We have received well over a hundred submissions from women sharing their stories about starting a business. One of the questions we ask is what motivated them to start their businesses in the first place. Quite often, their answers astound me.

I’m talking about women who have taken the tragedies and challenges of their lives and turned them completely on their head. On days when I’m lacking courage, inspiration, or just feeling sorry for myself, I turn to these stories of women who found bright spots in the darkness and ran with it. Here are a few that stand out:

Jocelyn Chng – Sin Hwa Dee Foodstuff

At 21, Jocelyn Chng took over her family’s crumbling business after her father died following a long illness. The family had very little money and as the eldest child she needed to provide for her five younger siblings (talk about pressure). People laughed at her ideas but Jocelyn thrived in a male dominated industry anyway. “When the going gets tough, I get tougher,” Jocelyn told The Story Exchange. Today Jocelyn’s company employs over 200 people, her products are exported to 30 countries and her customers include The Ritz Carlton and Hyatt.

WATCH how tough as nails Jocelyn did it:


Ginger Johnson, Founder Happy Chemo!

Yes it’s true. The “ultimate oxymoron on a mission” as founder Ginger Johnson puts it. Ginger was diagnosed with breast cancer while five months pregnant, aged 31, already the mother of two young children. Ginger said the situation left her with only one option: to serve others. “Happy Chemo! was created during my chemotherapy to increase the hope, help and happiness in the lives of those facing cancer. Cancer does suck – but patients don’t,” she told The Story Exchange – adding a smiley face icon. Her company offers support, resources and discounts to cancer patients. I am amazed at someone who could find the good in such a scary situation.Here’s another inspiring business started following breast cancer treatment.

Fatima Omar Khamissa, Spiritual Biz Moms

After 21 years in an abusive marriage with five children – one of whom has cerebral palsy — Fatima Omar Khamissa said she had had enough. Without any financial resources to speak of Fatima’s decision to take her kids and leave her husband was a tough one. But the experience made her realize that she wanted to help women avoid the situation that she had left behind, so she launched her own business to “help women shine” through entrepreneurship. “When we teach a woman how to be financially independent – we train a whole new generation of givers and nourishers to make the world a better place,” she told The Story Exchange. Fatima is raising her children alone with her head held high. Keep going Fatima.

Alison Rhodes, Safety Mom Enterprises

Alison Rhodes founded Safety Mom Enterprises – which offers babyproofing, child safety and now senior saftey services – after her first child died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1997. “While SIDS is unpreventable, childhood accidents are the leading cause of death. I felt if I could help save one child’s life I would have done something in honor of my son,” Alison told The Story Exchange. After her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Alison began offering senior saftey services as well.

If you’ve started your own business we want to hear from your — fill out our survey here.