7 Small Business Tips from Movies

From cult classics to blockbusters, movies have shown us noteworthy small businesses that provide useful takeaways.

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” nailed Oscar Wilde when he observed that works of art inspire plenty of things in the real world. This is particularly true when it comes to motion pictures and small businesses.

From cult classics to blockbusters, plenty of movies have shown us noteworthy small businesses that provide amazing takeaways. Let’s review some of our favorite small businesses from the movies and the lessons you can learn from them:

7 favorite movies

Average Joe’s Gymnasium

“You’re perfect just the way you are!” claims small gym owner “Pete” LaFleur (Vince Vaughn) in the sports comedy, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

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Find a niche that makes you stand out from the competition.

Faced with intense competition from rival Globo-Gym across the street and mounting pressure from pending mortgage payments, LaFleur makes a “Hail Mary” move to enter the Dodgeball World Championship and try to win its $50,000 prize to save the gym.

Business Lesson: Find a niche that makes you stand out from the competition. In a world of intense crossfitters, imposing amazons and intimidating bodybuilders, Average Joe stood as an oasis for people who wanted to work out in a more relaxed environment.

[Also on Longitudes: How to Unlock Hidden Opportunities]

Daddy Day Care

When recently laid-off food marketing executive Charlie Hinton (Eddie Murphy) can’t find a new job and afford daycare for his son, he co-founds with his best friend “Daddy Day Care,” a home-based daycare facility.

Throughout the movie, Hinton must take quick action to fix code violations, such as keeping an appropriate ratio of children to caregivers and meeting security requirements.

Business Lesson: Meeting federal, state and city regulations is an important part of running your small business. For example, when hiring and paying seasonal workers, you’re responsible for providing legal wages, filling out the right paperwork and withholding applicable taxes.

El Jefe Cubanos

In the comedy-drama Chef, Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) loses his position as head chef at a trendy L.A. restaurant after a public altercation with a prestigious food critic and blogger that goes viral on social media.

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An entire business can be destroyed or built on social media.

In a turn of events, he decides to run a food truck, “El Jefe Cubanos,” selling Cubanos sandwiches and yuca fries across several cities. His son drums up business by promoting “El Jefe Cubanos” on social media accounts.

Business Lesson: An entire business can be destroyed or built on social media. Unlike Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro, you shouldn’t engage on public spats with customers or critics on social media. Chef Casper learned this the hard way and learned that it’s best to focus on the positive and let the quality of his work do the real talking.

Empire Records

Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) manages Empire Records, an independent record shop with an eclectic staff, including cashiers Corey (Liv Tyler) and Gina (Renée Zellweger).  Facing an imminent takeover by mega franchise chain Music Town, the six employees from the store pool resources to raise money and help Joe buy the store and prevent its sale.

Business Lesson: Take a play from Joe’s book and understand that you don’t build a business – you build people – and then people build the business. Throughout the movie, Joe is genuinely concerned about the wellbeing of his young employees. When he’s the one needing help, they jump at the chance to lend a hand.


Three unemployed parapsychology professors, Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), strike it rich with Ghostbusters, a ghost removal service. The ghostbusters are the epitome of bootstrapping as they turn an ambulance into their vehicle and retrofit an old fire station into their headquarters.

Business Lesson: Never underestimate the power of a well-crafted logo, theme song and jingle. You could get a logo for just $5 at Fiverr, but it’s very likely that it won’t be as memorable as one from a pro graphic designer. So, “Who ya gonna call?”

[Also on Longitudes: Why Customer Service Begins With Empathy]

Jerry Maguire

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You don’t build a business – you build people – and then people build the business.

Successful sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) has a moral epiphany and is fired for expressing it. Stripped of his top clients and followed by another ex-employee of the sports agency, Maguire takes a leap of faith and becomes an independent agent for his only remaining client.

By building personal relationships with his clients and facing new, yet exciting, challenges, Maguire is now able to achieve success in both his business and personal life.

Business Lesson: In business, not everything is about “showing the money.” One of the main reasons why individuals quit their traditional full-time jobs and start a small business is to maintain that elusive work-life balance.

The Shop Around The Corner

In the romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail, Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) runs the independent bookstore The Shop Around The Corner, which she inherited from her mother. When a new Fox Books megastore is scheduled to open around the shop’s corner, Kelly begins a media war against Fox Books and its representative Joe Fox (Tom Hanks).

Business Lesson: As Kelly learned the hard way, small businesses can’t compete on price with large ones. Instead, leverage your ties with the local community by pooling resources with nearby shops to create special events for families that live in the community. “You’re local, so shop local” is a powerful mantra to attract local customers craving authenticity. goldbrown2

This article first appeared on Kabbage.


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Damian Davila is a freelance writer living in sunny Honolulu, Hawaii

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