What River Runs Through Your Life?

River runs through itDid you see the movie A River Runs Through It? starring Brad Pitt, Craig Sheffer, Tom Skerritt ... and the beautiful Gallatin River? I've promised myself a trip to Montana (where many of the fly-fishing scenes were shot) this summer as part of My Year by the Water.

Ever since I saw that movie, I've thought about the themes - the rivers - that run through my life.

For example, I'm here in sunny Savannah, Georgia on the waterfront this weekend, and the river running through this experience is ‪#‎entrepreneurship‬.

I've had the pleasure and privilege of being an entrepreneur for 30 years.

I love having autonomy and the freedom to get an idea, run with it  and turn it into a reality ... with no committees, red-tape or bureaucracy.

As Katherine Graham of the Washington Post put it, "To do work you love that matters with people you enjoy and respect; how could anything be more fun?"

That's the back-story and driving motivation of three entrepreneurs I met at the Springtime Craft Show held next door to where I'm staying at The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center.

First is Lisa Schalk of Toffee To Go. A stay-at-home mom, she started making home-made toffee from a family recipe for Christmas presents. Recipients begged her to make more so they could gift it to their friends and family.

Her different flavors of toffee got such raves, she started going to weekend arts/crafts fairs where it kept selling out. She told her husband Jim, a hospitality executive at the time, "I think we've really got something here."

He thought people were just being "nice," until he went to an event and witnessed for himself the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. Lisa and Jim decided to gamble on themselves and their product.  He quit his job and they went all in, full-time.

Fast forward. They've just bought a 16,000 foot warehouse, have been featured in Oprah Winfrey's Christmas issue, and they ship to corporate clients around the country. http://www.toffeetogo.com/about-us/

Lisa told me, "People tell us, 'Oh, you're so lucky that Oprah's Favorite Things found you." She smiled and said, "Luck is a lot of 2 a.m. nights, but it's worth it."

Next is the lovely Lynn Shore with her one-of-a-kind art-wear. Lynn told me, "My grandmother, who had the patience of Job, taught me to knit when I was eight. I started hand-crafting gifts for friends, and realized, 'This isn't just a hobby; it's a business.'

Over the years, I expanded into purses and clothing. Then I discovered these," she said, holding up a knitted necklace/scarf in her hands. "These don't have to fit," she said with a twinkle in her eye. "No more sleeve measurements. It's even more fun."

And yes, I bought some white chocolate-macademia nut toffee and a multi-color scarf/necklace:-)  Support ‪#‎SmalllBusiness‬!

I asked Lynn (who used to go to 42 #‎festivals‬ a year, but has since scaled down), "What do you like best about them?"

"I am inspired by the creativity of humanity," she said. "It's a blessing to be here."

Next is the "Pretty Darn Good" salsa couple.  They created their own special blend with beans, corn, cilantro and secret ingredients for a Super Bowl party. Everyone loved it. They started making bigger and bigger batches. After retiring (he was a school teacher for decades), they now hit the road every weekend. He says, "It may be 8 degrees back home, but we know we'll be in Florida that Friday-Sunday visiting our daughter, meeting all kinds of interesting people and hearing their stories, while financing our retirement."

To come full circle, while researching A River Runs Through It, I discovered some intriguing entrepreneurial back-stories about how the book got published and the movie got made.

The author of the book, Norman Maclean, often recounted how his semi-autobiographical novella was rejected by every large commercial publisher he sent it to, including one that rejected it on the basis that it contained "too many trees". It was eventually published by the University of Chicago Press (in 1976) and went on to become an evergreen and a much-respected classic.

Director Robert Redford was an entrepreneur too; he courted Norman Maclean for years before finally gaining the rights to film the project.

So, what are the rivers that run through these ‪#‎entrepreneurial‬ success stories ?

Create something unique and exceptional and more people will want more of it.

Persevere when you believe something has value and you can ultimately prevail.

If you do the above, you too can turn a hobby into a business - a dream into reality.

You too can have the blessing of doing work you love that matters with people you enjoy and respect ... and get paid for it.

You too can introduce something to the world that puts the lights on in your eyes - and in the eyes of others.

What fun!

So, what are the rivers that are running through your life?