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Starting Your Own Business: 4 Inspiring Stories of People Who Followed Their Dreams

By Dave Thomas
Business.com / Entrepreneurship / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Four inspiring entrepreneurs who quit their high-paying day jobs to start a business -- and how they succeeded.

What kind of courage does it take to start your own business? Well, over the last few years, it was the economic turmoil -- and resulting layoffs -- that were the catalyst for countless successful entrepreneurial endeavors. But for many, it's passion, not a recession, which drives them to take big risks.

Need inspiration before you launch your own business startup? Meet four entrepreneurs who quit their promising, high-paying day jobs to start their own businesses. Even better? Tips straight from the founders on how they succeeded.

Adam D'Angelo, founder, Quora

If you worked for Facebook, would you ever imagine leaving? Adam D'Angelo did. In May 2008, Adam left his post as Facebook's Chief Technology Officer to launch Quora, a Q&A knowledge-sharing site frequented by tech pundits, executives, internet celebrities and entrepreneurial crowds.

His motivation? According to an interview with Business Insider, "I felt I could make a bigger impact on the world by starting something new, rather than just continuing to optimize Facebook."

His tips for those who want to start their own thing? "Hiring good people. If you can get the best people, that's a big part of being successful. Another thing is that the world changes really fast, so being able to keep up with it is really important."

Photo credit: businessinsider.com

Tina Su, blogger, Think Simple Now

Tina SuTina Su spent more than 6 years at Amazon.com in a variety of roles, including design and technology. In 2008, she left Amazon to give herself the freedom to pursue other creative projects. Think Simple Now had been launched in 2007 as more of a personal blogging endeavor, but Tina soon found that her honest and uplifting writing struck a chord with millions of people seeking insight and motivation to lead happy, fulfilling lives.

Her motivation? "After several years, I realized that the more money I made, the less satisfied I became. Days started to blend into one another, time flew by, and I deeply longed for something with more meaning," she wrote.

What advice would she lend to those starting a new venture? "To get what we want, we need to first have a clear vision of what that thing is. The vision needs to be defined using measurable attributes, along with dates for when you will get there. Once you have a clear measurable goal for what you want and when you want it, you can start to work backwards and map out a plan."

Another tip worth mentioning? "If your goal is to quit your job to work on your own thing, make sure you map out exactly what your monthly costs are."

Jenny Blake, author, Life After College

Jenny BlakeJenny Blake had it all -- a car, a mortgage, a 6-figure salary, a maxed out 401k, vacation time, free meals, and bonuses at a little web company called Google. But there was something ... missing. In 2011, Jenny explored a 3-month leave of absence that left her feeling more fulfilled and inspired to take the leap to gainful self-employment, giving her the time to pursue her passion for writing full-time as blogger for Life After College and author of a book under the same name.

Her motivation? " I realized I wasn't ready for marriage and babies; I wanted freedom and spontaneity - travel and free agency."

Her words of wisdom on how leaving a steady, lucrative career to pursue your passion? "That's the thing about taking great leaps - it creates a snowball effect and makes other huge changes seem almost easy in comparison. Once you've found your courage it forms a beautiful platform to continue making soul-stirring changes in your life."

Thorkil Sonne, previously CEO and founder, Specialisterne

Thorkil SonneA few years after his son was diagnosed with autism, Thorkil Sonne quit his job in IT at a Danish telecom company to found Specialisterne, a technology firm that places workers with autism-spectrum disorders in software testing roles, leveraging their strengths of being methodical and detail-oriented, having excellent memories, and preferring to work alone.  In 2010, the company reported $3 million a year in revenue and served clients like Microsoft and Oracle.

Though Sonne has since moved on from the role, he's still evangelizing the business model of giving purpose and employment to the disabled, who are often challenged to find -- and keep -- a job that suits them.

His motivation, outside of wanting to help his son develop a promising future? "I wanted to do more than just provide a sheltered workplace for people with a disability. My goal is to create opportunities for people with autism on an international scale."

What might you learn from Sonne? "The key is to find situations that fit employees' personalities and ambitions, not force everybody into one mold," he told Harvard Business Review. "That just causes stress, and workplaces already produce too much of that."

Photo source: businessinsider.com, thinksimplenow.com, lifeaftercollege.com, specialistpeople.com


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