Small Business Struggles as Portrayed in ‘We Bought a Zoo’

by Sara Toole on April 12, 2012


I recently watched the movie “We Bought A Zoo“. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s a very sweet and family-friendly movie.

What you might not know is that this movie pretty much tells the story of every small business owner. It is a true story about a man named Benjamin Mee, who bought a zoo in Southern California. While it is not a big zoo (more of an animal preserve outside of the city) — Mee buys the property in a state of disrepair and with a dream in hand, decides to take on the project of re-opening the place.

Along the way, of course, Mee is met with numerous obstacles, including financial issues (it costs way more than originally anticipated to maintain and renovate the zoo and he runs out of money), management issues (with his staff and his own children) and morale issues (he doubts himself numerous times and almost gives up). These are all very typical issues one faces in going out on a limb to start one’s own business, and even in maintaining a business in tough times.

Watching Mee’s tenacity in overcoming these difficulties and the deep soul-searching that is required to meet his goal . . . even facing a record rain storm right before the grand opening (he is out of money and at the end of his rope) . . . is an inspiring and heartwarming experience (I pretty much cried throughout the movie). While credit undoubtedly goes to Cameron Crowe (the same guy who wrote and directed the amazing Jerry Maguire), the story itself is incredibly moving for anyone who has started their own business. There is at times such a total lack of knowing what is coming down the pipe — good and bad — and so much internal strength and courage required to carry through on a personal vision.

In the movie, Mee tells his son that if he can bring himself to experience 20 seconds of courage — that he will be amazed at what happens in his life. I think practicing 20 seconds of courage a week is likely a great goal for every small business owner in these times.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend checking it out . . . it may inspire you as it did me.

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