Mom stared adversity in the face
Mom stared adversity in the face
Location: San Francisco
Annual sales: $1 million

As colleagues at eBay in the early 2000s, Amy Norman and Stella Ma shared an entrepreneurial "itch" and knew they wanted to collaborate on a business at some point. When the two were starting families, they homed in on an idea for finding a fun and inspiring way to teach kids about other countries.

"I moved a lot internationally as a child," said Norman. "Stella grew up in Oakland but she shared my passion for instilling a global perspective in kids."

With funding from family and angel investors, including LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, Little Passports was born. The online subscription service send kids ages 5 to 10 a monthly package designed to look like it's coming from a different country. Kids get stickers, a world map, souvenirs, and letters from characters Sam and Sofia describing their travel adventures.

Little Passport became Norman's saving grace when it launched in 2006. "I was eight months pregnant with my second child and my marriage fell apart," she said. "I had to move out of the apartment, I was trying to launch my business and I had no salary. Around the same time, her father was also diagnosed with cancer and died four months later.

But her passion to get Little Passport off the ground kept her going.

Norman, 38, and Ma, 40, launched in 2009, and sales crossed $1 million this year. Norman said overcoming such steep odds has made her a more confident woman and role model to her kids.

"This is a story about overcoming," she said. "We surrounded ourselves with people who supported us, we believed in ourselves. It's the most fun we've ever had and we're better businesswomen and moms because of it."

By Parija Kavilanz @CNNMoney - Last updated May 13 2012: 8:20 AM ET
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