Woman staring at city skyline
What inspired you to start your business? — Getty Images/Wenjie Dong

Behind every business is the story of why it was started. Maybe it was to solve a problem the founder was experiencing. Perhaps it was to capitalize on a gap in the marketplace, or even address an important social issue. Whatever the reason, most entrepreneurs are very passionate about their "why" and love sharing it with fellow business owners.

CO— recently interviewed a panel of entrepreneurs from all different industries to find out exactly why they started their companies. Their stories may even inspire you to turn your passions, experiences and problem-solving skills into a business, too.

Creating the solution they wish they had

Alexa von Tobel founded LearnVest, a financial education resource, in response to her own struggles with managing personal finances. She didn't know how to deal with her credit cards, how to think about her rent or what to do with her money in general.

"I simply said, 'I wish there was a really great digital platform out there that could help me,' and LearnVest was born," said von Tobel.

I ended up seeing a niche in the business and I decided to take advantage of it.

Chelsea Cunningham, founder of The Title Girl

Being their own boss

Like many business owners, Chelsea Cunningham always had dreams of working for herself. After spending several years working for companies in the automotive industry, she noticed an opportunity to provide specialty title services to dealerships. Cunningham founded The Title Girl to fill that gap and make her entrepreneurial dreams come true.

"I ended up seeing a niche in the business and I decided to take advantage of it," she said.

Helping fellow small business owners

Ripl's social media marketing tool makes it easy for small business owners to create engaging, shareable visual content – without spending a huge amount of time or money.

COO Clay McDaniel explained that the company was founded "to put the power of beautiful visual video storytelling in the hands of entrepreneurs."

Advancing a social cause

Jasmine Crowe spent five years volunteering to feed members of the local homeless population in Atlanta. She founded Goodr, a food surplus management company, as a way to empower others to join in that effort.

"I started thinking, 'Why aren't business donating food?' and I thought we could do better," Crowe said.

Revitalizing their own community

Jeff Sommers and his wife Lara Hammel enjoyed visiting Grand Ole Creamery in St. Paul, Minnesota, but the handmade ice cream shop was quite far away. The entrepreneurial couple decided to adopt the concept and open up a small-batch ice cream shop just a few blocks away from their house.

The idea behind Izzy's Ice Cream was to bring that same type of specialty product and experience they loved, just a little closer to home.

"We really thought we could do something for our neighborhood [and] ... revive the experience for the community where we were living," said Sommers.

Check out the full video to hear more entrepreneurs explain the inspiration behind their business.

Entrepreneurs tell CO— what inspired them to start their businesses.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

Brought to you by
Simplify your startup’s finances
Not sure where to begin in getting your business’s finances in order? Navigating the complex finances of a growing start-up can be daunting. Learn about the key financial operations that will keep your startup running smoothly — from payroll to bookkeeping to taxes — in this guide.
Learn More