Seeing the World Through Different Lenses Keep your eyes peeled for ideas that could spark a million-dollar business.

By Bonnie Price

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Some people see the world differently. When something becomes apparent to them, they have to respond to that blinding flash of creative vision.

Creativity coach Mary Lou Johns of Blue Sky Coaching teaches that the first stage in the creative process is gathering input through observation. If we want to increase our creativity, we must keep our sensory skills on the alert for new experiences.

Actresses make use of all their senses to bring roles to life. So it was natural for actress Lynne Lambert to launch a new career by relying on her visual acuity.

About 10 years ago, Lambert was a successful commercial actress on stage and in the voiceover market. She was also a leader in her union in New York City. But she noticed that her bookings were dropping off and, after looking into the problem, realized that her career was slowing down because of her age: She was well over 40.

Lambert, however, is creative, tenacious (no one is successful in the arts without great discipline and tenacity), and has strong organizational and leadership skills.

And, as so many New Yorkers do, she rode the subway to most of her bookings. One day, she looked at the subway map and had an "aha" moment. The map was a terrific graphic. She could see this colorful, unique designon fun, hip clothing. Lambert had absolutely no experience in clothing design, manufacturing, licensing or distribution. She did have a burning desire to see what she could do with her concept.

She learned that she could license the images for a reasonable fee along with a percentage of sales, and she launched the businesswith T-shirts. She was off and running.

Lambert believes in asking questions. She has found that people are willing to help if they know you are sincere and hard-working. In an early licensing meeting, she was so naïve about the process that one of the consultants took her aside and counseled her to protect her designs or she would be vulnerable to deep-pocketed companies that might not have her ethics.

Lambert listened, and when counterfeiters tried to siphon off sales, her solid relationships and legal protection enabled her to save her intellectual property and her future.

Fast forward to 2008. NYCSubwayLine was a winner in the Make Mine a Million $ Business competition two years ago and is now a million-dollar business. Lambert took what she learned and applied it to other markets. She was approached to work with the London subway system and found a creative way to add to its iconic shirts, expanding the business of all concerned. She believes her company can expand to other cities and subway systems around the world.

What are the takeaways from Lynne's experience?

  1. Keep your eyes peeled for good ideas.
  2. Give your intuition a chance.
  3. Be humble enough to admit what you don't know.
  4. Ask experts to help you.
  5. Don't give up when the going gets tough.

Sometimes, getting stuck on the subway is the best use of your time!

Bonnie Price, founder of Silver Vixen Enterprises, is a lifelong entrepreneur. She owns SilverVixens, an online membership community to connect and inform Women of a Certain Age. She also writes the After 55 blog.

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