The Doina Oncel Story: How an abused single mother went from being homeless to becoming a successful entrepreneur

doina oncel

Like many of you, Doina Oncel is an immigrant. She immigrated to Canada at the age of 17 in search for a better life. She had a rough childhood and was looking for something better.

After moving to Canada, she found a great partner and had 2 kids. They started a renovation business together, and things looked great from the outside as they were landing large contracts over $50,000 that contained over 50% profit margins.

Download this bite sized cheat sheet to get to know how an abused single mother went from being homeless to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

It you looked at her life from the outside, everything looked great, and you’d think she couldn’t be happier. But if you dug a bit deeper, you would see that she was going through a tough time.

The tough life

Doina’s ex-partner was addicted to alcohol and would blow all the money they made. At one point, they owed $20,000 because of his alcohol problems.

And to make matters worse, he started to abuse her.

She wanted to do something, but she had no job, no money, and was going through postpartum depression.

On April 21st, 2009, she got fed up with everything and decided to call the cops. She got tired of all of the abuse and wanted to give her kids a better life. After this happened, she called her friends to see if her family could stay with them until she got back on her feet. Sadly, everyone said no.

Doina hit a brick wall…

The new life

sarah and maya

Although Doina and her kids didn’t have anywhere to stay, it actually was a blessing in disguise. She then called a hotline for abused women, and they helped her find a free shelter.

While at the shelter, she felt like her life was over until her daughter said:

Mommy, when I grow up, I want to be just like you. You are the best mommy ever!

At that point, Doina knew that she had to change her life. There was no way she wanted her daughter to grow up like her because she felt that she had nothing to show as a parent or for her daughter to look up to.

After 3 months of being in the shelter, she found a job and started to make enough money to get a place and pay her bills. And although that was a great accomplishment in and of itself, it wasn’t enough for Doina.

The entrepreneurial life

She always wanted to start her own business and make more money so she could provide a better life for her children. With some spare cash to spend on business seminars and books, she started to learn from other successful entrepreneurs.

One of the ventures she took on was Entrepreneurial Moms of Toronto. She was approached by the leader of the Toronto chapter, Bonnie Chan, to join her along. They started helping other mom entrepreneurs rise above their challenges through planning mastermind meetings.

Through this, she mastered the art of networking. Through running her own networking events, she had the opportunity to meet wonderful entrepreneurs who in return believed in her and were ready to support her biggest challenge: starting a PR company for tech start-ups.

Because of her persistent nature and her ability to network, she started to help companies get press for their start-ups. Even though she had no experience in PR, she was able to network with journalists, reporters and bloggers, which allowed her to get coverage for local companies.

Fast-forward to today. Doina has now helped dozens of companies acquire new customers through press. She is now making well into the 5 figures a year and is onto achieving 6 figures in revenue soon.

And even though she is successful, she hasn’t forgotten her roots. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of Ernestine Women’s Shelter, where she is helping other women and their children escape abuse.


doina oncel hero

No matter what kind of economic climate she was in or what situation Doina was placed in, she is one of those individuals that were meant to succeed. She didn’t let anything stand in her way and succeeded despite all the obstacles just like how Juan Chaparro went from being a maid to making over $150,000 a year.

So, what should you learn from Doina’s story?

  1. It doesn’t matter what cards you are dealt in life; it just matters how you play them. It’s up to you to determine your faith, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  2. If you continue to be persistent, sooner or later you’ll succeed. You just have to make sure you learn from your mistakes along the way.
  3. One of the biggest reasons why Doina succeeded is because she solved a pain point in the market. She realized that there weren’t PR firms in her local area that focused on helping tech start-ups even though there were a ton of tech companies who wanted more PR. So, if you want to create a business, create one that solves a problem.

What do you think about Doina’s story?

P.S. If you want to make a success story out of your business click here.


  1. As a single mother trying to launch her own business, this is really inspiring!

    • Yep, she is an inspiration indeed.

    • I always think about people like this. I’m a single 24 year old dude with nobody to pay for or answer to, and I see how much I work and can’t even imagine having the pressure of a family to have to support and devote time too, truly inspirational.

      • It is certainly much easier when you only have to worry about yourself. That is why it is important to work hard to become what you want to be in life before you have other outside responsibilities to worry about.

        • Zilvinas - aircraft parts marketplace :

          Neil, I cannot agree with you. Yes, you have to work hard to achieve something, but success is not a goal, it’s a never ending path. Occasionally, life throws some traps in this path and it could happen after you’ve established relations and family. You are only strong when you are able to manage your success when you have a lot of responsibilities. That’s my faithful opinion.

          • You make a good point, success is a constant struggle. As well as the fact that having added responsibilities will make you stronger. I just meant that it is less difficult when you have only yourself to look out for.

            • I agree, you do make a good point. Everyone has their own struggles to deal with in life whether single or with children. However a single person has only themselves to worry about and the options are not as limited as when there are others to be responsible for. For myself, because I had children to worry about I was limited to the work I could do and the places I could live in.

              But then again, I do see some single people that do struggle shoulder to shoulder as I do at times.

              In the business world it does not matter that there are children involved, results must be produced!

        • amen to that.

        • It is better to start a business before having a family. When you have kids things gets much more complicated and you can’t direct your attention towards your business. If you started a business and managed to make it successful it is much easier to take care of your family and kids.

    • Thank you Shevonne. I am glad my story is inspiring and most definitely hope it will inspire others to go forward with reaching their full potential. I always say that if I can do it, anyone can!

  2. Awesome story, Neil! I love to read articles like that. It teaches us, that there is always a way for a good, successful life. Thanks!

    • Thanks,

      Glad you liked it. I believe anyone can find a way to improve their circumstance, and this is a great example of that.

    • Thank you Beate and yes, you are right, there is always a way for success if you want it bad enough or in my case, if you’ll have enough motivation.

  3. Wonderful post Neil – thank you so much for sharing!! There’s a special club for single moms trying to survive and thrive … I’m right there with these ladies. Goodness to all of them!!

    Much kindness,


  4. I don’t have much opinion on the story… because you didn’t really share any details. I know it’s just supposed to be an inspiring post, but I would have gotten more out of it if we knew more than just the fact that she decided to start a company and succeeded through persistance.

    • Nora McDougall-Collins :

      Good point, James! There are people who would like to do something, but haven’t had enough exposure to know what to do next!

    • I am sorry you feel that way.

    • James and Nora I am open to answer any questions you might have. I can tell you this: once a person has a goal or a reason to persevere the mechanism of how to make it happen unfolds itself.

    • Jeramiah Townsend :

      I know what you mean about wanting more details. I like to know the details. I’ve been a business consultant for 5 years now and what I’ve found is results have very little to do with details, and are almost entirely due to character. I’ve started to interview a number of business people I know to find out how they got where they are. You can find them chronicled on my blog.

      Neil, great post. I was put onto your blog by a client. Persistence is a necessary character trait we all need to pursue.

  5. This so inspiring, what her child said about wanting to be like her mum when she grew up made my eyes water!Beautiful story!

  6. Hard work and persistence pays, a very motivating post.

  7. Dilanka Wettewa :

    Great story Neil thanks for sharing!

    P.S: Quick typo on #2 – it should be “persistent”.

  8. This is a great example of taking your skills and using them to provide something people need. Thanks for sharing this story.

    • Exactly, if you work what you are good at and stay determined you will do well.

    • Thank you for saying that Laura. I did use my skills to provide what other businesses needed. I also realized that while working to pay the bills has got met the experience I needed to do what I now love! 🙂

  9. Yes, all you need to succeed stubborn determination and some networking talent.


    Video you can watch were she share the story.

  11. This is so inspiring. Having recently lost my job this is the type of inspiration that lets me know with persistence all that I felt I lost is really not. We can all learn something from Doina, and when it seems like giving up is the only option someone is there to let us know we must press on. Thanks for sharing!

    • Everyone faces losses and difficulties at some time or another. It is about pushing through those time and moving forward in a positive and productive manner. That is how you will over come it.

    • Lawrence, although times are tough we must look at the positive side of things. It may be hard but there is always a way to make things happen. Take it from me, when I decided to stop using my kids as excuses to why I am not successful and I changed my focus to use them as motivation to my success, things have started to unfold for me. It can also do so for you. Find your motivation/reason to succeed. You have it in you!

  12. Chris Vandepas :

    Very inspiring. It reminds me of my homeless days and the realization that we must make it happen. People are attracted to strong-willed and optimistic characters. Doina’s story reminds us that even in this economy, entrepreneurs will turn it around because we have done it for ourselves. Thank you for sharing Doina and thank you Neil for posting this.

    • Yes, they certainly are. If you remind optimistic even against all odds you will draw the attention of the people around you. Thank you Chris for your support and comment.

    • What I have learned recently that many have become millionaires during recession. Decide what your goal is, focus on it, create a mechanism for making it happen and watch it manifest itself! You will be surprised what you can achieve!

      I am glad your homeless days are over. It does make us see things and people in a different light, doesn’t it? Not to mention appreciate the little things!

  13. awesome story. I agree. if you keep trying it will soon pay off. and having kids makes it difficult, but that is also a motivation.

  14. Very inspiring story, it great to hear of people who can overcome situation like these, I bet it took a great deal of courage for Doina to make the call to the police.
    My grandma came from a family where her dad was an alcoholic and she kept a journal of the events that took place, she was lucky and was able to marry out of the situation and leave the mass behind her. Her brothers on the other hand fellow in their father’s footsteps and to this day their posterity still struggle with it.
    So Doina did not only change her life she change the lives of her kids as well. They got to see the example of their courageous mom.

    • It was very brave indeed of her to not only change her circumstances for herself but also for her kids as well. Nice to have your share what happened with your family as well, thank you.

    • I am sorry about your grandma however I am happy she overcame her obstacles. What I have learned from my journey is that it is up to me to change my situation as I can only change myself! And when it comes our children’s future it is in our hands. I want my daughters to be successful therefore I strive for success!

      Thank you for sharing your story!

      • Hey thanks for your comment, your right about how people can only change their own situation, glad you change yours. I am also happy that you kept it change as well, it seems like some people try to change their situation and over time it seems like they are back in the same situation only with a different person. That what I find most inspiring about your story you had the courage to what to get out and then stay out.

        • Hi Matt,

          Some people stay and/or go back to the same situation because they have not learned what they were supposed to the first time. Sometimes people go back to the same life scenario due to lack of money and resources. Other times it’s low self esteem. Many people have their own reasons as to why they go back. The reason why I chose to talk about my story is to raise awareness to others that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I strongly hope that when others in situations like mime see my story they too will get the courage to rise above their challenges and make it in to the success world. I speak to other Entrepreneurs and use my example to give them a reason to believe that in business, just like in life, there are challenges but there are also solutions.

          Thank you for your comment!

  15. It’s so inspired story!
    I really like and respect her! She is not someone who sit and cry over her destiny; she fell hard, but she stood up and fought for her place on this world!
    She did find in what she is good, and she did go for it! That’s all.
    Bravo for her!
    Thank you Neil for this post, it really inspires!

  16. The most important thing for me in this story is that she is still contributing after achieving her success. That resonates.

    • I agree, it is a wonderful thing to do.

    • If I only saved myself and left everyone else behind I will do no good for anyone, myself included.
      As a mother and entrepreneur I believe that helping others is what makes us succeed.

      Thank you for your comment!

  17. She got this skill of having good rapport with people she’s having business with, creating her own business to help solve other companies problem, thus in return, makes her successful. Aside from that, she finds time to extend community service which is really inspiring…Thank you Neil, for sharing.

  18. The Baby Booner Queen :

    Great story and a great survivor. Out of the world of necessity, can come great things.

    Southern smiles and world peace,
    ~The Baby Boomer Queen~

  19. Not every place is a land of opportunity. America and Canada is a totally different place for entrepreneurs. Still an inspiring story. Best of luck to her life 🙂

  20. Truly an inspiring life story…The type of story that makes me realise that I can be just as successful if I play my cards right *two thumbs up*

  21. Inspiring story. As someone with a single abused parent who had to run away to survive, I can always identify with this. It is not easy to get over these things unless one keeps the right attitude. We managed to struggle out of our situation too – and my hero, my Mother’s favorite advice was : “no matter what cards are dealt, it is how you play them” too, as in “Happiness is a big DIY project” 🙂 Thank you Neil. I like how you told the story.

    • I agree, it is all about how you take what life has given you. If you have the right attitude and work ethic you will go much further.

    • Thank you Vidya,

      True, we are dealt with some wild cards sometimes and we have to find a way to get to that “check mate”. Thank you for your comment! 🙂

  22. Rakesh Dwivedi :

    its realy inspiring blog you have posted.
    The person like her are a lampost in the sea proving that even after the darkest night, the sun rises for every only.

    We get motivation and stregth from this kind of stories that increase our lever of efforts and hope to achieve sucess even if something seems to be impossible.

  23. its really inspiring..overcoming such obstacles are really hard one. no one around and you have to keep going by believing in thyself is hard thing to do…it is itself a best inspiration when kids looks at our action tries to copy them then we realise there should be something better in our action and decisions..thanks for sharing this…

    • Difficult indeed, many people only find the will to keep on going when they have responsibilities they can’t abandon, like children.

    • Yes, you are both right, my children were a great motivator especially today. Thank you Prasad for your comment!

  24. Thanks, Neil for sharing this wonderful inspiration, and thanks Doina for being the inspiration for others and for your kids. Persistence and the sheer determination to overcome the most challenging of obstacles are certainly keys to life success!

  25. Web Design Resource :

    If a person has positive thinking and having some ambition to do something then he/she can do any thing and that lady is a perfect example of it.

  26. This teaches me two things: “in life you never know what’s going to happen” and “there is nothing that can stop you from achieving what you want/need”.

  27. great. quite inspiring 🙂

  28. Owais Siddiqui :

    Those pictures really touched my heart. The fact is that a child’s love can do wonders. Her struggle is inspiring. Hats off lady

  29. She is an inspiration to many.

  30. Her story is inspiring. It makes people in a good situation to fight harder.

  31. angelinvestor8 :

    Inspiring. There’s no other way to describe this woman’s story. She had so many obstacles but used none as an excuse not to move forward with her plans. Doina, you rock.

  32. Dianne Ojar-Ali :

    Doina, you are not only your kids HERO but mine as well. You have a great spirit and I am proud of you. Thank you for sharing your story and I know that there is someone out there who you will inspire and give them strength and courage to move on 🙂

  33. Zilvinas - aircraft parts marketplace :

    I have a gut feeling that it’s not Neil writing these comments. Am I wrong?

  34. Doina is a divine inspiration to everyone. Thanks for sharing her story.

  35. What a great lesson to all of us! Never give up! There is always a way out, a solution, for a better life! Doina, you are very inspiring!

  36. Doina is an example of mind over matter or in this case mind is matter, without the proper mindset there wouldn’t be the drive, without the drive their wouldn’t have been action! Without action their wouldn’t have been results and without her results to share none of us wouldve read this blog!
    I am inspired by Doina in more ways than one and wish her continued success!

    • Mr. J,Thank you for the comment.

      The right mindset and the drive to succeed are the most important keys to one’s success. There are many people that are responsible for my success as well. Without their encouragement and support many of my accomplishments would be just dreams. They saw the determination and my drive to succeed and that’s why they lend their helping hand. This is where action happened followed by great results.

      Thank you for your well wishes. I wish you great success as well! 🙂

    • You have got it! You have to take action in order to obtain results. Thank you for your support.

      All the best to you.

  37. Another quick typo. In the conclusion, it should be otherwise.

    Great post!


  38. Thanks Neil,I’m mean I’m going through very tough times of my life I have the job doesn’t no longer meet my needs and demand I know the business is only out for through this situation.

    Thank you Neil for sharing this story
    Kind Regards
    Lucky Bembe

  39. David | The Growth Company :

    Hi Neil,

    Great post about Doina. I was recently meditating and the thing I remember thinking was, your point one ‘it doesn’t matter what cards your dealt, its how you play them that counts.’

    Thanks for sharing this inspiring story.


  40. Social Bullets :

    Your post most of the time inspired me and motivate as well Thanks Neil to share these type of stories..

  41. What a great story. I guess you can accomplish anything if you have the motivation. I love reading success stories makes me feel like I too can accomplish great things. – Thanks

  42. Neil,

    Thank you so much for your interest in my story. To be featured on one of my idol’s blog is truly an honor! Thank you for everything and not just for listening to me but also for wanting to help others through my story. I sure hope it will inspire and motivate all to do and be great. As one of my friends say to me: Always do your best to be your best!

    I am so grateful to so many people in my life that have been there for me to see me rise to my success. My children especially they are the reason why I am determined to succeed. My mother and my sister for believing in me.

    Surrounding myself with positive people in difficult situations is a great deal to how my life has turned out. Being in an abusive relationship is not easy for anyone and it definitely doesn’t seem that anything positive will come out of it, yet it did for me once I made the decision to better myself. I made the decision I am worth it and that also helped during days I was going through challenges in getting my business off the ground.

    For anyone that feels that it is hard, in business and in life, I would like to pass on a quote that had stayed with me since I have heard it: Change your thinking change your life! (Not sure who said it)

    One last thing: I would like to give photo credit to an amazing photographer who takes pictures of me while I speak at events: Rabbat Photography

    Thank you all for your comments. It means so much to me that my story will motivate and inspire you. Don’t forget: Do your best to be your best!

    Doina 🙂

    • No, thank you Donia.

      For not only sharing your story with me, but also for letting me share it with my readers. I appreciate it, you have touched and inspired many of them. I wish you the best in your life and future endeavors!

  43. This story really makes me believe that in life everything is possible. It is so inspiring to hear about this stories.

  44. Wonderful story!

    “You’ll never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option available to you.”

  45. Very inspiring story.
    i love to read peoples story but this one different.
    success stories always inspire me
    thank you nail for sharing this with us

    and oh

    Best of luck Doina Oncel. And best wishes to your kids,they are really cute 🙂

  46. Really interesting story thanks for sharing I need Moms like Doina in my country.

  47. I hope she makes it all the way and her kids are her biggest support. God bless her

  48. I love reading stories about perseverance and triumph. This story’s really got all the ins, outs and elements to motivate someone to keep going and not only chasing the paper but for personal satisfaction as well!

  49. Tito Philips, Jnr. :

    Thank you Neil for sharing such an inspiring story. There’s really no limit to what we humans can achieve once we shun all doubts and push ahead despite our uncertainties and fears.

    Doina’s story says it all.

  50. Mohideen @ Make Money Blog :

    She has proved that every women can stand alone to became an good entrepreneur

    my cheers to her 🙂

  51. Hey it is truly inspiring. In life it is necessary to never ever give up, just follow the passion, success will definitely gonna come.

  52. I am floored by Doina’s story. How can I get to know her more? lol.

  53. Wow, she even replied the comments on this website. Made me feel: “she totaly deserved it.”

  54. I love reading stories about perseverance and triumph. This story’s really got all the ins, outs and elements to motivate someone to keep going and not only chasing the paper but for personal satisfaction as well!

  55. very nice and inspirational story, she is a great courageous lady

  56. I know it’s just supposed to be an inspiring post, but I would have gotten more out of it if we knew more than just the fact that she decided to start a company and succeeded through persistance.

  57. Google Adwords :

    The above said will motivate all the new entrepreneur, Thanks for sharing Neil..

  58. cheese of the month :

    What a truly motivational story. What a woman to be able to come back after experiencing so much,

    • We all experience difficulties in life. Some have more than others, Doina”s story shows we can still succeed despite whatever difficulties we face.

  59. skype callnplay :

    She definitely had gone through a tough life but it was really a blessing in disguise. She saw how important life is. I hope people should not wait for worse things to happen before making a big leap for a better life. She deserves her success. she worked hard, and God is watching over her. thanks for sharing.

  60. It’s a very touching story and just goes to prove that you can change your life if you wish to. Too many people wallow in self pity these days instead of getting up and facing what is in front of them. We make our own luck and with perseverence we can achieve a great deal. Thanks for sharing.

    • I agree, if you want something it is up to you to change and take action to get it. I too believe we can accomplish anything as long as we stay determined and motivated.

  61. Internet Marketing :

    Determination! She focused on how to make a better or I would say the best life she could offer her daughters. She had a better life in mind and nothing could be a hindrance to it. It was her focus. Seeing what she dream of for her family, nothing could rob that from her. People including myself learned a lot from her story. Thank you for sharing this. It is an eye opener indeed. I’ll share this to people I know. Thanks once again.

  62. Mirko Ceselkoski at :

    Everything is possible when you have no other choice and you are determined to succeed. I know this from my personal life,…I have been through a roller coaster many times!

  63. hey neil,
    this is totally a motivational story. it inspired me a lot. i believe in this ” if you are determined, the World is yours”. a great article by you, Neil.


  64. That was an inspiring story Neil. Everyone must have the passion to and get inspired to be in success.

  65. You are only strong when you are able to manage your success when you have a lot of responsibilities. That’s my faithful opinion.

  66. This is awesome, being a single mother of 5, I truly believe the entrepreneurial mind steps in when you want to be both Mom & Pop.. Be there to raise your kids and still be the care taker..
    A drive that comes from within, I too will soon start my own business. Currently working to build capital, and search for a better future for my children.. Thank you for the story..

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