Merle Norman Cosmetics, Tressie Howell
When Tressie Howell's boss offered to sell her the business, she did a quick self-assessment. Twenty-five years old. A husband in divinity school. Children in the offing. A mortgage. A degree in electrical engineering from the University of Mississippi. (Consequently, what she knew about running a business, you could fit on the head of an eyeliner.) Oh, yeah. And she had no money. By her own admission, the determination was her only asset. But guess what? Determination was the very asset she needed. Her SCORE mentor Marion Smith remembers, "She did everything, and I mean everything, we asked her to do. Projections, P & L statement, marketing strategy, the whole business plan." Week after week, her SCORE mentors would pick her plan apart, and she'd put it back together without batting an eyelash. Tressie was relentless: "I knew that if I could convince my mentors, I could do it for real." In the end, she dabbed on an extra bit of confidence, took "one of the most buttoned-up business plans you can imagine" into a bank, and walked out with the money she needed. And never looked back. Really, you can't make this stuff up.