People typically start a business when they spot an unmet need, which is oftentimes observed within their family.

For tBot, a startup I visited last month that makes personalized loose-leaf tea through robotics, the idea sprouted after its co-founder saw customers walk out of his family's café because they had to wait too long in line. Some of the company's peers, who share a co-working space at MaRS Commons in Toronto, have also been inspired by family members--specifically a son who was academically unengaged (SilverDart Learning), for example, and a mother who was recovering from cancer and needed help identifying products with nontoxic ingredients (Think Dirty).

But many business owners say they have also been inspired by a certain quote.

Indeed, a few words of wisdom--told by a respected corporate leader, a fierce competitor, or a loved one who once began his or her own venture--can go a long way. Here are some that individuals say inspired the creation of their businesses, including tech startups, financial firms, and marketing agencies, among others.

Business leaders

  • "The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing." --Walt Disney, creator of Disneyland
  • "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do." --Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple
  • "Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you." --Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
  • "Whether you think you can or think you can't... You're right." --Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company
  • "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" --Steve Jobs
  • "Money doesn't lead; it follows." --Dan Gilbert, entrepreneur and majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers
  • "If you can dream it, you can do it." --Walt Disney
  • "Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is--everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use." --Steve Jobs
  • "Change is inevitable. Will you drive that change or be driven by it?" --Josh Linkner, venture capitalist and author

Political leaders

  • "Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground." --Theodore Roosevelt
  • "Never give up on something you can't go a day without thinking about." --Winston Churchill
  • "It always seems impossible until it's done." --Nelson Mandela

Writers and artists

  • "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." --George Bernard Shaw
  • "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." --Mark Twain
  • "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail." --Muriel Strode
  • "Fear not the unknown, for it is where your greatness resides." --Robin Sharma
  • "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." --Neale Donald Walsch
  • "Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action." --Napoleon Hill
  • "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." --Pablo Picasso

What quote inspired you to keep going when your business ran into a challenging period? Let @Neil_S_Parmar know via Twitter for a future column.


Published on: Sep 9, 2014