While the focus on innovation and entrepreneurship is greater now than ever, obviously there is a long history of seemingly simple ideas growing into the “next big thing.”

The first two installments of the Indiana Icons series in BizVoice® magazine spotlighted individuals (Carl Erskine and Jim Morris). The current article goes behind the scenes of a brand that began with two friends working on a ping pong table in one of their homes.

Barbara Baekgaard and Pat Miller formed Vera Bradley in 1982. Their “light bulb” was a trip through an airport and seeing no luggage that appealed to the female customer. Colorful purses, backpacks and various carrying bags became a national and global sensation.

Baekgaard tells about an early dinner at a couple’s home. After the meal (and discussion about her fledgling business), she recalls the gentleman saying, “I really think you have a good idea. I’m going to give you some money. If you’re successful, I want to be paid back. It’s a loan. If you’re not, it’s a gift. Just forget it. But I believe in you.”

She explains the significance of that gesture. “It was very Shark Tank-esque where they believe in the person maybe more than the product even. That was a really good vote of confidence. Positivity is the greatest encouragement. I’ve always believed in that.”

You can read the full article – “Purses and Positivity: Inside Vera Bradley’s Success” – in the current BizVoice.

We will, of course, continue to offer more stories through a variety of forums. But we also invite you to contribute by sharing tips, suggestions and experiences that can benefit your fellow business leaders.

You know how it works. The articles are not “advertisements” for your organization, although exposure is one of the side benefits of lending your expertise or opinions. Depending on the topic and length, your submission might work best in this newsletter – or potentially in BizVoice.

Contact Tom Schuman ([email protected]) to learn more about bringing your stories to our statewide audience.