Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Donna Hartley, Owner of Hartley International, located in Tahoe City, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I am a renowned inspirational speaker and author. For over three decades, I have been traveling the world and encouraging people to develop inner leadership to adapt to changes in their lives. My customers are medical staff from all levels within hospitals to medical associations, cancer and heart surgery survivors, SHRM and HR associations, along with state associations and corporations.

Tell us about yourself

Surviving a fiery plane crash gave me my career. Here is my story:

• On March 1, 1978 - I survived a fiery DC-10 plane crash that transformed my life in seconds and testified to change airline safety regulations in the United States.

• On March 1, 2002 - I was diagnosed with Stage III Melanoma. Cancer-free and today an advocate for women’s health.

• On March 1, 2006 - I triumphed over unexpected open heart surgery to replace a faulty aortic valve and am now a champion for women being heart healthy.

• March 2020 –a global pandemic- had to have heart surgery to replace an aortic valve again! Survivor. National spokesperson for Heart Valve Surgery 2021.

Testifying before the National Transportation Safety Board to improve airline safety was the first time I had made a major speech in my life. At that moment, I knew that was what I needed to do: help people through speaking. It took about six years after the crash to create my company; after all, I had some healing to do. With all the near-death experiences I've had, I am so grateful to be alive. That motivates me every day to continue helping others discover what they need to adapt to this ever-changing world.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I've taken the stage in front of thousands. I've had specials on PBS and NBC and even been written about in The New York Times, but the biggest accomplishment I feel is when someone writes to me and tells me how much I have helped change their life for the better. They needed to hear what I had to say.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

The lonely hours while you're coming up with new ideas for your company. Also, being a single mom and raising a daughter while still traveling globally meant I didn't get a lot of sleep.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

Take workshops related to your field, find a mentor to talk to about challenges you're facing, and join an association associated with your field to have others to talk to. For example, I'm a member of the Screen Actors Guild, the National Speakers Association, and the Nonfiction Authors Association.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

My website has photos, videos, and a free meditation for everyone to access! There, you can also read more about my story in detail.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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