• Company hires ex-cons to clean up people's lives

    Sarah Lybrand at Driven 2 yrs ago

    Clutter Cleaner cleans up the messiest homes in America. The kind seen on reality shows like A&E’s " Hoarders" (in which the company appeared in over 60 episodes). “Something tragic has happened in these people’s lives,” says owner Matt Paxton. “So we go in very delicately and help them through the process of cleaning up.”

    And getting one's life back is something Paxton can personally relate to.

    “I started cleaning hoarded homes because I couldn’t get any other job. I was at rock bottom… I’m a recovering gambler. And quite honestly at the time I was an alcoholic. I was a loser,” he says.

    By 2006, Paxton had no job, owed $60,000, and had nowhere to live. Desperate, he paid a friend to let him sleep on his floor. “One day my friend finally asked me for the money I owed him, and I went to my grandmother and begged her to let me clean out her basement for $200, just to make rent,” Paxton says.

  • Son reinvents family business, becomes shoe cobbler to the stars

    Driven 2 yrs ago

    Oak Street Bootmakers makes no ordinary shoe. Heavy and velvety to the touch, their shoes are made of 100% genuine Horween leather and boasts Goodyear welted construction. And if you don’t know what that is, you're not alone – these used to be the standards of American shoe-making that are no longer. 

    “We live in a disposable world where now you buy a pair of shoes, relatively inexpensively, and you wear them until they’re completely worn out and then you throw them out,” says Oak Street’s founder, George Vlagos. He describes his shoes as being made the old-fashioned way, using techniques that have disappeared from American shoe-making. “We really strive to create a product that you’re going to have forever,” says Vlgaos.

    In more ways one, this boot business is a return to Vlagos’ roots: both the traditions of the craft itself, and also an unexpected return to his father’s family business.

    “I [didn’t] want George to work in the shoe repair, so I [pushed] him to work hard, get educated, do something nice, you know? Like a principal, or a lawyer if he wanted. He was a smart kid,” John says. 

  • Pie guy pays it forward with cookie kid

    Jessica Ashford at Driven 2 yrs ago

    Mr. Tod’s Pie Factory is a retail and manufacturing company specializing in all things desserts, most notably its signature scrumptious pies. You might remember Tod Wilson, CEO and Founder, as the first profile to stand before a panel of five investors for ABC’s hit program “Shark Tank.” Wilson shared his heartfelt journey of once living out of his car to picking back up and propelling the business to even greater heights. “After Shark Tank, business was booming, just the exposure alone," says Wilson. Today Mr. Tod’s Pie Factory is a million dollar business with two retail locations, a Mercedes mobile bakery and a thriving online store.

    Wilson's financial success has not come from the Shark Tank investment. He explains, “I think the biggest misconception is that people saw me taking the deal, but I didn’t. I couldn’t imagine giving up 40% of my business. Mr. Tod’s Pies is all I have.”

    To rebuild, Wilson waited tables and made pies at night.

  • Viral dance video turns into successful start-up

    Sarah Lybrand at Driven 2 yrs ago

    Karen Cheng is a woman of many talents. But when a video she made of herself learning how to dance over the course of a year went viral in July of 2013 -- attracting over 4 million YouTube views – she knew she’d created something others could relate to.

    Give It 100 is like Vine or Youtube, but for bettering yourself,” says Cheng. “It’s a website for choosing a goal to get better at, and then practicing that goal for 100 days…Because if you work towards something everyday, you will get better at it.”

    [Related: Forget Barbie: female engineer revolutionized toy industry]

    So Cheng began filming herself in order to play back and watch her own moves but soon she realized that “I could put all these videos together to show my progress – and that others might want to see how far I’ve come, too.”


  • World's best hoodie is proud to be American made

    Sarah Lybrand at Driven 2 yrs ago

    American Giant, a direct-to-consumer apparel company, makes what Slate called “The Greatest Hoodie Ever Made” -- among other bold reviews. But with a one-time backorder of more than six months and a celebrity following that includes Stephen King, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Fred Armisen, founder/CEO Bayard Winthrop might just be proving the moniker true.

    [Related: From Bullied to Bank: Bethany Mota’s Fashion Empire]

    [Related: How a Tiny Superhero Helped Save a Failing Factory]

  • Forget Barbie: Female engineer revolutionizes toy industry

    Sarah Lybrand at Driven 2 yrs ago

    Debbie Sterling doesn’t just want to sell toys – she wants to give every girl in America a tool belt for building a better future. So she developed a toy featuring a female character who solves engineering problems using storytelling and construction sets.

    [Related: From Bullied to Bank: Bethany Mota’s Youtube Empire]

    As a freshman at Stanford University, however, she took her teacher's advice and enrolled in Mechanical Engineering 101. “The second I stepped inside, I nearly turned around and walked out,” she recalls. With few women in the class, she found herself alone in small working groups, often feeling intimidated and ignored by her male classmates. Sterling says she still faces some of that today. “I think this is what fuels my fire.”

    [Related: Failing Factory Revived by Unlikely Super Hero]

  • 12-year old 'kidpreneur' brings the bowtie back

    Sarah Lybrand at Driven 2 yrs ago

    A precocious Memphis sixth-grader named Moziah Bridges has decided to bring the classic and cool bowtie back, a gesture that has gotten attention from Steve Harvey, Forbes, British GQ, and even Oprah. You may have seen Mo's Bowson ABC's hit show 'Shark Tank' as Moziah recently unveiled his handcrafted bows before the show's panel of five investors. He received one offer from businessman Kevin O'Leary for $50,000 in exchange for $3 for every tie sold. But standing in the way was shark Daymond John, founder of the $6 billion dollar FUBU fashion line, who advised Moziah not to take the money and instead offered a valuable mentorship. Not a bad partnership to have for the blooming entrepreneur.

  • How a tiny superhero helped save a failing factory

    Sarah Lybrand at Driven 2 yrs ago

    Fall River Apparel is a cut and sew contracting business that has gone from a $3 million company in its heyday, to shuttered and bankrupt after the manufacturing bust, to back in business more than a decade later. 

    Remarkably it and owner Jimmy Petrosso have survived, most recently knocking the dust off the old machinery to help out a small Etsy shop needing a boost of manufacturing power. This, at a time when the last relics of the garment industry are still standing like ghost ships in towns across America -- such as in Fall River, Mass.

    “Back when I was a child, Fall River was known for its mills and its factories. And if you were going to work anywhere in Fall River that is where it would be," says Petrosso. "You could literally quit a job in one mill and get a job in another mill the next day. Labor was in demand and there was plenty of it.”

    [Related: From Bullied to Bank: How Bethany Mota Created a YouTube and Fashion Empire]

    Petrosso thought his factory was dead.

  • From bullied to bank: How Bethany Mota created a YouTube and fashion empire

    Sarah Lybrand at Driven 2 yrs ago

    Though you may not know her name (yet), Bethany Mota is a superstar. Millions of young girls are familiar with this “Mota-vator,” an 18-year-old YouTube personality who has built herself a media and fashion empire — all from the comfort of her Northern California bedroom. 

    Now with her own clothing line at retailer Aeropostale, Bethany’s rising stardom goes far beyond her “MACBARBIE07” -- a YouTube channel that's generating an estimated $40,000 per month and has garnered over 300 million views since she launched it. She is an inspiration to pre-teens everywhere who’ve ever struggled with boredom, shyness and bullying.  

    [Related: YouTube is a Goldmine

    Though Bethany doesn’t like to discuss the financial details of her ever-growing fashion company, it’s safe to say this won’t be the last you’ll be seeing of this teenage mogul-in-the-making.