Do you have an idea for a product or service that will inspire other people? To have a successful business that survives long enough to make a real difference, you have to back up all that inspirational passion with some solid business sense. "You lay out a vision for the company, a mission and an explicit set of values--the kind of humane values that truly animate you if you're going to find a life of fulfillment and if your business is going to be successful and sustainable," says Mal Warwick, author of Values-Driven Business.
In fact, according to Warwick, it's your passion for your inspirational endeavor--be it a socially conscious clothing business or a service that brightens someone's day--that can be a weapon for navigating through the tough times. For Lydia Phillips, founder of Lydia Loungewear, a glamorous pajama manufacturing company in Sherman Oaks, California, it was love for a friend with cancer that motivated her to launch her business in 2003. During her friend's treatment, Phillips cheered her up by creating a fun and funky pair of pajamas for her, complete with feathers on the trim. Her friend loved the creation.
Still, the tough times weren't over: Phillips was diagnosed with cancer herself that same year. But her prognosis was good, so this fortysomething entrepreneur felt renewed passion and energy to not only build her original company, but also to build a nonprofit organization--2OP.org, for second opinion--to provide information to people about the importance of cancer screening and second (and third and fourth) opinions. The call to action was even more urgent when her friend passed away--Phillips was determined to help save other people with early detection information. Today, she runs two inspirational enterprises: her pajama company, which projects sales between $750,000 and $1 million in 2006, and her nonprofit, which provides online information and doctor referrals.
Alyson Bruu, 47, and Kristine Fichera, 39, launched their inspirational startup in 2005. Liv'n Out Loud! features a line of clothing with positive messages like "Defy Mediocrity" and "I'm Not Beautiful Like You, I'm Beautiful Like Me." For the founders, getting their business to where it is today--sales of nearly $500,000--meant delegating sales duties. To other inspirational entrepreneurs, Bruu says, "Do whatever it takes. You might stumble [or] fall, but if you truly believe in it and yourself and you have a little financial backing, you've got to do it. You've got to take that leap of faith."