Meet five entrepreneurs who’ve had the courage to strike out alone and hit the big time. Their inspirational stories stand out as shining examples of what great ideas and the passion to pursue them to wherever they lead can achieve.
Founder and CEO of Search Wizards
Crossing the border from Canada to the United States in 1999, Leslie O’Connor brought with her $1,800, her son, and their dog and proceeded to build a multi-million dollar recruitment business called Search Wizards.
Working as a recruiter for an Atlanta-based tech staffing organization, O’Connor was putting in 14 hours a day. She felt there had to be a better way of living, and created a company that in 2007, had $12.2 million in sales. Last year, Search Wizards was ranked 89th on the Inc. Magazine 500 list of fastest growing private companies. There has also been acclaim from Catalyst Magazine and WomenEntrepreneur.com website, who have rated her one of the country’s top entrepreneurs.
O’Connor was encouraged by her father to start a business career. He reckoned his street smart daughter would do better selling than going to college after high school. For 20 years, she worked selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. Not surprisingly, this made her an excellent saleswoman and thickened her skin, enabling her to bounce back from the inevitable frustrations and disappointments in business.
She created Search Wizards in 2000, which allowed her the flexibility she craved that comes with working from home. Success has come quickly. In 2003 sales were $359,600. In 2007 revenue had soared to $12.2 million. Although the company has grown quickly, O’Connor has been mindful to grow organically, telling one interviewer, “I never bit off more than I could chew. I never wanted to have cash flow troubles. We’re debt free-always have been-which matters in this market.” As Search Wizards started to make money, all the cash was ploughed back into the business. She never had to borrow money or come up with a business plan to sell to potential investors.
Instrumental in her success has been the fact that the company is a virtual business. Starting with just a handful of consultants, there are now 135 working in five different countries. This has kept her overhead low, which she believes has enabled her to offer better service to clients. The team of recruiting and sourcing consultants provides expertise in core recruiting functions and aims to give their clients access to the best talent available.
O’Connor is keen to offer advice to other entrepreneurs and believes that one of her most valuable assets is the ability to multi-task. She told an interviewer from Entrepreneur Magazine, “Be a great juggler. As a woman in business, you will always have lots of balls in the air, including running your business and making strategic decisions to grow your business. In many cases you also have the role of being a wife, a mother, a daughter and a sister. The same traits that make us great in all of these roles are the ones that you will rely on to excel in business.”