How Dad Fostered My Entrepreneurial Spirit

Written by ChicCEO Published in
Growing up, both of my parents have been such wonderful influences in my life. My father definitely had an entrepreneurial spirit and I watched him foster ideas, create inventions and tinker with electronics and prototypes. 
All of my life I knew I was going to be my own boss and lucky for me, every person in my family has been a huge supporter of my work from day one. Because my dad and I both have a love of entrepreneurship, I wanted to share some sweet stories of women whose father's were instrumental in their journies and share some things my dad taught me.

Here's what I learned from my dad, Mike Burns:
You're safe, take the leap.
Starting a business is SCARY. SKA-AIR-EEEEE. Chic CEO is here to help you take some of the risk out of it, but no matter what, there is an element of fear that comes with calling the shots. In every major endeavor or undertaking of my life, my dad has reminded me that I can always come home. And what he means by that is that no matter how hard I fail, no matter how big I screw up, no matter how much money I lose - I can come home to him and all will be right with the world. I have a safe place to land - no matter what. That kind of support and trust in my dream means the world to me, but even more that that - I value that he wants me to chase hard after my dreams and take risks - whether I succeed or not.  
(PS - I will absolutely succeed.)
There is always time to laugh. 
My dad happens to be one of the funniest fellas I know. His quick wit was easy to inherit as he can make anyone smile or laugh within seconds of meeting them. Learning this skill has been invalueable to me as it creates relationships quickly and creating relationships is a cornerstone of our business. I am thankful for learning this skill and use it in almost every daily interaction. 
Tenacious S. 
Last summer my dad bought a lawn mower online from Sears. Within a couple of weeks it broke so he loaded it the car and took it back. Sears told my dad that because he bought it online he couldn't return it in the store. After a half hour of my dad just standing there talking to the guy about it, he finally said to my dad, "You aren't going to leave are you?" 
The guy finally gave in and refunded my dad's money and kept the lawn mower. 
My dad does not give up. EVER. The tenacity that is innate within me is a direct result of watching my dad never, ever give up.  I don't have to be the smartest or the strongest - I just have to keep going.

Thanks Dad - XO,

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder Mavens & Moguls
Although my dad spent his career in Corporate America, much of the advice and lessons he taught me apply to entrepreneurs as well. Here are the most valuable business lessons he taught me:

Pay your dues
My dad worked a lot of late nights, weekends and holidays. He had packages of mail and paperwork delivered to him at the beach, and took conference calls in our hotel rooms while we swam in the pool. He instilled in me a strong work ethic that has served me well in my career. His father used to have a sign on his desk that read: "The harder I work, the luckier I get!" I guess it's in our DNA.

Do work you enjoy.
If you love what you do, it doesn't feel like work. When I'd get up and watch him get ready for work, my dad always seemed excited to go to the office. He bounced out of bed in the morning full of ideas and energy. His enthusiasm was contagious. He found a career that was a great fit for his talents and skills and moved quickly through the organization. I think it must have been hard for others in the company who had to drag themselves to their jobs every day and work alongside my father, who was having a ball finding creative solutions to the latest problems they were facing.

Walk and talk.
My dad walked the halls every day and he knew everybody's name, not to mention their kids' and pets' names, birthdays--you name it. His door was open and he always had coffee or tea available so people could stop in with news, good and bad. Being accessible and approachable is important if you want a culture where people can admit they don't have all the answers and need help in a certain area.

Lead by example.
Never ask people to do things you wouldn't do yourself. My dad worked in every department of the company during his career, so he knew why and how each group was important to the overall success of the organization. I think his experience and strong moral compass gave him a lot of credibility throughout the company. His colleagues didn't have to wonder where he stood on issues--he was consistent in doing the right things for the right reasons.

Share success.
When good things happen, make sure everyone who contributed is acknowledged and rewarded, not just the people at the top. In order to learn from every experience and not repeat any mistakes, it's important to share the lessons you learn, too. If those around you feel part of the process, they'll work even harder to guarantee a positive outcome.

Give back.
Be active in your community. Business leaders must stay connected to the local organizations and should encourage their colleagues to get involved, as well. Local hospitals, schools and non-profits can all benefit from business leaders' advice and support, so be generous with your time and resources.

Stay positive.
My dad is one of the most upbeat and optimistic people I've ever met. He has a great attitude and people love being around him. I think it makes them feel better about themselves. He always has a kind word or encouragement and smiles a lot. There's something very magnetic about people who exude happiness.

For someone who has never started his own company, my dad sure has a lot of great advice for those of us who can't imagine doing anything else.

Nancy Shenker, Founder of The On Switch:
My dad had his own practice and he was a major inspiration to me. In fact, he completely changed up his life in middle age and made a radical change in salary and lifestyle, which also gave me the courage to leave my corporate job and start my own business at 48. 
Here are a few things he taught me:

• Girls can do anything boys can. In fact, he prided himself on teaching/mentoring women physicians. One of his protégées is now the head of the OBGYN department at a major medical center.

• How to make tough decisions. In fact, he fired me when I worked for him one summer. 

• To never be intimidated by men in business and in life.

• To always keep ones sense of humor, especially in tough and stressful times.

• How to deal with rejection. I got my first rejection note from a publication when I was 10 years old...I am now a blogger for the Huffington-Post and wrote a book for young women entering the work force.

• To embrace technology. He was a pioneer of fetal ultrasound and I tackled social media marketing in the early days.

• To get up at the crack of dawn, set goals, and achieve them.

I named my publishing company in his memory. I based it on a nickname he used to call me. ( He died suddenly at 64, and when I'm facing tough times in business I always think, "What would my dad say/do?"

Annie Pryor, Founder of Mommy Genius:
When I was in grade school, my father and his brother started their own aluminum business. At first, he didn't have enough workers so he would bring boxes of small parts that needed to be assembled home at night. My sisters and brother and I would work on it after we finished our homework. I grew up thinking that starting your own business was just something that you do. 
When I got the idea to invent my Mommy Genius Drying Rack (kitchen countertop drying rack for baby bibs, plastic bags, bottles, towels, etc. ) my father was the most supportive of all. I had a new baby at the time, so it was my father who went out and found someone to make my first prototype. He has picked up drying rack orders from the factory for me and has helped me package orders to ship. He is still the most supportive person of my business. 

Lisa Woody, Founder of
I am President and founders of Fun Stuff for Dogs, a Texas S-Corp founded in 2004. I was raised in a group foster home for most of my childhood. In that environment, the houseparents were very loving, kind and taught us how to live. My father figure, my foster father, owned a business, a book store. He taught me to stick with it, even when you don't feel like it (inventory has to be taken, even when you'd rather be doing something else), that I have the power to make work fun, that both good times and tough times come and go, and that treating people right is the single most important thing you can do to grow a business.

He was retired when I was two years old, so I always think of him as an older man. He's gone now, but I remember to this day his disciplined approach to work and his loving approach to sales.

Sandy Stein, Founder of
I was a flight attendant for over 30 years, had a baby when I was 43, and at 53 when my son was 10, my husband decided he didn't want to work anymore.

I prayed to my Dad in heaven, who was my best friend in life, and asked him what to do to be able to support my son at this ripe old age. That night, I had a dream and in that dream my dad told me to create a product that had a design on one side, a lobster claw on the other, and it would sit on the side of a purse and hold the keys up so they would be easy to access.

That morning I remembered what my dad had told me in the dream and fashioned what I remembered. I sat down at the kitchen table and thought about what to call this item. It finds your keys in your purse----Finders Key Purse(r)--- a play on Finders Keepers Losers Weepers.
Though I was told that I could not make a business out of 1 item, I knew that this idea was heaven sent and no one would dissuade me. I used almost all my life savings and started Alexx, Inc. named after my dad Alex, and my son Alex (the two "xs" for the 2 Alexes). In our first year of business we sold 1 million Finders Key Purse(r)!!! Thanks Dad!!!!!

Janine Walker, Founder J.C. Walker Diamond Co. 
When I was younger, my dad would make me stuff thousands of envelopes with party flyers and I only got paid five dollars! In the eighties, he was a popular party promoter and event planner. He always managed to embarrass me because wherever we went he introduced himself to perfect strangers on the street by first and last name (which he still does to this day) and would hand them a flyer. On several occasions, I was coaxed into doing it as well which (I despised as an introvert). The social skills I developed translated well into my cosmetic sales career and eventually my own jewelry business. I am constantly talking, pitching, and presenting. In a short period of time, I have to make people believe in my product and in me.
The beauty of my dad's character is that he is able to take a natural ability and turn it into dollars. He carved out his own niche and that is something I always aim to emulate. He encouraged me to take my skills off the sales floor and online to the masses. Now I'm finally on Etsy with a well-edited collection. With my great track record, a diamond wholesaler reached out to me to possibly lead their retail division and I walked away
with a great partnership. Now, I am the retail division. If I wasn't so gutsy, I wouldn't of been able to pull it off. Thanks dad!-
How has your dad fostered your entrepreneurial spirit? Tell us below....

by Stephanie Burns, Founder & CEO, Chic CEO




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