5 lessons from entrepreneurs on where to find inspiration
Inspirational quotes about entrepreneurship abound. But when has Ben Franklin or Theodore Roosevelt ever been in your shoes? Where do you turn if you’re looking for more relevant inspiration on your entrepreneurial journey?
Aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners alike might find success stories among the billionaires and top entrepreneurs on the cover of Forbes. But... there are just as many stories of successful business owners on Main Street that motivate fellow entrepreneurs.
We’ve edited and compiled lessons our Entrepreneur’s Studio guests have learned from the people and businesses that speak to them the most. They share who (or what!) inspired them to do the hard work of building their own businesses.
Don’t be afraid to march to the beat of your own drum
Jeff Sheldon, minimalist designer and founder of Ugmonk, built his business while staying true to his purpose. By focusing on form and functionality and never compromising on his designs, he’s made his business an ongoing success.
It’s no surprise that when asked about his inspiration, it was another designer who never compromised on their ideas — even if they might be considered “out there.”
“So, my original inspiration goes way back and gave me the confidence to do a lot of the things that I'm doing.”
“He goes by Johnny Cupcakes, and he started a T-shirt company that actually looked like a bakery, and they only sell T-shirts. So people walked in, think they're getting cupcakes, and he sold shirts with cupcakes on them.”
Jeff gravitates toward artists and entrepreneurs that aren’t afraid to experiment and succeed in doing so — whether or not their ideas have broad commercial appeal.
“And everyone was like, ‘Why are you doing this?’ He would throw pizza parties in the middle of Boston, just randomly, and have 500 people show up, and they'd rent a movie theater out. And just crazy stuff. And I think before that, you're always looking at the clear-cut business leaders and all these people that have done things in a very big way.
But I like that there are people just doing stuff that's kind of weird and different, and doesn't fit into any box ... So I think Johnny Cupcakes was that inspiration to be like, ‘Wow, you can do things and just make them up and do them completely different than anyone's done them before.’"
When opportunity knocks, answer the call
Magie Cook, salsa entrepreneur and motivational speaker, knows about success. But before opportunity knocked, she experienced adversity. From her childhood with 68 siblings in an orphanage in Mexico to a stint of adult homelessness, she went on to sell her salsa business – which would become part of a post-sale, $231M acquisition by Campbell’s Soup.
Magie believes in having a calling larger than yourself that drives you — as well as the belief that anyone can succeed — because if she’s done it, anyone can.
“Where there seems to be no way, there’s always a way. And it might not be right in front of you in the beginning, but it shows up.”
“For me, the thing for my ‘why’ was to come out of suffering to become something better than myself, something bigger, and be able to make a difference.
I always had this thing when I was growing up in the orphanage, like: I’m suffering. And I would look at the skies, and I would pray to God and say, ‘I’m going to become something really huge and big. And I’m going to inspire people, and I’m going to inspire the kids in the orphanage.’ And so that was my motive.
And so, when you are so laser-sharp focused on that ‘why,’ that goal, nothing is impossible. Resiliency, the fire that you have for doing the things that you do, the passion...where there seems to be no way, there’s always a way. And it might not be right in front of you in the beginning, but it shows up. And the key here is you have to be mindful to recognize when it shows up, so you can take massive action immediately to make it happen. Because we miss our angels. We miss our opportunities sometimes.”
Magie believes that no matter your education or background, you can succeed as an entrepreneur.
“And the thing that really amazes me the most is that a lot of really successful entrepreneurs out there didn’t even finish high school or college, and it baffles me. But that goes to say having a really powerful ‘why,’ you don’t have to have a college education or all these degrees to get there.”
Be inspired to inspire others
Tim Tebow might be best known as an NFL and college football player for his days on the gridiron. But he’s most proud of the work he’s done off the field as a philanthropist with his non-profit, The Tim Tebow Foundation.
In the Entrepreneur’s Studio, Tim talked extensively about building a vision for teams and modeling the behavior to achieve the vision. His high school coach, Coach Howard, was one of the inspiring people who fostered Tim’s budding football career. Coach Howard set a clear vision which led Tim to switch schools to play for him. Tim now tries to inspire his teams at the foundation to think outside the box to achieve their ultimate mission. But it all started with Coach Howard.
“It is just so important that people paint a vision. I think one of the best people I've ever been around was my high school coach at doing that, painting a vision of what we could be. I left the state championship team to play for this coach, and literally, the cover of the papers was … ‘From a champion to a joke.’”
The values Coach Howard shared inspired Tim to believe that if he joined, they would be successful beyond expectation. Tim suited up for the championship-less team with two wins the year before his arrival.
“I could have gone to play a lot of places, but I sat down and met with him and he told me what our core value is: ‘It's to play with character, strength and honor.’”
“He said, ‘As coaches, it's going to be our job to love you, and it's going to be your job to love one another.’ I'm sitting there in this meeting with him, myself, and my dad and I'm like, ‘What? This coach is awesome.’”
Coach Howard shared his offensive playbook and painted what personal success could look like for Tim as well as the entire team.
“He would go through, and he would say, ‘After every single touchdown, when we're kicking off, we're going to hold up our hand, and you see that? That's four fingers and a thumb. It stands for five, and we're going to say ‘Mo, Mo, Mo.’ And what it's going to mean to everyone that says it and everyone that hears it, is that we have the momentum. Within five minutes, we're going to score again.’
… My senior year, we won the first-ever state championship, and it was not done because we were the best team. I totally believe that it was done because Coach Howard painted a vision. People believed in him, in the vision, and because of that as a team, as a whole, as a group, we bought in so much that we were willing to play harder, to go further, to do whatever we could. We won the state championship, and we upset a two-time defending state champion.”
Partner with people, brands that spark creativity
Alex Bradberry built her all-inclusive makeup and beauty studio, The Sparkle Bar, to be an empowering experience for customers. Alex, who is a firm believer in finding and being a mentor, maintains that success is a team sport. When entrepreneurs or brands can collaborate, they can succeed together.
“I’m inspired by a lot. On the heritage legacy side, Supreme is a brand that I really like, it’s like a skate brand. The reason I like them is that they get to play with a lot of other brands. Kip is another brand that I really like because, similarly, they can partner with Disney or Coca-Cola. There’s a lot of synergies there in audience and demographic.
“I’m always attracted to different types of businesses that are able to play outside the lines.”
I look at us as a media company more than just a service provider because while people come to The Sparkle Bar for makeup, they get much more than that. Because at the same time, you’re also going to hear a cool playlist. You’re going to be introduced to your next new favorite fragrance. You’re going to learn about this pressed green juice. I’m always looking for ways that I can incorporate those kinds of connections among my favorites, so the kinds of businesses that I really like are the same kinds that can do that as well.”
Be open to learning from everyone you meet
Mike Beckham, co-founder of Simple Modern, believes that you can learn a lot from other entrepreneurs — but is weary of falling into the trap of hero worship. While there are lots of rich and famous entrepreneurs, they might not be the best model for what you’re trying to achieve as an individual. Mike believes in being open to lessons from anyone else going through the process of creating and sustaining a business.
“I really feel like I can learn from so many different entrepreneurs, and then I shy away from the full-throated hero worship, if any.”
“These are just people. And this is one of the things: I am just a guy. I feel like I’ve learned some things, and I feel like I’m happy to share that. But I’m just a guy, people have their own flaws. But I do try to learn from the aspects of what other people have done. But what’s interesting – and this goes back to the feedback idea – there’s this culture right now of, ‘Oh, we got to look at the five richest people and learn from them.’ It’s like, ‘Man, if that is the way you’re thinking about growth, that is so limited.’
Forget the survivorship mindset, it’s just so limited. They’re not situated like me at all. I want to be able to learn from my wife. I want to be able to learn from the newest customer support hire at our company. I want to be able to learn from the guy that follows me on LinkedIn and gives a point of feedback — that’s what I want to learn from. So I think that I have an inherent admiration for anyone that is going through the entrepreneurial process, that is putting themselves out there and is actually going through the process. And I feel, not only do I admire that, but I feel like I can learn from anyone that’s going through the process.”
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