As parents, we choose our kids’ names based on our aspirations for their future. Given the recent news about Elon Musk (flip-flopping on whether or not Tesla will go public, issues with the recent Tesla Model 3 and other negative press) how would you feel if you were named after him?
That's a problem one too-young-to-understand 5-year-old doesn't have to deal with quite yet.
Entrepreneur Vijay Prathap named his twins Rohan Elan (after Elon Musk, with a modified spelling) and Arianna (after Arianna Huffington) in honor of famous business people in order to encourage them to strive for the success of their namesakes.
“My name is Vijay, which means victory in Sanskrit,” he says. “My last name means fame. My parents said, ‘You’re destined to do something different.’ Your name has an impact.”
Prathap says, “We want our son to be a visionary. He needs to achieve great things in life. It’s not OK to lead an average life.”
Plus, he confesses, he and his wife just liked the names. “We could’ve named our kids after Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks), John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods) or Indra Nooyi (former CEO of Pepsi). We just picked these two because we respect them and also like their names.”
Various studies point to the importance of names when it comes to career success (for example, people with more regal-sounding names are likelier to hold managerial positions), but what happens when your namesake starts rolling in negative press?
Just ask the non-famous Chris Brown, who’s benefitted as a realtor because his name is so memorable, but has had to suffer through commentary about R&B singer Chris Brown’s domestic violence against Rihanna.
The negative press around Musk doesn’t bother Prathap. “I feel sympathy for [Elon Musk],” he insists. “Tesla is still a pioneer. They’re the number-one luxury car maker, and they’re environmentally conscious. This is just a short-term news item. None of this changes the legacy of what Elon Musk has done as an immigrant and a PayPal founder,” in addition to starting Tesla.
If, theoretically, Musk continued to spiral and his reputation worsened, that wouldn’t bother Prathap, either: “I look forward, not back.”
You might not expect this single-minded focus on success from the founder of a teddy bear company.
“We started in our garage,” he says, “then upgraded to a public storage garage, then a 1,000-square-foot facility. Today we’re in a 5,000-square-foot facility and growing internationally.”
Prathap expects revenues to hit around $4 to $6 million in 2019, and about $16 million in 2020 (with net operating profit hitting about $8 million by 2020).
Bears for Humanity distributes to Nordstrom, national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite, zoos, museums, Whole Foods, Amazon, Kroger and more. Through one recent partnership with Rite Aid, Prathap says, the company sold 30,800 teddy bears.
Perhaps unsurprising given his admiration of media moguls, Prathap is trying to position his teddy bear company as a tech venture, with a platform for charities to raise money by selling Bears for Humanity products, enabling the company to collect and sell user data back to nonprofits.
Prathap idolizes and styles himself after tycoons like Schultz and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. When Starbucks closed down its stores to host a diversity training day in the spring of 2018, Prathap gave out free teddy bears near Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. “If Howard Schultz runs for president,” Prathap says, “he’s a thought leader. That’s what it’s all about.”
Prathap insists that the most successful entrepreneurs don’t start businesses with financial motives: “I guarantee Bezos didn’t think, I’ll be happiest when my company is valued at $80 billion and I pocket the cash. He was proving the vision in his mind.”
What lessons does Prathap want his children to absorb from their namesakes?
He defines greatness as “what you do for others” and says it’s “based on your legacy, not how much money you make.” One of the biggest ways he measures impact is through job creation. “You can’t keep feeding the hungry out of charity. It’s important to create jobs for them.”
The je ne sais quoi that makes him admire these business leaders has to do with the “ability to conceptualize things in a grand plan that normal people cannot see,” he says.
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