Running A Business

4 Tragic Events that Inspired Successful Businesses

Oct 06, 2021 • 5 min read
when tragedy inspires a business: mask, covid, stock, city
Table of Contents

      Behind every business is the story of an owner who wanted to change something. Some of these stories are personal. Some are inspiring. And others are brand stories inspired by an unfortunate event or tragedy, which is the case in each of the following cases. 

      SIDS Leads to a Product for Prevention

      One of the best-known stories of a company created in tragedy’s wake is Halo, which specializes in safe bedding for newborns. In 1991, Bill Schmid lost his firstborn to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), otherwise known as crib death. He wanted to prevent any other parent from experiencing the same tragedy. This led to the development of the SleepSack—the very first wearable blanket. 

      Today, the SleepSack is available in more than 1,700 hospitals nationwide. Their educational safe-sleep materials are distributed to over 10,000 new parents annually, and the company’s products are also created even for babies that fall into smaller sizes—like those spending the first weeks of their lives in the NICU. 

      Schmid and Halo continue to develop products that help new parents protect their newborns and guide them to sleep safely. The company thrives because it was built on the values of protecting kids and preventing tragedies. Since 2010, they have donated more than $9 million to hospitals to support healthy births.    

      Cancer Remission Leads to a Fresh Start

      Sarah Fonteyne is the founder of Halcyon Naturals, a company focused on self-care. Before starting her business, said Fonteyne when she shared its brand story with The Real Life, Fonteyne worked in music as a tour manager and promoter—careers not known for a low-key lifestyle. The idea to create scents and candles without harmful toxins emerged from Fonteyne’s own recovery from cancer and subsequent remission. 

      Fonteyne hopes her candles and other scented products will help others live the way she does now: mindfully and in the moment. Halcyon Naturals’ motto—to “create freedom through the power of aromachology”—mirrors this goal. Still, she cautions against confusing her brand story with her personal experience: “I have always been an entrepreneur,” Fonteyne previously told the Enterprise League. “Cancer was a moment in my life, but it in no way defines who I am as a person or…an entrepreneur.” 

      Business Closing Leads to Another Opening

      In December 2020, NPR’s Planet Money interviewed Roberto Ortiz, a veteran software designer who had just moved to San Francisco to launch a business that connected restaurants to wholesale food providers. The idea was sound—until COVID hit and shut down restaurants across the country.  

      Ortiz and his partners debated for a while how they would make their business work. They spent so much time on Zoom calls doing so, in fact, that they decided to start their own video conferencing experience. They wanted to make the “Ritz Carlton of virtual events,” targeting business professionals who needed better features than Zoom or Microsoft Teams could offer. They called it Welcome. 

      As of the end of 2020, their business had 30 employees and has raised $12 million. The pandemic brought many entrepreneurs down, but some saw inspiring ideas that made surviving this past year easier. 

      Moving Forward—Even after a Hurricane

      For some entrepreneurs, a tragedy doesn’t inspire new business ideas but rather lights a fire to move their existing company forward. Lorenzo Marquez—founder of Marqet Group, a full-service marketing agency—had grown his team to 10 employees in just 5 months. His business was growing, and he was feeling confident. 

      Then Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston. Marquez and his family lost their home. At the same time, the Marqet Group’s employees were scattered across the city (and country, as some evacuated) and tried to pick up the pieces of their lives.   

      However, Marquez built back. His office building was flooded, but he fought his fears and kept moving forward. Little by little, he regrew his business—and today, it’s stronger than ever. 

      “Looking back on that horrific experience, I can honestly say that the most beneficial thing that I did for both my family and business was to develop the courage to take action despite all the fear that was attacking me,” Marquez tells Entrepreneur

      The Value of Your Brand’s Origin Story

      A brand’s origin story is an important part of connecting with an audience. Notes marketer Neil Patel, “Before you sell anything, you need to connect, and not just with a handshake or sending out one email. You need to emotionally connect with the people you want to be your customers now, and for the rest of their lives.” One of the best ways to do this is by peeling back to curtain so the audience sees what drove you to start your business, the hurdles you overcame, and what inspired you.

      However, it’s worth mentioning that the stories retold here are not intended as a roadmap to success—they were selected to illustrate how unforeseen circumstances can sometimes become the catalyst to making a positive difference in a life, outlook, or world, too. Entrepreneurship is merely one way to turn a tragedy into a reason to give your own life new meaning or even to help others.


      The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute business, legal, tax, or accounting advice. All information, content, and materials available in this post are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this post should contact their attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.
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