘Quincy Apparel’ Goes Belly Up

If any venture hopes to grow, it must scale its services. However, the scaling process itself must also be fortified to sustain itself. Former owner of the ill-fated brand ‘Quincy Apparel’ found that out the hard way when it attempted to offer too many customizations to customers.

The brand’s specialty was that it could tailor clothing that fit perfectly on a woman’s chest size. However, the brand flopped after it failed to deliver on this promise and shut its doors after it sold off all items at 80% off. Co-founder of ‘Quincy Apparel’ Christina Wallace relates the aftermath, “I took a train to San Francisco and met two mentors, who agreed that it was the end of the road for ‘Quincy’. After it was all over I spent three weeks straight in bed. Then after 21 days of sleeping, crying, I put on my big girl pants and rejoined the world.” Wallace also learned that, “Startups are not just what you read in the press. The real story is much more volatile and human, and we do our community a disservice pretending otherwise. I don’t celebrate failure for failure’s sake, but I think there is something amazing about trying to do something at the edge of possibility and failing at it.”

Ventures such as ‘Lucky Iron Fish’ teach us that it pays to know about your audience. Minshew teaches us that even the worse obstacles bad shouldn’t prevent you from prioritizing while Scott Adams teach us that there is no such thing as too many failures. In the end, it is entrepreneurs who have the willingness to adapt when situations take a turn for the worse are the ones that ultimately flourish.

About The Author

Kelvin Stiles is a tech enthusiast and works as a marketing consultant at SurveyCrest – FREE online survey software and publishing tools for academic and business use. He is also an avid blogger and a comic book fanatic.