Seven Powerful Quotes That Inspired These Startup Founders


When the going gets tough, people often turn to a motivational quote for inspiration, which is especially true of entrepreneurs. Words of wisdom from successful leaders in business, politics, sport, or the arts can be compelling – the assumption is that they must be exceptional to have got to where they are. Seven entrepreneurs reveal the quotes that helped them to overcome obstacles on their startup journeys.

Turn everything into a win

‘I never lose. I either win or learn.’ Nelson Mandela

Desiree Silverstone, executive coach at Head Honchos, says: “From a very young age, I believed that every person and every situation is an opportunity to learn and that every person I meet and work with has something to teach me. Even in difficult situations, I know there is a gift somewhere, a worthwhile and valuable lesson, and this belief has sustained me through rocky times. Whatever happens always turns into a ‘win’.”

Success from adversity

‘Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.’ Dalai Lama.

There are often setbacks in business, especially in the early years and it’s important not to wallow in self-pity. Danny Curran, founding director of Finders International, says: “I started as a sole trader with aggressive competition trying to make me lose heart daily. But, it’s funny how life works out by remaining true to the main cause of building an ethical and successful business. We now have the largest probate research company in the U.K.”

Find your inner strength

‘No one is coming to save you. You are the one you’ve been waiting for.’ Helen Nicholson.

This quote helped Augustine Tumi Mogashoa, CEO and founder of tech firm ASQE, to discover who she was and to liberate herself from self-sabotaging thoughts, fear and procrastination. She says: “My startup journey had ups and downs, and the pandemic was even worse, but knowing that challenges are a part of life has kept me from having self-destructive thoughts. I constantly remind myself of how I got started and why I’m here.”

Be prepared

‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.’ Mike Tyson

“You can’t plan in a bubble. Things change, so as a leader, you have to be ready to react and respond,” says Ed Robinson, cofounder and president of investing, banking and education platform Stash. “What you think is the best idea, the customer or employee might hate. How you learn, iterate and bounce back from your losses or hits creates amazing companies, products and teams.”

Don’t ask, don’t get

‘Shy barns get nee kets’ Anon

This Geordie phrase says you must put yourself forward and ask, as no one will do it for you. Jonny Britton, founder of proptech firm LandTech, says: “My gran used to say it all the time, and I’ve lost count of the number of times just asking for something has resulted in it being given.”

Simplicity for startups

‘Always put yourself through the hardship of keeping things simple.’ Robert Polet, former CEO of Gucci Group

Why some startups succeed and others fall at the first hurdle is almost impossible to establish, as so many factors are at play, including luck. But one of the most basic overriding principles that determine a startup’s success or failure is simplicity.

“Every day, there are a million ways to overthink and over-engineer,” says Andy McNulty, CEO of digital guest welcome book Touch Stay. “I recall Robert’s words whenever it starts heading that way.”

The leap of faith

‘As an entrepreneur, you have to feel like you can jump out of an airplane because you’re confident you’ll catch a bird flying by. It’s an act of stupidity, and most entrepreneurs go splat because the bird doesn’t come by, but a few times it does.’ Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix

Having quit the first and only stable job she ever had to start a business with no real backup plan, this quote resonates with Jasmin White, lifestyle photographer and author of the blog These Country Roads. “It was just irrational optimism,” she says. “People will always tell you it can’t be done until it is. Having the confidence to jump out of that airplane separates those who achieve success from those who can only dream. I dread to think how miserable I’d be now if I hadn’t taken that leap.”



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