These 7 founders prove inspiration can come from odd places – such as Scarface and waffles

From the numerous tips found online on creating a viable business concept, one realises that it is key to research and brainstorm in order to find out what is relevant in today’s market to meet customers’ needs. The majority of successful new companies are based on existing ideas, products or services with maybe a tweak or improvement in the offering, thereby creating its appeal in the current market.

And more often than not, it is borne out of a bad customer service experience. However, sometimes it’s far less complicated than that. For example, you could be having breakfast one morning when it dawns on you that the grooves in the waffle iron being used by your wife would be an excellent mould for a running shoe.

This was the case for Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman in 1971, in a time where he had been searching for a way to make shoes lighter and faster. It’s definitely an odd inspiration, much like how the special effects designers for Matrix: Revolutions based Machine City on the San Francisco skyline. They drove eight miles out of the city one night and boom, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Machine City looked in part like San Francisco?”

Much like the Matrix special effects team, management consultant Richard King found inspiration while watching a movie: Scarface. In one scene, actors Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer are in the glamorous Babylon Club. And while the protagonists sip cocktails, a sultry jazz singer performs for them. King wondered if such a club existed in real-life London.

“I suddenly thought: ‘There’s nowhere in London where you could do that, where pleasure-seeking Londoners could be in a sophisticated setting and enjoy live entertainment of that calibre,” King said. “All the best live entertainment is either in spit-and-sawdust pubs in Camden or the east-end, but there’s so many people that would never go to the places where these guys perform.

“I felt there was a real opportunity to bring all this talent together into one show at a stylish and central venue. So, on the back of that, I decided to set up my own company and host my own monthly show featuring a range of performance art, such as burlesque, cabaret, circus, jazz, poetry and comedy.

“Bonobo, the club’s name, refers to an ape found in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are renowned for regularly engaging in sex. They also retain many juvenile traits into adulthood. They’re sexy and playful, which is the spirit of our entertainment.”

For Sam Sharma, founder of Rico Logistics, as real-life as his inspiration may be, it still seems rather odd. What is said inspiration you ask? Well, apparently its Labour Party’s Neil Kinnock – with an angry disposition – carrying a bag of compost.

“At the time, 20 years ago, I was managing a Do-It-All store in Ealing when there was a knock on my door,” Sharma said. “Standing in front of me was the rather dishevelled leader of the opposition, Kinnock, with a bag of compost on his shoulder. He proceeded to tell me that our delivery policy was atrocious as this was the second time he had to come to the store to collect his compost. It made me think about the whole business of delivery.”

Sharma resigned from Do-It-All soon after to start his own firm.

Scarface and MPs are just two examples of the strange inspiration that entrepreneurs cite for starting their businesses, but to find out more keep reading on.

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