I was recently asked what entrepreneur (past or present) inspires me.

Of course being the pro-female kind of person I am I didn’t have any women who shot to the front of my thoughts so I put it aside.

A bit later when I had time I pondered it again and the person who did come to the front was ‘the dude who started Federal Express’.

Here is the reason why. When I was in college I was told this story. A man getting his Masters had written a thesis about an idea he had to get people documents and other items in a more timely manner – even the next day.

The story continued that he received a failing grade on the paper and was told the venture was not viable.

This man ignored the criticism and became the father of next day deliveries – Federal Express.

I looked him up in order to create this blog post. His name is Frederick (Fred) W. Smith. The school he went to was Yale. It turns out he did not receive a failing grade but it is unsure as to the exact score:

In 1962, Smith entered Yale University. While attending Yale, he wrote a paper for an economics class, outlining overnight delivery service in a computer information age. Folklore suggests that he received a C for this paper, although in a later interview he claims that he told a reporter, “I don’t know what grade, probably made my usual C”, while other tales suggest that his professor told him that, in order for him to get a C, the idea had to be feasible. – Wikipedia

Regardless of his background (the article continues to report that he was a member of the famous Skull & Bones fraternity) I admire him because he ignored the opinion of his professor, followed his gut and opened this company he felt would be necessary in the coming technology age.

Of course there are many other entrepreneurs who ignore advice, criticism, what-have-you and follow their dreams anyway. Some make it, some don’t. Some are wildly successful like Mr. Smith and some are only moderately successful.

But the common thread is courage. The willingness to move out of their comfort zone and take the risk.