Running the 1993 New York City marathon inspired Lori Shannon to start See Jane Run, a business that caters to women runners of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. After opening the first store in San Francisco in 2000, she branched out with two more shops in California and one in Idaho. By creating a sense of community around the stores, Shannon has increased sales to $2.9 million and earned the company the No. 3,525 spot on the 2011 Inc. 5000.

Running my first marathon changed my life. It made me feel empowered, especially because I was overweight and not necessarily athletic. I want to bring that kind of experience to other women-;especially those who have been disenfranchised by shops that traditionally cater to elite athletes.

My business plan is based on brick-and-mortar retail, because I want my customers to have an experience by coming into the store. We compete with companies like Zappos by delivering great in-store customer service, providing good shoe fittings, and organizing running clubs. Today, retail sales make up 70 percent of our revenue; e-commerce and putting on races make up the rest.

One of the changes we are now putting in place is our private label. We have been in business for 12 years, and See Jane Run is a strong brand name. We want to push the power of that brand by offering more of our own products this fall.

I worked every day my first year in business without taking a break. I did everything from bookkeeping to cleaning the store. It was fun but tiring. I have since moved out of the stores and spend my time thinking of ways to keep growing the business. I enjoy playing the role of visionary.