(Photo: Susan Wilkinson on Unsplash)

Entrepreneurs will often tell you about the “aha!” moment that led them to start their business. Usually these stories involve wanting to solve a problem, to make the world a better place, or simply to increase their income or have more flexibility over their schedule. But a less-talked-about origin story for the startup is the one that emerges from a dark time — whether that’s dealing with mental health issues, experiencing a gut-wrenching trauma, or losing a loved one. These women, who have all been featured as part of our 1,000 + Stories Project, are the definition of strength and resilience, showing us how even the toughest of times can serve as a catalyst for expansion and change.


Enduring a Break-Up

Five years ago Sally Murphy was living in rural Ireland, recovering from a break-up and adjusting to being a single mother. As she started to put her life back together she found strength and inspiration from the women in her life and began to notice the return of her self-esteem and the desire to achieve the dreams she had had when she was younger. It was during this recovery process that she decided to start her business, Well Told, where she advises businesses on how to tell better stories, and helps with their creative strategy and content curation. 



Surviving Cancer

Liz Benditt has survived four different kinds of cancer and understands how deeply lonely and miserable treatment can be. It was during a particularly tough round of radiation in 2017 that she began to conceive of the dream care package she would like to receive — one filled with ice packs, lotions, teas, oils and wire free bras, not scented candles and tee shirts. She decided to go for it and created her company The Balm Box, selling gift bundles that are specially designed to meet the needs of cancer patients. Benditt says of her budding business, “I feel confident I am on a mission to make life just a little better for cancer patients and their friends and family who feel so helpless when faced with how to support their loved ones.” 


Dealing With Anxiety

When Jaclyn Francis was in her twenties she went through a period experiencing terrible anxiety. Worries about what her future should look like began to impact her mental and physical health. But then she found Reiki energy healing. After her first session, she felt transformed and wanted to help bring access to Reiki to other people who are also struggling with anxiety. Her site Sesh connects users to a vetted network of Southern California Reiki healers, making the process of finding a practitioner easier.


Struggling With Depression

It was in the throes of a mental breakdown that Ciara McCarron found her calling. After pulling through a dark time as a single mother on welfare, struggling with depression, she came out on the other side determined to make a difference in the lives of those who might be struggling. McCarron trained as a therapist and coach and began her business Redesign Your Vibe, where she specializes in inner child healing and recovery. Today the Derry, United Kingdom-based entrepreneur is dedicated to helping women who have been deeply affected by traumatic experiences, to help them heal, and reconnect with themselves.


Feeling Drained and Disconnected

​​Kristen Runvik was burnt out. She was working long hours for an e-commerce start-up and feeling disconnected from nature and herself. In her spare time she started making seasonal skincare products, both as a relaxing activity and to take care of herself during a stressful time. Eventually that hobby turned into Lagom Body Co., a skincare and lifestyle brand focused on using seasonal herbs in a sustainable way.


Battling Breast Cancer

For Hilary Thomson, everything changed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At one point during her treatment she made a promise to herself that she was going to start her own business and do something meaningful with her life. The London-based entrepreneur made that dream a reality and today she runs her own businesses as a success strategist and mindset coach. Thompson says she feels fulfilled knowing her work helps others be the best version of themselves — although she confesses that navigating the ins and outs of social media marketing as a self described introvert is challenging.


Surviving Trauma

Over a decade ago, Kerry Cooke’s ex-husband was convicted of murdering his girlfriend — an unthinkable truma that Cooke  and her daughter, then 11, needed to process. They began to rely on their three dogs and their daily walks together as a form of therapy and healing. Cooke and her daughter would make up adventures the dogs would go on, using the canine companionship as a balm. As the walks got longer, Cooke thought of a better way to carry water for the dogs, inventing a water carrying attachment for leashes. Today, she and  her daughter run SPLEASH, selling a number of dog-waking products. “Because I came out of this experience alive, I want to pay respect and keep the memory alive of the woman he killed,” she says.