The prolific Martha Stewart once told an interviewer that she had just returned from a trip to Munich and came home with dozens of new ideas. “Everywhere I go,” she said, “I scout for ideas.”
She’s not the only entrepreneur who finds inspiration when she travels. Would there have been a Starbucks if Howard Schultz hadn’t been smitten with Italian coffee shops?
Shortly after my daughter and her family moved to Austin, TX I flew in for a visit. Before we went to their house, I got the mini-tour.
When I commented on all the people we saw who were running, walking or bicycling, Jennie said, “This town isn’t about buying stuff; it’s about doing stuff.” I liked it already.
I got even more interested when Hector said, “What I love about this place is all the little independent businesses.”
Those words were barely out of his mouth when we passed a parking lot where there was a shiny Airstream trailer with a giant cupcake on the roof—and a long line of customers. As I was about to discover every time we passed that way during my visit, the long line of people never diminished.
I couldn’t wait to learn more about Hey Cupcake! As soon as it was politely possible to excuse myself, I began investigating this business on the Internet. I found out that Hey Cupcake! is the brainchild of Wes Hurt, a 20-something Texan who says he was born entrepreneurial.
His story reminded me of an article I wrote in Winning Ways newsletter called “Take a Trip, Come Back With a Business”. That’s exactly what Hurt did.
The inspiration came during a trip to New York when he visited the Magnolia Bakery. He says, “I waited in line for 20 minutes or so and was amazed by the enthusiasm and anticipation emanating from everyone in line. That day I started planning what would eventually be Hey Cupcake!”
Hurt’s idea wasn’t exactly an instant success, however. He opened his first cupcake stand on the campus at the University of Texas where about 10,000 students passed by daily. Unfortunately, not enough of them stopped to buy a cupcake.
Hurt was disappointed, but in true entrepreneurial fashion decided to revamp. He changed locations and moved into the Airstream. That did the trick. At their busiest, they now sell about 1,000 cupcakes a day.
I met several more members of the Austin entrepreneurial community when I stopped at a beautifully restored post-Victorian house where David Walker runs a co-working space called Conjunctured. He and his partners have created a place where solo entrepreneurs can come and work in a less isolated environment.
It didn’t take long to learn that Walker is wildly enthusiastic about the Joyfully Jobless life, but this isn’t his only business. He and a group of folks run 302 Designs which produce t-shirts with beautiful designs and inspirational words. He’d just signed a contract with Whole Foods who will be distributing their shirts.
With all that entrepreneurial energy flying around, it was easy to select Austin as a natural locale for the Joyfully Jobless Jamboree.
Almost any place you visit becomes an opportunity to explore local businesses. I often begin my own sightseeing by checking out independent bookstores. On a visit back to Minneapolis, Alice Barry took me to one of my favorites, Wild Rumpus, a splendid children’s bookshop.
When I was writing in my diary tonight, I noticed on this day a couple of years ago, I’d been in Portland, OR where I spent time at Rejuvenation Hardware, a store I could happily live in.
It’s a wonderful way to nurture your own entrepreneurial spirit, even if you have no intention of running a shop yourself. Seeing someone else’s dream brought to life might inspire a new dream of your own.