Mackay: Entrepreneurs tapping into their “inner child” lead to innovative results

Since 2011, November has been celebrated annually in the United States as National Entrepreneurship Month. It’s a time to recognize business owners who serve their communities and support the American economy by creating jobs for millions of people.

For people like me, this is a special time. Not that there was any big celebration, gifts, songs or even a selection of Hallmark cards. No, it’s just the idea that we can celebrate people who take risks to bring their ideas to market and sometimes are very successful.

From my perspective, the entrepreneur is the unsung hero of our economy.

Instinct often plays a key role in the life of an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs also solve problems. Entrepreneurs inhabit a mystical world of inspiration, innovation and the subconscious. They also often touch on their “inner child”, showing a tendency to be impulsive, uninhibited and constantly experimenting. These characteristics are not common in mainstream business.

Eli Whitney supposedly got the idea for cotton gin after watching a fox trying to raid his hen house. The fox couldn’t get into the hen house, but he managed to get most of his prey’s feathers through the mesh. Whitney then began experimenting with a claw or rake to pull the cotton fibers through the mesh and leave the seeds.

Nina Blanchard, like many entrepreneurs, failed in business and went bankrupt as the owner of a franchise modeling school. She invested her last $300 in a modeling agency in Los Angeles, believing that many of the models she trained at her school needed work.

Photographers began calling her immediately, but fearing that her models were not yet ready for the premiere, she announced that they were unavailable. Word spread around town that Blanchard Agency models were always booked, which attracted other models who wanted to be represented by the hottest agency in town.

Jasper “Jack” Newton Daniel was 7 years old and living in a small town in Tennessee when he was offered a job as a housemaid for a Lutheran pastor who was also a merchant, farmer, and whiskey distiller. Jacek was interested in learning the secrets of making moonshine and sour mash.

When his boss’s congregation pressed him to choose between the pulpit and business, he offered his 13-year-old apprentice the opportunity to purchase the distillery on credit. In 1866, Jack Daniel purchased the whiskey company that bears his name.

W. E. Boeing was a lumber dealer who was also a hobby aviator. He got into airplane manufacturing when his own plane broke down and he couldn’t get spare parts.

Whitney Wolfe Herd reversed traditional dating dynamics and let women make the first move when she created Bumble in 2004. In one year, the app achieved over 80 million matches. She became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire and the youngest female CEO to ever take a company public in the United States.

Wolfe Herd dethroned Katrina Lake as the youngest woman to take a company public. Lake founded her online outfit curation company Stitch Fix in 2011, then took it public in 2017.

My own story pales in comparison to these superstars, but after over 60 years in the business, I’m quite satisfied that the leap of faith I took was worth it. Sure, there are a few things I would do differently. But I would never give up the resolve to make it work.

Mackay’s moral: The first step to achieving any goal is deciding that you no longer want to stay where you are.

Harvey Mackay is a businessman from Minneapolis. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or email

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