I am not a big fan of country music, but I really admire Dolly Parton. Someone posted this article on Facebook the other day, talking about how Dolly Parton is a fashion icon (in her own unusual way) and how even though she chooses very, well, “colorful” outfits, no one ever criticizes her for her choice of clothes.

Dolly Parton is a legend in her own time, and she has been part of the American cultural consciousness for so long that it’s easy to forget what an amazing story she has. Anyone who is trying to decide whether to try to start a business can gain a lot of inspiration and learn a lot from Dolly Parton.

Here are a few entrepreneurship lessons from Dolly Parton:

  • Remember your roots: Dolly Parton grew up dirt poor in Eastern Tennessee, one of the poorest regions of the country. She was one of 12 brothers and sisters, and all 14 family members lived in a dilapidated one-room cabin. Dolly has been quoted in an interview as saying that even though her family was poor, they had strong faith and felt very close to one another, and she’s kept in touch with her roots by opening the Dollywood Theme Park in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, which has created jobs for 3,000 people. Dollywood is the largest employer in the town of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. If you were going to start a business, what would you like to achieve for yourself, for your family, and for your community? How would you like to give back to the people and places that influenced you along your journey?
  • Take a chance: Dolly Parton moved to Nashville the day after graduating from high school, with the goal of getting into the country music business. She fought her way into the male-dominated music industry, created a career starting from nothing, and is still working in show business at an age (65) when most female entertainers have long since been (unfairly) cast out of the limelight. What “big chance” do you need to take to start a business? How much are you prepared to risk?
  • Pay your dues – but seize your opportunities: Dolly Parton wrote songs for other people until they’d let her sing songs of her own. After moving to Nashville in 1964, it took a few years until Dolly had her first #1 hit song in 1971.
  • Be the owner of your destiny: Dolly Parton made millions of dollars over the years because she never gave up the rights to her songs. Unlike many other artists, at a young age, Dolly Parton took control of her career and her earnings, in an industry and at a time when many artists got taken advantage of by their managers or record labels.
  • Keep a balance between work and family: At a time when so many people (especially in show business) struggle to make their marriages last, Dolly Parton has been married to the same man for over 45 years. Business success (or even showbiz stardom) doesn’t have to result in marital strains. Even with all the pressures that go with starting a business, you still need to make time for the most important people in your life.

Dolly Parton is a real inspiration to anyone with a dream of starting a business or overcoming long odds. As far as I’m concerned, she can wear whatever she wants!

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