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Start-up founder says a Melinda Gates quote perfectly captures how to be successful

The success of entrepreneurs and philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates has taught John Jacobs, the co-founder of apparel company Life is Good, one crucial lesson: Entrepreneurs don't have to choose between making money and doing good.

In fact, the less good you do, the less likely your success will last.

"Not only does [doing good] deepen the loyalty with customers when there's real meaning behind your product ... but for yourself it's a lot more motivating," said Jacobs.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, who also worked at Microsoft, have created one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donates hundreds of millions to causes like global health and education.

Jacobs called the couple "unbelievably inspiring" and discussed one idea from Melinda Gates that particularly influences his thinking: "When you come to a point in your life when you see difficult things, don't look in the other direction; move toward it," Jacobs said, citing Melinda. "That's the moment when you can affect change."

"If you're just trying to make a buck or sell a few products, you might just bail when you hit those harder points," he added.

Jacobs was referring to a now-famous commencement speech that Bill and Melinda Gates gave to Stanford University graduates in 2014.

Melinda Gates
Lacy O'Toole | CNBC
Melinda Gates
"In the course of your lives, without any plan on your part, you'll come to see suffering that will break your heart. When it happens, and it will, don't turn away from it; turn toward it. That is the moment when change is born." -Melinda Gates, speaking to Stanford University graduates in 2014

The Life is Good business success story is known for choosing "pure optimism" as its foundation, so it is no surprise one of the co-founders would find this message in Melinda Gates' example. She defined optimism during the Stanford commencement address this way:

"Optimism for me isn't a passive expectation that things will get better; it's a conviction that we can make things better — that whatever suffering we see, no matter how bad it is, we can help people if we don't lose hope and we don't look away."

Her husband, the world's richest man, added: "We want to make the strongest case we can for the power of optimism. Even in dire situations, optimism can fuel innovation and lead to new tools to eliminate suffering. But if you never really see the people who are suffering, your optimism can't help them. You will never change their world."

Melinda concluded the Stanford address with these words:

"In the course of your lives, without any plan on your part, you'll come to see suffering that will break your heart. When it happens, and it will, don't turn away from it; turn toward it. That is the moment when change is born."