This week is National Entrepreneurship Week.
If you’re not yet an entrepreneur — but you want to be one — you might be wondering how you can use this week to help inspire your big idea… and how to take that leap. Well, I’m here to help!
Let’s study and celebrate five entrepreneurs — people I’ve been lucky enough to meet — who all took very different approaches to finding their ‘big’ idea.
They all started small, took risks, and had plenty of failures along the way. Here are five big names who’ve all used different, time-tested methods to find their game changer of a start.
Chip Wilson (Founder of Lululemon): The ‘Grow where you’re planted’
Chip’s mother was a seamstress, so it’s fitting that he started his first business by sewing and selling apparel for surfers, skaters and snowboarders. Westbeach Snowboard failed to make enough cash, so Chip sold the business.
But Chip is what I call someone who ‘grows where he was planted’. He called Westbeach his 18-year MBA and decided to put his learning into a quickly emerging garment space: yoga apparel.
The idea came to him during a yoga class in the 90’s and he started sewing all over again — reinventing a category that would soon skyrocket. As Chip puts it, “there’s no performance without action. When an opportunity presents itself, take it, no matter where it is. You’re going to fail miserably 15 times in your life. And it’s really important that those failures come, and there’s learnings from them.”
The bottom line: Try something. Fail. Learn. Then try again.
Tony Hawk: The passion project
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Tony started skateboarding when he was 9. He bought his first home, and moved out at 17 — every teenager’s fantasy, right? When skateboarding died a sudden but slow death in 1991, Tony lost nearly everything at just 24; during this time, word has it he lived on $5 a day.
But that didn’t stop Tony. He knew skateboarding was his life. His passion. Tony mortgaged his house and started a skateboard company. With slow sales at the beginning, he continued to compete while looking for other opportunities. His game changer was just around the corner.
Tony was approached by Sony Playstation to consult on a struggling Bruce Willis game called Apocalypse — but when he noticed the movements of the game were true to his real life skateboarding experience — the blockbuster game Tony Hawk Pro Skater was born.
The bottom line: Turn what you love into a business. But be patient.
Howard Schultz (Starbucks): The ‘I can do it better”
In 1982, at age 29, Schultz was running retail operations and marketing at Starbucks. But he saw something that Starbucks didn’t. After a buying trip to Italy in 1983, he was inspired by the way coffee was meant to be enjoyed. “The Italians had created the theater, romance, art and magic of experiencing espresso,” Schultz recalled. “I was overwhelmed with a gut instinct that this is what we should be doing.”
Starbucks didn’t see the same possibility, so two short years later he decided to try his own hand at the coffee business — raising $400,000 and opening his own cafe, Il Giornale.
But Schultz was in love with the Starbucks brand, and dreamed up the possibility of marrying his vision with his former employer’s name. With the help of investor backing in 1987 he bought Starbucks. Today, Starbucks is a true globally-admired brand that transformed an industry.
The bottom line: It’s not always about having that ‘big’ idea, but about tweaking.
Reed Hastings (Netflix): The ‘speaking to a felt need’
As legend has it, the idea for Netflix was born out of Reed Hastings’ frustration over having to pay a $40 late fee for an overdue Blockbuster VHS. Alongside Marc Randolf, he decided to revolutionize the movie-rental business by founding a company that would eliminate late fees. Thus, Netflix was born.
Sometimes, all you need to get started with a business idea is to identify a common inconvenience. For Reed Hastings, this was late fees with movie rentals — but this logic could apply to any industry in need of reinvention.
The bottom line: Turn a common frustration into an opportunity.
Shaquille O’Neal: The franchise king
You might not know this about Shaq, but he’s a big proponent of the franchise model. At one point or another, he’s owned 155 Five Guys restaurants, 17 Auntie Anne’s, and a Krispy Kreme franchise!
With so many franchises under his belt, it’s no surprise that I’ve chosen him for this type of entrepreneur. Here are people who want to build a path for themselves, but want a tried-and-true recipe book that they can follow.
Maybe it’s because the NBA is a franchise, and Shaq got his idea from his time in the game…
Regardless, Shaq is an entrepreneur through and through. He took his ability to learn and try new things and built great teams using a proven formula. And now he’s the franchise king!
The bottom line: Start a business with a proven recipe.
So, which one are you going to be this year?
Are you going to be a Shaq, a Hawk, a Schultz, a Chip or a Reed? Whichever persona you choose to embody, I believe you can do it. Remember, everyone’s path to success looks a little different, but they all come from a desire to make your own way and control your destiny.
Take the leap. I know you can. I hope you will.