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Entrepreneurs 101, day one – the start-ups of successful entrepreneurs

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After 25 years of talking to the country’s best business builders, one of the most asked questions I have to field is, what explains successful entrepreneurs?

My light-hearted response is always that the most common characteristic of so many success stories has been a kitchen table as most businesses have been started on one.

But an intriguing trend I have noticed is that women can be motivated by a need to help their children.

Sue Ismiel started Nads, a hair removal business, because she wanted to help her daughter who had an excess hair problem. And yes, it was started on the kitchen table.

Leanne Preston, 2008’s Telstra’s Business Woman of the Year, founded her Wild Child business because her daughter came home from school with nits in her hair. Flabbergasted that the treatment for nits came with warnings to keep away from pregnant women, Preston went looking for a natural alternative but none were available – the Quit Nits product was born. She now exports to major pharmacy groups such as Boots in the UK and CVS in America. It’s an all-round astounding export success story.

Then there is Barb de Corti, who founded the direct selling business Enjo here in Australia, which now has more than a 1000 consultants selling Enjo’s non-chemical cleaning products.

“It was my son’s health problems that led to the major turning point in my life,” explains de Corti. This mother’s drive helped her find the Austrian-based Enjo products that were chemical free and a successful business was born. 

The important P-word

Passion cannot be underestimated – it drives these entrepreneurs to be 24-seven committed to success. Anyone who has read Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity can see he is single-mindedly committed to doing what is needed for success.

But passion is not enough.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers: The Story of Success, argues that success comes from a combination of lucky breaks, lots of hours of hard work (in fact, he says it is 10,000 hours), and being in an advantageous environment.

He insists Bill Gates of Microsoft fame was lucky to be rich and well-educated but his real luck was that his mum’s connection to the local university meant he had unlimited access to a computer at age 13.

“To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success … with a society that provides opportunities for all,” writes Gladwell. Economic policy wise, governments need to create better conditions for small business to flourish.

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