Small Business

Mom: An Entrepreneur's Secret to Success


Of course a mother's impact extends to business. We asked 10 renowned entrepreneurs, from Richard Branson to Bobbi Brown, to get specific

Richard Branson's parents told him to never criticize anyone. He still tries to apply that rule at Virgin Group. When Bobbi Brown was struggling to decide what to do with her life, her mother suggested a mental exercise that lead to the creation of her eponymous cosmetics business, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. Napoleon Barragan, founder of 1-800-Mattress, remembers his mother washing his family's clothes by hand in the river, an image that inspired his drive to succeed.

To celebrate Mother's Day, we spoke to a selection of renowned entrepreneurs to learn about their mothers' impact on their professional lives and businesses.

Some say business success is in their DNA. Maternity-wear designer Liz Lange recalled her mother taking her to visit her grandfather's necktie company at the Empire State Building. Lange's father also owned a business, so her parents understood when she abandoned a coveted job at Vogue magazine to pursue her own designs.

A Family Affair

Lessons mothers pass on to children can nurture the entrepreneurial spirit. Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase says her mother showed her how, on a shoestring, one can turn a passion into a business. Chase, the daughter of a diplomat in the Middle East and Africa, grew up abroad, watching her mom create craft businesses in the countries where they lived. "She'd cobble together these things, doing something that she'd love to do with some tenacity, and go out there and make it happen." Chase used the same approach to start the car-sharing company.

Perhaps in the end it is mom who is the invisible, guiding hand that helped create some of world's most innovative and successful companies. Check out the accompanying slide show, to see what famous entrepreneurs have to say about their moms.

We haven't forgotten dad. Look out for another esteemed group of entrepreneurs discussing how their dads inspired and influenced them next month for Father's Day.

Perman is a staff writer for BusinessWeek.com in New York. Tozzi covers small business for BusinessWeek Online.

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