The Making It! Institute 
For The Advancement of Business 
Making It!

Feeding the Hungry

This is a subject that has been written about for thousands of years. For starters, the Bible has many references to feeding the poor and less fortunate as a fundamental way of demonstrating our humanity. The drive to my Hollywood office on a recent morning brought a new perspective on the subject for me. I don't often think of a California freeway as a temple of enlightenment and insight, but I'll accept it whenever it comes. While exiting the Santa Monica Freeway I was greeted by the all too familiar sight of an able bodied young man standing at the ramp's edge holding a cardboard sign. Regardless of the actual wording of the sign, he did deliver on the stereotype by asking for a cash contribution to help him get something to eat. With a smile and "not this time" I drove on. However just around the corner and fifty feet up the street was another young man standing on the median next to a bucket of flowers and he was holding a bouquet in his hand which was for sale. It dawned on me that both people were in effect asking to be fed but with two different approaches.


So, I asked myself why one man was begging for money while the other was being entrepreneurial and offering something of tangible value in exchange for a few dollars. In that set of circumstances my actions are often guided by the old phrase "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Though many people think that comes from the Bible, it is actually a Chinese proverb. In my opinion giving a person money to buy a meal is simply doing them a favor while teaching them to use their abilities to earn money is really teaching one of life's most valuable lessons. Which one leaves you with a better feeling long after the moment has passed? Personally I'm most fond of the people who want to learn to fish.


I believe that self reliance can be taught and learned. Our non-profit corporation The Making It Institute for the Advancement of Business ( recently produced a live event that brought together a group of accomplished small business superstars with newer business owners who are hungry to learn how to grow their enterprises. I'm a strong believer that the best way to learn is to learn from the best and that knowledge equals freedom. Our criteria for being a superstar business owner was that you had to have started with very little money and built the business to an annual gross of $10 million or more. There was a wonderful surprise when I invited a diverse group of entrepreneurs to give of their time and share knowledge with ambitious growing business owners. They all responded with an enthusiastic yes! Their impressive businesses range from sales of about $20 million to $750 million. There were no get rich quick stories, no shortcuts to success, and no quick fixes for problems. They nourished the attendees with the truthful real life business experiences that their successes were built on. What the superstar entrepreneurs said was like water to a parched desert plant as the attendees perked up, took a lot of notes and applauded the speakers.


That entrepreneurial spirit and thinking can change lives and I've seen it happen. Some years ago I sat with a Los Angeles grandmother who lived in the Jordan Downs housing project, a pretty tough area. She had been accepting welfare assistance for years but had decided that kind of charity didn't match with the image she had of herself. She was hungry for something better. There was a lot of emotion as she told me of how she'd taken a bus to the wholesale district downtown and found an importer who would sell her athletic socks at wholesale prices. Back in the housing project, she went door to door selling packages of the socks! That was indeed the beginning of an important change in her life, self reliance and freedom from the drug of welfare money. Heralded government programs such as The "War on Poverty" didn't change her life, but starting her own micro-business did.


One of the reasons that I'm totally devoted to promoting the entrepreneurial spirit in America today is that I see a great hunger in people across the country who want to learn how to transform their lives in successful ways. That yearning that I observe goes far beyond just tallying up dollars. People want to feel good by bringing principled leadership to their business and family lives. They want to feel hopeful and the kind of real security that comes from self reliance and freedom of choice. Part of the general anger we have with most politicians these days and with some mega business CEOs is the absence of principled and values driven leadership. Our group of superstar small business owners got to their special place by embracing those principles along with their persistent pursuit of a personal vision.


Thinking of those two men standing at the Crenshaw Boulevard exit of the Santa Monica freeway, I wonder about the self images that each carries around with himself. Obviously they were both hungry for something because you generally don't work street corners unless you are truly motivated. Did the person holding the cardboard sign see himself as a helpless beggar or a as a victim of societal influences? When someone told him that he couldn't succeed, did he begin to believe it? Why did he lose a sense of hope? Was the man waving a bouquet of flowers holding onto an inner vision of building a much larger business by learning to hustle no matter how humble the enterprise? Who convinced him that selling flowers on the street was an opportunity and potential pathway to a better life? Since I know that our inner picture of ourselves drives our outer actions, my goal is to help people see their true personal potential through our "Making It!" television program and the work of the Making It Institute.


Food for the soul and human spirit is perhaps the hardest meal to find, consume and fully digest. I believe that entrepreneurial thinking is the plate on which that meal is well served. Everyone has dreams and yearnings that can be turned into goals to be passionately pursued. When we as a nation learn how to care for and feed that hunger, we become truly unstoppable.

- Nelson Davis | Small Business Expert