Life After Financial Ruin: How Two Entrepreneurs Survived

These successful businesses began with panicked entrepreneurs scrambling for cash.
October 18, 2011

By all counts, 2008 was a tough year for Adam Dudley. He started the year by getting laid off from his full-time job at a restaurant company. He then purchased a struggling café; things were going well, that is, until surrounding businesses began shuttering. It wasn't long before his clientele began to disappear, as well.

“Within a month, I saw my sales cut in half; there was just no way I could keep the café afloat,” he says.

Dudley was left scrambling. Fortunately, his wife, Heather, had a full-time job, which helped carry them through the next several months. Dudley took a few consulting jobs, and the couple managed to eventually save enough to finally take a vacation in the fall of 2010.

“It was our first vacation in three years, and we went to San Francisco for two weeks; while there we loved it so much that we decided to travel indefinitely and work on the road,” Dudley says.

So in April, they left their home in Orlando, Florida, and drove down to Sarasota to rent a cottage for two months.

“We were working 20 to 30 hours at this point; I’d learned how to trade stocks and Heather was performing her job remotely,” Dudley says.

Once on the road, the couple decided to launch a company called Location Liberated, designed to help others do the same thing. In addition to a website documenting their travels (last week they got back from spending three months in Berlin), the company offers entrepreneurs written resources outlining how to transition from cubicle life to that of a jet setter. And it offers Dudley and his wife some stability.

Entrepreneurship was also the meal ticket for Val McLeod, who found herself in financial turmoil in 2002, about 18 years into her job in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

“I was living in a town home community in South Florida and was asked to pay $10,000 for a new roof; I just didn’t have it,” she says.

The monetary demand sunk McLeod into bankruptcy and her house went into foreclosure. In 2005, she quit her job. In the midst of what she calls a “moment of personal brokenness,” she thought about next steps. A master at verbal communication and public speaking, McLeod set her sights on starting a business relationship management company where she would facilitate workshops and seminars in the professional environment.

This was her dream. But first, she had to get back on her feet. She moved up to Atlanta, into an extended-stay hotel, and got to work on a business plan. By 2007 she’d started her company, Conversations with V!, and was signing clients.

“Even though I was struggling, I’d wake up every morning knowing that I was best at what I do; it gave me the motivation to go to meetings,” she says.

Today, McLeod is living in Savannah, and business is going well. What advice can she give to struggling entrepreneurs?

She says, “You don’t need to be stable to start your vision; just do it—in the beginning, my clients didn’t know I was living out of a hotel room; I made it work and you can, too.”

As for Dudley and his wife: “We are...working on producing our first business training, which will teach people how to turn any skill or passion into a business they can do on the road—the training will be all online,” he says, adding that the company is now in the black after selling an information product two weeks ago.

What are his plans for the future of the company?

“Location independence is a movement, and there are a handful of highly trafficked sites targeted to this audience," he says. "We are hoping that a larger media interest or publishing company will want to come along and buy us.”