There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: Sarah Akin, the founder of ZON, a technology company that “creates simple, elegant solutions to complex problems.” Sarah came up with the idea for her first product while on vacation when she had to keep getting up from her lounge chair to charge her iPad. She thought, “Why isn’t there a device to charge mobile devices outside?” and that epiphany led to the solar- powered ZON Powersol, an umbrella that keeps mobile devices charged when there are no available (and accessible) outlets. Zon launched in 2012.
The Powersol can charge up to three mobile devices at once—and is as fast as a wall outlet. The Powersol was awarded Technology of the Year for 2015 by Hospitality and Design for its renewable energy solution, ease of use and low cost.
You can reach them on Twitter @ZONsolar.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Sarah Akin: Without knowing it, I was an entrepreneur from the very beginning, selling and designing invitations and thank-you cards that I made when I was in elementary school and then painting personal wedding invitations when I was in high school. I’ve always felt a drive for when you have a great idea you go forward with it, such as the Powersol.
In ZON I saw a need, or maybe I had a need, to enjoy the freedom to read a book or to work on my iPad without the restrictions of being stuck inside plugged into a wall outlet. In the world we live in everyone feels the need to be connected to our mobile devices. We have become a society that needs to be connected without restrictions.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Akin: This is something I have dreamt of, to have the freedom to work for myself. ZON was a result of this desire to create my own business coupled with the desire to promote a healthy environment for my children. Being outdoors has always been a big part of my life, and the Powersol allows us to be outside without having the anxiety of being too far away from our “world.”
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Akin: The pivotal moment was actually deciding to go forward with the idea. My husband and I did research to see if there was anything like this out there. With my background in design and architecture I was fairly sure that with the solar technology that surrounds us that there must be a convenient solution that connects people to the new and seemingly always-present battery devices we have.
Finding nothing on the market, we decided to move forward and spoke to a good friend, Cameron Welborn-Wilson, who is a lawyer with entrepreneurial experience. She has since become ZON’s cofounder and a big reason for our success.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Akin: The best business advice I’ve ever received is to surround yourself with good people and be prepared to listen more than talk; this is also the advice I have passed on to others.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Akin: To be open and accepting of new and different ideas regarding the product you launched. This will help your idea grow and succeed.
Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?
Akin: The Powersol has really taken off. There is need for it in any outdoor environment whether it be in parks, hotels and resorts, school campuses or amusement parks—really any open space outside. The Powersol is really taking off, and will only grow, since there is a need to solve the problem we all experience.
Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?
Akin: That’s a tough question. It is like asking what your favorite song is, that really depends on the mood you are in. But, now that you ask, with the Powersol you can read any book depending on your mood while you are enjoying the outside under an umbrella! You asked for that!
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Akin: “Shoot for the moon; if you miss you will land upon the stars.” I have this in front of me every day when I wake up. This is a quote I live by. I believe that if you shoot for something you may find what you are looking for, but if you miss you will always learn a lesson that will bring you close to what you are looking for.
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