The Truth Behind 22+ “Overnight Success” Stories

Overnight SuccessThe internet is crawling with misleading claims of “overnight success,” which can be incredibly discouraging for those who can’t achieve the same “get-rich-quick” results.  The truth is that starting a business takes time and persistence, and most overnight success stories were years in the making.  So last week I asked –

What is the truth behind your journey to success, and how long did it really take for your business to become profitable?

We were honored by 22 entrepreneurs who responded to our query.  As you will see from their stories, success came from persistence, hard work, and commitment to a dream, for many, over a lengthy period of trial and error.  The point is not to discount the rapid success experienced by the few, but encourage the many who venture into entrepreneurship and walk the often challenging and long road to ultimate success.  I think you will agree from the comments below, that it was well worth the journey to these entrepreneurs.

Our sincere thanks to every contributor this week, who unabashedly shared a story.  Openly sharing your expertise and experiences is a huge asset to this blog and the readership. I wish you all a wonderful week and hope to see you here again.

If you would like to contribute to this week’s question, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of this post to find out how you can get involved.  We’d love to have you share your expertise!


1. Impossible Is Nothing.

Nike had it right with this slogan. If I listened to all the naysayers out there who told me it couldn’t be done, that I tried my best but could give up now and just take the tried and true road, I’d be living a very sad life.

Pioneers and innovators have spent several years and hundreds of hours perfecting their art, crafting their products and services, building their empires and doing it one step at a time. They have failed over and over again – like Edison’s 1000 plus attempts to make the lightbulb work. Imagine if he’d given up after 100 attempts? How many attempts have you really made to succeed?

How many times have you really failed, grandly, and in a bold manner? I hope several, because every time I do I learn a huge amount, and take what works to move a step closer to success.

Thanks to Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur

2. My “overnight” Success Took About Eight Years

I started as a hobby. It was actually called and existed on a free website where the host put ads on my page in return for the free hosting. Then an article I wrote brought me thousands of visitors, some of whom e-mailed to say they loved the article but hated the site. I sprang for a real website, but no professional design or marketing. Over the years profits increased to about $200 a week. Two years ago I lost my full-time job and decided to take the website seriously. I revamped the site. An effort at Search Engine Optimization brought it to page one in about 4 months. Renewed article writing brought in visitors. Affiliate marketing and referral bonuses added customers. Today it is a success. Too bad I didn’t put in all this effort years ago.

Thanks to Izzy Goodman of Complete Computer Services

3. Keep Your Eyes Open And Get Ready For Some Hard Work!

I am afraid after 14 months we are still on the ‘journey’… it does take time! If you go into a business drinking your own koolaid about getting rich quick you will be disappointed. Starting a company and then making it work is really a lot more complicated than it looks! Even with a lot of experience, which is what I had. Internet marketing is especially tricky – there are a lot of ‘experts’ who are waiting as predators to confuse and take advantage of the situation… beware! Always learn as much as you can about a given assignment (before hiring someone to do it). Remember you must first crawl, then walk — before you know it you’ll be running!

Thanks to Sarah Baldwin of Goodnighties Smart-Fabric Sleepwear

4. Overnight Success Represents The Sum Total Of Our Experiences

I invest in myself and business to ensure I’m a successful motivational speaker, author and professional coach. Make no mistake about it, were it not for the exceptional speaking coaches and programs I invested in over the past nine years, I would not be as successful. In essence, I’m the sum total of having hired the late Dottie Walters as my first speaking coach, attended the Bill Gove Speech Workshop and The Million Dollar Speaker Program. When it comes to being an overnight success, it truly is a sum total of all of our experiences. Few if any succeed out of the gate, there are exceptions, however it’s not the norm. It took two years for my company, Wealth Building Academy, to become profitable and I know through passion and persistence I’ll continue making a difference for my clients.

Thanks to Paul Lawrence Vann of Wealth Building Academy, LLC

5. Success Is Not Guaranteed, Unless YOU Guarantee To Be Successful!

Starting a business can be mentally & physically draining. When I started to build my business I put in 12 – 16 hour days for about 4 years before I saw a huge profit. When I say huge I mean the kind you see those Real Estate guys pitching on TV. At first I was frustrated because I thought that a year or two of hard work was all that was needed to make me rich. After all, the guys on TV said I could make $50,000 a month and I was barely seeing $500 a month for all my hard work. I thought about quitting & going back to work a regular job, but the “what if” scenarios kept me hard at work and made me put in that much more effort to create a sustainable, viable income. Hard work does pay off & the old cliché ‘Build it & they will come” is very true. I recommend extra hours & extra hard work. 🙂

Thanks to Michael Di Pippo of

6. The Overtime Or Overnight Success?

There’s a wonderful urban legend about the woman who calls in a plumber for a winter-frozen-and-then-burst pipe. He fixes it in very little time and charges $1,000. “A thousand dollars?” she protests, “You only put in an hour’s worth of work.”

“No,” he corrects her, “that hour represents 13 years of learning my trade.”

And so it is with most overnight successes. In my own case, I have always set the excellence-bar high, whether I was teaching high school or working in corporate America. After 18 years, a single phone call led to the establishment of my own business and a steady stream of clients. Without having put in my dues “over time,” however, I don’t think I could have had the “overnight” success.

Thanks to Dr. Marlene Caroselli

7. Fast Food Would Have Paid Better…

When you bootstrap your business, profitable can mean paying yourself back. When you are your own investor, breaking even, or even getting your business to afford its own business development is a huge accomplishment. My first year in business, I operated in the black. I funded all my conferences, business developments, technology investments, part-time employees…basically if it had to be paid for it came out of my pocket. By the end of the first year I had paid myself back, funded my business development and managed to give myself a small salary. Let me emphasize that last part, a SMALL salary. I probably would have made more money working the drive through at a fast food restaurant. The money I made in year 1 was not a lot, but it was enough to say, you can do this!

Thanks to Lauren MacEwen of SM Cubed Consulting

8. My 10 Year Journey To Overnight Success

In 1998 I started, which evolved from a company offering a team of virtual assistants to a full service business development company working with marketing and customer relationships management. Simply, we are the Rocket Fuel for Business, getting you customers and helping you keep them for life.

The journey was a path of ups and downs, but the resources I gathered, the people I met networking, the opportunities that came into play were part of this winding road.
Marketing involves many levels and there are many directions to take while branding yourself. There are no overnight schemes that I know of that will offer you shortcuts, but they may exist. If they do, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you get to the prince, so, stay focused. Grow your business organically and success will come. It may not be overnight, but the journey will be enjoyed each day.

I wish you all luck and if you find a different formula, let me know. So far, many have tried to sell me on internet get rich quick business activities, but years later, they are nowhere to be found. Each and every one.

Thanks to Gayle Naftaly of

9. Fast By Any Standards, But Not Overnight

Our story is Founded in 2003, it’s a site that aggregates and publishes information on government seized and surplus property. Not having lots of money to invest, we built the site ourselves from scratch, launching six months after we started. I coordinated the site design, marketing and business planning, and my co-founder developed the site programming-wise. It took us a month to plan the business, four months of development and alpha testing and a month more of marketing, site redesign and beta testing before we launched. Upon launch, we invested $5 into advertising and it returned $40, and our business has always been profitable since then, has grown consistently and garnered lots of goodwill. By any standards, we launched very quickly, but it was not overnight.

Thanks to Ian Aronovich of

10. Rags To Riches

Very few of us will ever create something so incredible that we begin making money overnight – Mark Zuckerberg even had to find a financial backer for a while.

When I started my business, I took the advice of other business owners I respected: Prepare to work your dream job full-time for a year and work another job for a year, as well. It can take that long for your dream to stand on its own and support you and your family. In my case, it took 10 months of 70 hour-weeks to realize my dream. It was worth every moment, but I almost gave up so many times!

Be passionate about what you do or you will give up when times get tough – and times are most definitely going to get tough.

Thanks to Jen Watkins of St. George News

11. 2.5 Miles

Literally add two years to your plan and hope with fingers crossed for sooner! In the “mean” time be prepared for a good two years of sweat equity, road blocks and people acting like your business won’t work…

Starting a business should be looked at like running a marathon, you can’t just wake up one day after never running and say “I’m going to run 26+ miles today” and wonder why it wasn’t a piece of cake! It takes major prep and building up your endurance for it being a comfortable ride!

Thanks to Jill Mikols Etesse of SmartyShortz LLC

12. Find Your Niche

My business started to be profitable rather quickly almost immediately although that does not mean I could make a living out of it. It took two plus years to find my niche and to make decent money. Once I found my niche, I was able to concentrate in the area I had chosen and became an expert in the field.

Thanks to Michele Benza of Michele Benza, Image Consulting & Posture

13. I Had To Work For Next To Nothing

When I first launched my business, I had to work for next to nothing to get experience and build a portfolio of clients. Sometimes weeks went by between jobs and I had to supplement my income doing other things. It wasn’t until about two years in that I was making a full-time living doing what I love. To be successful in your own business, you have to persevere and be prepared to work very long hours. You have to really want it (or be REALLY desperate :)) or you won’t survive.

Thanks to Andrew Neary of Organizing Toronto

14. Smart Choices + Work

There is always a story behind the headlines. It’s not always published, either it’s not so palatable to the ears or it’s simply not sensational enough. Business start-up and growth is a process that is almost impossible to jump. I have seen people with great ideas, but the lack of patience and will to prepare adequately got them nowhere. Many were privileged to meet potential investors etc, but simply blew it, just because they had ignored aspects of the process.

It’s taken me years of smart work to get me to where I am now. To me, each client I help to fulfill a dream is a success story. Having said that, I still see no limit by which I can measure my own success. And as such, my continual existence and ability to reach out to more clients and meet their needs requires daily smart choices + work.

Thanks to Victor Kwegyir of VIKE INVEST (UK) LTD

15. My Shortcut

I left Perth, Australia to come to New York City and make it in the world of standup comedy/writing/acting. All the agents and managers were so interested and promised me big things. Within a year, the movie that I wrote with myself in the lead was in preproduction. Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out so simply. Nine years later, I’m headlining all over the USA, Canada, Cayman Islands, Eastern Caribbean, Australia and the UK doing what I love. No matter how you cut it, no matter what shortcut you take, the bottom line is that there is no other way other than to work at your craft whatever it may be and pound the pavement like nobody’s business. Today, I have another movie project which already has a distribution deal. My second shortcut has taken five years!

Thanks to Jim Dailakis of Aussie Comedian/Actor

16. Your Skills Will Get You Where You Want To Go

I have been a serial entrepreneur for 34 years, starting my first business at the young impressionable age of 19. Having started and run many businesses over the years, I can honestly tell you that some were unsuccessful, in that they didn’t outright fail…they just didn’t go anywhere. Fast forward to the present and my most recent business was launched in 2010 with zero marketing budget (but a great idea) and we generated $1.7 Million in new business within nine months. The difference? Thirty four years of experience and in-the-trenches education.

At the request of many clients, we recently launched a small business portal to help entrepreneurs and small business owners sort through the hype and scammers, giving away free assistance. You can check it out at

Thanks to Dan Page of Skill Highway

17. 8 Years To Overnight Success

For 8 years I struggled to build an online business… learning a little bit every month. Last December I had an idea for a new website promotion service. I didn’t think it would work but I always try every online business idea.

Within 3 months it was making over $50K per year. Overnight success would not have been possible without the 8 prior years of work in the trenches. I suspect that my next 3 or 5 ideas will be failures and will hit it big on the 6th, 7th or 8th.

The thing with overnight success is that most people have a handful of failed attempts which they learn a lot from before they hit a home run. The bottom line – each attempt at building a business is a learning experience and when you finally learn what you need to, you will be successful.

Thanks to Chris Chong of Link Building Service

18. The 22 Year Overnight Success

You’re right about the saying, “an overnight success. ” We hear it all the time and because we’re so busy, we never take the time to look at the “back story” of everything the person did for years, sometimes a lifetime to become an overnight success. There aren’t many great things that happen overnight — an oak tree takes many lifetimes to grow. Yes, people do win millions in the lottery, but unless they’re ready to handle it, it’s gone in a few years. Anything that is worth doing takes time to create and grow. We live in an instant everything world. Everyone has the ” I want it now” mindset. The bottom line is it takes work, effort and energy. You have to ” Think outside the lobster trap. ” I’m the author of a book called ” The lobster and the chicken” The journey we are all traveling on through life.

Thanks to Herb Palmer Jr of Lobster And The Chicken

19. How Badly Do You Want It?

I got lucky. I launched RER, LLC, a NJ real estate investment firm, in 2007. Three years later, my company was granted millions of dollars in investment capital through a private equity fund. As a result, it experienced a hyper-growth not typical to small businesses. But that’s not to say that I didn’t have my share of hurdles to jump over. Initially bootstrapping RER, I buried myself in personal debt, not only to get it going, but to maintain its existence, as well. That first year, I ended up with a negative revenue — probably the biggest “hope crusher” that any entrepreneur can experience. But I kept pushing, and in time, I got what I wanted. Apart from the lottery, there’s no such thing as getting rich quick. The work you put in determines the quality of your end result: make it worthwhile.

Thanks to Ankit Duggal of RER, LLC

20. Overnight Success Is Really Years In The Making

People who describe overnight success stories are either incredibly lucky, or not telling the whole story. I started my first internet company working nights and weekends while working 60 hours a week for another corporation and planning my wedding. Some nights I would spend promoting sales or responding to customers until 3 in the morning, only to get up a few hours later to do it all over again. If you read the stories of many entrepreneurs, their first years were similar: lots of work with little extra income just hoping it will pay off. But after each lesson learned, each product iteration, and each attempt, you get a little closer to the night before you become an overnight success…

Thanks to Charlie Belmer of Golem Technologies

21. Fight Like A Girl To Win!

Overnight success is rare at best. It has taken me nearly 10 years to get my program “Fight like a Girl,” off the ground & on top. Two years ago I was diagnosed with Malignant Thyroid Cancer which had stricken me of my voice, which without I could not perform or do my Fight like a Girl seminars. I knew that I was put on this world to save little girls & women from being a victim. I really felt like giving up, but I said no way. Now I teach my seminars with a microphone. I have performed over 161 seminars to over 16,000 women/girls. Even if you don’t know how? Say, “Yes,” find someone who does know how and if it scares you? Do it! Swim, float or get towed to YOUR ship! Now I have a corporate deal with the World Largest Martial Arts Company, I’m an Author & a Movie is to be made about my life.

Thanks to Kym Rock of Kym Rock’s

22. Overnight Success In 10 Years?

The truth is, overnight success takes years of hard work to achieve; unless you were featured on Oprah’s show; which is equivalent to hitting the lottery.

In my line of work, it takes approximately 3-5 years to garner stability in your career; or 5-7 yrs. with the current negative economic barometer.

It’s a balancing act of networking and building your client base; figuring out how the clients think and work in that particular area; and sourcing out marketing strategies that work for your specific arena. It’s a lot of trial and error in all these aspects when you are just starting out. It takes time to iron out all these nuances, put preventive measures in place, so you can hone in on your target; just like a hunter perfecting his skills and craft; and this does not happen overnight.

Thanks to Jennifer Chiongbian of Rutenberg Realty

Bonus: Failing Before I Could Succeed

My first internet business was a failure. I attended a weekend “internet marketing program” with “gurus” from all over the world telling us how easy it was – all we had to do was take advantage of their “low-low value-packed all-this-for-only $3995 but for this weekend only!!!” weekend training course offers. Our first online venture took over $18,000 out of our savings and in return we made approximately $500 – that was over an 18 month period.

Our second venture is now making money, and we opened our doors 6 months ago. Six months is a short time period to be profitable, BUT we learned so much from our first failure, so we compressed the timeframe to “success” and didn’t make those same mistakes twice.

Thanks to Jill Chivers of Shop Your Wardrobe

Thanks so much again to all our wonderful contributors for your valuable suggestions this week!  We hope to hear from you again.

If you are new to the Question of the Week and would like to get involved, simply follow the link below to get started.  We’d love to have you share your knowledge and experiences here too, and get a bit of PR in the process.

This week’s question is –

When you start a business, it’s important to seek out a niche that’s untapped or underserved, and sets the stage for you to bring your unique prowess to the table to fill an existing need in a special way. The greatest success and fulfillment comes from sharing your inherent gifts with others.

So as a successful entrepreneur, what is your business “Super Power” and how do you leverage it to positively impact the lives of the people you serve in your niche?

Why should I join the discussion?

Because this online forum is a great place for us to exchange ideas, learn from each other and network. My goal is to unite successful women entrepreneurs to share our insights and solutions to the challenges we most commonly face in our businesses.

How do I get involved?

Every Monday I will post a new Question of the Week. This is a great opportunity for you to bring your expertise to the table. Using the link below, please submit a one paragraph response before the deadline, and the following week I will share our community responses on my blog.


I look forward to your response to this week’s question! If you have any questions you know where to find me. Have a great week!


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  1. Posted April 25, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I was currently writing an ezine article titled Free To Succeed and addressing the allure of Overnight Success. Thank you for the inspiration.

  2. Posted April 20, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink | Reply

    Oh I totally put that in there to see if people were really reading! 😉

    Actually it was totally my mistake when I was furiously typing out this message from my heart, but luckily the lovely Shannon changed it for me so I look smarter. The point is still the same though – learning from failures will move you towards success and you should never ever give up!

    • Posted April 20, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink | Reply

      I can’t count the number of times my fingers and my brain have not connected when typing quickly. Yes, your point is solid and much appreciated! 🙂

  3. Posted April 18, 2011 at 8:51 am | Permalink | Reply

    I love all the tips and advice here, but I have to point out to the author of post #1 that it was Edison, not Einstein (!!!!), who invented the lightbulb, and in fact presented it to the public in 1879, the same year Einstein was born.

    Overnight success is all about how you define it, and the stories in this post are great to read.

    • Posted April 18, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink | Reply

      Jessica, Thanks for the editorial catch. 🙂 I completely missed that when I was going through these, but know that Natalie would appreciate the catch too. Glad you enjoyed the post, and how openly everyone shared. That’s what makes these posts so great!

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] really is no such thing as an overnight success.  It is rare.  The mere notion of an overnight success can be misleading,  discouraging and demotivating to most people.  If you are starting something new, you may be a […]

  2. By Growing in Excellence « Ahead of the Game on March 20, 2012 at 8:52 am

    […] I came across a website last night that listed 22 overnight success stories. (not).  Success did not come overnight for any of them.  It came through blood, sweat and tears.  It took a long time.  but they never gave up.  They believed in what they were doing.  It is a very good, challenging and encouraging read.  Check it out here. […]

  3. By Overnight Succes — Blog Cubed on April 22, 2011 at 11:55 am

    […] Learn the truth about “Overnight Success” in Dr. Shannon Reece’s question of the week. […]

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