Entrepreneur Duo Transform An Idea From The Back Of A Napkin Into A Multimillion-Dollar Business


We need to clear something up right away about the title of this post. When we say “an idea from the back of a napkin”, that is not code for a fancy business method, we literally mean something that was written on the back of a napkin. So never underestimate the power of writing down a good idea, anywhere!

And if you want to see living proof of how this works, look no further than entrepreneur duo Nora Herting and Heather Willems, who are the founders of ImageThink, a company that uses art and graphic design to help businesses ignite their ideas through creativity.

To date, the company has worked with a number of Fortune 50 companies and brands that most people would instantly recognize – AOL, Google, FedEx, SXSW, TEDx and more. Over the past decade they have become an integral part of helping these companies achieve breakthroughs and success, and in the process have created a fun, memorable way for their clients to visualize their goals.

Heather studied fine art photography and has spent her life journaling and drawing out her ideas (yes, even on a napkin!). Before ImageThink, Nora was a graphic recorder and professor, but says her proudest moment was learning Google CEO and founder Larry Page hung her visual summary over his desk.

These women aren’t just entrepreneurs, they are highly sought-after for their business know-how, and as a natural progression of their growth and popularity, they have packaged some of their best ideas and lessons into a new book called ‘Draw Your Big Idea’.

Since we are in a time of female entrepreneur boom (women in the US are outpacing men in terms of launching businesses and creating jobs) and Nora and Heather are the experts on how to do this successfully, we spoke to them about their company and what aspiring entrepreneurs should know before taking the leap.


Having worked with some of the world’s top businesses and brands, including Google, AOL, TEDx, Mashable and more, have you found any commonalities in their no.1 strategy for growth?

There are commonalities around the challenges businesses face- concern for disruptive technology appears across many companies. Recently I heard the phrase “Kodak Moment” it had a completely different context. While mega companies have the resources to have futurists and intel, it isn’t easy for them to act on it.

Aversions to risk, as well as the cumbersome nature of large companies makes it difficult for innovators within organization to take action to capitalize on insights. Innovation continues to be a desired, yet some what mysterious, phenomenon. Companies want to foster it, but there is often a lot of confusion about how.

Approaches to workforce have also changed. Across industries people are still trying to figure out how millennials and baby boomers work together. Inclusion and diversity discussion are on the rise. As for brands, ways to meaningfully connect with their customers is top concern. Talk about authenticity and generating meaningful content is a common thread.


There are a number of brands trying to reach millennial women and tap into the current wave of female empowerment and feminism. As a female-driven company, what is your approach to this?

Our book Draw Your Big Ideas draws on our experience working with fortune 100 companies. We saw so many breakthrough using visuals with our clients that we wanted to create a way for individuals to use the same tools. The audience for our book is really for aspiring entrepreneurs and creatives.

Some 66% of millennials are interested in starting their own business, and we see them as ideal readers for Draw Your Big Ideas. Yet, most entrepreneurs are men. We hope that our story, and our book is an inspiration to young women.

Do you have different approaches for companies that are run by women, as opposed to those run by men?

Generally our clients are fortune 100 companies. At that scale, the gender of the leadership isn’t apparent, in my experience. It is more noticeable in some industries. Many industries are male dominated. Frequently we are in meetings with the C-suite, and it is not unusual to see only one woman or one person of color, if any.


How does ImageThink utilize an artistic medium to help entrepreneurs and businesses improve their success?

We help stoke creativity through real-time visual transcription. We do this by listening deeply to what’s being said and translating that visually. This could be an organization’s purpose, to company’s restructuring or new strategy.

It is our unique approach to unleashing innovation in organizations and fueling their growth by using words. To synthesize complex concepts into engaging, digestible pictures.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you tell your clients to avoid?

Poorly planned meetings and strategy session. There are so many pitfalls here. Often companies make assumptions and jump in with solutions without properly identifying the problem.


Your business idea started out on the back of a napkin and has since grown into a multi-million dollar company, working with names like NASA and Pepsi. If that’s what you have achieved so far, what are your plans for the future?

We see an opportunity to move into new markets. As you can imagine our team is very creative and we are constantly imagining new solutions to our clients business problems. Last year we opened our second office in California. We are looking toward growing our west coast business.

Why is a visual component of creating ideas so important?

Drawing stimulates your whole mind you are processing both analytically and aesthetically at the same time. When you are creating a visual, you are activating the Pre-frontal cortex which is responsible for complex cognitive behavior and decision making. All important to processing information and problem solving.

Visualizing a goal and a future state motives you in a way that simple text cannot. Once you commit that visual to paper, you are invested in a small but powerful way, because you have put your idea out into the world. Drawing out desperate ideas from a group helps a team align. These drawings can also serve as a useful reference point for prioritizing and helping leaders set a course of action.

Keeping important ideas and goals in a space can inspire, motivate and give groups clarity.


To find out more about ImageThink or book them to speak at your business, visit their website. You can purchase ‘Draw Your Big Idea‘ on Amazon Barnes & Noble, or Indie Bound.


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  1. Pingback: How Embracing My Femininity Allowed Me To Take The Leap And Become An Entrepreneur - GirlTalkHQ

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