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Surfboards, Colorful Casts and a Podbelt

It all starts with inspiration.

This story appears in the July 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Our editors get to spend a lot of time with entrepreneurs who are inspired by something or someone, which got us thinking about the definition of inspiration.

We kicked it around for a while and came up with this: Inspiration is the impetus that causes a burst of creativity.

OK, but what's the spark? Where does inspiration (aka, the impetus that causes a burst of creativity) come from?

Ask five entrepreneurs, and you'll get five different answers. What inspires Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is different from what inspires Isa Gordon's Podbelt (see "Wacky ideas that just might fly,"). Branson is guided by passion. Gordon is guided by necessity (think Burning Man, sunblock, bottled water and car keys).

The inspiration for Crocs? The need for comfortable gardening shoes.

The inspiration for Casttoos? The need to promote happier healing.

The inspiration for the Snuggie? The need for a blanket with, um, arms.

In keeping with the theme of inspiration this month, reporter Dennis Romero sat down with two entrepreneurs for two different stories--each inspired by totally different circumstances.

John Paul DeJoria turned a $700 investment into what is now the $900 million hair care juggernaut Paul Mitchell Systems and later co-founded Patrón and set the standard for the premium tequila market. His inspiration wasn't the need for good hair and good tequila--it was the need for money. (DeJoria was homeless--twice.)

Romero also talked to this month's innovator, Mark Price, the CEO of surfboard manufacturer Firewire. Price got his inspiration from the love of surfing--and the need for a different kind of board. The result is Firewire's tech-savvy surfboards and a strategy that aims to blow up the venerable surfboard industry model.

So maybe inspiration is the real mother of invention. For entrepreneurs, it's definitely where the rubber hits the road.

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Amy C. Cosper,

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