With all the ups and downs of running a small business, there’s no doubt you could use a little inspiration now and then.
The pressure of running the day-to-day business, keeping profits up, and building solid customer relationships is an ongoing challenge. So, when you’re feeling a bit behind the eight-ball, we’ve got the remedy. These nuggets of wisdom come from people who’ve walked in your shoes, and we’d wager many will resonate.
Words and thoughts have power. These quotes aim to inspire small business owners and help them take their next steps.
33 inspirational quotes for small business owners
We’ve put together 33 of the best quotes we could find about business, money, success, motivation, and the many other challenges small business owners experience every day.
Small business quotes about inspiration
Every small business starts with a spark of inspiration, whether you’re solving a global problem or enriching your community.
But inspiration comes in many forms. It can be as simple as an idea, a what-if, or something that moves you to make a change. Be observant, be curious, and stay open to possibilities.
“I had a realization driving one day where I was like, ‘Oh, shit, I’m me. And there’s nobody else like me.’ Yes, we have things in common, but no one thinks or has the same experiences or has been through what I’ve been through, and that’s what I need to mine, that’s my currency at the end of the day.” Issa Rae, actor, writer, director, producer, and founder of Hoorae Media (Backstage)
“Entrepreneurship is about giving people things they don’t already have. For me, it is filling a white space. It is giving people something that you love that you think they need.” Russell Simmons, record executive, writer, and entrepreneur (CNBC)
“I think innovation and creativity come from just assembling pieces of other stuff in weird ways. I try to tell people, don't worry about big ideas. Just keep making stuff.” Ben Chestnut, co-founder and CEO of Mailchimp (Creative Mornings)
Quotes about starting and running a small business
Getting your business off the ground is one of the hardest things you’ll do. It takes time to gain momentum, and there are bound to be a few curveballs. Though you might feel like you’re going it alone, rest assured that many other successful entrepreneurs have walked in your shoes.
“With no risk, there’s no reward, and you either get comfortable with uncertainty and not knowing where you’re going to end up, or you settle and you live this life that you don’t want to live.” Zim Ugochukwu, founder of Travel Noire (xoNecole)
“‘Make something people want’ includes making a company that people want to work for.” Sahil Lavingia, founder and CEO of Gumroad
“Even if you’ve never designed something in your life, you might have impeccable taste: I’m welcoming everyone’s vision here [at Fenty], because that’s what it’s gonna take. I can’t just think I know everything. I’m very smart with my control freak. A smart control freak. I welcome other people’s expertise. I love new, young talent.” Rihanna, singer, actor, fashion designer, and founder of Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty (T Magazine)
Small business quotes about money
Even if your business is a passion project, money is still at the core of it. After all, nobody gets into business to lose money. As a small business owner, your relationship with money might be complicated.
You must constantly balance quality with value and ensure the pursuit of both doesn’t prevent you from living a healthy, fulfilled life. Love it or hate it, money makes the world go ‘round. Here are a few money-minded thoughts to inspire you as you crunch those numbers.
“The less you can have your desire for money control you and your actions, the more power you have, and the more money you’ll make. I can go into a meeting or negotiation now, and whether it’s for $100 or $1 million, before I go into that room, I can say to myself, ‘It doesn’t matter if I get this or not.’.... The person on the other side of that door doesn’t have power over me…. Nine times out of 10, I walk out of the room with the money.” Arlan Hamilton, investor, and founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital (Shondaland)
“I always say that there is so much creativity in brokeness. Brokeness will make you figure it out…. If you're hungry to make this project, you're going to figure out, oh, I don't have actors, but I have friends. I don't have locations, but I sure work at a job. Or I have this apartment. Or, you know, I have my friend's house, so I can make it work.” Issa Rae (MasterClass)
“That was the greatest trick in music that people ever pulled off, to convince artists that you can't be an artist and make money…. When you're in the studio you're an artist, you make music, and then after you finish, you market it to the world. I don't think anything is wrong with that.” Jay-Z, rapper, songwriter, record executive, and entrepreneur (Forbes)
“Chase the vision, not the money. The money will end up following you.” Tony Hsieh, entrepreneur and venture capitalist
Small business quotes about motivation
Finding motivation can be challenging, especially when faced with the inevitable challenges of running a small business. But your resilience will carry you through if you allow it. Just think of everything you’ve already endured and accomplished.
And if that’s not enough to get your motor running, take these words of wisdom to heart.
"I love facts and data, so whenever there's a naysayer with a laundry list of why everything shouldn't happen, I love asking questions. 'Oh really? Why couldn't this work?' And then you collect all the data that you need to come in and hit them over the head with it…. It's also the way you deliver it. Because if you deliver it with a smile, it's just facts." Jessica Alba, actor and co-founder of the Honest Company (People)
"Sometimes, we feel like, 'Why is that not my opportunity?' But what's meant for you is meant for only you. You get anxious. You feel like everybody's surpassing you, and everybody's doing better than you are. That's just not the case. Everybody has their own journey, and your journey is yours." Issa Rae (PopSugar)
“The worst thing that can ever happen is that someone can tell you, ‘no.’ And who cares? There's always going to be somebody that says ‘yes.’ So if you get no’s then you just haven't found the right person.” Rea Ann Silva, founder and CEO of Beautyblender (The Skimm)
“If people are doubting how far you can go, go so far that you can’t hear them anymore.” Michele Ruiz, entrepreneur and public speaker
Small business quotes about family and friends
There are so many interpretations of “family.” Small businesses often operate with a small team not unlike a family. Your work family is often your friend circle, too, considering you spend most of your waking hours with them. Now that we’ve painted the abstract strokes around this sub-topic, let’s get cozy.
"[Don't] let anyone convince you that your dream, your vision to be an entrepreneur, is something that you shouldn't do. What often happens is that people who are well meaning, who really care for us, are afraid for us and talk us out of it." Cathy Hughes, entrepreneur, business executive, and radio and TV personality
“Most people think that in order to have a successful startup company, an entrepreneur needs to be young and single…. And while much of this is true, I have found that in spite of the hard work and sacrifices, it’s my connection to my family that gives me the ability to thrive as an entrepreneur…. When you are a spouse, parent, and business owner, you learn to take on many responsibilities and become more proficient at managing your multiple roles. Ultimately, you become more competent in determining the best use of your time, both at home and at work.” Michael Cole, entrepreneur (Forbes)
“All business is personal… Make your friends before you need them.” Robert L. Johnson, entrepreneur, media magnate, and investor
“You want to know who your friends are? Start a small business and ask for their support.” Steve Jobs, business magnate, investor, and co-founder of Apple
Quotes about running a successful business
Success looks different for everyone. Some success is quantifiable, as in profits or business growth. Other times, it’s more about building something stronger, gaining a reputation, or improving the lives of others in the community. Here are some thoughts on small business success by people who unquestionably know a thing or two about it.
“Successful people don’t think about success. It’s not the end-all. The end-all is getting your idea off the ground, turning it into reality. Success is just the byproduct.” Kara Swisher, journalist and co-founder of Recode
“I can never be safe; I always try and go against the grain. As soon as I accomplish one thing, I just set a higher goal. That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am.” Beyoncé, singer, songwriter, actor, founder of Parkwood Entertainment, and co-founder of Ivy Park
“You have to support your lovely odd-duck friends who have made money from their creations, but you can’t compare yourself to them. You have to aim high but you also have to commit yourself to the work you love and believe in without any expectation that it will bring you success.” Heather Havrilesky, author, essayist, and humorist (The Cut)
Quotes about small business customer service
Customer service is the difference between a good business and a great one, a flash in the pan versus a trusted brand — but in the words of Jonathan Tisch, Chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels & Co., “chocolates on the pillow are not enough.”
“Get the heck out of the building and have those open, inquisitive conversations with customers and prospects that help you see the world from their perspective. Don’t ask about specific features, don’t use it as an opportunity to up-sell, just have a human-to-human interaction that focuses on their challenges and priorities.” Bob London, founder and CEO of Chief Listening Officers (TrustRadius)
“Making sure your customers have an excellent shopping experience, whether in person or online, is the most important part of being in business. If my customers enjoy their shopping experience, they’ll run and tell someone and if that customer has a great experience they’ll run and tell another. This is what I call the word of mouth chain. This no-cost marketing strategy can make or break a business.”
“We really listen to our customers and our internal teams to pivot as quickly as possible when it comes to addressing any challenges. For example, we heard a lot of feedback from parents about our wipes, which were a key item for our launch… so we pulled the wipes, reformulated and re-launched them within four months. We listened to our audience and now they’re a bestseller.” Jessica Alba
"Know your customers, and they'll come back. Ask for loyalty, not for business." Katherine Barchetti, founder of K. Barchetti Shops (Chicago Tribune)
Small business failure quotes
Failure is something all small business owners face at one time or another. However, failure is not the end — it’s the jet fuel that propels you forward, making your business (and you) better, stronger, and more resilient.
The message here? Don’t be afraid to fail. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” may be a cliche, but it’s true. After all, our failures inform improvements, and there’s always room to do better.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” Maya Angelou, poet and civil rights activist
“I knew I was going to fall short of greatness, so I had to rewrite the story of what greatness was. I had to figure out how to measure success differently.” Cheryl Strayed, writer, author and podcast host (Oprah’s Super Soul)
“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.” Wilma Rudolph, sprinter
Small business quotes about dreaming
There isn’t a single business idea that didn’t start with a dream. But amid the day-to-day hustle, it can be easy to lose sight of yours. These quotes will return your focus to what inspired you to start your small business in the first place.
“So often we have these dreams — be an engineer! be a baker! — but we don’t believe that we’re worthy of them. That’s why you need to know not just what you want, but also why you deserve it. Once I realized I was worthy of my dream [to be a TV host], it helped me start taking action…. I’d come home from work and watch E! News on mute, reading the captions out loud like a teleprompter. My kids would be like, ‘What are you doing?’ But in my mind, I knew that I needed the training.” Karamo Brown, culture expert, Queer Eye (Shine)
“Those times when you get up early and you work hard, those times when you stay up late and you work hard, those times when you don’t feel like working, you’re too tired, you don’t want to push yourself, but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream. That’s the dream…. And if you guys can understand that, then what you’ll see happen is you won’t accomplish your dreams, your dreams won’t come true; something greater will.” Kobe Bryant, basketball player
“My lama — one of my main teachers at the Tibetan monastery — he was obsessed with this idea of thinking big. Not to be attached to the goal, but to be committed to the journey and process. Something changes when we open our minds to the possibility of something.” Andy Puddicome, co-founder of Headspace (Vox)
Small business quotes about freedom
As a small business owner, freedom often means financial independence, but it also spills into other areas – the freedom to be your own boss, create your success, and control your destiny, to name a few. Freedom might also mean releasing yourself from the pressure of the corporate grind or dedicating your time to doing what you love.
How do you define freedom?
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years, not for anyone else but for myself and the people around me. Right now, that number is growing and it’s great. But one thing I’ll never do is seek validation from anyone. I’m just trying to keep things as me as possible.” Telfar Clemens, fashion designer (AnOther)
“Finding the courage, compassion and connection to move from ‘What will people think?’ to ‘I am enough,’ is not easy. But however afraid we are of change, the question that we must ultimately answer is this: What's the greater risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?” Brené Brown, research professor, lecturer, author, podcast host, and author (CNN)
What’s a quote that stands out to you as a business owner? Check out our small business community to share your thoughts and more tips and inspiration.