Longtime golfer Tiger Woods — following a years-long slump marred by injury and controversy — worked his way back to the top of the game, winning his fifth Masters. His competition was especially steep, too, as he faced a larger pool of players than usual. Still, he came out on top.
It’s one of the greatest comeback stories in sports, and the tale provides plenty of takeaways for life and business, too. The biggest is probably: “Never lose faith.” Last year, when Woods was just starting to glimpse success again at the British Open, he said he hoped his two kids were proud of how he had fought and refused to give up. After the Masters win, Woods called the experience “surreal” and told reporters that he still was trying to figure it out. But at the same time, he indicated that he had never lost faith. “I did think it would come,” the 43-year-old told CNN. “I knew it was in me.”
[Related: Learning to Be Resilient]
After the win, fans and brands alike celebrated. Athletic wear company Nike tweeted, “Never stop chasing your crazy dream.” Serena Williams also took to Twitter, saying she was in tears. “Knowing all you have been through physically to come back and do what you just did today? Wow.” And from famed golfer Jack Nicklaus? A simple “well done.”
Woods’ return to glory and unshakeable faith brought to our minds the stories of women entrepreneurs who, like him, pushed past adversity and failure to find themselves back on top. Their stories also contain takeaways that are sure to inspire. Here are five of our favorites.
1. Angelica Garcia-Dunn
Garcia-Dunn knows what rock bottom looks like. She hit it 13 years ago, after deciding to take a break from corporate life.
She worked at a succession of big banks, including Bank of America and Chase. By 2003, she was married with two small children, and one was frequently getting sick. “I felt guilty staying at home, and guilty going to work,” she says. “So I decided not to go back to work.”
But that was when Garcia-Dunn discovered her husband was having an affair — and, in fact, had a child with another woman. Garcia-Dunn was devastated, and ended the marriage. But the decision left her financially vulnerable.
Six years later, though, Garcia-Dunn started her own shipping and transportation company — AIM Global Logistics — and the Houston entrepreneur turned it into a $20 million firm with multiple divisions and 25 employees.
2. Funlayo Alabi
Funlayo Alabi’s business, Shea Radiance, was riding high — and then it almost went under.
The Baltimore company she co-founded was selling its all-natural skin and hair care products in hundreds of Target stores, in what seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime. But the demands of supplying and succeeding in a big-box store quickly overwhelmed the fledgling venture, forcing a reckoning.
Alabi, who is CEO, knew she couldn’t give up. She and her husband made their products using shea butter sourced from women farmers in western Africa who relied upon buyers like them for their livelihoods. So instead of closing up shop, she pulled the products from Target shelves and went back to basics.
Alabi’s fortitude — and her commitment to those farmers — saw the business through the storm. Now, she says Shea Radiance has done well over $1 million in sales so far.
3. Delia Viader
Imagine that your entire inventory goes up in smoke. And your insurance doesn’t cover it.
That’s what happened to Delia Viader, owner of Viader Winery in California’s Napa Valley. Nine years ago, an arsonist set fire to a warehouse storing her 2003 vintage. In one day, she lost 84,000 bottles. She had been just about to reap $4.5 million by shipping the wine to restaurants, distributors and exporters. And then poof. “I had absolutely nothing,” she says.
Viader says the winery has since recovered — at least financially — and is poised to have wider profit margins. Before the fire, Viader produced about 10,000 cases a year, selling the wine at wholesale prices to restaurants and distributors. When we last spoke with Viader, she told us that, because she has cut out the middleman and sells directly to consumers, she only needs to produce 5,000 cases to make the same amount of annual revenue — about $4.5 million — as before.
4. Pamela Marrone
Dr. Pamela Marrone is the founder of founder of Marrione Bio Innovations Inc., a publicly traded company that develops natural pest-control products. The company went public on Nasdaq in 2013, and Marrone herself rang the bell with her mother by her side and raising $57 million.
A year later came a major setback. The company’s head of sales was indicted for fraud, and the Securities and Exchange Commission sued. Marrone was forced to lay off half her staff and pay $17 million to settle the matter. Her company teetered on the brink before converting debt into equity and raising $30 million from new investors. “It was hell,” Marrone says. “It was hell.”
Today, Marrone’s company is recovering and “biologicals” — crop-protection products, derived from natural materials — are a rapidly growing sector in agriculture.
5. Stacey Abrams
No one wants to lose — but if you do, remember that it isn’t the end of the world. Just ask Stacey Abrams.
For more than a week after Election Day, the Georgia gubernatorial race were too close to call. Abrams’ race was especially closely watched, since she was within striking distance of becoming the country’s first African-American woman governor. But first, she had to best Republican candidate Brian Kemp. Her well-funded, aggressive effort focused on getting minorities, women and young people out to the polls, many for the first time, and helped drive record turnout for a non-presidential year.
But it wasn’t enough. Abrams was still about 17,000 votes from a runoff that would have given her one more shot. She ended her campaign, acknowledging that she could not prevail in the certified vote due that day — officially, Kemp had 50.2 percent of the vote to Abrams’ 48.8 percent — and that there were no more viable ways to challenge the outcome.
Less than 6 months after that loss, though, Abrams is still creating waves and making headlines. She was recently selected to give the Democratic Party’s official response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, and continues to be a valued voice to progressive Americans.
[Related: Get Over It — Fear of Failure]