What Inspires Entrepreneurs to Work as Hard as They Do
Entrepreneurs are the new movie stars. These days, it seems everyone wants to be one. But the glamour of entrepreneurship is only an illusion. Running a business is a day-in-and-day-out grind that requires determination, innovation and sacrifice.
When you are pushing through exhaustion to meet one more deadline or dealing with the latest frustration, it’s often helpful to step back and remember why you are doing what you are doing.
In honor of National Small Business Week (NSBW), which starts today, we reached out to the six finalists in the running to win the title of National Small Business Person of the Year and asked them why they do what they do. What gets them out of bed each morning? Where does their inspiration come from? On Friday, these six finalists will be celebrated in a ceremony at the White House, and the winner will be announced.
For more than 50 years, the President of the U.S. has declared one week per year NSBW. Throughout that official week, the Small Business Administration organizes events around the country to honor the Main Street entrepreneur.
As NSBW kicks off, have a look at what these standout small-business owners say -- in their own words -- about why they do what they do.
1. Alan Doan, founder of the Missouri Star Quilt Company
Headquarters: Hamilton, Mo.
Number of employees: 180 total; 155 full-time, 25 part-time
Annual revenues: Declined to provide
At some point for me, as an entrepreneur, all the other motivations faded and it became almost entirely about the people that I work with. We are in a great business with lots of opportunity in front of us, but we are family (literally - five of us siblings work together as well as Mom and Dad - and figuratively) and we get to spend our days working with people we trust and respect. I have to show up with my best effort every day when it's my family that I'm working with. That being said, the customers in our world of quilting are maybe the most gratifying people in the world to be working for. When customers come and give you a hug, or shout for joy at a new product you built, or drive 15 hours to visit, or send your company a Christmas card thanking you for all you've done, you know you're building something special.
2. Charles Feit, founder of OnForce Solar
Headquarters: Bronx, N.Y.
Number of employees: 100 total; 85 full-time, 15 part-time.
Annual revenues: $30 million
I’m in a fast-paced, hyper-growth industry and every day is different. My motivation and inspiration come from watching our company and industry continue to grow. The solar energy industry is where the cell phone industry was 20 years ago. There are great things coming and I am proud to be a driving force behind it.
3. Carol Craig, founder of Craig Technologies
Headquarters: Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Number of employees: 414 total; 398 full-time; 16 part-time
Annual revenues: Approximately $45 to 50 million
I am very competitive and stubborn. I don’t like to leave things undone. And right now, I love what I do! Personally, I am challenged to keep going so I can find long-term security for my son, Danny, who was born with a rare genetic disorder. I need this business to succeed because I need to know that he will be cared for even after I am gone.
4. Michael Miqueli, founder of San Antonio Broker Services
Headquarters: North Bergen, N.J.
Number of employees: 71 full time
Annual revenues: $8 million
Fear of failure has always been the number one motivator to get me out of bed. Fear of failing my employees, fear of failing my customers, fear of failing my family. There is no way I will allow that to happen.
My inspiration comes from my parents, they came to the United States from a small town in Cuba called San Antonio de los Baños, (hence our name). They fled communist Cuba in 1961, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, they built a life, raised four sons and they achieved American Dream. They instilled in me the will and drive to be successful. I often look back to where I started, realizing what I have built and it motivates me to do more. I started this Company with a box truck and a credit card, if building something out of nothing isn’t enough motivation then I don’t know what is. I enjoy the challenges, I enjoy building a great business. I live for this.
5. Richard (Rick) Jackson, founder of American Document Services
Headquarters: Las Cruces, N.M.
Number of employees: 18 total; 16 full-time, 2 part-time
Annual revenues: More than $1.5 million
Each day brings a new challenge. I enjoy providing a needed service and offering employment. I enjoy working with other businesses and having the opportunity to interface with the workforce. I look forward to working with the kids within our community and seeing their accomplishments. Public speaking and training our citizens on how to protect their identity is something I enjoy. This is just a few of many.
Life in general is an inspiration. I’m blessed to have my family working along my side and having a very supportive family. The best employees in today’s workforce work with me. They are the reason for the success of ADS.
6. Necole Parker, founder of The ELOCEN Group, LLC
Headquarters: Washington, D.C.
Number of employees: 62 total; 52 full-time, 10 part-time
Annual revenues: $19.4 million
The willingness and desire to build a better company and leave a legacy that impacts my community and family is what gets me out of bed each day. My daily inspiration comes from personal faith in God, family, mentors, and passion/willingness to “keep going no matter what.”
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.