What drives people to start a small business? Sometimes it's words of wisdom from a good friend or family member. Other times, it's something they saw in a movie or heard in a song. Inspiration can strike in unlikely places.
For example, Harvard Business Review reports that the idea for Uber came from a scene in the movie Casino Royale where James Bond uses a phone's GPS to track the route of a car. Airbnb sprang to life after two college students struggling to pay their rent decided to charge guests to sleep on air mattresses in their apartment.
We interviewed several small-business owners to find out what inspired them to start their business and what keeps them motivated.
1. Get By with a Little Help from Your Friends
"My friends are why I started my business. I have a lot of friends with small businesses – nonprofits, ministries, and social enterprises – who needed marketing and business communications help and would frequently ask me questions. Because they were small, they couldn't afford someone like me full-time for their staff, so I was accessible and happy to help them succeed. But in talking with them, I learned they could almost all afford to pay for project help. I knew there were more organizations out there like them, and that was the springboard for what I’m doing now! My friends sustained me for the first six months, and I'm just now having to look outside my circle for new business. It was a great way to begin!" –
Kristi Porter (@kporter9876),
of consulting company
Thinking about starting your own company, but not sure where you want to settle down? Our report on the "Best Places to Live for Tech Entrepreneurs" can help you decide.
2. Master the Hunt
"Doing things right is hard and takes time, my grandfather would always say. One of his passions was to hunt for old model trains at flea markets and then restore them. He enjoyed not only the hunt for the trains, but also the hours needed to restore them to their original grandeur. The insight for me was that succeeding in business has two parts. There is the part where you are out in the public talking about your venture (hunt), and then there is the time behind the scenes where you are working hard to bring everything together (building / restoring)." –
founder and CEO of the employee recognition platform
3. Never Give Up and You Will (Eventually) Succeed
"When I was in my early twenties, I started going to a rock climbing gym near my house. An interesting aspect to rock climbing and bouldering is the 'whatever it takes' attitude. In rock climbing, I found that it didn't matter if you couldn't do something today or tomorrow – you kept at it, kept working at it until you could do it. Fail 100 times only to succeed at 101. If something was too difficult to do, you just kept trying until you could finally get it. This attitude is really helpful in business and in entrepreneurship. A large part of succeeding in business is continuing when it feels like you have failed and trying a different tactic if your original plan didn't work." –
(@GoMikkomi), a digital presence management firm
4. Be Kind
"My grandmother taught me the importance of being kind to everyone. Because customer service is a major part of business, I am always careful to treat everyone – prospects, joint venture partners, and clients – with kindness and respect. I have had clients tell me that this influenced their decision to work with me." –
Ashley Hill (@prepforcollege),
scholarship search strategist and CEO of
College Prep Ready
Check out "Souls Matter in Tech. How to Make Sure Your Business Has One" for tips on how to show your customers you care.
5. Take Your One Shot
"I'm inspired by the song 'Lose Yourself' [by Eminem]. The song provides a powerful message that I think can inspire any entrepreneur, summed up by the verse: 'You better lose yourself in the music, the moment / You own it; you better never let it go / You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow / This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.'" –
cofounder and president of the
On that note, if you're getting ready to launch your new business, get prep tips in our eBook 3 Common Habits That Bite into Startup Profits.
6. Embrace the Creative Spirit
"Having been immersed in the punk and independent arts scene for years, I always kept my career separate from my personal interests. But when I decided to start my own business a couple of years ago, a major inspiration was the musicians and artists who never stopped creating. To me, people in their 30s and 40s who still devote so much of their time and energy to their passions are role models. My business may not be about cool music or cutting-edge art, but I have tried to embrace the spirit of DIY. I believe that making things is meaningful. My business is all about creating experiences, and I have those who never stopped creating to thank." –
Be the Machine
(@BeTheMachineNYC), an experiential marketing agency
7. Put in the Hard Work
"When I was around 19- or 20-years old, I was dating a girl whose father I will always look up to. He was the type of guy where if you were debating him, he would quietly listen, and when it was his turn for a rebuttal, he would just say a few words that would completely make you rethink your argument.
One day we got into a conversation about the philosophy of how a business should be run, and me being so naive chimed in with something along the lines of, 'Well if you believe in something enough and put positive energy into it, good things will come.'
His reply was, 'Dedication and hard work are among the only things that ensure your business is going to be successful. You have to make large sacrifices if you want to get anywhere. You have to make good things happen!'
I had never heard this mild-mannered man become so animated about something he was so passionate about. That interaction changed my whole thought process. I realized the sacrifices he made and how much he put himself into his company to make it successful. I started looking at life differently, and how I can change myself for the better to become a better business man. Through starting my own software business, I've gone through what he had to endure, and not a day goes by where I don't think of him and that interaction." –
Joseph Hammond (@Hmmnd0),
a financial technologies startup specializing in collaborative savings