Covering business owners for 35 years, as Inc. has, doesn't make you an entrepreneur. But it does introduce you to a lot of them, and perhaps it helps them feel comfortable joining conversations at your office and opening up.
As you'll discover, a lot of opening up takes place in this month's issue, the latest part of our 35th anniversary celebration. The signature 35th anniversary conversations, which start on page 42, are built around themes long familiar to Inc. and its readers (i.e., you). For each conversation, we gathered entrepreneurs who have been stalwarts of these pages for decades and paired them with younger counterparts. Then they talked; we just listened.
First, we were reminded again that entrepreneurship has been behind most of the innovations of the past 35 years--and that it remains the wellspring of invention. On page 57, for example, Steve Hindy describes founding Brooklyn Brewery--thereby pretty much launching the craft beer revolution--because he hated the focus-group blandness of incumbent American brews. Then Matt Salzberg explains how he launched Blue Apron in 2012 because overstretched households needed help managing family meals. Across generations, it's all part of the same primal, innovative, entrepreneurial urge: See a need, fill the need.
But as you read, you also notice that few of those successful disruptions came easy. "Most of us were thought of as crazy people when we started," Stonyfield Farm's Gary Hirshberg tells his fellow food revolutionaries, and variations on that sentiment echo throughout the other panels. When Eli Pariser told people his concept for the upstart media site Upworthy, he says, "most of them said we were out of our minds." Real innovation, you realize, has always required a thick skin, guts, and incredible intensity of purpose. Oh, and this, too: a belief that failure isn't the worst danger. "What is the risk" of not following your dream, asks Jennifer Hyman, co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway, and "wasting your life doing something you hate?"
One significant entrepreneur in this issue was not on a 35th anniversary panel. That's our cover subject, CNBC phenomenon Marcus Lemonis. Editor-at-large David Whitford's article is the first major profile that "The Profit" has agreed to. But if you're looking for secrets of how to be featured on the show, don't get your hopes too high: The backlog of businesses applying for a Lemonis intervention is around 40,000. I suggest you read Whitford's piece instead for the insights it offers into the mind of a business leader whose focus is unrelenting and whose drive to succeed is truly epic. You might recognize a bit of yourself.