I used to excitedly plan evenings at the cinema, out for dinner or the pub. These days, my husband and I are discussing which box set to go for next. Especially now Game of Thrones is officially over, there’s a hole in my viewing schedule I absolutely need to fill. (Recommendations welcome)
Not that we need justification, but if we’re going to be streaming our evenings away, we may as well be learning some vital and important business lessons and absorbing ideas that could lead to our next big business revelation. Which is why I’ve been scouring the streams for the best box-sets and films to spark business ideas and motivate your sense of entrepreneurship.
So, grab the remote, get yourself settled in and inspire your entrepreneurial spirit.
Homecoming (by Beyonce)
If you love Queen B and just need a 2-hour fix of her performing her Coachella festival set in 2018 then this is for you. But there’s more to this documentary as she takes us behind the scenes of planning, rehearsing and preparing for one of the biggest shows of her career.
There are nuggets in how she selects her supporting team (dancers, performers, singers and musicians) and how heavily involved she is. She’s a leader who is firm in her vision and not afraid to speak her mind if things aren’t going as she wants them to. She also puts in the work and leads from within, rehearsing with her team and putting as many, if not more hours in.
A documentary about the notorious festival dubbed ‘ the greatest party that never was ’ might not be the obvious place to look for business inspiration. After all, founder Billy MacFarland was prosecuted for fraud because of his actions (before he was released and then defrauded his email list…)
But hear me out because if you put aside the blatant criminality, lack of organisation or respect for paying customers and stakeholders, and focus solely on their marketing strategy, there’s lessons to be learnt.
They tapped into the mindset of their ideal customers, tugged on their aspirations, played on the power of influence and created excitement that led to significant sales of 4-figure tickets. If they had actually delivered on their promise it would have been one of the most successful festivals ever.
What do the founders of some of the biggest US and European tech companies have in common? Two Icelandic entrepreneurs and documentary-makers wanted to find out so they could inspire more young people into business. Sesselja and Vala do just that through interviews the founders of Vimeo, Dropbox, Skype and Foodspotting among others and unpick what took them from idea to success.
If you can put aside your feelings of averageness in the face of these smart young people going about their business, you’ll be left feeling inspired and motivated to spend your time in more productive ways building your own empire.
If you’re not aware of Lee Alexander McQueen’s rise to fame as one of the world’s most acclaimed designers this fascinating documentary reveals how an unassuming East End boy became one of the most influential names in the fashion world.
The antithesis of a fashion designer, you see behind the glamour and fame to a man who got to the height of his career by focussing on his craft, surrounding himself with a talented, supportive team of friends and who listened to his own voice and instincts, despite advice from those “in the know”.
Of course, we all know the sad ending to his story but I found inspiration and lessons for life as an entrepreneur woven throughout the rich tapestry of his life and think you will too.
Knock Down The House
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may not be working as a business owner but she is disrupting the US political system through her tenacity and leadership, which is why this documentary about Cortez and three other candidate’s 2018 primary campaigns packs a powerful punch.
If you want to change the world through your business, take heed of these four women’s use of persuasion, determination in the face of adversity and success despite having significantly less money than their competitors.
Starring Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano, this captivating film reveals what it took for a single mother up against the odds to become an entrepreneur who makes her fortune selling a self-wringing mop on QVC.
No rise to business success is easy, and it’s the way Joy handles the challenges that befall her that makes this one of the most inspiring and entertaining watches for any entrepreneur out there.
If I could have an ounce of Joy’s commitment to her ideas I’d be on the right track…
From one slightly-less well-known entrepreneur to perhaps the most famous of recent times, Steve Jobs.
Scripted by Aaron Sorkin, famed for his fast-paced, razor-sharp dialogue, this film structures the story of the legendary Apple founder around three key product launches.
We see Jobs for all his faults and flaws as a person, but also the unshakeable vision and drive that makes him an inspiration to entrepreneurs everywhere.
Ruthless isn’t even the half of it when it comes to the way businessman Ray Kroc took a fast food joint and turned it into one of the world’s biggest corporations – McDonalds.
Not only will it make you more careful of protecting your business ideas and assets (the McDonalds founders failed to do that as you’ll soon find out) but it will also reveal a franchise model in practice that still works to this day.
I include this classic Bill Murray film for those of you running a side-hustle along with your day job as a friendly nudge towards embracing your dreams fully and leaving the groundhog of your day job behind.
Is the frustration of watching as weatherman Phil live the same day over and over similar to the one you feel when you face the grind of your commute? Then it might be time for you to read 7 signs it’s time to quit your job and our guide how to start a business in 20 days.
If you’re wondering if it’s too late for a career change or to start your own business, this lighthearted De Niro and Hathaway film shows the value in skills you’ve spent years honing and how they can transfer into a new role even if all around you think you’re past it.
It also puts a (very Hollywood) spotlight on the challenges working mothers face and what it takes to make that work without compromising on ambition or family life.
The Social Network
David Fincher’s Oscar-winning film (also scripted by Aaron Sorkin) tells the story of Facebook’s conception, first taking over college campuses and then the world.
Jesse Eisenberg plays the socially awkward Mark Zuckerberg who starts developing the site that became Facebook whilst still at Harvard. The film focuses on the ownership disputes around the concept for Facebook and how Zuckerberg’s personal drive and technically wizardry make it a success. However, that success comes at a cost. As the film tagline goes ‘You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies’.
There are so many nuggets of wisdom and learning for an entrepreneur in Netflix’ popular reincarnation of Queer Eye. Firstly, take the fab five who each play to their strengths to transform the lives of the people they makeover. Bobby, Jonathan, Kamaro, Tan and Antoni are hyper-focused on what they are best at, and know the value in what they have to offer. They also work so well together – their professional dynamic and their friendship is inspiring to any entrepreneur that wants to go into business with other people and build the best team possible.
Then you have the makeover candidates, many of whom run their own businesses, who open up and reveal how they reached success (and sometimes failed) in their entrepreneurial dreams.
Capturing the golden age of the advertising industry from the 1950s through to the early 70s, Mad Men charts the career of the enigmatic Madison Avenue ace Don Draper. The fashion, cultural and societal norms of the period are vividly brought to life against the backdrop of historical events such as the Kennedy assassination, Beatlemania and Vietnam War.
It’s fair to say a lot has changed, probably for the better, but the show has a lot to say about the creative process – still very much relevant today. Plus, when it comes to pitching, there’s no better person to learn from than the smooth operator Don Draper himself.
Mary Portas Secret Shopper
There’s something addictive about the premise of this show. Retail guru, Mary Portas, visits failing businesses on the high streets of Britain and tries to turn them around.
The thing is, many of the owners are blind to the errors that are costing their business and stubbornly refuse to take the sensible advice Mary offers them.
It shows the human fallibility of entrepreneurship and is a warning for those so entrenched in the day to day of business to look up once in a while and find out what’s really going on.
Plus, she shares some brilliant advice on how to improve and market a business successfully – win-win.
Breaking Bad is often cited as one of the greatest TV series of all time.
But a show about the manufacture and sale of crystal meth might seem like an odd choice for business inspiration. We’re not advocating that, of course.
The tale of Walter White, the chemistry teacher-turned-drug kingpin, however, has plenty of lessons for business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. From the development and manufacturing process through to marketing and distribution of the product, use these lessons to ‘break good’ as opposed to ‘break bad’.
Foodies, this one’s for you. This nine-part series takes you right to the heart of the stories behind some of Asia’s incredible street food traders and the many reasons these people started and continue to run their business.
There are threads that run through each and every person’s story – the cultural significance of the food they cook, the way food connects generations and allows your family heritage to continue and the joy of food. Alongside that, there are so many amazing tips to pick up about what makes a street food business successful (such as Bangkok’s ski-goggle wearing, Michelin Starred, street food vendor Jay Fai).
And if you’re looking for something a bit twisted and frequently terrifying, this one’s for you.
Black Mirror is an anthology sci-fi series often compared to the cult show the Twilight Zone. Each episode tells a different near-future tale where humans are pitted against technology. Or “Twisted parables for the Twitter age” as show creator Charlie Brooker describes it.
The terrifying bit is that much of the show deals with technology we are already interacting with on a day-to-day basis. From a business perspective, it offers an interesting and entirely believable take on where today’s technology may be heading – and the many opportunities but mostly risks that come with this.
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