What It Takes

Archive: success stories

Johnny Taylor Jr.

By 23, Johnny Taylor Jr. had earned his master's and law degrees and was working at a big law firm. A few jobs later, he's leading the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, helping students at historically black colleges reach their full potential.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | December 22, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (22)

Ernie Allen

Twenty-two years after creating the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children with John and Reve Walsh, Allen and the Alexandria-based operation are still helping thousands of kids.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | December 14, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (5)

Anthony Wellington

Anthony Wellington says there are many ways to make a living with music -- and he does most of them. Wellington, a bass master, plays local gigs, tours internationally, owns a record studio and teaches music.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | December 1, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

Entrepreneur Paul Strzelec

Paul Strzelec, co-founder of a consulting firm based in Gaithersburg, says his biggest mistake in business was not thinking outside of the box.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | November 24, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (10)

Entrepreneur Rob McGovern

Rob McGovern launched CareerBuilder.com and then followed up with the smaller Jobfox.com. But maybe what changed his life the most was a near-fatal car accident 18 months ago.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | November 17, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

AIDS educator Adam Tenner

Adam Tenner, the executive director of Metro TeenAIDS, says he'll take his message to everyone from teens to government officials. 'I have to sell Metro TeenAIDS, and what we do every day.'

By Avis Thomas-Lester | November 10, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

Cari Dominguez

Cari Dominguez, who came to the U.S. from Cuba when she was 12, served in both Bush administrations and in the private sector. She says her parents' sacrifices motivated her to succeed.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | November 3, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (4)

Doug Laughlin

Doug Laughlin served in the military in the 1960s and later helped to create the Army's "Be all you can be" ad campaign. Today, his ad agency has $153 million in annual billings and clients including the Army National Guard and Sears Portrait Studio.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | October 27, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (4)

Restaurateur Jeff Black

Local restaurateur Jeff Black learned to cook growing up in Houston with four sisters. At 13, he got a job in a restaurant doing everything from chopping onions to scrubbing toilets. By 17, he was waiting tables and tending...

By Avis Thomas-Lester | October 20, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Singer Justin Jones

Singer/songwriter Justin Jones is moving up. He has played with Loretta Lynn and ZZ Top, and recently finished a tour with Sheryl Crow. In between gigs, he's still tending bar at the 9:30 Club.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | October 13, 2010; 08:01 PM ET | Comments (0)

Chuck Brown

Chuck Brown, the founder of go-go, D.C.'s indigenous musical style, is still going strong at 74. Just two weeks ago, he released his latest CD, "We Got This."

By Avis Thomas-Lester | October 6, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (8)

Dennis Friedman

Political science didn't stand a chance when Dennis Friedman was "bit by the restaurant bug." After cooking in some of the country's most renowned kitchens, he came back home and opened Bezu, which specializes in French-Asian cuisine. And now he's making pizzas, too.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | September 23, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

Orlan Johnson

Orlan Johnson, a lawyer known as an under-the-radar dealmaker, met Barack Obama in 2006. Johnson said he thought the Illinois senator would "do something very special." But he didn't know he'd end up as president.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | September 15, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

Norman Scribner

Norman Scribner was not yet 30 when he founded the Choral Arts Society of Washington in 1965. Since that time, the organization has grown from a community choir to a world-renowned chorus with a staff of 12 and an...

By Avis Thomas-Lester | September 8, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Kenny Kramm

Kenny Kramm's daughter, who has cerebral palsy, couldn't tolerate her medicine. So Kramm and his father created a flavoring that made the medicine go down. That led to a company he later sold -- and then to a similar company for pet medicines.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | September 1, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Denise Austin

Denise Austin built a fitness empire by staying ahead of fitness trends. Now, after 30 years in the business and 22 million DVDs and videos sold, she's getting ready for a book tour. Her motto? Never give up.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | August 18, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

Michael E. Melton

Michael E. Melton is a successful lawyer and a businessman, but he has also served as president of 100 Black Men of Great Washington, determined to show young people from backgrounds like his that they can succeed.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | August 4, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

Lani Hay

Lani Hay, whose family emigrated from Vietnam, has come a long way -- from her first job at the Magic Putting Palace in Manassas to being founder and CEO of Lanmark Technology, a federal contracting firm. Her advice? "Dream bigger than what is in front of you."

By Avis Thomas-Lester | July 28, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Chris Samuels

After 10 years with the Washington Redskins -- and six trips to the Pro Bowl -- Chris Samuels is retiring. Then what? Samuels, who has been interning with the Skins to learn how to coach, hopes to land with a high school, college or pro team.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | July 21, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Paula Stern

Paula Stern heads an international advisory firm and has had appointments from three presidents. But it's her sculptures that she hopes will leave "a lasting legacy of something beautiful."

By Avis Thomas-Lester | July 13, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Toni Reinhart

Toni Reinhart is an introvert who has had a tough time meeting people and marketing her business. But she learned to face her fear and take action, building up a growing home-health agency.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | July 7, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (5)

Isaac Fulwood Jr.

Isaac Fulwood Jr. retired as chief of the D.C. police almost 20 years ago, but he never stopped working for the powerless. Fulwood, 70, now heads the U.S. Parolee Commission.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | July 1, 2010; 03:04 PM ET | Comments (3)

David E. Eisner

By Avis Thomas-Lester | June 23, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Elizabeth Marcotte

Elizabeth Marcotte jumped off the career track after having a child, and she's glad she did. Given a chance to bring families to the dinner table, she jumped back in, and now co-owns five stores that help parents make nutritious meals at home.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | June 16, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Jared Genser

Jared Genser got hooked on human-rights advocacy when he worked on behalf of a man jailed for urging democracy in Burma. Today, the law partner at DLA Piper still fights for prisoners of conscience.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | June 9, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Robert Egger

Robert Egger says he's a showman at heart, though he's spent decades at D.C. Central Kitchen, feeding and training the needy. More than 20 years after founding the nonprofit, the former nightclub manager has an idea: How about a TV show where the host hunts for the most innovative nonprofit groups?

By Avis Thomas-Lester | June 2, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (8)

Jack Garson

Jack Garson, who founded his own law firm, knew even as a boy that he would have to work and work in order to succeed, and he "could not flinch."

By Avis Thomas-Lester | May 26, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pedro Biaggi

Pedro Biaggi has dealt with poverty and prejudice, and won. Biaggi -- perhaps better known as "Pedro en la manana!'' -- is the morning-drive host on WLZL, El Zol 99.1-FM, drawing an audience of about 500,000.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | May 19, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (11)

Jack Davies

Jack Davies was an exec at AOL when it was still "a tiny little company," and now owns part of the Washington Wizards and Capitals. But he says he has had his fair share of setbacks along the way.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | May 12, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Peter Schechter

Peter Schechter, an international communications consultant, says his job is not enough. That's why he's also a goat farmer, co-owner of a winery in Israel and a partner in five restaurants in Washington, D.C. For him, success is all about having a diversity of interests and the ability to learn completely new things.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | May 5, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Marissa Coleman

Washington Mystics player Marissa Coleman says she loves being a role model to children. But even she was surprised when boys approached her at basketball camps and said, "You are my favorite player."

By Avis Thomas-Lester | April 21, 2010; 04:30 PM ET | Comments (0)

Alvin Thornton's education

Educator Alvin Thornton has already helped to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of Maryland school children. Now he's about to reshape Howard University's academic horizons.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | April 14, 2010; 02:54 PM ET | Comments (18)

Guitar maker Paul Reed Smith's greatest hits

Paul Reed Smith dropped out of college and opened a guitar shop in Annapolis that he transformed into the country's third largest manufacturer of electric guitars. Carlos Santana is among the stars who play his guitars.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | March 9, 2010; 10:51 AM ET | Comments (0)

Susan Schaeffler's educational empire

Susan Schaeffler's seven Knowledge is Power Program charter schools have helped disadvantaged students acheive some of the highest standardized test scores in the District. Her goal is to prepare every one for college.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | March 2, 2010; 06:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

Emory Andrews' stellar success

Choir leader Emory Andrews, who has taught children to sing for almost 30 years, and his students at Oxon Hill High School have won the gospel equivalent of a Grammy for their CD "Amazing."

By Avis Thomas-Lester | February 24, 2010; 12:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

Karl Racine's legal moves

Before becoming one of the only black managing partners at a top law firm, Karl Racine was an immigrant from Haiti, an Ivy League basketball star, a D.C. public defender and a deputy White House counsel.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | February 17, 2010; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

An elite speed skater's edge

A three-time Olympian, Nathaniel Mills now teaches children how to speed skate and how to develop the skills they need to succeed in life.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | February 10, 2010; 12:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

Vera Rubin's radical universe

In an era when most women stayed home, Vera Rubin defied stereotypes by becoming a world-renowned astronomer. She changed the way the universe is perceived while raising four children.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | February 3, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

Tim O'Shaughnessy's networking know-how

The 29-year-old CEO and co-founder of SocialLiving has already lured millions in venture capital to his business, which lets users review and share their favorite things from books to beers.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | January 27, 2010; 12:01 AM ET | Comments (5)

A mathematician's writing success

By leaving India at 20, Manil Suri gained the freedom to pursue his talent in math and his passion for writing.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | January 6, 2010; 09:15 AM ET | Comments (1)

A club owner's mojo

Seth Hurwitz, co-owner of the successful 9:30 Club, said he has "survived the shark tank that is the concert promotion business" by signing only deals that will be successful.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | December 28, 2009; 10:58 AM ET | Comments (2)

A psychologist's career-altering mental illness

Kay Redfield Jamison, whose manic-depression once led to a suicide attempt, is now one of the country's leading authorities on the disease.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | December 16, 2009; 10:35 AM ET | Comments (0)

Reenergizing the NAACP

Benjamin Jealous was just 35 when he was chosen to lead the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, becoming the youngest-ever president of the nation's oldest civil rights organization.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | December 2, 2009; 10:01 AM ET | Comments (2)

NPR's accidental CEO

Vivian Schiller describes her career as "a series of happy accidents," an odyssey that began with her work as a Russian translator and tour guide and led earlier this year to her ascension as CEO of National Public Radio.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | November 30, 2009; 03:19 PM ET | Comments (8)

Ben Carson's unlikely triumph

Ben Carson overcame poverty, self-doubt and rage to become one of the world's most renowned surgeons.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | November 11, 2009; 08:01 AM ET | Comments (1)

From illegal to entrepreneur

At 24, Carlos Castro fled poverty and war in El Salvador. Today he's a prosperous Virginia entrepreneur.

By Avis Thomas-Lester | November 4, 2009; 11:11 AM ET | Comments (16)

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