MONEY Food & Drink

Pasta-Loving Entrepreneur Shares His Secret Sauce for Success

Sauces 'N Love is a maker and marketer of premium pasta sauces and gluten free pasta.

Sauces ‘N Love cooks in 1,500-lb. batches, but Paolo Volpati-Kedra, founder and CEO, says the company cooks its pasta sauces the same way he would in his kitchen at home. Volpati-Kedra moved to America from Italy in 1993 on a student budget and couldn’t afford anything more than pasta. His friends loved his sauce experiments and suggested he sell them, so he did. Sauces ‘N Love, which now employs more than 30 people, just won an award for Best Pasta Sauce of the Year for its Pumpkin & Kale Alfredo sauce.

Read next: This Business That Does Nothing But Give Away Free Stuff

TIME Careers & Workplace

I Learned All of My Business Lessons From Selling on a Street Corner

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It wasn’t enough that I loved my creations and thought they were clever

For about six or so years, I hocked goods I had made on the street, at state fairs, county fairs, art fairs and festivals up and down the state of California.

It was the late 1970s. I was 21 years old. I had dropped out of college at San Jose State University, needing only three units to graduate. I had loved studying sculpture, but I was dubious, to put it mildly, about my employment prospects. Who was going to hire me?

When I looked in the paper, the only jobs were for graphic artists and art galleries — neither of which I was qualified for. I knew I would not be creating fine works of art, but I decided then that if I could make things with my hands and make a living — I’d be satisfied. I’d be more than satisfied: I’d be rich.

At the time I was living in the Santa Cruz Mountains with a ragtag group of friends. There was a lot of kicking back and hanging out. I was fortunate to cross paths with someone who was extremely creative. As we sat in front of the television watching Dallas (Dallas was always on), I remember watching Marlena make little funny-looking characters out of stuffing a nylon stocking with cotton using a needle and thread. With their wrinkly faces, they looked like little old men.

It seemed fun, so I started to design a few of my own. When some of our friends told us they thought they were cool, an idea dawned on me — could I sell these?

Driving home on Summit Road one day, I noticed a sign advertising an upcoming craft fair at a local elementary school. I took down the phone number, called it, showed up the following weekend with my folding table and soft sculptures, and had an absolute blast. I felt like I had met a community of like-minded people. They didn’t have jobs either. They weren’t mainstream. They caravanned across the state like gypsies, and that appealed to me. What freedom! As I felt the warm sun on my face, I was sure of it: This was the life for me.

There weren’t many vendors, but I could see that some booths were doing a lot of business, because every so often a wad of cash would peak out from someone’s hand. They’d figured out that magical sweet spot, the one that exists when you sell something for the right price point in the right place. You can make it as complicated as you want, but if you’ve made something, brought it to market, and someone has paid you for it, you’ve completed the circle. You’ve done what every major business does. I wanted to duplicate their success.

Later that afternoon, my father stopped by the show to see how I was doing. “Great!” He saw how wide my grin was and asked me how many things had I sold.

Zero. I hadn’t sold anything.

To his credit, and this really was not his scene, he didn’t say or do anything that might have put out my fire. He simply smiled in a way that said, “You’ll figure it out.”

I learned a very important lesson that day. If I was going to make rent and feed myself, I had to come up with ideas that would sell. It wasn’t enough that I loved my creations and thought they were clever. I started thinking, “Who is my audience?”

So I went back to the drawing board to examine why I had failed. The nylons I had used were very plain — you could even see the cotton through them. The characters weren’t very recognizable either. When I reflected on the day, I remembered seeing mostly women, and that the fruit and vegetable stands were a big hit. Fruits. Vegetables. Women. I came to the conclusion that I needed to invent something that was fun, whimsical and for the kitchen.

So I changed directions. I bought colored nylons and formed them into playful fruits and vegetables. I called the tomato “Mr. Tom-a-toe.” The banana’s face peaked out of its peel. There were peas in a pod, each of their three faces silly and cheery. My carrots had shaggy green “hair” that I cut to look like the Beatles.

The next time I set up my table, I smoothed out a red and white checkered tablecloth on top of it. I staged my creations inside a wooden crate. And I waited.

That day, I sold out.

Immediately I thought (like every entrepreneur who has ever lived), how do I duplicate this? How do I scale up? I’ve been trying to do just that ever since.

So what did I learn? Know your audience. Create something they desire. Test it quickly to see if it sells. And by all means, have fun doing it. For me, these lessons are as foundational today as they were then. How could they not be? The path was as plain as day. When I sit in boardrooms with major corporations, I ask myself the same questions. Who is my audience? And how am I going to get them to open their wallets?

You can learn so much from observing successful operations. And I think there’s something to be said for having your back up against the wall. It actually works in your favor. If you have to support yourself, you get darn creative — fast.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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TIME women

Don’t Call Me a ‘Mompreneur’

Haven’t we earned the right by now to just be called entrepreneurs?

I was aimlessly wandering through Costco last weekend (it’s as close to a hobby as I’ll get), when I ran into an old friend. Not having seen each other in years, we exchanged the usual questions to catch up between shoving a year’s worth of taquitos into our carts. “Are you married? How many kids? What part of town do you live in?” Then she asked the one question that always makes me cringe, “Do you work outside the home?”

It’s a question that’s loaded with assumptions. For starters, it insinuates that people who choose to abandon a career to take care of their families are resided to the simplicities of their home. We know that’s not true. These parents are as much working outside the home — as drivers, coaches, educators, activity managers, and caretakers — as they are inside the home.

Second, the question presumes that because I’m a mom I have a choice. Third, it presumes that I want that choice.

When I got home I asked my husband, “Have you ever been asked if you work outside the home?”

“No,” he said, “of course not.”

I asked if he’s ever been called a dadpreneur, as he has his own law practice, and is by definition a dad. He rolled his eyes at me and proceeded to help me unload 400 pounds of rice and frozen lasagna.

For the same reason why my long lost friend asked me if I work outside the home, I’ve been labeled a “mompreneur,” more times than I can count. I’m the founder and CEO of a software company. I’m also the mother of two.

There’s a deep-rooted assumption in our society that women entrepreneurs with children will always regard themselves as mom first and foremost, and entrepreneur second. They can never exist on the same plane, and this is hurting us all.

Perception is everything

The term mompreneur conjures up images of a smart looking woman wearing a suit, holding a baby in one arm and a briefcase in the other. As I write this, in Entrepreneur’s Mompreneur section of their website, there are 14 articles on the home page. Eight of them have images of a woman entrepreneur with her kids. Seven of them have headlines about work-life balance. Two have headlines on how to involve your kids in your business.

There isn’t a single headline on just how to improve your business. Nothing on growing sales, raising capital, mastering culture, or recruiting the best talent. Apparently the only thing women entrepreneurs are supposed to care about is how to balance their godforsaken careers with having a family.

Creating a special category of content for entrepreneurs who happen to also be moms creates a perception that these women don’t run their businesses the same way other entrepreneurs do. And this is completely false. Every entrepreneur I know — mom, dad, and the kidless ones — want the same things. They want to grow. They want to keep costs down and quality up. They want to recruit and retain the best talent. And they all want to create something awesome that fits their definition of success.

The deluge of this type of content, expertly marketed to millions of women just like me, sends the message that when it comes to running our businesses, our biggest concern should be how we balance our ventures with our family obligations.

Men entrepreneurs aren’t targeted with articles about balancing work with family, and it sends a very different message.

This disparity feeds into the fact that women who work still take on more of the housework (three more hours per week) and spend twice as much time on childcare than their male partners.

The message permeates outside the family as well. Women entrepreneurs already face an uphill battle in funding their companies, with fewer than 5% of venture-backed companies run by a woman CEO. Investors prefer a venture pitch by a man to an identical pitch by a woman at a rate of 68% to 32%. The perception that women are less capable entrepreneurs than men is deeply engrained in our culture. Add “mom” to the woman entrepreneur’s CV and investors jump to the same assumption everyone else does: Is she really interested in working outside the home?

Learning is Limited

If I were to read every article on the top three pages of the search term “mompreneur,” I’d learn a lot about how to balance my life, but nothing about how to grow my business.

The average executive spends an estimated two hours per day reading. This includes email, so let’s be conservative and say that the average entrepreneur spends 30 minutes a day reading content specifically for the purpose of helping them grow and/or manage their business. If I’m spending that 30 minutes on how to cut down on childcare costs (real headline in a mompreneur blog), and my counterpart who’s a dad is spending 30 minutes reading up on how to increase sales by 20% this quarter, who’s going to get ahead faster?

The sad part is, what we read isn’t necessarily our choice.

Today’s publishing platforms have pretty much guaranteed that consumers are served up a steady stream of content, including on mobile and social platforms, which aligns with their perceived attributes. Some companies and the platforms they use are brilliant, and can derive really precise data on you just by your browsing history and online profiles. Others create personas based on shallow data and hit the send button with abandon. Woman + business owner + mother is the reason why I open my inbox everyday to find newsletters from spa resorts and kids clothing trunk shows. But if I want to find articles that can help me scale my software company, I have to do my own digging. Carrying the label “mompreneur” on social media profiles, blog posts, websites, or even just searching the term on Google can quite literally mean getting bucketed into a specific persona and targeted by an onslaught of content that’s geared more towards the mom and less towards the ‘preneur.

Not that this content is bad. Most every parent can benefit from cutting childcare costs and finding more time to spend with family. The problem is only half of the world’s parents are receiving the message on a near constant basis. The other half is being spoon fed real business advice.

The Imbalanced Dialogue on Work-Life Balance

Women have been launching and running their own businesses since the 1700s. Today, almost a third of businesses in the U.S. are owned by women, and they employ nearly 8 million people. About 70% of mothers in the U.S. work.

Haven’t we earned the right by now to just be called entrepreneurs? Why the special designation? Back to those nasty assumptions…

Visit the Wikipedia page on Mompreneurs and you’ll see that most of the links in the “See Also” section are about work life balance. There is a strongly held assumption that women entrepreneurs struggle with work life issues above all other challenges. A similar search of “Dadpreneur” on Wikipedia didn’t return the same results. Do we really believe men don’t struggle with this too?

Further, can we admit it’s possible that entrepreneurs who happen to also be moms might NOT struggle with work life balance as much as we assume? Can we change our mindset to believe that many entrepreneurs who are also moms wake up in the morning thinking about how they’re going to take on the world with their start up? That many of them enjoy spending eight to 10 hours a day focused on disrupting an industry, and don’t give a second thought to the audacity of ordering pizza three nights a week? That many, many entrepreneurs who also call themselves mom spend as much time visualizing how to get to a B round or a billion dollar valuation as they do visualizing a great life for their kids? Yes, these things can be of equal importance to women.

Motherhood doesn’t define us in our careers or predict the success of our ventures. Our vision and tenacity does. If you really want to label me, call me what I am. I’m an entrepreneur.

Aly Saxe is founder and CEO of Iris PR Software.

This article originally appeared on Medium

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

These Are America’s Top 10 Small Cities With Thriving Businesses

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Experts say businesses in smaller towns tend to experience higher revenue with lower cost of living

Think your business has to “make it” in the Big Apple or Chi-Town to pull in big dollars? Think again.

Top lines thrive in small cities, according to a report released today in a partnership between personal finance site NerdWallet and Entrepreneur Media. In the study, analysts reviewed 463 cities with populations from 50,000 and 100,000 to find some of the best climates in the country for entrepreneurship.

The analysis looks at business environment, reviewing average revenue per business, the number of businesses, and the percentage of businesses with paid employees. Researchers also studied economic factors like annual income, housing costs and unemployment rate data from the U.S. Census.

Careful review of these factors drove cities like Alpharetta, Georgia, with a population of approximately 60,000 to the top of this list. Other top small cities include Redmond, Washington and Wilmington, Delaware.

The takeaway for entrepreneurs? Keep your costs to operate in mind. While the average revenue per business among the top ten largest cities by population (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose) is $1.4 million, that metric was nearly 3 times higher for the list of top ten small cities (shown below), at $4 million.

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“Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to go to a big city to succeed,” says Cindy Yang, a researcher and head of the Small-Business Group at NerdWallet. “While bigger cities have more businesses, they don’t have bigger businesses. It’s the businesses in smaller, surrounding towns that tend to have higher revenue and a higher propensity to have paid employees while enjoying the lower cost of living.”

For its part, top-ranked Alpharetta offers a strong-for-its-size business density, with 15 businesses per 100 people, in a town with just more than 60,000 in population. (New York City, for contrast, has a population of more than 8 million, and boasts 11 businesses per 100 people). The Georgia town’s average revenue per business is also steep, at $6.9 million.

Ground-level initiatives like the Alpharetta Tech Commission (ATC) have lured hundreds of tech companies and startups, according toCrunchbase. The city’s also home to McKesson’s Technology Solutions division, specializing in information technology for hospitals and physician’s offices.

Peter Tokar, economic development director of Alpharetta and president of the ATC, says the expansion of the GA 400 highway in the 1990s helped transform it into a hotbed for tech. Easy transportation led to the development of a powerful grid infrastructure and thus, a fast fiber-optic network. This paired with a high-end suburban life “drew tech companies to the city like a magnet,” according to Tokar.

Strong local economies and easy access to a larger city’s resources are also important for businesses in small cities to thrive, says Yang. Eight of the top 10 small towns are within an easy commute to major metros like Atlanta, D.C., Seattle and Los Angeles. “This allows small businesses there to operate in a close-knit community that often has a lower-cost of living,” says Yang. Meanwhile, businesses in these tertiary towns can still capitalize on top-notch technology, infrastructure and of course, more affluent customers of neighboring hubs.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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21 Inspiring Quotes That Will Motivate Your Adventurous Pursuits

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"Failure is just a resting place. It is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently."

There’s something about quotes that we all find irresistible. Maybe it’s that they tend to come from ordinary people who have gone on to do extraordinary things in their lives. Perhaps it’s the vast array of professions, circumstances, niches and places they come from that fascinate us. Or it could be that by reading their words we tap into something we feel is possible for ourselves as well. Whatever it is, there’s nothing like a great quote to get your revved up.

Here are 21 inspiring quotes that will get you hyped up and keep you motived as an entrepreneur.

I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I cannot accept not trying. — Michael Jordan

Just like the great Yoda once said, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” You may fail at some things in your life, but you’ll fail at life if you don’t continually try and do new things.

Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender, it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment. — Stephen Covey

It is common to be in a rush to reach the destination called success. There’s success with a romantic partner, which usually means marriage or success with a business, which usually means an IPO or exit strategy. Success is often measured by the destination. However, if you can learn to be patient, and continually improve yourself while enjoying the journey, the trip to every success will be as pleasant as the destination. Improving yourself is always worth the investment.

In every success story, you will find someone who has made a courageous decision. — Peter F. Drucker

Success takes a spirit of adventure and an aptitude for bravery. It isn’t that the brave don’t have fears, it’s that they chose to move forward anyway.

If you can dream it, you can do it. — Walt Disney

Every great success starts with a big vision. What’s yours?

We must train from the inside out. Using our strengths to attack and nullify any weaknesses. It’s not about denying a weakness may exist but about denying its right to persist. — Vince McConnell

Investing in yourself means a continual assessment of self-improvement, and that process weeds out our weaknesses. It’s not about perfection, but if we focus on overcoming our inner obstacles to success, we can conquer the world within and then the world outside.

All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership. — John Kenneth Galbraith

Leadership, like entrepreneurship, takes courage and the ability to remain comfortable in times of discomfort. The more you can cultivate being at ease during times of challenge, the greater your life and your leadership will be.

My best advice to entrepreneurs is this: Forget about making mistakes, just do it. — Ajaero Tony Martins

Don’t focus on the failures. Focus on the journey toward results. It’s better to do something and fail than to not try anything at all.

Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful men and women keep moving. They make mistakes but they don’t quit. — Conrad Hilton

There is action required for all success. Success never means a lack of failures along the path, but always means your continue down the path even after stumbling or falling. It’s the old proverb that you might fall down nine times, but to be successful you must stand up 10 times.

Ambition is the steam that drives men forward on the road to success. Only the engine under full steam can make the grade. — Maxi Foreman

You need a big vision and some lofty ambition to change the world, even if the world you aspire to change is only your own local community. Dream big and take action toward those ambitions.

Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field. — Dennis Waitley

Never stop learning. If you aren’t learning, then you’re quickly becoming obsolete. Surround yourself with smart people who will always challenge you with new ideas, new technologies and show you new ways things could be done.

Everyone who achieves success in a great venture solved each problem as they came to it. They helped themselves and they were helped through powers known and unknown to them at the time they set out on their voyage. They kept going regardless of the obstacles they met. — W. Clement Stone

Failure is a theme with great quotes and great leaders because it’s so personal and also so universal. Rise up from challenges and move forward after your failures and you will meet with success.

Experience taught me a few things. One is to listen to your gut no matter how good something sounds on paper. The second is that you are generally better off sticking with what you know and the third is that sometimes, your best investments are the ones you don’t make. — Donald Trump

You should trust your inner voice and go with your gut, even when it’s telling you not to do something — perhaps especially when it’s telling your not to do something. Learning to trust your own judgment will take you far.

Failure isn’t failure unless you don’t learn from it. — Dr. Ronald Niednagel

Yes, you need to move forward after failure, but perhaps the most important thing about failure is the lesson you learn from it. What can you change in the future to not repeat the mistakes of your past? So long as you change a different variable every time you attack the same problem, you’ll find a way to overcome and reach a solution.

Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait, the grip of your hand and the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas. — Henry Ford

When you love what you do, you have the passion you’ll need to fuel the often intense road of entrepreneurship. Keep that passion alive.

Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek. — Mario Andretti

Desire, like passion, fuels you forward during times of challenge to achieve your success. Every entrepreneur should have a healthy dose of desire to reach their big vision if they want to eventually arrive at success.

The secret of joy in work is contained in one word: excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it. — Pearl Buck

You should strive for excellence in all you do. It’s a hallmark of innovation and integrity to reach excellence in your work.

If you hear a voice within you saying ‘you are not a painter’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced. — Vincent Van Gogh

This is a great quote because it emphasizes the importance of action. If you don’t know how to paint, the best way — really the only way — to learn is to pick up a paintbrush. You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to get started with your first endeavor. You need to get started with your first endeavor to be an entrepreneur.

You are to set your own value, communicate that value to the world, and then not settle for less. Sound daunting? That’s just because it takes you out of your comfort zone. You have got to stop being an obstacle on your own path to wealth and security and happiness. You must understand that valuing yourself is well within your control. — Suze Orman

One thing that is easy to do when you’re starting as an entrepreneur is to put yourself on sale. When you don’t have an understanding of your own value and worth, don’t expect others to either. This isn’t so much a dollar sum as it is a belief in yourself, in your innate ability to succeed and the drive to move your way forward to success. Know your worth and then act on it.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that people can alter their lives by altering their attitudes. — William James

The greatest single factor you can consciously decide to implement right now is your attitude. Be outrageously, contagiously optimistic and resilient. Decide now that your attitude is going to be amazing to be around for others.

Failure is just a resting place. It is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently. — Henry Ford

Learn from your mistakes and take each failure as an opportunity to begin again, but with a new knowledge to apply to the steps ahead.

The entrepreneur is essentially a visualizer and actualizer. He can visualize something, and when he visualizes it he sees exactly how to make it happen. — Robert L. Schwartz

When you have a big vision, and you combine that perspective with action, there’s nothing you can’t do.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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The 1 Thing to Avoid If You Want to Be Successful in Life

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Don't let the looks of skepticism get to you

It is the mid 1980s, and I am 27 years old. For the last six years, I’ve been selling my handmade soft sculptures on the street, at state fairs, and eventually, in a retail store. I’ve been learning how to create products people want. But it’s still been a tough way to make a living. And I’m beginning to feel like I may have hit rock bottom.

My friends and family have begun to side-eye me. In their eyes, it’s time for me to grow up — time to get with the program, time to get a “real” job. They are very kind, but I can tell they think I’m a loser. They have good jobs and they’re getting married and buying houses. I’m chasing my dream. At the moment, I also happen to be sleeping on a friend’s couch and my car has just broken down.

They couldn’t envision how my future was going to turn out, but I had faith. I knew my path was never going to be as straight as theirs. I believed deep down that what I was learning would be important later on. I felt sure of one thing: If I could create a living working with my hands, I’d be the richest man in the world. In my eyes, I was simply experiencing a bump in the road — a small detour.

We all hit rock bottom, don’t we? Thankfully, I met someone who believed in me. Susan thought I was talented. She saw something in me that others could not. She let me live with her so that I could start over, and for that I will never be able to thank her enough.

Susan’s apartment in Fremont was brimming with stuffed animals. She had teddy bears of all different sizes as well as farm animals like cows and sheep. She loved the soft sculptures I had created and collected those as well.

One day, Susan asked if I could design a bear. I told her no, I wasn’t a patternmaker — all soft sculpture was done by hand. “Try,” she implored.

So I did. I started studying the dimensions of one of her teddy bears. I needed to teach myself how pattern pieces could be sewn together to create 3-D objects. I took its measurements. Then I reached for paper, started cutting shapes out of it, and began taping them together. It struck me that I could just as easily sculpt in paper.

Inspired, I quickly moved on to color construction paper and built a fish modeled after the character Cleo, the goldfish in Pinocchio. To my delight, it looked absolutely amazing! I stuffed it with paper tissue to give it more dimension. Later that day, Susan took apart the fish and laid out the pieces of paper I had used to create it on shimmering fabric. Together, we created the first plush animal I had ever designed. I was hooked.

My world changed that day. Companies had been selling plush animals forever, and all of a sudden, I had a marketable skill.

For the next month, I created paper sculptures of everything from ducks to dogs to bears — you name it. Working with paper was extremely satisfying, because it was so forgiving. If I made a mistake, well, I could simply keep trimming and then tape the pieces together again to get closer to the right shape. I could shape, cut, tape, reshape, cut again and tape over and over again. I was working with my hands, and I loved being able to transform an idea into a product so quickly. It was magical.

One day, Susan suggested that I contact Dakin, one of the largest and oldest producers of plush animals. Conveniently, the company was located just across the San Francisco Bay.

To my surprise, when I picked up the phone and asked if they needed any freelance work done, they invited me to come in right away. I can remember taking the elevator to the top floor, somewhat in awe. I brought a few photographs of my work along. They’re weren’t much, but they must have been good enough, because they handed me a swath of fabric and told me I had two weeks to design a life-size realistic-looking golden retriever.

When a door opens, stick your foot inside. For me, “fake it ‘til you make it” has always been a bit of a motto. Had I ever designed anything like a life-size realistic-looking golden retriever before? No. But I took a chance.

First, I started studying the structure of a golden retriever. Then I went to the library to make life-size Xerox copies. Next it was time to starting cutting paper and taping it together. If I could make the dog look good in paper, I knew it would look good in fabric. And there it was: A beautiful life-size plush version of America’s favorite dog.

Dakin couldn’t believe how good it looked either. When I held the $1,500 check they handed me, I grinned.

Having the courage to make a change is a fundamental part of being an entrepreneur. What my friends and family didn’t understand is that I had realized my handmade soft sculptures could never be mass-produced. I didn’t want to keep selling my ideas on street corners — I wanted to grow my audience. So I needed to learn about manufacturing techniques. I needed to reevaluate where I had been in order to move on.

Dakin mass-produced my Golden Retriever, which the company named Sandy. The following February, I flew to New York for Toy Fair. After the show, I stopped by FAO Schwarz, the oldest toy store in the U.S. It was cold and rainy. Inside, there was Sandy.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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8 Sources of Professional Advice and Inspiration

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"Before going to others, look inward"

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Question: Who do you turn to first for advice and why?

Myself

“Before going to others, look inward. You know your situation better than anyone, and you are capable of amazing creativity. I find it useful to pretend that I’m looking at someone else’s issue instead of my own. If someone else were coming to you with this problem, what advice would you give them? Take a step back and objectively evaluate what is happening. ” — Laura Roeder, MeetEdgar.com

My Social Following

“I will post almost all of my personal or professional questions on Twitter and Facebook because I have some pretty awesome connections. You can expand your social circle online far faster than you ever could in person. Throw out a question and just watch all the great advice roll in. Also, you don’t have to endure endless conversations online. Who has time for that?” — Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

My Peer Advisor

“I have a daily call with Bhavin Parikh, CEO of Magoosh.com. Even on weekends we talk. While we run completely different businesses (watches for me, test prep for him) we’re going through many of the same struggles of growing a business. He knows everything about Modify, so that when I call and bring up some small issue, he has all of the necessary context and can simply give advice.” — Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

My Father

“My father is without a doubt the first person I turn to for personal and business advice. He has seen just about everything and has met just about every different type of person in his life as a lawyer. He is a very grounded, well-rounded person who has been a successful business person and (more importantly), human being. ” — Jason Grill, JGrill Media | Sock 101

Key Stakeholders

“I go to my key stakeholders, along with my team of external advisers. As the ancient proverb states, “A wise man has many counselors.” You want a diversity of knowledge, experience and education to help create the highest likelihood of success. ” — Parker Powers, ParkerPowers.com

An Executive Coach

One of my most trusted advisors is an executive coach. She has been part of my team since my business was only a few months old. Executive coaches are great because they know more about your business’ inner-workings than an outside mentor, but they are more removed than a board member or colleague. If you find the right one, he/she can be an invaluable impartial resource for key decisions.” — Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

My Wife

“My wife has no business background. She is a teacher. However, she possesses a deep understanding of me unlike anyone else in the world. Bouncing ideas off of her proves to be an effective exercise since she offers a fresh perspective on the issue at hand. ” — Logan Lenz, Endagon

Google

“I turn to Google because I hate asking questions without understanding the topic. Once I have a basic understanding, I am able to ask better questions, which leads to better results. ” — Matthew Moisan, Moisan Legal, P.C.

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TIME Careers & Workplace

6 Lessons From the Rising Startup Leaders

Use your mistakes to your advantage

We all have our favorite entrepreneurs and business leaders. They inspire us to increase our influence and carve out a name for ourselves.

Some of these entrepreneurs preach their messages off the rooftops, and others are more subtle. These lessons are my interpretation of their business styles and actions.

  • 1. Neil Patel: Share your story.

    Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. He’s created multiple million-dollar companies, all under the age of 30 (he recently celebrated his 30th birthday). His work and advice has been some of the most impactful to me.

    Not too long ago I was in the process of figuring out how to develop my personal brand after some interesting obstacles (6 Life Hacks Learned In Prison That Will Maximize Your Productivity). I used my cold email approach to contact Patel, and explained my journey.

    His words rang very clear, “share your story.” Since then, I’ve become a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, increased my influence tenfold, grown my business and have had all sorts of amazing opportunities come my way.

  • 2. Tucker Max: Be you.

    Max’s first book, I Hope They Serve Beers in Hell, was a New York Times number-one bestseller and made the list each year from 2006-12. It sold more than one million copies internationally and approximately 400,000 in just 2009.

    Although he’s self-proclaimed and depicted as a total jerk by the media (hopefully I’m not blowing his cover), he’s one of the nicest, most genuine, helpful “entrepreneur celebrities” (is that even a thing?) that I’ve had the pleasure to communicate with.

    I’m in the process of writing a book, and his new business Book in a Box provides an invaluable framework to the writing process. He’s basically figured out a new way to write books, and has experienced explosive growth (this article explains the genesis of the company and is a very good read: My Startup Made $200K in its First Two Months … and I’m Embarrassed).

    The lesson I’ve learned from Max is very simple: “Be you.” Whether people love or hate Max, as you can see by his writings, he’s not afraid to be himself. That’s refreshing in today’s social media age.

  • 3. Tim Ferriss: Design the life you want.

    Ferriss is most known for The 4-Hour Work Week, which has spurred an entire generation of entrepreneurs to throw in the nine-to-five towel and design the lives they’ve always wanted. Known for treating his life as an experiment, he’s full of practical, self-help knowledge that acts as a guide to entrepreneurs all around the world. He swims with sharks, works from around the world and skydives with supermodels (I made that last part up, but I’m sure he’s done it).

    Ferriss’s message and journey has helped countless people shed the bondage of nine-to-five cubicle hell and strike out on their own entrepreneurial journeys with one clear message: It’s up to us to design the lives we want.

  • 4. Sean Parker: Be bold.

    Parker took on the music industry, and in my opinion, he won. Sure, Napster is no longer around, but his company was the catalyst to an entire industry crumbling through serious disruption.

    Most notably known for being played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network (yes, that’s a joke), he joined one of the most influential tech companies of this decade (Do I even need to name it?) at the ground level.

    Parker hasn’t directly preached the “be bold” mantra, but this is the lesson I have learned from watching his courageous actions.

  • 5. Noah Kagan: Use your mistakes to your advantage.

    When I Google search Kagan’s name, the third result is an article titled, “How Noah Kagan Got Fired From Facebook and Lost $185M.” Does this sound like a dude that’s afraid to keep it real, and use his mistakes as leverage?

    Kagan has gone on to create a multi-million dollar company with App Sumo, and created one of the most used product suites of the year with SumoMe. The lesson I learned from Kagan is to use your mistakes to propel you forward.

  • 6. Gary Vaynerchuk: Leverage your personal brand.

    I wouldn’t even know how to describe “Gary V” to people who haven’t heard of him. He’s like a real life, fast talking, loudly speaking, walking, talking encyclopedia of cool s**t.

    “Fresh out of college he took his family wine business and grew it from a $3M to a $60M business in just five years,” according to his bio.

    He’s an angel investor in companies such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and Uber. The #AskGaryVee Show has helped him establish his expertise and catapulted him into being recognized as one of the most influential thought leaders of our time. This all began with him simply creating a YouTube video channel where he discussed his passions and expertise for wine. He was able to brand himself effectively, and leverage that brand to build VaynerMedia and VaynerRSE, a $25 million angel fund.

    This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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TIME Careers & Workplace

6 Reasons Richard Branson Is the Most Popular Entrepreneur in the World

Richard Branson at a news conference in London on June 25, 2015.
Matthew Lloyd—Bloomberg via Getty Images Richard Branson at a news conference in London on June 25, 2015.

He smiles and laughs — a lot

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Richard Branson may be the most popular businessperson alive. Employees, peers, and even strangers seem to love him. With more than eight million followers, he is by far the most popular Influencer on LinkedIn-almost doubling the next figure (Bill Gates’s 4.4 million followers).

I’ll admit, I had never heard of Branson before I started working for myself some years ago. I quickly found out that his status among entrepreneurs is legendary.

So what makes Sir Richard so darned likable?

In a 2007 interview at the famous TED conference, conducted with curator Chris Anderson, Branson spoke about the ups and downs of his career:

Here are some traits and quotes from the interview that I feel help explain his extreme popularity.

1. He smiles and laughs. A lot.

Generally speaking, we like people who smile and laugh. Their joyful spirit is contagious, and they make us feel better about ourselves.

Add to that the fact that Branson appears totally unpretentious, humble, and unable to take himself seriously. Beginning at the 16:00 mark, you’ll find a potentially awkward exchange in which Anderson makes a joke at Branson’s expense. Branson simply laughs it off and keeps going.

Watch Sir Richard for a few minutes, and it’s hard not to like the guy.

2. He touches others.

Not just figuratively. Literally. (Check out point 1:34 in the video.)

Fellow Inc. columnist Dr. Travis Bradberry points out that when you touch someone while conversing, you release specific neurotransmitters in the person’s brain that make him or her associate you with trust and other positive feelings. (Of course, unwanted or inappropriate touching will produce the opposite effect.)

It’s safe to say that Sir Richard hasn’t given us any literal pats on the back lately. But watching how he deals with others makes him appear down-to-earth and relatable.

It’s almost like a subliminal message flashes across the screen, telling your subconscious: I’m trustworthy and genuine, and I sincerely like people. Now follow me on LinkedIn.

3. He values his employees. Really.

In his opening comments, Sir Richard opines: “I learned early on that if you can run one company, you can really run any company. I mean, companies are all about finding the right people, inspiring those people, you know, drawing out the best in people.”

That attitude has led to a reputation as a leader who puts employees first.

How can you not love that?

4. He’s not afraid to try new things. In fact, he thrives on it.

On coming up with the idea for Virgin Airlines: “If I fly on somebody else’s airline and find the experience is not a pleasant one, which it wasn’t 21 years ago, then I think, ‘Well, you know, maybe I can create the kind of airline that I’d like to fly on.’ And so … got one secondhand 747 from Boeing and gave it a go.”

Sir Richard has been known to try his hand at, well, almost anything. The Virgin Group has current or past companies in the music, hospitality, and space-exploration industries, among many more.

Not every venture has been a success. But as hockey great Wayne Gretzky famously said: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

5. He hated school.

Branson states in the interview that he suffers from dyslexia and as a child had “no understanding of schoolwork whatsoever.” He left school when he was 15 years old, and never pursued a university degree.

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t continued the learning process. As he puts it: “I just love learning … I’m terribly inquisitive … I’ve seen life as one long learning process.”

Branson’s alternative road to billionaire-ship holds out hope for dreamers and individualists everywhere.

6. He’s the anti-typical business hero.

In a world where people generally get rich by stepping on others as they climb the corporate ladder, Sir Richard seems different. His philosophy:

“I think if you treat people well, people will come back for more … All you have in life is your reputation and it’s a very small world. I actually think that the best way of becoming a successful business leader is dealing with people fairly and well. And I like to think that’s how we run Virgin.”

***

At the end of the interview, Anderson sums up how most people feel about Branson after a few minutes of observation:

“When I was starting off in business, I knew nothing about it … I thought that business people were supposed to just be ruthless and that was the only way you could have a chance of succeeding. And you actually did inspire me. I looked at you and thought, ‘Well, he’s made it. Maybe there’s a different way.'”

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

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TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Reasons to Pursue Entrepreneurship

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"For others the freedom and flexibility that comes with creating and owning one’s own business represents the ultimate satisfaction"

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Question: What is the main benefit of entrepreneurship that traditional career paths don’t offer?

The Ability to Create Your Own Destiny

“Entrepreneurship can be very rewarding. You can create your own hours and make your thoughts a reality. We now employ 10 people and we are still growing. I love looking around the office and seeing how collaborative everyone is. It feels good to know that I have created a working environment that people love.” — Courtney Spritzer, SOCIALFLY

The Ability to Positively Impact Your Environment

“The ability to impact the marketplace and see your ideas manifest into tangible services and products that add value is perhaps the most fulfilling benefit of being an entrepreneur.” — Damian A. Clarke, DAC & Associates

The Opportunity to Work How You Want to Work

“There’s no line manager to tell you when you can’t take a day off. There is no red tape to sidestep, or a procedure for anything. You’re not bound by corporate planning left over from the eighties. Systems are new, unfettered and modern. Things work, and there’s no one but you to say otherwise.” — Ben Gamble, See Through

The Chance to Learn Under Fire

“In a traditional job, you are generally only responsible for one bucket of activities. In a startup, you’re able to wear a lot of different hats and learn quickly by doing it. It’s an MBA from the School of Hard Knocks and shouldn’t be underestimated.” — Lisa Curtis, Kuli Kuli

The Freedom It Offers

“From my perspective, the main benefit of entrepreneurship is the freedom it offers to create and grow a business that’s owned (fully or in part) by you. Traditional career paths tend to lock people into a certain role or industry for years, which works for many. But for others the freedom and flexibility that comes with creating and owning one’s own business represents the ultimate satisfaction.” — Michael Rheaume, SnapKnot Inc.

The Flexibility to Be Your Best

“The main benefit of being an entrepreneur is flexibility; flexibility to work as hard as you want, make as much money as you want, work the schedule you want and sell the product/service you want. How smart and hard you work will determine how much flexibility you give yourself. Entrepreneurship is not for those who need the structure of a 9-to-5 job and a job description.” — Steven Newlon, SYN3RGY Creative Group

The Ability to Love What You Do

“Before taking the plunge in entrepreneurship, I always thought whether I would find a job that I really loved. Now, I work harder than ever before almost on a 24/7 basis. And I absolutely love what I do. I look forward to the every day in office. Loving your job is key to success and entrepreneurship is a sure way to make you love your job.” — Ashu Dubey, 12 Labs

BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.

This article originally appeared on BusinessCollective

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