From Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur's Soul

No Dream Is Too Big

Almost eight years ago, I was on the beach watching my four-year-old son, Brendan, play in the sand. As a single mother, I knew that taking my son on vacation was a blessing, and I savored the moment. He was all I had. I had been working odd jobs here and there, always improving my position. But in terms of a career, I had no idea what I could do.

When I found out I was pregnant at age eighteen—during my freshman year of college—I decided to drop out to raise my son, which I was forced to do alone. Most people told me I was making a mistake. How could I be a mother with no clear path toward a career? How would I pay for everything when I could barely pay for myself? Now, four years later, I was no closer to figuring out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Feelings of self-doubt were always looming in the corners of my mind. I was an unwed mother, a college dropout with a ridiculous dream that would never come true.

Then I reached into my beach bag and pulled out a copy of the new Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul. As I read, the same feeling that millions of others have gotten from these books washed over me. I realized there on the beach that being a mother was the most challenging role anybody could ever play. Whether I chose to be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher or a magazine editor, it didn’t matter. Those professions would not require me to, as the book said, “let my heart run around” outside of my body. Although I was making under $17,000 a year at my job, the book empowered me with the feeling that I could do anything!

Upon returning home, I quantified my goals. I wanted to start a magazine. So I wrote my dreams down on a piece of paper and kept it on top of my dresser. When I had to sell the dresser along with some of my other furniture just to make ends meet, I kept the piece of paper in my pillow.

It would take almost three years of working odd jobs related to magazines, such as writing for the society pages, taking photographs for a local real estate company and learning sales from a local radio station, before I felt that I had gathered enough experience to step out on my own. I started a local publication in April 2000 and really learned the ropes the hard way, by literally jumping right in the middle of my dream. I made a lot of mistakes, but it was all a part of the process. I learned that nothing worth having comes easy, and it was the tough times that made the good times worthwhile.

But I decided to dream bigger. What about a national magazine, one based on the Chicken Soup for the Soul series? I was so motivated by the Chicken Soup books and so wanted to be a part of motivating other people. I could start a monthly magazine that would accomplish this same thing, but on a smaller scale than that of a mainstream book, I thought. The magazine could point out the funny things in life and connect with readers on a very personal level, just like the Chicken Soup books.

Once again the seed of doubt crept in. What did I know about a national magazine? Where would I start? Who do I call? How do I get it in stores? Once again, I pulled up my sleeves and thought, This is going to be a bumpy ride. And I jumped smack in the middle of my dreams again. I named the magazine American Magazine and made a deal with Wal-Mart to carry it in their stores. I made sure the tone of our family oriented magazine was inspirational, funny and motivational, just like the Chicken Soup books.

One year later, in October 2003, I was sitting at my desk working on the fifth issue of American Magazine when the phone rang. “This is the COO of Chicken Soup for the Soul Enterprises.” After overcoming the initial shock of this dream call, I learned from the COO that Chicken Soup fans had been asking for a magazine for a very long time. The COO had seen my magazine and said that Chicken Soup wanted to partner with me on this project. That phone call eventually led to my partnership with series founders Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield, and Chicken Soup for the Soul magazine released its inaugural magazine in August 2005.

Looking back at my day on the beach, I felt as if my dream was like a grain of sand, tiny, unnoticeable and lost among thousands of other dreams. I am still a single mother and a college dropout, but today I look back and know that dreams are like the ocean—you can float on top as long as you want, but it’s not until you face your fears, dive in and start swimming hard against the waves that you’ll discover a whole new world. And only then will you realize your true purpose and potential.

J. Mignonne Wright

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