10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs offer a powerful service to the world. They take an idea that exists only in their heads and turn it into reality. In the daily grind of emails, phone calls, and to-do lists, this powerful vision can get lost.

Don’t let it.

Entrepreneurs are awesome, but sometimes they need a little inspiration to keep pursuing their goals.

This list of 10 books about successful entrepreneurs demonstrates that potential. The entrepreneurs on this page all came from humble beginnings but they were able to tap into their inner entrepreneur to create entrepreneurial magic. They used everyday items like hair products, hamburgers and perfumes to create a wonderful life for themselves, their families, and the world.

Inspirational Business Biographies

If you are ever in need of some entrepreneurial inspiration, take a peek at one (or more) books on this list. You won’t be the same after reading!

10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur - Miss Jessie's: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch -- NaturallyMiss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch — Naturally

by Miko Branch

Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch –Naturally is the story of the rise of Miss Jessie’s, a hair care product specifically designed for curly haired women.

Told from the perspective of founder Miko Branch, the book follows the journey of Miss Jessie’s from a household experiment into an award-winning, industry-changing brand that opened a whole new market.

Miss Jessies’s didn’t grow to its current level of success without inspiration from the original “Miss Jessie”, Miko and Titi Branch’s self-assured paternal grandmother who inspired her granddaughters with self-created hair products.

It was that spirit of independence and experimentation that led Miko and Titi Branch to create Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding after they launched their salon. It became an underground hit, eventually winning several awards.

The book follows along as the brand known as Miss Jessie’s moves from the website to its first retail outlet. From that point, a wild ride would ensue.

10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur - PAPA: The Story of Papa John's PizzaPAPA: The Story of Papa John’s Pizza

by John H. Schnatter

You’ve heard of “Papa John’s”, the global, multi-million dollar pizza company, no doubt. You have probably also seen “Papa John” himself, John Schnatter, in a Superbowl ad or other commercial.

What you haven’t heard is the story of how Papa John became the brand that it is today. For that, readers can turn to the book written in Schnatter’s own words, PAPA: The Story of Papa John’s Pizza.

This book will follow the leap Schnatter took from his humble beginnings. (His business office was a broom closet and he had to sell his car to buy used pizza equipment.)

The book follows Schnatter’s triumphs, as well as his failures. It also details the core values that he adopted from his parents and how he integrated those values into a growing business.

Filled with colorful family photos and insightful advice, “PAPA” combines business advice and the memoir of a man who jumped on a dream and never let go.

10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur - Dave's WayDave’s Way

by Dave Thomas

Another company that you might think you know all about is Wendy’s. You might also know the owner behind Wendy’s, Dave Thomas, as well as his daughter who serves as the store’s logo.

What you don’t know is how Wendy’s grew from one restaurant specializing in square hamburgers into the third largest restaurant brand on the planet.

Written in Thomas’s own words, Dave’s Way starts off following the founder’s early life, career and military service.

Using this as a starting point Thomas then shares the strategies and principles his business used to become a global brand. The last section ties the first two parts of the book together, sharing the wisdom Thomas has gathered along the way and his advice to business owners who want to carve out their own story based on the three principles that have guided his own success: hard work, humility, and integrity.

If you ever wondered how Wendy’s grew to the successful brand it is today, this book will give you a peek at the life and business strategy of the man behind the logo.

10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur - Jo Malone: My StoryJo Malone: My Story

by Jo Malone

Jo Malone’s background was no blueprint for her multi-million dollar success. Her story started in one of Britain’s “council houses”, the United Kingdom’s version of public housing. Malone suffered in school because of dyslexia. Ultimately, she opted to drop out to take care of her mother after a stroke.

That’s just the beginning, though.

Malone always had a “nose” for scents and would often experiment creating different fragrances. She began a career path giving facials, but she did one thing that made her stand out.

She sent her clients some of her candles and other scented beauty items as a thank-you gift. Clients appreciated the gesture, but they liked the scents even better.

A new career began.

Jo Malone: My Story shares the story of how Malone rose to become a master perfumer and entrepreneur with no formal training, using only her nose. It also follows her story after a cancer diagnosis and her leaving of the perfume company she founded to start the second chapter in her life.

10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur - Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All AwayRay & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away

by Lisa Napoli

When the name Ray Kroc is mentioned, McDonald’s usually comes to mind. You may not have heard a lot about Kroc’s wife, Joan. But with Lisa Napoli’s book Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away, you will.

Joan Kroc (aka “St. Joan of the Arches”) became known for her numerous donations ranging in the millions, both to public causes (like alcoholism and nuclear disarmament) and to anonymous recipients.

This book is about the couple’s life together and the life of Joan after Ray Kroc’s death in 1984. Kroc was a former milkshake mixer salesman who wanted more.  He found that opportunity in McDonald’s turning a single restaurant into a billion-dollar franchise while married to his previous wife.

Joan was a musician who played the Hammond organ and who was also married when the two first met. A few years and two divorces later, Ray and Joan would emerge as the couple who controlled McDonald’s billions. Joan didn’t feel comfortable sitting around with all of that money. She gave it away, lots of it! Her efforts would make her one of the most powerful and generous philanthropists of the 21st century.

10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur - Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm - From ScratchLocally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm — From Scratch

by Lucie B. Amundsen

When someone tells their spouse or significant other they want to quit a full-time job and start an egg farm, you might expect that person to have a background in agriculture. Lucie’s husband didn’t.

He had only raised a few chickens in the backyard. None of those managed to lay a single egg.

Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm — from Scratch is the story of the Midwestern family who turned this weird dream into a reality.

The book follows the Amundsen family from its scramble to find over 2,000 chickens to the forging of Locally Laid, the pasture-raised and award-winning business they would create.

If you are ready to get inspired by a family who turned a wacky dream into a thriving business consistent with their values, Locally Laid is for you.

10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur - Lilac Dreams: My Journey from a Sewer Drain to the BoardroomLilac Dreams: My Journey from a Sewer Drain to the Boardroom

by Bonnie Hathcock

Lilac Dreams: My Journey from a Sewer Drain to the Boardroom is about the need to appreciate your past in order to fully own your future. Bonnie Hathcock had reached the highest level at the C-suite level.

She was named “one of the most powerful women in HR” by Human Resource Executive magazine.

But she didn’t feel comfortable in her role. She felt like she didn’t belong. She had done everything a leader was supposed to do. She got the right degrees. She excelled at her work.

Finally, Hathcock realized she wasn’t comfortable with herself. She was still living out a narrative from her past. It was a narrative of pain, of hurt, of being abandoned by her father at three years old, and of being bullied in school.

Finally, one day, Hathcock decided to own her past, realizing it had made her the person she is today.

Lilac Dreams is the story of how Hathcock reached that realization and leveraged that insight to create a happier life.

10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur - Beyond the Label: Women, Leadership, and Success on Our Own TermsBeyond the Label: Women, Leadership, and Success on Our Own Terms

by Maureen Chiquet

As we grow up in the world, we are given labels. We adopt labels to describe ourselves. For the most part, this is healthful.

They help us create a sense of self. Labels can also hold us back.

We create rules for our labels. We start to put ourselves in a self-imposed box because of our labels.

Beyond the Label: Women, Leadership, and Success on Our Own Terms is about breaking out of that box to reach a new level in life.

Written by the former global CEO of the Chanel, a luxury fashion line, the book chronicles her transition from a shy literature major to the most powerful positions in the fashion brand.

It talks about the risks she and obstacles she faced when she decided to follow her own path. Her book serves as a guide for anyone, especially women, break free of their current situation by adopting a new label of their own choosing.

10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur - Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NikeShoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

by Phil Knight

It’s hard to imagine the world without Nike, but this global company has only been around for 53 years.

Before that, it was only the dream of Phil Knight after he graduated business school and was ready to invest $50 from his father into something new.

He was ready to start his own business.

That dream would eventually become a billion-dollar company.

There hasn’t been much written about the origin story and founder of Phil Knight.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike is that story, written from Phil Knight’s point of view.

The memoir shares his journey as a child through his development as the owner of a billion dollar brand. You’ll find humor, loss, competition, and wisdom, all wrapped up in a well-crafted and inspirational tale of a man who kept running to victory.

10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur - How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering LifeHow to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life

by Lilly Singh

Lily Singh accomplished something by herself that businesses with hundreds of employees dream about. Singh became a global brand and she did it in less than 7 years.

Lily Singh started making YouTube videos while struggling with depression. She took on the username, “Superwoman” because she once held a belief as a child, that she wore an invisible “S” on her chest that allowed her to do anything.

She did everything on her channel from impersonations to more serious discussions about life, her Punjab heritage, and growing up as a young woman in the modern world.

Her YouTube videos started receiving millions (You heard right, millions!) of subscribers. Along the way, celebrities dropped by, Singh won numerous awards, appeared in music videos, took acting roles, and promoted a bracelet campaign for girls’ education in Kenya.

In other words, Singh became a “bawse,” someone who embraces life with all its challenges and uses it as an opportunity to uplift others. Her book, How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life provides the basic “bawse” principles so others can achieve greater success on their own, no matter their situation.


Books Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Inspirational Business Biographies to Spark Your Inner Entrepreneur" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Mathematical Corporation Leverages Technology for Competitive AdvantageIf you ever wondered where business’ obsession with technology is taking us, The Mathematical Corporation: Where Machine Intelligence and Human Ingenuity Achieve the Impossible might give you a clue. The book focuses on a particular type of organization, the “mathematical corporation”, as an example of the kind of businesses that you could see in the very near future.

What is The Mathematical Corporation About?

In the book, a “mathematical organization” is an organization that leverages both human labor and machines to achieve its objectives. This type of organization is able to sort through huge amounts of data to do amazing things, like personalize loyalty cards for every single customer or predict the effectiveness of a movie by analyzing the moods of audience members through previews.

Achieving these kinds of astounding feats requires a new way of working. In the future, robots, AI and Big Data will play a greater role in the workforce, shifting the kind of work available for humans. As robots are used in more industries (ranging from transportation to law), human labor will focus on capabilities that are unique to humans. These capabilities include insight, creativity, reasoning and culture. Combining the strengths of humans and machines allows humans to tap into an unprecedented level of knowledge.

Arriving at this point where humans and machines work harmoniously together requires a new form of leadership. That leadership, the book says, must be capable of “flipping the switch”. That “switch” involves viewing labor in a whole new light. Instead of focusing exclusively on automation or human labor, leaders that “flip the switch” employ a hybrid approach. This approach uses both machines and human labor as the situation requires it.  Identifying the situations that require human labor, machines, or both is a key aspect of this book. Learning how to adapt your workplace for these kinds of situations is the other.

Authors Josh Sullivan and Angela Zutavern are experts in the fields of big data, computer science and innovation. Josh Sullivan is the senior vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, a consultant in analytics and digital solutions. Angela Zutavern also works at Booz Allen Hamilton, as the vice president.

What Was Best About The Mathematical Corporation?

The Mathematical Corporation offers an exhilarating and proactive view of the world in the future. It chooses to focus on what humans can do instead of what they can’t. It focuses particularly on what leaders should do, which is unique in a book on this topic This makes it easier for a business owner who may not feel technically ready for the future. As the book points out repeatedly, it isn’t the technology that will help your business thrive in the future, it’s a leader’s ability to lead that will set the stage.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The Mathematical Corporation is not specifically targeted to small or medium-sized businesses.The book’s examples come from well-established and large organizations, like Merck and the FDA, with the budget and labor to turn the book’s content into reality. Owners of smaller businesses can get some benefit from this book however, particularly in the revolutionary new way the authors describe leadership of the future. While the book may not give a step-by-step roadmap to innovation, it offers a revolutionary new way of using technology that can offer a decisive competitive advantage as we move further into the 21st Century.

Why Read The Mathematical Corporation?

As discussed above, The Mathematical Corporation discusses how modern technology can be leveraged in the present for a competitive advantage. A lot of books discuss business innovation, but they tend to focus on the technical details. This book focuses on innovation from a leader’s point of view — a leader who may not know (or need to know) the technical details. Yes, you can collect more details about your customers (their location, their comments, etc.), but where is all of that going? The Mathematical Corporation starts a conversation around the answers. It shows readers that the primary focus of a leader going into the future is not on technology or data. It is the application of that technology that matters more than ever. It is the application of technology that will drive your organization forward in an uncertain future.

This article, "The Mathematical Corporation Leverages Technology for Competitive Advantage" was first published on Small Business Trends

Beached Whale: Staying Afloat in a Sea of InnovationAs a business owner, you understand disruptive change is the new norm. Businesses can no longer rest on their laurels, assured their customers or competitors will remain in the same place. Competition has gone global and customers can now literally leave with a click. To complicate matters even further, businesses have to keep up with an ever-increasing array of technology just to stay relevant. Beached Whale: Learning to Swim in the New Ocean is an urgent call-to-action for business leaders to shape up for the new digital world or risk losing it all.

What is Beached Whale About?

Dr. Daren Martin uses the analogy of a stranded denizen of the deep in his book Beached Whale as a metaphor for businesses that have a work culture that stifles innovation. Business owners need to realize that a “beached whale” business can’t work in this fast-paced economy, Martin explains. Businesses can no longer rely on controlling the message. Customers will get involved, whether you like it or not. If a customer or supplier has a horrible experience with your business, they can literally tell the world with a click about it. Competitors will get involved too. If your product or service takes months to release, another company can create it faster. If a customer finds a coupon from your competitor, they can leave your business with a click.

It can be a scary world if you are a “beached whale business”.

“Beached whale” businesses don’t start off that way. They become “beached whales” as a result of success. As a business grows and develops, leaders and their workers naturally create (official and unofficial) rules to maintain that success. This is perfectly fine. The problem occurs when a business’ workers get mentally “stuck” in these rules and ways of doing business. They stop going the extra mile because they believe the future will remain the same. The focus is on stability, not innovation.

The problem is, the future we’re facing is not predictable.

Beached Whale was written to help business leaders recognize the signs of a “beached whale” business so they can see ahead of time before it’s too late. Trying to innovate at that point will take more effort than moving a beached whale back into the ocean.

Martin is an author, speaker and consultant with a Ph.D. in Psychology. Growing up in Louisiana, he spent the majority of his time in Asia. And while pursuing his Master’s degree in psychology, he started a business which he maintained for 20 years. After selling that business to a Fortune 500 company, Martin began dedicating his time to sharing the information he has learned with others.

Martin is also the author of “A Company of Owners: Maximizing Employee Engagement“, another book reviewed on Small Business Trends.

What Was Best About Beached Whale?

Many books on the topic of business innovation and culture can get rather detailed (and boring in some cases), but Martin’s books always offer a unique and creative spin. Unlike other books on the topic, you won’t find complicated models or diagrams. But you will find illustrations of hand-drawn whales (OK, lots of whales) and text in digestible chunks on the right page. This unique setup makes for a quick, but effective read. Martin managed to take a metaphor, illustrations, and his knowledge and turn it into a powerful call-to-action.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The downside of a book like Beached Whale is that it won’t give you a straightforward plan or model for innovation. Beached Whale is principle-based. The book will identify some of the principles that should be present in an innovative work culture, but it doesn’t provide a way for readers to go there. That doesn’t seem to be the point, however. The point of “Beached Whale” is to give you an overview of the mindset and workplace culture you should strive for in the future.

Why Read Beached Whale?

Beached Whale is best suited for the business leader who is starting to feel overwhelmed by innovation. He or she might have read a few books about it and come away asking “How do I avoid falling behind?” Beached Whale offers a cleverly illustrated answer to that question. The book does away with all of those complicated questions and focuses on the key issue on the radar of every business expert, workplace culture. If you want the first steps to creating an innovative workplace, this book can be a starting point. It covers a broad array of issues within the topic of workplace culture in digestible chunks of knowledge that can get you started on the right path.

This article, "Beached Whale: Staying Afloat in a Sea of Innovation" was first published on Small Business Trends

Go Beyond Pitch Marketing with Out of the Box OwlReal estate professionals, like any other professional, can sometimes end up marketing in a “box”, utilizing the same strategies and techniques over and over again. That kind of marketing will not work in the always-connected, easily distracted, and constantly changing world. This “box” is what Out of the Box Owl: Not Your Basic Pitch Marketing! is designed to break. The book covers the wide array of offline and online tools available to real estate professionals ranging from social media marketing to Craigslist, bulletin boards, City-data.com, and more.

What is Out of the Box Owl About?

Out of the Box Owl aims to help real estate professionals learn how to navigate this new world. As the book points out, real estate marketing isn’t as simple as posting your listings on a website or social media. It’s a more proactive experience that requires adapting your marketing across various channels instead of focusing exclusively on one. It requires understanding how to nurture relationships with customers before you even meet them. It requires a foundation of new skills.

Developing that foundation is where the new era of real estate marketing begins, something author Mary Shannon Moore focuses on in the second chapter of the book. From that foundation, real estate professionals learn how to engage with potential customers on various channels: Reddit, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and yes, Craigslist. That foundation is then further expanded with options using City-data.com, blogging, YouTube, news outlets, email marketing and more. Moore is always pushing in her book toward more options for real estate professionals to add to their toolbox. That push to adapt to the available marketing channels is her book’s greatest lesson. Instead of being overwhelmed or reluctant about expanding their marketing toolbox, Moore wants readers to embrace the change. By breaking out of the marketing “box”, the author says real estate professionals can reach their clients where they are. This principle of reaching clients wherever they are, whether online or at the community center, is the key to a profitable real estate career.

Moore began as a real estate professional twelve years ago. Since that time, she has risen to become a leading realtor and broker, speaker, mentor and author. Moore also gained acclaim as the mother of America’s Youngest Landlord. Rose taught her daughter her skills and she returned the investment at the age of 14.

What Was Best About Out of the Box Owl?

The best part of Out of the Box Owl is its comprehensive approach to real estate marketing. Out of the Box Owl combines strategies from both online techniques (social media, online ads, etc.) and offline techniques (billboards, bulletin boards, etc.). This gives real estate professionals a plethora of options to choose from to engage with potential buyers and sellers. Moore goes into some depth with these tools as well, displaying expertise that real estate professionals can learn from.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

From blogs to Pinterest boards Out of the Box Owl covers a lot of marketing ground for real estate professionals who need to upgrade their marketing skills. The book includes offline strategies to broaden the marketing toolkit even further. For many real estate professionals, this may be the first time they ever encounter a book with this many options for marketing. Social media and online marketing, however, are only part of a successful real estate system. Consider this book as part of your marketing arsenal, not the entire solution.

Why Read Out of the Box Owl?

Out of the Box Owl is designed for the real estate professional who is ready to broaden his or her marketing horizons. It begins with the first step to marketing success, strategy, and then narrows down to specifics.  From there, the book walks readers through every major online marketing channel including Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and more. This guide is more than a preview. It’s an in-depth look at how real estate professionals can tailor online and offline marketing to meet their needs.

This article, "Go Beyond Pitch Marketing with Out of the Box Owl" was first published on Small Business Trends

Radical Candor Will Help Managers Balance Accountability and EmpathyAchieving an organization’s goals requires more than putting people on a team and assigning them a task. It involves managing the complex relationships that exist between those team members. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity examines the tightrope between accountability and empathy that leaders must walk while leading. As a leader, leaning too far on either accountability or empathy can spell disaster for your team. Radical Candor helps leaders avoid that problem. In the book, author Kim Scott helps leaders communicate boldly from the heart while holding team members to a higher standard.at the same time.

What is Radical Candor About?

Kim Scott worked for a lot of managers. She also led teams all around the world in some of the world’s most well-known brands, including Google and Apple, so she’s had experience with good and not-so-good leadership. Her book is a trip through those experiences. While Scott is sharing the story of her leadership lessons, she provides a key framework and several tools to help leaders better navigate the tricky nature of leadership.

Scott starts her book with the experience that sparked her quest to become a better leader. After confronting a humiliating boss, she decided to start her own company where employees would feel respected and loved. She wanted to be the “good leader” that employees would enjoy going to work for.

The company failed spectacularly.


As Kim Scott shares, she was “too nice”. She created a very positive environment without accountability. She needed things done but was too focused on “being the nice person” to give constructive feedback or fire people who didn’t meet the standard.

She learned over time that a better approach is maintaining a balance between accountability and empathy. On the one hand, it is very important for leaders to connect with their employees. In short, it’s OK to be nice. On the other hand, being nice shouldn’t sacrifice the need for honest feedback and straightforward communication.

Finding that balance between accountability and empathy is never easy. Leadership situations are complicated and nuanced. The best a leader can do is to approach each situation with a set of strategies that gauge the right mix of empathy and accountability for the situation. The focus in Radical Candor is learning how to gauge that mix and use it to become a better leader.

Scott is the CEO of Candor Inc., consultant, author, and the host of the newly created Radical Candor Podcast. She is a former executive coach who has worked with leadership at Twitter, Dropbox and Qualtrics. Before her coaching career, Scott served in leadership roles at Google, Apple, a diamond-cutting factory and a pediatric clinic. She is a member of the faculty at Apple University, spearheading the course “Managing at Apple”.

What Was Best About Radical Candor?

Scott’s book offers a fresh perspective on many areas in leadership. It also offers several tools (the Radical Candor framework, Get-Stuff-Done Wheel, etc.) that break down complex leadership issues with incredible ease. Radical Candor also provides a fresh perspective on talent management, arguing that talent management should not exclusively focus on “high-potential hires”. It should focus on matching the needs and dreams of all workers with the goals of the business as closely as possible. Using that strategy, businesses and the workers they hire get a better return out of their investment.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

There isn’t much to not like about Radical Candor. The book applies practical tools and strategies to the most complex aspect of leadership: people. Because of her varied experience in leadership, Scott’s observations about human nature are spot on. The book places an emphasis on in-person communication, however. For most businesses, that is fine but the world is fast becoming a remote and global workplace. More information on how to adapt the book’s strategies to a remote and global workforce would be helpful. Some strategies and stories about this are included, but more can be said on the topic.

Why Read Radical Candor?

Radical Candor is primarily a book for leaders but it’s a book for workers too. Scott advocates for something that you don’t see too often in leadership books — challenging the boss. Scott argues that accountability is more than “I’m your boss so I tell you what to do.” Accountability, in her eyes, focuses on both the leader and the team keeping each other accountable. This relationship, in Scott’s eyes, is what prevents companies from becoming another Enron, another Blockbuster or another Kodak. For leaders, this means breaking away from a top-down leadership (although not discarding it either) and understanding your team on a deeper level. For team members, this means breaking away from the passive position of “I’m just here to get a paycheck” to a deeper level of communication. If you are interested in this kind of leadership, Radical Candor is definitely for you.

This article, "Radical Candor Will Help Managers Balance Accountability and Empathy" was first published on Small Business Trends