Going From Pennies to Millions

MONEY Susan Petersen still remembers the day she and her husband, Christian, came home one Friday to find an $86 tax refund from the federal government.

To say they were overjoyed would be an understatement. ?You would have thought we won the lottery,? she says. ?We were so happy. I thought we could buy anything we wanted we were so rich.? She and her husband ran to the bank, cashed the check, got dressed up and went to Chili?s for dinner.

That was 2005. Susan and Christian had just gotten married and were living in Utah. The newlyweds were working while enrolled in college courses at the nearby University of Utah.

College didn?t last long for Susan. (?I took a semester. I was bad at it,? she says.) Her job didn?t last long, either. The voice-over IP company where she was an executive assistant went under. And the timing couldn?t have been worse: she was pregnant.

Susan knew she was going to have to get creative to make ends meet. Raised in a family of six on a single schoolteacher?s salary, she was well aware that, when times were tight, you found a way to make it work. At various points throughout her childhood, she?d waxed floors, delivered newspapers and sorted potatoes to earn money for her struggling family. There was no room for fear.

Perhaps she didn?t realize it at the time, but her life experiences were priming her to launch a business. ?I think as an entrepreneur, you really have get comfortable in the fear pocket,? she says.

Shortly after giving birth to her daughter, Hattie, she was watching her friend make things and sell them online. By this time, in 2006, Etsy was the newest, hottest ecommerce company. Inspired, Susan learned how to sew, sewed a bunch of baby blankets and set up an Etsy shop. She quickly discovered that if she blogged about how to make what she was selling, that sent traffic to her store. To this day, she continues to make the most of social media, counting 400,000 followers on Instagram alone.