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25 Entrepreneurs on the Celebrities Who Inspire Them

image for Everett Collection / Shutterstock
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

Inspiration can come from anywhere – sometimes from people. Celebrities are often seen as the epitome of success and inspiration. For some entrepreneurs, that can be a major motivating factor.

Being famous may seem easy, but many celebrities had to work extremely hard to get to where they are. For many, there are parallels between making it to Hollywood and running a successful company. As any entrepreneur will tell you, the job is never truly done, and it can be difficult to stay motivated and keep grinding. There are countless ways to boost your motivation, but some entrepreneurs find solace in looking to the lives of celebrities.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, for example, provides one entrepreneur with a lesson on appreciation and caring. Jessica Alba, on the other hand, used real business acumen to build a successful company separate from her successful career as an actress. Stars like Natalie Portman, a champion of animal rights and a Harvard graduate, serve as examples of well-rounded, accomplished individuals.

Business News Daily asked entrepreneurs to share their famous role models. From singers and actors to authors, athletes and reality TV stars, here are 25 celebrities whom entrepreneurs find inspiring.

"[Leonardo DiCaprio is] a great actor and front-line fighter for our environment. He hasn't sold out for rom-coms and does movies I enjoy through captivating performances. Leo inspires me as a business owner to not succumb to the standards of the industry – the Oscars [for example] – and write your own story, and that the best stories come from those who do good." – AJ Fountain, co-owner and business development director of Stoked Ember Productions

"Of all the celebrities out there, I'm most impressed by Dwayne Johnson. This might seem like an odd choice for someone in the makeup business, but his clear devotion to appreciating his fans is an inspiration for anyone that runs a business with a focus on customer service and satisfaction. He is always posting on Instagram how grateful he is for his fans, while showing the work and long hours that go into producing the movies and TV shows that make us love him. It is a kind of authenticity that doesn't sugarcoat how tough it is to succeed but how very worth it it is to go the extra mile to connect people to both the work and the outcome." – Julie Fredrickson, founder of Stowaway Cosmetics

"My inspirational celebrity is Bethenny Frankel. She worked her ass off to create a product and ultimately an entire lifestyle brand out of next to nothing. She finds voids in the market, supports women, and puts her time and effort into projects and people she is passionate about. She shoots it straight, and I find her honesty refreshing." – Kristen Tomlan, founder and CEO of DŌ Cookie Dough Confections

"As a writer, I am inspired by J.K. Rowling. She was rejected 12 times by different publishers before a small publishing house finally accepted her manuscript. She went from poverty to extreme wealth by following her passion, believing in her dream, and refusing to give up. At the same time, she created a magical reading experience for children around the world." – Marissa Levin, CEO of Successful Culture

"The celebrity I find inspiring is Pitbull. I don't even really listen to his music but am amazed at the brand he has built for himself. As an entrepreneur, he has inspired me in so many different ways and I have learned so much – specifically [by] seeing how he has continued to adapt and transition himself both musically and as a brand to align with the changing music industry climate. He has been adept at partnering with the right brands and leveraged his ethnic background and abilities to take advantage of opportunities outside of the music world." – Thomas Nguyen, co-founder and CMO of Peli Peli

"One of my personal inspirations is Jessica Alba and The Honest Company. Jessica identified a problem for her own family and, as a result, came up with a solution to provide nontoxic products to the masses. We need more celebrity mompreneurs like Jessica to help make the world a better place for our kids." – Molly Lindquist, founder and CEO of Consano

"Oprah has inspired me to understand that success is something you achieve based on how much you put into whatever it is that you would like to see success from – and it doesn't happen overnight. I learned from her that others can help you, just as others can provide obstacles, but ultimately, you make your own success and your own failure." – Allison Sinclair, principal and owner of Matryoshka Media Group

"I am inspired by Angelina Jolie. When I look at her, she exemplifies what good should come of fame. She takes issues that are important to humankind and she uses her influence with the media to shed light on the issues and talk about them. She seems to care deeply about our human race. She has accomplished great things in her work with the United Nations, speaking on the behalf of refugees and children of Third World countries that have no voice in those forums." – Bethanie Nonami, founder and CEO of Memento

"I'm a huge Reese Witherspoon fan, and admire her greatly. Many celebrities have gone into business, trying to build upon their brand, but very few movie stars have built companies of substance. But Draper James is a viable business, having recently raised a $10 million Series B. Reese is doing this right – using her celebrity as a catapult to launch the company, but allowing the business to grow into its own path and image." – Terena Bell, head of global public relations at Lionbridge and co-founder of TVRunway

"Beyoncé has always been somebody I looked up to, and each year I admire her more. Besides her being an amazing singer, I look up to her for her business skills, willpower and courage. Without scandals, she gloriously moves the world with her songs and actions. As a businesswoman, it is not always easy to navigate in the world, and success can quickly go to your head. However, Beyoncé always stays grounded and keeps focus, but also shows her vulnerable side." – Pamela Wagner, digital marketing specialist

"Alicia Keys is an inspiring celebrity because she is not only a wonderful role model to young women and a fabulous singer and pianist, but she also embraces the art of giving back to humanity through her philanthropic efforts. Through her nonprofit Keep a Child Alive foundation, she provides medicine to Africans living with HIV and AIDS. Her donations to the youth also provides scholarships to children in need. Alicia Keys has also used her music in times of destruction during Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy and the earthquake in Haiti. I admire what she does nationally and internationally. It's always nice to see artists give back, and she seems to do it with so much humility and grace." – Erik Humphrey, publisher and CEO of Quiet on the Set Magazine

"[Sophia Bush] does more than talk – she shows up. She has marched on the front lines for marriage equality, appeared in documentaries for women's rights, ran a marathon for charity and actively taps her network to raise funds for aid relief. She is a shining example of how a celebrity can use their reach to elevate the conversation make the world a better place." – Andrew Horn, founder of Tribute

"As an entrepreneur, the celebrity that most inspires me is Lauren Conrad. Lauren found her fame through the MTV shows Laguna Beach and The Hills. It would have been easy for her to fall into the stereotype of a dumb-blonde teen reality star after that. However, she built a brand around herself with bestselling books, a gorgeous clothing line, and a successful beauty blog among other things. Lauren is also an incredible inspiration for young women looking to be leaders in the business world. When asked on a morning radio show what her favorite position was, she responded beautifully with the answer 'CEO.'" – Stacy Sailer, operations manager and co-founder of Fantasy Life

"A celebrity who inspires me is Curtis Jackson (50 Cent). Most people think of just the rapper initially, but I think of his story. Even through his surroundings and misfortunes, he built an empire and streamed successfully into multiple business ventures." – Raygrid Calderon, founder and CEO of Spiritually Sparkled

"He started from the bottom and climbed the ladder to reach his lifelong dream of hosting The Tonight Show. His talent for humor carried him, but it was his hard work and long hours put in that were the real drivers in his success. I always try to apply the same mindset in my professional life." – Dan Brinton, CEO of Fractured Prune Doughnuts

"I'm big-time inspired by comedian extraordinaire Amy Schumer. She's the kind of new-school 'riot grrrl' that kicks me back into action, no matter what I'm facing down." – Cheryl Laughlin, indie screenwriter and owner of Bits of Love Jewelry

"I think of Ellen DeGeneres as my inspiration for starting a very unique nonprofit. I look to her because she is authentic, humble, diligent, smart, and her slogan, 'Be kind to one another,' is powerful in its simplicity. In many cases, successful people are ambitious and focused but may not be grateful. Ellen embodies the skills and characteristics that I aim to have and maintain as I grow my nonprofit, mission and philanthropy." – Jodi O'Donnell-Ames, president and founder of Hope Loves Company

"Pharrell inspires me because of his professionalism, because of the strategic selection of brand partners for him – Chanel, Moncler, Moynat, Rizzoli, Louis Vuitton – and because the team that he's assembled – from manager to publicist to agents – is not only the best in the business, [it consists of] some of the most stand-up people I've ever met." – Coltrane Curtis, managing partner and founder of Team Epiphany

"I'm a big fan of Kanye West, because he isn't afraid to experiment and push the boundary of musical experience. He defies convention – basically does whatever he wants – and is completely, authentically himself." – Taylor Smith, CEO and co-founder of Blueboard

"Ashton Kutcher [inspires me]. He treats people well, has worked really hard and built an empire in acting, and is currently building a business empire as well. He's funny and laid back, but also passionate and motivated." – Ben Weissenstein, founder of Fresh Right Hand

"I really admire Lady Gaga as a celebrity, artist, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Her creativity and charity work is very inspiring to me. Having founded the Born This Way Foundation in 2011 with her mom, she's always been an advocate for empowering youth, and is also a great example of how you're never too big to enlist the help of family and friends." – Sean Scott, founder and CEO of Levitation Activewear

"Will Smith is incredibly inspiring because he never settles and never stops pushing in his career, while also prioritizing his family and maintaining a reputation for being an all-around good guy. There is something really impressive about a celebrity that can cut across a variety of skill sets, from a rapper and musician to a comedic television star to being able to carry blockbusters and dramatic roles." – Vip Sandhir, founder of HighGround

"Brooke Shields is the celebrity that completely inspires me. I met Brooke several years ago through a mutual friend. Her daughters attend the same school as many of my good friends, and since that time I have had the pleasure of seeing her at family and holiday parties. She is as down-to-earth as the average Joe at parties, approachable to all. [She's] always a picture of beauty and full of humor. She is a hands-on mom who doesn't fall for working-mom guilt – an inspiration to me, since I'm a busy working mother myself." – Eleni Gianopulos, CEO of Eleni's New York

"Michael's work ethic and competitive spirit are second to none. He would never accept being second best. When Michael was playing, his ability to concentrate and lock in was almost superhuman. Just like you have to do in business, he had the ability to forget what happened two seconds ago and move forward. He was in the moment, not worried about anything else, and willing to stop at nothing to be a champion." – Ryan Harwood, CEO of Gallery Media Group

"I love Cicely Tyson because she always carries herself with elegance and grace. She speaks eloquently. She is passionate about her career and the choices she makes and doesn't apologize for her choices. She created her own path even when job opportunities were not readily available. She was a trailblazer and an activist. She doesn't believe in retirement; she continues to work well past the average retirement age of 65 and shows no signs of slowing down. She uses her platform to bring awareness to issues that are of importance to her." – Harrine Freeman, CEO and owner of H.E. Freeman Enterprises

Brittney Morgan contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Matt D'Angelo

Matt D'Angelo is a contributor covering small business for business.com and Business News Daily. After graduating from James Madison University with a degree in journalism, Matt gained experience as a copy editor and writer for newspapers and various online publications.