Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys belting out some inspirational tunes. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

When the work week drags, or a logistical curveball swings through your inbox, or your to-do list feels insurmountable, music can act as a balm for the soul and serve to motivate you out of any rut. We asked 18 entrepreneurs featured in our 1,000 Stories Project for their go-to songs when inspiration is needed on tough days. The answers were as diverse as the CEOs themselves and form one killer playlist (you can also check it out on Youtube) that is sure to get your feet tapping and your head bobbing through the work day.


“I Would Die 4 U” – Prince

This upbeat 80s dance hit by the iconic artist Prince, is a favorite of Brooklyn, New York-based jewelry designer NayMarie. The founder of Adorned in Taji loves to listen to music to move her through her work day and says, “If I need to get my blood flowing, ‘I Would Die 4 U’ by Prince gets my energy going.”


“Blame It on the Rain” – Milli Vanilli

The pop beats of infamous German-French R&B duo Milli Vanilli blared through radio speakers on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 80s and early 90s. Doreen Winkler, the founder of the New York City organic wine store Orange Glou, puts on, “Milli Vanilli’s ‘Blame It on the Rain’ really loud in the store when stuff is tough.”


“Unstoppable” – Sia

The female power ballad is a favorite inspirational song for not one but two of the entrepreneurs we spoke to. Amra Hajdarevic, co-founder of the all natural toothpaste line Terra & Co. says, “It has been stuck in my head since it became a TikTok trending sound in early 2022.” Meanwhile, Laura Spaulding, CEO of Spaulding Decon, which specializes in crime scene cleanup, hits play on the 2016 chart topper whenever she’s having a challenging day.


“Formation” – Beyonce

Is there an artist who embodies fierce resilience more than the Queen herself? Andrea Harris Lyons, founder of Anna+Pookie Party Supplies, a line of party supplies that celebrate Black and brown children, turns to Beyonce’s “Formation” on days when she needs a morale boost.


“Golden” – Jill Scott

Jill Scott’s soulful chorus, “Living my life like it’s golden,” is the type of refrain that helps dissipate the stress and put a fresh perspective on things. Jill Scott’s music is a staple for Jade Philips, the London-based founder of Mane Hook-Up, who says that listening to music is a huge part of her work day.


“Girl on Fire” – Alicia Keys

This anthem has Alicia Keys’ vocal prowess on full display as her voice hits note after note. Keira Kotler, the founder of Everviolet which makes bras for women going through all kinds of life and body changes – from pregnancy to post-mastectomy surgery – admits that it’s hard for her to pin down just one inspirational song, but “Girl on Fire” is an all time favorite.


“Promises” – Maverick City Music

Dayo McIntosh, the founder of beauty brand Yateou, says, “Music in general is a balm for my soul; I have an eclectic taste and listen to everything from country to rap, to afrobeats and gospel and it’s not unheard of for me to shuffle through several genres in short succession.” And on a day where she’s looking for an extra dose of encouragement, “Promises” by Maverick City Music “lifts my spirits and gives me hope.”


“Break My Soul” – Beyonce

As one of the most cited inspirational artists in our 1,000 Stories Project, it should come as no surprise that Beyonce is making this list twice. Nigeria-based entrepreneur Aisha Oladiran, founder of footwear brand Isha O Luxury, told us that her current go-to song to get motivated is one of the 2022’s biggest hits, “Break My Soul” by none other than Beyonce.


“It’s Gunna Be Ok” – The Piano Guys ft. Sir Cliff Richard

Sapna Chowdhary, founder and proprietor of desert hotel Kaner Retreat in Rajasthan, a state in northern India, first heard the uplifting melodic tunes of the Piano Guys at the Royal Albert Hall in London. She’s been a fan of the group, who gained popularity on YouTube, ever since. She’s particularly partial to their 2016 tune “It’s Gunna Be Ok” featuring Sir Cliff Richard.


“Unwritten” – Natasha Beddingfield

“Unwritten,” Natasha Beddingfield’s early 2000s hit, embraces a carefree go-with-the-flow attitude of not making plans and making the best of whatever life throws your way. Wendy Oliver Pyatt, who brings principles of intuitive eating to those who are struggling with eating disorders through her company Within Health, is a fan of the English singer – as is Sushmitha Pidatala, founder of Arjuna. Pidatala turns on another Beddingfield hit, “Pocketful of Sunshine,” everytime she needs a pick-me-up. She says, “Its tone and lyrics are optimistic, inspirational and uplifting. It’s a song that captures my verve, my spirit and my aspiration.”


"Grateful" – Kota The Friend

“Grateful,” from Brooklyn-born rapper Kota The Friend, is an upbeat guitar-inflected number that Rachael Rapinoe, former soccer player and founder of CBD brand Mendi, listens to when the going gets tough. And if Rapinoe is looking for a little motivational boost? She hits play on Drake and Meek Mill’s single “Going Bad.”


"Trust Fall" – Pink

“Trust Fall” by Pink is one of the pop star’s more electro pop-heavy tunes that Serena Houlihan, founder of Le Wren Care personalized gift boxes, puts on when she’s having a hard day of her own. Houlihan says, “It helps me remember to believe in the process, and my intuition.”


"Get On Your Feet" – Gloria Estefan

Eight-time Grammy Award winner Gloria Estefan has quite a few upbeat dance tunes in her discography. But for Elizabeth Mueller, a Milwaukee-based entrepreneur, foster mom and founder of reusable fabric gift wrap company Swathe Gifts, she turns to Estefan’s “Get On Your Feet” when she’s low on motivation. Mueller says of the Cuban songstress’ 1989 hit, “You can’t listen to this song without smiling, dancing and feeling inspired!”


"Never Too Much" – Luther Vandross

Luther Vandross is one of America’s most iconic soul and R&B singers, nicknamed the “Velvet Voice” for his soulful smooth voice. His 1981 hit “Never Too Much” is a go-to song for Beatrice Olumhense, who creates organic candles, diffusers and oils through her line, Patrickrow Maison when she’s having an arduous day. Olumhense tells us simply, “It’s my self-love song.”


"You Say" – Pamela Jablonski

Contemporary Christian singer Lauren Daigels is known for her introspective pop ballads, like “You Say.” Pamela Jablonski, who bakes chocolate treats through her ecommerce bakery Pamela’s Brownies, always turns to Daigels’ 2018 hit when she’s battling negative internal monologues because it’s “a song about battling the lies we believe about ourselves, and replacing them with the truth.”


"This Must Be The Place" – The Talking Heads

New Wave pioneers, The Talking Heads, helped usher in a fresh era in 1980s rock with hits like their 1983 tune “This Must Be The Place.” Pinche Spice Market founder Meaghan Thomas finds the nostalgic quality of the song comforting on harder days, saying she puts it on because, “It was a favorite song of a dear old friend who is no longer with us, and it fills my soul with hope and love thinking of them.”


"It's Not Easy Being Green" – Kermit the Frog

Most children who grew up in the U.S. are familiar with the iconic children’s television show, Sesame Street and its beloved muppet character Kermit the Frog. “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” which Kermit first sang on the show in 1970 is a sweet song about self-acceptance that Tish Rabe adores from her own time working in Sesame Street’s music department in the 1970s. Rabe, a children’s author who runs her eponymous independent, kid-focused printing press from her Connecticut home, says, “It always motivates me – it’s not only a beautiful song, but it doesn’t have any rhyming lines, which I always thought was amazing.”


"Could You Be Loved" – Bob Marley

Bob Marley, perhaps the most famous reggae musician of all time, needs little introduction. His 1980 chart topper, “Could You Be Loved” is pure good vibes – and exactly the kind of song Katerina Juskey and Victoria Mierzwa used to play to get themselves motivated when they were first starting their scented candle line LOHN.