Mom is the first mogul you meet. She's the chief birthing officer, the director of operations and the supervisor in charge. As the boss lady, it's her job to manage the headquarters and raise the company from a single branch into several independently owned and operated franchises. It's no wonder so many entrepreneurs are inspired by their moms to start their own businesses.
Here, five entrepreneurs share the lessons their mothers and mother-figures taught them that inspired them to succeed in business--and in life.
"You can do it!"
Growing up, Stephen Moore never had to deal with the "meatloaf Mondays" most kids dreaded each week for dinner. Instead, Moore had "tofu Tuesdays" to deal with--and Wednesdays, and Thursdays. As a vegetarian, Moore's mother, Helen, was always looking for ways to blend nutrition and great taste.
"My mom didn't like all the other vegetarian options at the time that were full of preservatives," Moore says, so she started experimenting with tofu.
Those childhood tofu recipes became the backbone for Helen's Foods, a company Moore started in 2002 that offers vegetarian frozen entrees and fully seasoned, pre-baked tofu steaks. Helen's Foods can be found in 1,300 stores throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia, but it wasn't easy for Moore to grow his small business into a seven-figure company.
"I've gotten a lot of 'No's,' 'That will never work,' and 'You can't do it like that and be successful,' but you just keep trying. Even now we have to present to people two or three times before we get the product into a store," Moore says.
Thankfully, Moore's mother taught him more than just a great tofu-steak recipe.
"She taught me to never give up. Whether it was learning to ride a bike or learning to ice skate, she's always said, 'You can do it,' " Moore says. "She taught me not to worry about failing."
"Play nicely with others."
Peter Ross learned at a very early age the value of sharing.
"I was the last of 11 children in a very giving family. We all had to help each other to get by," Ross says. "My mom taught me to always treat all people with respect and dignity."
That important lesson was the founding principle behind Senior Helpers, a service that provides in-home personal assistance for seniors, including meal preparation, housekeeping and medical care. Ross co-founded the company after making the heartbreaking decision to place his mother in a nursing home because he lived out of state and was unable to care for her.
Since starting in 2006, Senior Helpers has grown from three franchises to 202 (ranking it #25 on Entrepreneur's 2008 Franchise 500 list) and brings in system-wide revenue of $25 million annually. But it's the care they're providing to seniors and the relationships they've nurtured that are the real rewards for Ross.
"I learned in business that if you take care of your customers and employees, and create good, solid relationships, it will all come back to you and your business," he says. "Relationships must be strong--and you must deliver everything with exceptional heart and value."
"Check your chore chart."
Like most busy moms, Aviva Goldfarb found herself too frazzled to prepare a home-cooked meal every night.
"As someone who loves food and cares very much about nutrition, I never pictured myself as the kind of mom who would heat a frozen meal for dinner every night or be on a first-name basis with the pizza guy," Goldfarb says. "I grew up in a home where we sat down to a wholesome, home-cooked meal every night. My mom somehow managed to make getting a three-course dinner on the table each night look easy."
The key, Goldfarb realized, was to get organized. Just like her mother used to do, she sat down each weekend and planned out a week's worth of meals, saving herself time and money at the grocery store.
"It's been a revelation to me that being organized in this one way could save me so much time and stress," Goldfarb says. She decided to share this simple lesson with other frazzled parents by creating The Six O'Clock Scramble in 2003, an online service that helps busy parents make healthy meals in a hurry by providing recipes, shopping lists and other tools that help them plan ahead for a week of meals.
It's a concept that not only inspired her to start her business, but also helps her to maintain it successfully as well.
"When any weekly task seems overwhelming, your current system probably isn't working," she says. "By taking a little time to get organized, creating a system that works, and getting this new solution into your routine, you'll be able to calmly achieve any task."
"If you want something, you have to earn it."
Margo Redfern grew up with a passion for literacy, something her mother instilled in her at an early age. As a teacher for children with dyslexia, Redfern's mother was always looking for creative ways to engage the children and teach them to read. When Redfern discovered her oldest son had trouble reading, she decided to follow in her mom's footsteps and come up with a creative way to get her son, and others like him, excited about reading.
In September 2007, Redfern created Flattenme, a site that allows parents to upload their child's photo, choose a storybook (choices of stories include fairies, pirates, little monsters and a traveling potty), and watch their child transform into the star character within their very own book.
"My mom taught me that no one is ever going to give anything to you on a silver platter. You're going to have to work hard to achieve it," Redfern says.
It's a lesson that has served her well in the difficult startup phase of her company.
"Starting a company is very, very hard. To truly believe that you're going to succeed, no matter what--simply because you're going to work hard and everything will fall into place--is an absolute necessity for entrepreneurs," she says.
"Spend more time with your family."
"My grandmother appeared to effortlessly maintain balance in her life, something I strive for every day and rarely feel I am able to achieve," Tammy Trenta says.
Trenta's always-stylish and always-put-together grandmother was the inspiration (and the namesake) behind Theresa Kathryn, a company Trenta launched in 2005 that offers stylish women's briefcases and laptop bags. The company is expected to surpass $1 million in sales in 2008.
Trenta's grandmother taught her the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between work and home. She was an entrepreneur for over 50 years and worked up until her death at 81 years old.
"She didn't have a chance to enjoy retirement but treated every day as if it were a special occasion by having friends and family over for dinner or dessert on a regular basis," Trenta says. "She taught me to appreciate each moment and the people you love--these are the reasons you wake up every morning and what keeps you moving forward."