Ep. 49: Do You Have What It Takes to Own Your Own Business?

Learn what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

If there's one thing we’ve learned over the many episodes of this show, it’s that owning and operating your own business is hard. You have to overcome challenges you didn’t even know existed. Thinking of becoming an entrepreneur or you’re wondering if you should stick it out? We have Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts, scholar, speaker and consultant, who studies the science of maximizing human potential, to guide us through. “I do think for every market need, for every human desire, there is an entrepreneur who is inspired and equipped to meet that need and to help for people to connect with that desire”And Pamela Wirth, of Hello Health, will share what she’s learned on her path to entrepreneurship. Learn from an expert and those who have been there!      

In this episode you’ll hear:

(03:49) Why connecting with others is one of the most important traits of an entrepreneur(05:23) What qualities you need to be an entrepreneur        

(08:17) If you can't go all in on your business because you need the financial security of a 9 to 5, how else can you start your business journey?

(10:24) How do you start a business if you have too much on your plate?

(12:56) An entrepreneur is also a leader, so what qualities do you need to be a great leader?

(15:38) What are some hurdles that entrepreneurs might have to overcome when they're thinking about starting a business?

(18:45) What are some of the qualities you need to help you get through the tough times?


1 - As an entrepreneur you need to be able to connect with people, whether that’s customers or employees. Running a successful business requires identifying your market then meeting people’s needs. Look to fill a gap in the market or even better yet, create a new one.

2 - Think long and hard about your ability to manage risk and then how to work within your parameters. You can start small while still working full-time, and grow incrementally while continually assessing the risk. Your business doesn’t need to be all or nothing.

3 - If you are already feeling maxed out with what’s on your plate, think of ways to build a business around what you’re already doing. Your business can be an extension of the knowledge you have and the work being done.

4 - As an entrepreneur, you’ll need to be a leader.  A big part of that is understanding what motives some people may not motivate others. Be flexible and agile in your leadership.

5 - Play to your strengths. Figure out what only you can bring to the table. Once you know what you’re good at, continue to develop those skills by asking for feedback then leverage that in the business you are creating.

6 - You don’t have to have all the answers before you start. Be open to listening and learning along the way. While it’s good to learn from the mistakes of others, you are also free to do things differently.

7 - Having passion and commitment will get you through the tough times. Because there will inevitably be some. Pay attention to the good times in order to keep finessing what you’re doing.

Episode Transcript


Andrea Marquez: Hi, this is Small Business, a podcast brought to you by Amazon. I'm your host, Andrea Marquez. I started this podcast because I wanted to learn more about small businesses and how entrepreneurs do it. Through my many conversations, what stands out is the dedication, the drive, the commitment and unwavering conviction it takes to do this, to be an entrepreneur.

But of course, there's more to it than that. Running your small business requires so many hacks. That's why I truly believe this is one of the most important conversations that needs to be had early on in your journey. Do you have what it takes to start and run a business of your own?  

For this episode, we're going to explore this question and look at how to prepare yourself for taking the leap and opening your own business. And if you've already done so, you'll hear tips for hanging in there. To dig into this question, I have organizational psychologist and consultant, Laura Morgan Roberts. But first, let's hear from Pamela Wirth Barnhill, who like many entrepreneurs, has seen her share of struggles.


Pamela Wirth Barnhill: I had to sell a car and spend an incredible amount of money getting to where I'm at.


Andrea Marquez: She's the CEO and founder of Hello Health based in Arizona.


Pamela Wirth Barnhill: Hello Health is supplements for brain, gut and immune health, as well as we are very shortly in early 2024, rolling out cost-effective lab testing for brain, gut and immune disorders. We're going to also be introducing more of a community because a safe place to be able to connect with others is really important, and so that's a big priority of ours.


Andrea Marquez: Long before Hello Health, Pamela knew at her core that she was an entrepreneur, but she didn't know where to direct that energy until her son got sick.


Pamela Wirth Barnhill: Around the age of five and a half, six years old, started baby talking, crawling eyes, constantly dilated, devoid of all emotion, would wash his hands 30, 40 times a day, would enter and exit rooms in a certain manner. He had shoulder shrugs and eye tics and head mannerisms.


Andrea Marquez: After multiple trips to different doctors and diagnoses that didn't quite fit, Pam finally found a treatment plan that made sense to her.


Pamela Wirth Barnhill: And the doctor says, “So we need to fix his gut.”


Andrea Marquez: It wasn't easy, but Pamela stuck to it, and her trouble accessing the tests and knowhow in supplements needed to help heal her son is what started her on her path to opening her own business. You are not the first person who has been given a diagnosis for a loved one. You not only went through this whole journey, you took it a step further and decided to do something about this. When did you feel confident to pursue this particular idea?


Pamela Wirth Barnhill: I totally had imposter syndrome for years. I probably had this idea for three or four years before I actually started acting on it, and it just kept eating at me because I kept talking myself out of it and I was like, “Oh, it's going to be too expensive. It can take too much time. How are we going to do this? Am I really good enough? Well, there's already brands out there. Well, they don't exactly do this, so maybe I should.” There was nothing out there that was really talking to me where I was at, and I figured if there's nothing talking to me, there must be a hole talking to others too.


Andrea Marquez: I think this is a golden ticket for starting a business. Life leads you to a gap in the market, which plants an idea that just won't go away. And it's interesting that Pamela is saying nothing was speaking to her where she was at. It's something our next guest finds incredibly important. Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts is scholar, speaker and consultant working within the social sciences. She says the ability to connect is one of the most essential traits of an entrepreneur.


Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts: For many people, it's the socio emotional skills, to be able to connect with others. We say this phrase all the time, it feels passe at this point, but meet people where they are. I think that practice is paramount for any leader. It's also paramount for any entrepreneur, a small business owner. You have to understand what kinds of needs people have when they're coming as a member of your team, when they're coming as a client or a customer of your business and the unique strengths and skills that you bring that can help to meet whatever need they have in that moment.


Andrea Marquez: Okay, understanding people's needs and then meeting them is foundational in small business ownership. But is there such a thing as the ideal entrepreneur?


Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts: I don't think that there is an ideal entrepreneur across the board. I do think for every market need, for every human desire, there is an entrepreneur who is inspired and equipped to meet that need and to help for people to connect with that desire. So as long as you know what market you're trying to support, that you're trying to engage, that you're trying to ignite and activate, you can become an entrepreneur who will be best equipped to serve them.


Andrea Marquez: So understanding the market you're entering is essential, but what sort of qualities do we need?


Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts: Let's start with your capabilities. What is it that you can do very well that would help you to develop the product or service that would be of interest, that would be of need to other people? I'd start there. If you don't have the capability, it's not a deal breaker. In my area of business, which is consulting, coaching, strategic advising, I can invest in developing my skills and my expertise in that domain so that I can then provide high quality services to others. But it's pretty hard to build a business if you don't have some level of expertise and you've not invested some time and effort into cultivating or refining your skill set.


Andrea Marquez: Right. You need to have the skills to be able to offer top service. What else?


Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts: The secret sauce is finding a way to design or deliver a product or service that is not already available in the marketplace. It's not about replication. It's not about imitation. It's really about embracing what is distinct, authentic and unique about your vision and your approach, and learning how to align that with the market's needs. Even better, creating a new market that doesn't already exist, but aligning that around your ability to differentiate.


Andrea Marquez: Don't be afraid to stand out. Here's what Laura would say to someone that asks, “Do I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?”


Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts: I would say, what are your priorities and what is your risk profile? It's less about whether you have what it takes and more about what you're willing to give or give up on the path to entrepreneurship.


Andrea Marquez: So earlier, we heard Pamela talk about having to sell her car in order to raise funds. So Dr. Morgan Roberts, how do we determine this? How would I determine if I'm willing to do what it takes to be an entrepreneur and use me as an example?


Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts: I would love to. What would it take for you to become an entrepreneur? Is there anything in your life that you would have to change, modify, alter, sacrifice in order to pursue entrepreneurship?


Andrea Marquez: I feel like for myself, I would probably have to quit my current corporate 9-5 job. And I say this because I know that a lot of people have side hustles. However, I am a primary caretaker for a sick relative, my mother, and I also do a lot of extra things for my family. So since I'm not willing to sacrifice helping my family, I would need to sacrifice my 9-5 job, which would then come with, “Well, then how am I going to get paid?” Right?


Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts: And for most people, that is the trade-off. It's the financial security. It's the need to be able to provide for oneself and to provide for one's family. That feels like a big barrier in pursuing entrepreneurship. The phrase you used was going all in. I would suggest perhaps starting small and letting something grow. That would be the first piece, that it doesn't have to be an all or nothing overnight radical change or shift.  

The way that our economy is currently structured, technology provides so many helpful platforms that will allow us to grow and develop in our business ventures in smaller increments. It doesn't have to be the all or nothing venture that it used to be when someone invented something in their garage or their basement and then they were selling it out of the trunk of their car. We have platforms that can help to support in the vendor process. We have technology that can help to manage our communications and PR. We have social media that can help to send out messaging and promotions about the work that we're doing that can provide more efficiency in our entrepreneurship.

So the massive sacrifice of cutting the tether and setting sail is quite large, and it's a privilege for many people to be able to dive all in in that way. Or you have to have a really high risk profile like, “I believe in my idea, this is going to pay off and here goes, it's all or nothing.” That's why we use the phrase, ‘Going for broke.’ That's what it means to go for broke, but I think the vast majority of entrepreneurs and small business owners are growing their businesses and their ventures incrementally and not taking that all or nothing approach.


Andrea Marquez: Right. Start small. But how do you make it work if you already feel maxed out?


Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts: Synergy. This has been huge for me in my work. As I mentioned, I am someone who still has a full-time job and therefore my business ventures have always been part-time by necessity, because as a full-time professor, I have obligations. I have student needs. I'm also an active researcher and writer. So there are lots of things that I do that help me to be much more impactful and responsive in my business, but it's part of my full-time profession.

So how does the work that I do in my day job as a researcher, as a professor help me as an entrepreneur? For me, it's understanding the needs of the market, finding different ways to speak to people and to help to support and address their needs outside of the proverbial ivory tower, outside of higher education. There's so many other people on the planet who are asking these same questions about leadership, who want resources, who are hungry for this information and knowledge. They don't want to read the textbook version of it, right?

But they want somebody who can translate for them the cutting edge latest insights in a way that is rigorous, relevant and relatable. And that's where synergy comes in. So I will come back to you and say, you don't have to answer this now, but some things to ponder would be what is it that I'm already doing that I focus a lot of time and energy on that I'm able to offer, to provide, to engage in the context of my full-time work or conversely, outside of work, the things that I'm doing as a caregiver, the things that I'm doing in my community and with my friends? Are there ways that I can take the activities that I'm already involved with, I'm already invested in, I've been cultivating my skills and my capabilities? And perhaps use that to help to fuel some of my entrepreneurial ventures and then build out from there.


Andrea Marquez: Great pieces of advice. Thank you. And let's say your small business evolves from a side hustle to something bigger with employees, you're a leadership consultant. What are some key characteristics of a great leader?


Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts: I think one struggle and challenge is assuming that what works for you, works for everyone else. What lights you up will light up everyone else. What motivates you, motivates everyone else. You may love happy hours after work as a way of bonding with other folks in your organization. I guarantee you there are one or two people who would rather not engage in happy hours, but go along with it because they want to be supportive of the team. And there may be one or two that feel really uncomfortable with that and would much rather connect over a coffee, a tea, or a community service project.

So assumptions about what motivates us, what helps us to feel more connected and engaged. They're often based on our own limited experience. And as we grow older, as we gain more exposure, as we encounter people from diverse backgrounds with diverse life stories and a unique set of needs, we realize that we can't use a one-size-fits-all strategy for leadership. We have to be more flexible, we have to be more agile.


Andrea Marquez: What else do you think people should be thinking about before starting a business of their own?


Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts: So one of the practices that I encourage on a daily basis involves playing to your strengths. So thinking about how I show up as my best selves in any environment means I'm actively engaging my strengths. I'm doing the things that I do well. I'm trying to learn how I can be even better in those areas and how I can utilize my strengths to connect to other people's needs and to create new marketplace opportunities.

So if one of my strengths is public speaking, then I'm looking for new opportunities to be able to utilize my voice in settings with audiences that would appeal to my message and to the work that I'm bringing. I'm also trying to get more feedback on public speaking, which aspect of the talk, of the speech, of the story, of the message resonates most so that I can continue to grow in that area. All these are different ways to be able to tap into one small strength and leverage that as a signature feature of my own business.


Andrea Marquez: What were some of the hurdles you were up against? What did you not fully realize until you had some experience under your belt?


Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts: When I first started as an entrepreneur, I had two things that were really holding me back. One, I thought I had to have all the answers. I had to be the authority, I had to be the expert, and who was I at 30 years old to be the authority on much? Right? I hadn't had a lot of lived experiences at that time, and I was advising and supporting people who were older than I was, who were more experienced than I. I had to figure out how I could bring value to that engagement in a way that wasn't predicated on me having to prove that I was the smartest person in the room. I thought I had to be perfect. I wasn't always able to just lean back and enjoy the moment and listen to what everyone else had to teach me that ultimately helped me to build a better business.

The second fallacy or mistaken assumption I had was I had to do it like everybody else. I'm in this business of leadership development and consulting, and I'm very fortunate. I have been mentored by, supported by some of the most brilliant, kind-hearted people in the world who do this work, and it was so intimidating to sit back and watch them leading their businesses. So you try to imitate and borrow a little bit of what this person is doing, a little bit of what that person is doing, but ultimately, you miss out on developing your own brand. It's really about finding your own path to unique value creation that gives you joy and fulfillment in life.


Andrea Marquez: I love that. Don't aim for perfection. Do your homework and believe in your abilities, and then do what you do best. Play to your strengths. And let's bring Pamela back for a minute before we go. We've talked a lot about the skills needed to be an entrepreneur. Pamela, was there ever a moment when you thought about giving up?


Pamela Wirth Barnhill: Yeah, there were a couple of times where I had people saying, “Hey, this next critical step is going to get real expensive. Are you sure you're in?” I was like, “Okay, here we go.” I've been working full-time through this too. I have not taken any outside investment as much as I've wanted to. I had someone offer me $ 250,000 for half of the company, and that was super tempting. But then at the end of the day, half the company is a lot. And then if you ever did want to take outside investment, again, there's practically nothing left. I'm on this current path where I am slowly growing with intention so that it doesn't break.


Andrea Marquez: It's nerve-wracking to put so much money, time and effort into something that isn't a sure thing. So here's what Dr. Morgan Roberts thinks, keeps people going when the going gets tough and there's so much uncertainty.


Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts: Some degree of passion, some commitment, something that's just going to give you the elbow grease to take an idea, take a dream, take a product, a service and keep working with it, keep growing in that area, keep finessing it, bounce back from the feedback that you get. Learn from the rejection along the way. Pay attention to the moments when your business is really booming and the times when things are a little more quiet and try to learn from all of that. If you hold fast to the passion, you remain dedicated to your vision for impact, and that's really important to keep you going as well.


Andrea Marquez: That was an invaluable conversation. I hope this inspires a lot of entrepreneurs who may feel blocked from taking the next step. As we heard, sometimes it's about starting small, being unique, playing to your strengths and really connecting with people. Be authentic in who you are and what you have to offer. Look for the gaps in the market and fill them in a way that only you can.  

So do you have what it takes to be a small business owner? There's only one way to find out. We covered a lot in this episode. If you missed anything, don't worry. We've taken notes for you. You can find them at smallbusiness. amazon/ podcasts. Reach out to us at thisismallbusiness@ amazon. com to tell us what you're up to, or let me know what you think of this episode by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. It's easier if you do it through your phone. And if you liked what you heard, I hope you'll share us with anyone else who needs to hear this. If you're an aspiring entrepreneur or maybe you already have your business up and running and you're ready for the next step, a super valuable resource that can help is the Amazon Small Business Academy. Take the free self-assessment on the Amazon Small Business Academy site at www. smallbusiness. amazon.  

That's it for today's episode of This Is Small Business, brought to you by Amazon. I'm your host, Andrea Marquez. Hasta Luego , and thanks for listening. This is Small Business is brought to you by Amazon with technical and story production by JAR Audio.


Business Model

Also Available On

Share with Friends