Entrepreneurs need moms

By T.K. MALOY, UPI Deputy Business Editor

WASHINGTON, March 11 (UPI) -- Behind every great entrepreneur is their mom. Or so film maker Mary Mazzio found in her soon to be released documentary "Lemonade Stories." The award-winning documentarist profiles such great entrepreneurs as Richard Branson (Virgin), Arthur Blank (Home Depot and the Atlanta Falcons) and Russell Simmons (Def Jam), along with looking at smaller entrepreneurs.

With more 11.3 percent of adults in the United States engaged in entrepreneurial activity last year, "Lemonade Stories" strikes a relevant note with its focus on this class of risk-taking business person. Those interviewed share the secrets of their success and talk about one of the key persons who inspired them -- their moms.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways, learned lessons in risk-taking from his mother, Eve, a pilot and WWII veteran. Billy Starr, founder of the Pan-Mass Challenge, was motivated by his mother's death from cancer to raise more than $100 million for cancer research. Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot, learned from his mother that a widow with a young child can successfully run her own business.

"What is fascinating is that many of the mothers featured in the film were raised at a time when women were not expected to work. Yet all of these women were risk-takers and encouraged their children to take risks to achieve their dreams," Mazzio said.  "These moms also stood by their children later in life, in moments of failure and times of crisis. Richard Branson and Russell Simmons both claim they would have gone out of business, but for last minute loans from their mothers, who stepped up when no one else did."   In addition to its focus on entrepreneurs and their mothers, Mazzio added that "Lemonade Stories" is "about creativity, risk taking and learning to fail."

Aspiring entrepreneurs may particularly take inspiration from 11-year-old business kid Kelly Reinhart, featured in the film, who invented a thigh pack at the age of 9 which is now selling into the hundreds of thousands of units.  After designing the pack one rainy day in a contest with some other kids, Reinhart decided nervously to put all her allowance savings (about $200) into making 100 packs, which were modeled after the old-fashioned western holsters. She thought a thigh pack would be ideal for cell phones and keys -- and less cumbersome than a fanny pack.  At a fair at her middle school, Kelly sold all 100 packs (now known as a T-Pak) which were made from her prototype in China. She then used the sale proceeds to invest in another 500 T-Paks. "My dad and I went to a trade show and those sold out, too. Then someone ordered a container load of 100,000 pieces at a show in Vegas."  Kelly said that her mother Lori Reinhart always pushed her not to be shy, which helped the young entrepreneur take the plunge into the world of business.

At the rate Reinhart is going she may soon catch up to multi-billionaire Branson -- also featured in "Lemonade Stories" -- who from his founding of Virgin Records has expanded out to have over 200 brands hold the Virgin name, including Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Cola and Virgin Phones.   Like Reinhart's mother, Branson's mother was also anti-shy.  "I was desperately keen that they (her children) never be shy," Eve Branson remembers in the documentary, "because shyness to me is being inverted and thinking of themselves. So I tried to make them extroverted. If you think of other people enough, you're never going to be shy."

"Lemonade Stories" is slated for release at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., in late April, and then on cable for Mother's Day.   Babson, which has been ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report as the best college for entrepreneurship for 10 years in a row, funded the film and "co-hatched" it, according to the school's marketing head Scott Timmons. Babson College President Brian Barefoot said of the documentary, "Babson College is a firm believer that the entrepreneurial spirit dwells within everyone. 'Lemonade Stories' wonderfully depicts how that spirit can be nurtured and developed within the family. Just as we are honored to assist our students in shaping their entrepreneurial abilities, so too are we honored to be a part of 'Lemonade Stories.'"

Mazzio, herself an entrepreneur, former law firm partner, and Olympian (1992 Olympic Games -- Rowing), has previously produced the award-winning films "A Hero for Daisy" and "Apple Pie." She is the head of Fifty Eggs Inc., a Wellesley, Mass., independent production company.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.  All rights reserved.