IRA Network has been considered the authority on entrepreneurial strategy and implementation for over a decade. Our culture embraces the power of entrepreneurial thinking and uses that motivation to assist our clients in building and growing successful operations. The stories below are motivational snapshots of ordinary people who had the strength to take the entrepreneurial leap, and won! We have selected these stories to highlight the spirit of entrepreneurship and share it with our associates and friends. If you have stories that you would like to share with our community of entrepreneurs or you want to share your story, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!
Mrs. Fields Cookies
Debbi Fields loved to bake chocolate chip cookies. Her cookies had two distinct qualities that were different from other cookies. First, they were larger than the normal chocolate chip cookie, bigger cookies. She had created a larger chocolate chip cookie so that she would eat fewer of them, which meant that she wouldn’t gain weight. Second, they were soft. Up until that time, the normal chocolate chip cookie was crispy. For years, she made cookies for her relatives, neighbors, and friends and all agreed that no one could make cookies like Debbi. In 1977, Debbi decided that she wanted to open a little shop in her hometown of Palo Alto, California, where she intended to sell her cookies. The stimulus behind the idea was a simple need. “I needed to share something of myself with the world,” she wrote in her autobiography, One Smart Cookie (Simon and Schuster). “I wanted to give, to be part of things. What I had available for giving was a pretty darn good chocolate chip cookie. So, to me, selling cookies in a store was a good idea.”
Unfortunately, everyone else she shared her ambition with thought a cookie store was a really dumb idea. Debbi’s husband, Randy was an economist who regularly invited his business clients-executives from major industries-home to discuss investments. Debbi would bake cookies for the people who attended these meetings. The executives uniformly loved her cookies. They loved them so much, in fact, that Debbi decided to ask their advice on opening up a cookie store. “What would you think about me starting a business to sell these cookies to the public?” she asked the executives. “Bad idea,” they said with their mouths full of cookies….”Never work. Forget it.”
Debbi asked her mother what she thought. Her mother’s reply: “I can’t believe you’re going to waste your life standing over a hot oven.”
She asked her husband, Randy, for advice: “Debbi, it’ll never work,” he said.
When she got people to explain why they felt it was such a bad idea, they made a long list. America wants a crispy chocolate chip cookie, not a big soft one, they said. Besides, Debbi was only 20 years old. She had no money, no job experience, and no formal business education.
Remarkable, despite every authority figure telling her that her idea was crazy, she decided to pursue it. She had no money, so she decided to go to banks. Or course, every banker she shared ideas with thought it was really dumb. That is, every banker but one. A loan officer by the name of Ed Sullivan at the Bank of America decided to take a chance on Debbi. His reason: He trusted Debbi and Randy and he liked her cookies!
Of course, Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery went on to become one of the great successes of the 1980s. The store itself became so successful that Debbi Fields started franchising the business. Soon she had three stores in the Palo Alto area and then 15. Eventually, those 15 stores turned into 600 stores all over America and in ten other countries around the world. Eventually, Debbi would own a thousand stores. Her little cookie business would be worth more than $100 million. Eventually, Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery became too big for Debbi to manage and she was forced to sell it. But before she did, she wrote a series of books, beginning with a cookbook, Mrs. Fields Cookie Book, which sold more than 1.5 million copies and was the first cookbook ever to be on The New York Times bestsellers list. She did a successful PBS series and hosted her own television show, “The Dessert Show.” And all of it came from her love for baking cookies and a deep faith in her own abilities.
Dineha Mohager took a seemingly humble pastime; a joy for creatively painting her nails, and turned it into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. Dineh enjoyed mixing nail polish to create bright designs that matched her shoes. One day, Dineh, a 21-year-old-student at the University of Southern California, was walking through a local shopping mall. While in the mall, she was approached by a women who asked where she might purchase the beautiful nail polish Dineh was wearing. “Oh, I made it myself,” Dineh told her. “You mean I can’t buy it?” the women asked. “No, I’m the only one who makes it,” Dineh told her sympathetically. This same scenario repeated itself several times that day, until Dineh realized that she made something that people wanted. Together with her sister, Pooneh, and a friend, Benjamin Einstein, Dineh created Hard Candy, a producer of exotic nail polish that a year later took in $10 million in sales!!!
Kaplan Education Centers
Stanley Kaplan was a straight "A" student through high school and college. At the age of 15, he started tutoring classmates at the James Madison High School in Brooklyn, NY for 25 cents an hour. He didn’t just teach students the standard curriculum, but prepared them as well for the New York State Regents examinations, which every New York student must take to graduate from high school. Kaplan graduated with five scholastic awards. When he went to City College, he continued teaching his classmates in every major discipline-including calculus and physics. By the time he was a senior, Stanley was making almost as much money tutoring as his former high school teachers were making in their full-time jobs. Once again, teaching didn’t slow his studies one bit: Stanley was a Phi Beta Kappa student, was given an award for excellence in science, and graduated magna cum laude from City College in 3 years. Despite his obvious scholarship and ability to teach, Stanley dreamt of being a doctor. He believed his excellent academic history and Bachelor of Science degree would easily get into medical school. It didn’t work out that way, however. In the days before World War II, medical schools had quotas on how many Jews could be accepted each year. Kaplan was both, a Jew and a graduate of City College, then a haven for underprivileged New York City residents of every ethnicity, especially African-Americans and Jews.
“Most people are crestfallen when they’re rebuffed,” Kaplan told reporters many years later. “But I was kind of glad. I knew I had an alternative. I loved to teach, but I didn’t want to be part of the school system. I wanted to use my own methods and develop my own programs.” As he would later say, “I was rejected by medical school to invent an industry.” Indeed having nothing else but his love of teaching to fall back on, Stanley Kaplan invented a multimillion-dollar educational business.
Kaplan got a big boost when G.I.s returned from World War II and wanted to get into college and graduate, medical, and law schools. Soon he branched out even further to prepare doctors for licensing tests, accountants for the CPA exams, and lawyers for the bar. “Students were traveling from all over the country to Brooklyn to enroll in my programs,” Kaplan recalled. Eventually, they would come from all over the world. More than three million doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, architects, stockbrokers, and teachers have matriculated at the Kaplan Educational Centers, now more than 1,000 locations around the world. More than 150,000 people study at those centers, in such far-flung places as China, Saudi Arabia, and Hong Kong.
Stanley Kaplan could have turned out to be a doctor, and might have made a very good one at that, but he was a gifted educator who made a great success of his life by never giving up and believing in his own talents. Yes, he was unfairly deprived of going into medicine, but because he maintained a positive spirit, and because he recognized where his true talents were, he followed the path of opportunity that was available to him. As it happened, it was a perfect fit, the marriage of talent and opportunity, which led to great rewards and the full expression of his abilities.
As a kid, John Schnatter loved pizza and even learned how to make it. By the time he reached high school, he dreamed of opening not just a pizza shop, but a whole string of them all over the US. After high school, he went to Ball State College in Indiana and after graduating sold his car for $3,000, which he used to start his company. He called it Papa John’s Pizza. In the year 2007, Papa John’s was a publicly traded company with sales of more than $1.06 billion!!!
25 Quotes from Famous Entrepreneurs
There is no simple formula for creating a successful business. Luckily, there is an easy way to improve your chances.
And that’s by listening to the wisdom of those who have done it already.
With that in mind, here are 25 quotes from famous entrepreneurs…
1) "If you can dream it, you can do it."
-Walt Disney, founder of The Walt Disney Company
2) "Business opportunities are like buses, there's always another one coming."
-Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Enterprises 3) “Capital isn't that important in business. Experience isn't that important. You can get both of these things. What is important is ideas.”
-Harvey Firestone, founder of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co.
4) “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
-Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and Pixar
5) “Find your passion… then it is no longer work!”
-L.A. Reid, co-founder of LaFace Records
6) “I had to make my own living and my own opportunity! But I made it! Don't sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!"
-Madam C.J. Walker, creator of beauty products and the first female self-made millionaire
7) “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.”
-Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari & Chuck E. Cheese’s
8) “The key is to just get on the bike, and the key to getting on the bike… is to stop thinking about ‘there are a bunch of reasons I might fall off’ and just hop on and peddle the damned thing. You can pick up a map, a tire pump, and better footwear along the way.”
-Dick Costolo, founder of Feedburner.com
9) “The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try.”
-Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies
HARD WORK vs. LUCK
10) “Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration.”
-Thomas Edison, founder of General Electric (GE)
11) “I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know.”
-Colonel Sanders, founder of KFC
12) “Nobody talks of entrepreneurship as survival, but that's exactly what it is.”
-Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop
13) “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that something is too competitive. Once you subtract the people who don’t work very hard, or the people who aren’t as good as you, your competition shrinks dramatically.”
-Maggie Mason, founder of Mighty Goods 14) “Life is really simple as far as I’m concerned. There is no luck, you work hard and study things intently. If you do that for long and hard enough you’re successful.”
-Jason Calacanis, founder of Weblogs, Inc.
15) "When you reach an obstacle, turn it into an opportunity. You have the choice. You can overcome and be a winner, or you can allow it to overcome you and be a loser. The choice is yours and yours alone. Refuse to throw in the towel. Go that extra mile that failures refuse to travel. It is far better to be exhausted from success than to be rested from failure."
-Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics 16) “It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. It doesn’t matter how many times you almost get it right. No one is going to know or care about your failures, and neither should you. All you have to do is learn from them and those around you because all that matters in business is that you get it right once. Then everyone can tell you how lucky you are.”
-Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, co-founder of Broadcast.com, founder of HDNet
17) “Entrepreneurs are risk takers, willing to roll the dice with their money or reputation on the line in support of an idea or enterprise. They willingly assume responsibility for the success or failure of a venture and are answerable for all its facets.”
-Victor Kiam, owner of Remington Products 18) “The best reason to start an organization is to make meaning; to create a product or service to make the world a better place.”
-Guy Kawasaki, venture capitalist, CEO of Garage Technology Ventures
19) “A friendship founded on business is a good deal better than a business founded on friendship.”
-John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil
20) “An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.”
-Roy Ash, co-founder of Litton Industries
21) “I've been blessed to find people who are smarter than I am, and they help me to execute the vision I have.”
-Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam 22) “One of the unique things we small companies have over the big guys is the ability to establish personal relationships. Big companies really can't do that. You read about effective organizations, learning organizations, lean and mean organizations, but small companies can be virtuous. We as small companies can have virtue because we as small companies are basically the embodiment of one or two people, and people can have virtue, while organizations really can't."
-Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company
23) “Experience taught me a few things. One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper. The second is that you're generally better off sticking with what you know. And the third is that sometimes your best investments are the ones you don't make.”
-Donald Trump, real estate developer
24) “High expectations are the key to everything.”
-Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart
25) “I find that when you have a real interest in life and a curious life, that sleep is not the most important thing.”