Most people who set out on the entrepreneurial path realize that they will face challenges as they start and grow a new business. But many successful entrepreneurs already have overcome adversity in order to arrive where they are. Surmounting difficulties in life encourages us to build character and resilience, understand our weaknesses, grow our strengths, and become more self-reliant and adaptable. Here, five successful entrepreneurs share how their businesses grew out of their personal struggles, helping them to become the purpose-driven leaders they are today.

Inger Ellen Nicolaisen, Founder of Nikita Hair Nicolaisen came from humble beginnings before establishing herself as a self-made multi-millionaire. Raised in a small Norwegian town by an alcoholic father, she became a mother at the age of 15. She struggled with homelessness with her daughter and worked hard to make ends meet. While sweeping floors at a hair salon, she decided to open her own, and quickly grew Nikita Hair into a chain with over 150 locations, with more than 1,000 employees in Europe, and is now establishing the Nikita Hair Franchise in the U.S. With a passion for helping the disadvantaged, Nicolaisen launched an organization called A Hand to Children, which empowers orphaned and disadvantaged children to live a better life. In addition to giving birth to three children of her own, she also has 11 from a children’s home in Eastern Europe.

“Struggling with homelessness drove me to develop the skills required to succeed in the business world,” Nicolaisen says. “Facing adversity taught me to take responsibility, stay organized, and not to take No for an answer. My experience dealing with adversity helped me grow – personally and professionally. I look at negative situations with a positive attitude. Additionally, I am not afraid to make mistakes. These lessons have helped me grow Nikita Hair into a leading international hair salon and franchise.”