There is the idea of something and then there is the reality.
There is the idea of opening your own business and then there is the reality.
WaterCourse Foods, and City, O' City were at one point ideas that swam in my head like colorful fish. I would pay attention to them as they floated by, think about how fantastic it would be to own my own restaurant or open a great bar. I would manipulate the concepts (my first concept for WaterCourse was to serve veggie comfort food in bowls), and then change them. As ideas these changes were easy and cheap to make. This gestation period for the businesses was vital to their future success.
In 1996, as I sat on a train leaving Denver for NYC taking me to the Natural Gourmet Cookery School in Mid-town, I jotted down the name WaterCourse Foods in a notebook. The name was influenced by reading the Tao de Ching while I hiked the Colorado Trail. I was 24 at the time and searching for a some sort of guide. I recognized the Tao as a useful text immediately. The Tao is like water...
In 1994 I took trains through Europe for 4 months, sleeping in parks and trying to live on less than $10 per day. I ended up seeing most of the big cities in France, Italy, Czech Republic, etc. Like all extended travel it was at times depressing and others exhilarating. I spent most of my time nursing beers in bars reading anything and everything I could find from used bookstores or the book exchange shelf at the random youth hostel. There was James Baldwin, Henry Miller, Nabokov, Dostoevsky, D.H. Lawerence, Frank Herbert. It was in these bistros, bars, pubs, and cafes that I conceptualized City, O' City, an ode or a lament to the city, it was to be a comfortable joint for people to gather that tries it's best not to insult the intelligence of the customer.
Hiking for hundreds of miles along trails in Colorado and walking the cobblestone steets of old cities in Europe provided unique inspiration for my restaurants. The important thing, and the reason I think these places have become successful, is they are inspired.
The business of pre business is to find inspiration where ever it may be. This may take getting lost, or sleeping in parks but find it!