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29 Seriously Inspiring Interviews For Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Business ventures build on top of one another like Lego towers — they don’t spring Athena-like from the foreheads of entrepreneurs, no matter what some may claim. Anyone with a strong idea, a lot of luck, and even more hard work can succeed in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. But they need to intently study the victories and mistakes of their predecessors before embarking on any sort of entrepreneurial journey. No matter their background or industry, the following folks have plenty of advice and inspiration to offer while future innovators compile their research:
  1. Muhammad Yunus with the Nobel Foundation, Oct. 13, 2006:

    This distinguished Nobel Peace Prize recipient pioneered the use of microcredits through the Grameen Bank, which he established in his native Bangladesh in 1983; many for-profit and nonprofit ventures these days utilize the same concept when investing in underprivileged regions. Muhammad Yunus stands as a sterling example of the social entrepreneurship phenomenon, which blends business opportunities with causes promoting economic, social, political, or environmental justice.
  2. Elizabeth Sabol-Jones at Inspirist, Jan. 19, 2011:

    At 19, an enterprising young Georgetown University Chinese language major launched Nightly Noms, a bakery with delivery service catering to hungry students up late working. Learn about how her creative mind discovered a niche and filled it, asking her peers in the Compass Fellowship — an organization devoted to nurturing and networking young entrepreneurs — for their input.
  3. Oprah Winfrey at Academy of Achievement, Feb. 21, 1991:

    Even Oprah Winfrey’s detractors should give her credit for forging a career now worth billions after starting out as a less-than-popular local morning talk show host from a traumatic background. Future innovators looking to launch their own startup can easily find inspiration in her perseverance and seemingly boundless work ethic.
  4. Lauren Bush at Under30CEO, April 21, 2011:

    Lauren Bush, co-founder of FEED Projects, discusses how she applied her entrepreneurial skills to the nonprofit, social justice sector. Partnering with the United Nations’ School Feeding initiative, the company blends business and activism by selling merchandise and donating the profits to Latin American, Asian, and African children in need.
  5. Patrick Chukwura at Young Entrepreneurs, Sept. 27, 2011:

    Creative and entertainment industries are notoriously difficult to break into, and more enterprising individuals frequently wind up better off creating their own opportunities as opposed to waiting for them to happen along. Learn a little something about innovation when developing and marketing video games from the co-founder of Fine & Dandy Games, whose Goop proved successful on the iPad and iPhone amongst hefty competition.
  6. Pete Cashmore at Bloomberg Venture, July 7, 2010:

    By this point, anyone familiar with new media, technology, social media, and the Internet know Mashable, seeing as how it’s currently one of the largest, most profitable blogs around. Watch this video with the site’s founder and CEO where he talks about how he launched everything solo and wound up with an entire company built around one idea.
  7. Beh Weng Wei at Tech65.org, Feb. 25, 2012:

    Beh Weng Wei won the grand prize at the 2011 Young Entrepreneur Awards for his Frambie pitch, which eliminates some of the stress associated with custom picture framing and should be launching in Singapore on June 1, 2012. A simple concept wound up netting him $17,000 from Canon and MediaCorp, proving that one doesn’t have to bog down ideas in needless complexities to produce something valuable.
  8. Luiz Seabra at CosmeticNews, March 20, 2006:

    One of the wealthiest men in the world erected his business empire around sustainable cosmetics, addressing mounting consumer demands for environmentally-conscious products through his Natura brand; it eventually became Brazil’s first bath and beauty company to utilize a refill structure. Rather than fad chasing, take away from his story a lesson in noting more permanent consumer desires and catering to them.
  9. Kevin Rose at TechCrunch, April 20, 2009:

    Digg founder Kevin Rose almost sold his wildly popular aggregator to Google in 2008, and subsequently turned his resources toward creating a much stronger independent business instead. For wannabe entrepreneurs, this serves as a valuable lesson in how things might not progress in the intended fashion; they must be ready to keep things hurdling forward with strength, creativity, and — of course — luck.
  10. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at The Independent, May 16, 2006:

    As an economist, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and current World Bank presidential candidate brings something completely different and equally valuable to discussions of entrepreneurship than CEOs and investment bankers. One doesn’t need a background in finance, history, or geopolitics to understand her explanation of how heavy political corruption restricts economic growth and what needs doing to ensure equal opportunities for all citizens.
  11. Mark Bao at Junior Biz, Feb. 22, 2010: Business wunderkind

    Mark Bao launched three nonprofits and 11 Internet-based companies by age 17, some of which he wound up selling and earning a comfortable profit. His promising career began when he was just a high school freshman, and he provides some awesome insight about starting something big from something small.
  12. Bill Gates at the Smithsonian Institute, circa 1993:

    Face it — the staggering majority of startup companies won’t wind up enjoying Microsoft’s level of international success; but that doesn’t mean they can’t pick up more than a few bits of solid advice from the corporation’s founder. The Bill Gates interview archived by the Smithsonian Institute heavily details both the personal and professional decisions that wound up dictating his entire career.
  13. Jessica Jackley Flannery at Big Vision Podcast, Oct. 30, 2006:

    Kiva nurtures entrepreneurship in economically deprived regions through microloans, which provide promising upstarts the money they need to launch without requiring exorbitantly wealthy investors. In this inspiring interview with the nonprofit’s co-founder, listeners pick up some useful information and inspiration about how to best invest in an entrepreneur’s dreams.
  14. Sheila Johnson at Prendismo Collection, Dec. 18, 2003:

    Sheila Johnson earned billions as the co-founder of BET and Salamander Hospitalities (for which she also serves as CEO) and owner and partner of the sports teams Washington Mystics, Washington Wizards, and Washington Capitals. From her, future business owners will pick up some excellent pointers on sharpening their leadership acumen, the importance of mentors and self-preservation, and other excellent personal and professional matters.
  15. Aneesha Raghunathan at Raising CEO Kids, Dec. 20, 2010:

    Rather than sweatshop labor, all of Hope Line Fashions’ products are created by adult women in India receiving a living wage and working in safe conditions. Founder Aneesha Raghunathan instigated this impressive initiative at 17 after witnessing firsthand the often horrific reality of outsourced clothing manufacturing, merging capitalism and charity into one impressively ethical package.
  16. Teri Moy at Small Business Trends, June 17, 2011:

    Entrepreneurs don’t have to think globally in order to achieve success, earn money, and creatively fill niches that many consumers may not realize even exist — sometimes all it takes is a little creativity in one’s own neighborhood to turn more than a few heads. Teri Moy, a Virginia-based photographer, began and operates a studio specializing in portrait and commercial shoots; she earned accolades for marketing toward couples on their second marriages and businesspeople desiring social media headshots, two demographics to whom few shutterbugs explicitly catered.
  17. Chuck Feeney at RTE Radio 1, Jan. 18, 2008:

    He may possess a net worth of billions from his international chain of duty-free shops, but most people familiar with Chuck Feeney’s name know him more as the paragon of frugality and philanthropy; he famously lives on the equivalent of a middle-class income (flying coach and renting apartments, for example) and sends most of his prodigious wealth toward education, world peace, and healthcare causes. From him, up-and-coming innovators with ideas to share about making their money stretch as far as possible as well as the importance of giving back to the world.
  18. Prerna Gupta at evolver.fm, Jan. 25, 2011:

    A singer funneled her love of music, fascination with technology, and entrepreneurial spirit into the establishment of Khush, exemplifying why up-and-coming business owners should pay close attention to their passions — they may very well discover others willing to shell out money and join in, too! LaDiDa, the company’s wildly popular iPhone app, pioneered the “reverse karaoke” phenomenon, which allows vocalists (and not-so-vocalists) to record themselves and receive a customized accompaniment in response.
  19. Coco Chanel with Micheline Sandrel, July 31, 1969:

    Despite her more than a wee bit unfortunate politics, this legendary fashion and beauty mogul served as an inspiration to enterprising women before the feminist movement granted them the autonomy and opportunities to get ahead in business. Most of this interview, which went down when she was 86, revolves around her grim perceptions of where her industry’s obsession with youth might wind up taking it.
  20. Jane Chen at Social Capital Markets, Dec. 3, 2010:

    Jane Chen co-founded Embrace and serves as an excellent example of entrepreneurship with social consciousness and the importance of setting goals when serving society. For only $25, healthcare facilities and families can purchase portable incubators that do not use electricity to save the lives of babies born prematurely or with low birth rates; Embrace strives toward helping at least 3.8 million babies in India and save the lives of 135,000 between 2010 and 2015 — though any amount of infants and families assisted constitutes a victory.
  21. Warren Buffett at Huffington Post/Yahoo! News, July 8, 2010:

    Berkshire Hathaway’s billionaire CEO thinks love, not money, makes the business world go ‘round — hardly surprising, considering his well-documented frugality — and believes the greatest bit of advice he ever received centers around its perpetuation. Profits are nice, of course, and ensure health and safety, but when they grow into the largest priority, things begin suffering.
  22. Emily May at The Pixel Project, Jan. 9, 2012:

    Thanks to Emily May’s Hollaback! smartphone app and innovative blog network, women, minorities, the LGBTQ, and absolutely anyone else experiencing public street harassment, bullying, and assault hold the power to speak up and speak out against their tormenters. Her nonprofit blends new media, and activism to promote safer neighborhoods in all corners of the globe, offering some cool, inspiring lessons about creatively harnessing technology for the greater good.
  23. Caterina Fake in Entrepreneur, March 29, 2011:

    In this rapid-fire read, the co-founder of Internet sensations Flickr and Hunch talks about multiple topics aspirant and new entrepreneurs alike should pore over. Social media, personal memories, book suggestions, investments, and other hallmarks of succeeding in online business pursuits receive coverage here, though she doesn’t delve too deeply into any one particular facet.
  24. Edwin Broni-Mensah at Your Hidden Potential, Dec. 9, 2011:

    Regardless of whether or not a wannabe entrepreneur hopes to apply his or her business skills to charitable causes, this interview with the mind behind GiveMe Tap dishes out some most excellent advice about startups. Let both his lessons and his innovative approach to providing potable water through sustainability inspire undertakings across different industries.
  25. Pierre Omidyar in BusinessWeek, June 20, 2005:

    eBay’s founder draws parallels between launching and running his own company and operating a nonprofit investing in tech-related business ventures; lessons acquired in one venture often apply to others surprisingly well. At the center of it all, though, lay people, whose ideas and insights keep everything running — a little bit of belief, a little bit of luck, and a lot of bit of energy and resources make all the difference.
  26. Jiro Ono in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, 2011:

    Tucked unassumingly in the Tokyo subway and sporting only 10 seats, the modest sushi joint Sukibyabashi Jiro sports a most immodest 3-star Michelin rating — the first time such a prestigious honor was ever bestowed on such an establishment. Japan officially hails chef and proprietor Jiro Ono as a living treasure, and business students and entrepreneurs should pay close attention to his core values; quality remains paramount, and presentation means nothing if it doesn’t hail from a place of pride, passion, and sincerity.
  27. Georgina Cooper at Wealthy Student, March 30, 2011:

    Fashion aficionados on a budget adore Pretaportobello.com because it hooks them up with one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories from oft-overlooked designers, benefiting both the producer needing some attention and the consumer with constraints. This interview with the site’s founder tells the tale of how she synthesized different needs into one logical, mutually beneficial concept both simple and highly effective.
  28. Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield at Not Quite Nigella, Nov. 26, 2009:

    Few companies have so famously and seamlessly welded social with economic entrepreneurship as Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, making it quite the role model for progressive up-and-comers. Although the company obviously sparks controversy by taking public political stances, what frequently attracts buyers to the premium brand is its unapologetic “take me for what I am” attitude — something even non-business folks can benefit from witnessing.
  29. Blake Mycoskie at TreeHugger, Sept. 11, 2008:

    Consumers who don’t know Blake Mycoskie’s name at least know of TOMS, the shoe company merging for-profit ventures with nonprofit goals, matching every pair sold with one shipped to children and adults in need. Its core concept might very well serve as a particularly useful starting point for future business leaders hoping to better the world while still financially supporting themselves and their employees.
  This article was first posted on Online Universities.

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