Inspiration is a fickle friend. It may visit you every day for a month and then disappear for an entire year. But when it does come, it strikes a chord deep inside you. It reminds you that there’s a personal connection to what you’re doing.
However, as you grind away at your business, doing your due diligence to stay up-to-date with the latest market trends, it doesn’t take much to feel uninspired.
By being aware of the opportunities right in front you - sometimes in the most unexpected places -- you’ll find the exact thing you need to get your business off the ground.
Here's five unexpected ways entrepreneurs found inspiration.
1. This near fatal incident led this entrepreneur to Forbes' 30 Under 30 List.
We’re often so caught up in making the right decision that we forget that mistakes can be our best source of inspiration. Kavita Shukla, inventor of FreshPaper, had no idea that a nearly fatal error would lead to a successful business.
When Kavita was 13 years old, she went to visit her grandmother in India. While brushing her teeth, she accidentally swallowed unsafe water. To combat the potential infection, her grandmother gave her a natural remedy, and she never got sick.
Back in the U.S., Kavita played around with the ingredients in science class, realizing that this combination inhibited bacterial growth. This led her to invent FreshPaper, a sheet that helps fruits and vegetables stay fresh longer. Forbes named her a 30 Under 30. She's done TED talks and been featured in The Washington Post.
2. Time off gave this entrepreneur the inspiration she needed to think outside the box.
When you’re working around the clock, time off can seem like an indulgent waste of time. However, as numerous studies have shown, we’re most creative when our brain is relaxed and distracted - away from the daily grind.
In this article, she talks about her time spent studying in Hong Kong - an experience that got her out of conventional thinking. She was inspired by a completely new environment.
Soon after she came home, she founded Ladies Learning Code, a nonprofit that teaches women how to code. Since then she’s co-founded thriving youth programs, including Girls Learning Code and Kids Learning Code.
Reflecting on her time in Asia, Payne said, “I don’t know if I’d have the courage to do it if [it] were not for that trip in the middle.”
3. This entrepreneur turned taboo topics into a global conversation.
By listening to your customers, you might find yourself inspired to dive into unchartered waters. Naama Bloom, founder of HelloFlo, did just that.
Known as the woman who gave the period virality status, Bloom doesn’t shy away from turning taboo topics into a global conversation.
After launching the hugely successful ad, Camp Gyno, she received thousands of emails from women. At that moment, she realized that her company needed to offer more than just a product. It should empower women to talk about their health, and break down gender stereotypes.
Through her award-winning campaigns and educational content, Bloom is transforming a tampon subscription service into a women’s health company.
4. Teen memories inspired this entrepreneur's clothing line.
If you can tap into memory and experience to build your company, you have the opportunity to connect with your customers on a personal level. Ethan Song, founder of Frank & Oak, was inspired by reflecting on his teenage years to launch its new clothing line, Escondido.
In Esquire, Song said, “My father used to work in the animation industry, so I would travel to California in the summer to surf and skate in places like Santa Monica and Huntington Beach. Over the last few years, this desire to escape the normalcy of daily life and the cold of Canadian winters took me all over - to places like Escondido.”
5. You can learn from history.
As entrepreneurs, we’re often in pursuit of the next big innovation. But reflecting on our past (and the past of others) can help us move forward in a more meaningful way.
For Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewing, exploring ancient history led him down an unexpected path.
Calagione explains how in the '90s it was heretical to make beer from anything but water, yeast, hops and barley. It wasn't until after he researched ancient brewing techniques that he created his successful business. As he said, “We now make a whole series of ancient ales, inspired by historic and molecular evidence found in tombs and dig sites.”
Related: 7 Behaviors of Successful People
Reading business books and how-to guides will only get you so far. To be truly inspired, you need to think about what matters to you on a personal level. Get outside of the business mindset, and be present more. Your next great idea is right there waiting for you.