The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
A. Forrest Gump
Although it is historical fiction, Forrest Gump is one of my favorite inspirational movies that has entrepreneurial ties. My takeaway is that everyone has challenges that they have to overcome in life, but how you respond to them is what separates the people who succeed from those who don’t. Also, it is important to persevere and take advantage of unique opportunities presented to you.
I always watch Twister with a sense of awe. Yes, it’s fiction, but the idea that you believe so much in a solution to risk life and limb to get it out there is inspiring. Throughout the film, they continually test and adapt the solution until it fina lly works. I may not be putting my solution in front of a tornado, but it’s that level of dedication I’m striving towards.
A. Coco Before Chanel
This movie talks about Coco Chanel and her journey to starting her company. The true takeaway is that you never know what’s going to work in your business, and that sometimes starting with hats will lead to perfume or vice versa. Being uncompromising about your tastes will also lead to having a strong brand.
Zoolander contains the best entrepreneurship wisdom I know: “What is this? A center for ants?…The building has to be at least… three times bigger than this!” It’s a great lesson in remembering your dreams should be at least three times bigger than what you originally thought — and that they’ll be at least three times as much work!
Dave is a classic Kevin Kline movie where he stands in as the President. As the chief, he needs to lead a massive organization: he has to find his own leadership style, rally a team and make compromises on his vision. The most relevant takeaway: he’s successful specifically because he has an outside opinion. Startup success relies on being open-minded and re-examining the way things are done.
A. Boiler Room
No, I’m not encouraging or condoning anyone who commits fraud, violates SEC regulations, or acts like a sociopath. However, that does not mean there aren’t some great things for entrepreneurs in the movie. One positive takeaway from Boiler Room is Seth’s relentless hustle and scrappiness. He just crushes through problems (both good and bad) and get’s stuff done!
A. Don Quixote
From the greatest book ever written, there are lots of movie adaptations, but the 1972 version with Sophia Loren is best. What better representation of an entrepreneur than an idealist who sets out to revive some important value in the world while the world thinks he’s crazy? Through a series of entrepreneurial “adventures.” he comes to greater realizations about life, love, meaning and value.
A film I particularly enjoyed is called Startup.com, which chronicles the short history of the failed website govWorks.com. This site was created to provide citizens an easy way to pay traffic tickets to municipal governments, among other things. The film teaches you that you can’t launch a business based solely on an idea; you must do thorough research it to see if it’s viable and can last.
A. The Shawshank Redemption
Andy Dufrense is an entrepreneur, even if it’s not obvious: he grows a small tax preparation business inside prison walls into a library and education system into a full-fledged successful prison break. The scene that sticks with me is when Dufrense finds out that his letter writing campaign has paid off — he responds that he’s going to write even more letters, just like a good founder would.
A. Catch Me If You Can
Okay, so what the main character does throughout the movie isn’t exactly legal, but the entrepreneurial spirit in this movie is still very present. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the kind of man that can think up a new idea on the spot and execute it with complete confidence — a quality many entrepreneurs use every day.
A. Cast Away
Tom Hanks’ character, Chuck Noland, in the movie Cast Away may have been a FedEx employee, but he’s got the heart and hustle of an entrepreneur. He didn’t have money to throw at problems while stranded on the island and had to rely on coming up with cre ative solutions to survive. I also appreciate that he was customer-centric to his core — saving a package to deliver after he made it home.
A. The Pursuit of Happyness
My favorite is The Pursuit of Happyness, which brings the viewer through the real-life struggles of someone who made it big. It’s truly inspiring, and it helps you see that others have overcome difficult times that were probably even worse than your own. It’s hard to make excuses for yourself after seeing that.
A. The Social Network
This list isn’t complete without The Social Network. The true takeaway of the movie is not to build things to make money, but to build things that people want. The money will come eventually.
A. Flash of Genius
In this David vs. Goliath story based on true events, entrepreneur/inventor Robert Kearns spends years in courtrooms fighting the giants of the auto industry when they steal his technology for intermittent windshield wipers. It shows closely the unfair power imbalance that exists between the big companies and small entrepreneurs who sell to them. There is much to be learned from Kearns’ story.
A. Baby Boom
Your great idea will strike in the midst of a challenge. Classic Diane Keaton, career-driven new mom in the ’80s, quits her demanding job to focus on a baby. While in the midst of her breakdown, she discovers an underserved market with a huge demand in natural baby food. The lesson to take away is that opportunities are everywhere — if you’re paying attention!
A. Glengarry Glen Ross
“You know what it takes to sell real estate? It takes brass balls to sell real estate,” is one of the best movie quotes for entrepreneurs. It does take “brass balls” to handle critics, setbacks, and customers. Everything is sales, and this movie reminds us that “coffee is for closers” and “ABC” really means “Always be closing.” With confidence and closing, you will have a successful startup.
Image via ShutterstockSubscribe to the Podcast