Elaine Pofeldt is an author and independent journalist who writes for Fortune, Money, CNBC, Inc., Forbes, Crain’s New York Business, and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
In her new book, The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business: Make Great Money. Work the Way You Like. Have the Life You Want, recently published by Random House, she outlines the secrets of successful solo entrepreneurs—in all types of industries—who have built and are running 7-figure businesses, so that you can learn how you can do the same.
Today, Elaine joins the podcast to talk about how she caught on to this trend, why it’s happening, and how you—as an entrepreneur or wantrepreneur—can use these strategies to grow or launch your business.
- Some of the major industries in which solo entrepreneurs have built thriving million-dollar businesses.
- Why there are more and more million-dollar, one-person businesses now than ever before—and the tools they use to leverage exponential growth with no employees.
- Why “do what you love and the money will follow” is often bad advice, but following your unique interests can help you build a great business.
- Why more and more people of all ages are rejecting traditional jobs—and how to ensure your financial safety when you don’t have a regular paycheck.
- Something you can do right now to free up an entire day of your workweek.
[Tweet ““You may have gifts that you don’t even realize could become a business.” – Elaine Pofeldt”]
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- Elaine Pofeldt
- The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business: Make Great Money. Work the Way You Like. Have the Life You Want.
CONNECT WITH HAL
Hal: All right. Achieve Your Goals Podcast listeners, this is your host, Hal Elrod, and I am both over the moon to be talking to you today and I’m a little bit nervous and that is because if you are a loyal long-time listener of the Achieve Your Goals Podcast, this is actually my first episode that I am recording in over a year since being diagnosed with a very rare aggressive deadly form of cancer which if you’ve been watching me or following in Facebook, I just announced we got official news, we being my wife and I, the night before last that I am officially in what’s known as NRD, no residual disease, which is 0% cancer that they can detect and that’s the first time ever that the test have come back with 0%. So big celebration, lots of tears of joy have been happening in the Elrod house in around the Elrod family the last couple of days. They’re very emotional. Thank you for your love and support and comments and prayers and everything. All of it means more to me than I can express and thank you. I love you. Appreciate you being a listener of the podcast.
And again, this is my first episode. Now, I appeared on a couple of episodes in the past year with Jon Berghoff. Jon has been hosting and we’ll continue to kind of cohost and we’ll kind of take turns interviewing guests and jumping on the podcast episodes together and adding value in any way that we can but I’m excited for today because my first guest back with my first episode back is a very special one and I’m going to give you an official introduction for Elaine Pofeldt today.
Elaine is an independent journalist who specializes in small business entrepreneurship and careers. Now, she reached out to me. This is how we connected. She reached out to me a few months back and invited me to be featured in her brand-new book. She’s the author of The Million‑Dollar, One‑Person Business. It’s a look at how entrepreneurs are hitting seven-figure revenues in businesses where they are the only employee tapping automation and other technology to scale their effort and that was just published by Random House January 2, 2018, which today is February 4 or 5 or 6 or something so it’s a month ago.
Hal: So, Elaine, before I bring you on, congratulations on a brand-new book. That’s so exciting.
Elaine: Thank you so much, Hal. I’m so happy to be here celebrating your good news with you. I’m so honored to be part of the show today and in general to be part of the show so thank you so much and thank you for your congratulations.
Hal: Yes. Thank you and it’s mutual. Before I bring you on officially, I just want to tell everyone listening, Elaine’s work has appeared in Fortune, Money, CNBC, Inc. She regularly contributes to Forbes, Crain’s New York Business, and many other business publications and she’s a contributor to the Economist Intelligence Unit and we are here today to talk about her new book, The Million Dollar One Person Business. So, if you are an entrepreneur striving to hit that seven-figure mark or if you are a wantrepreneur meaning you’ve got dreams of entrepreneurship or you’re a new entrepreneur or just entering into that scary, exciting world of entrepreneurship, this really is going to help you today. And of course, if you’re listening and you’re like, “Yeah, I’m not really an entrepreneur and don’t really want to be,” I guarantee that somebody in your life whether it’s at least someone that you know that needs to hear this episode so please identify that person and share this with them so that you can help them. Elaine, let’s bring you on officially. Welcome to the Achieve Your Goals Podcast.
Elaine: Thank you so much, Hal. I’m really excited to join you today.
Hal: You are welcome, and the honor and excitement is definitely mutual. Let’s start at kind of at the beginning and that is or the beginning in terms of foundational question, why did you write this book? Why did you decide to write The Million‑Dollar, One‑Person Business and why now?
Elaine: It was a bit of an accident, Hal. I was writing my Forbes blog and you’re a writer, so you may relate to this. Like a lot of writers, I do a lot of my writing at the last minute.
Hal: I definitely relate to that.
Elaine: So, I’m always getting towards at the end of the month I write five blogs a month and I was looking for something to write about and I was poking around. I came across US Census Bureau Statistics on non-employer businesses. Those are businesses that have no employees other than the owners and government lingo, so they can be one-person businesses. Most of them are but some of them are partnerships. They might be two friends in a business or husband-and-wife team and I noticed something interesting that there was a subset of these businesses that was breaking 1 million in revenue and I thought, “Wow. This is really interesting,” because I know a lot of people in one-person businesses and they are not bringing in 1 million in revenue so what are they doing?
And I started looking at the census charts and you could see by the industry codes what industry they were in, so they might be retail, manufacturing, real estate, etcetera. I didn’t really have much more information than that and the Census Bureau doesn’t like to share it because they don’t want to give away people’s identity or what it exact businesses these are. So, I wrote a post about it and a lot of people wrote to me and said, “I want to know more about this. I need to start a million-dollar one-person business, but I need to know exactly what these people are doing,” and I had no way of finding it out, so I wrote to the readers and like in my blog I said, “If you’re one of these businesses, people are curious, please write to me and tell me what you’re doing.” So, they started writing to me and I had a group of four or five and I wrote a post about them and it went completely viral. It had over 300,000 page views and it profiled some of these businesses and they were really a variety of different types.
One person, Allen Walton, ran a spy camera store which he still runs online. Dan Mezheritsky runs a company called Fitness on the Go. He was an athlete in Canada and was injured and then became a personal trainer, built this scalable business with personal trainers who were employees, found that didn’t work out that well and then changed the business so that they were all contractors building their own business and it worked out great. He was in there. Rachel Charlupski has a company called The Babysitting Company where today I actually spoke with her recently. She has 2,500 babysitters as contractors and she scaled it to I think 11 different cities now. It was something that she started while she was still on a college campus. And so, it was just so interesting to see what they were doing and it touched off a journey where over the past few years I’ve been looking for these businesses and the more I write about them, the more I hear from them and profiling them for Forbes and CNBC and other publications and eventually an agent saw the post and contacted me and said, “I think this would be a great book,” and at that point I thought, “You know, it’s time.” And so that is how it came about.
Hal: I love that. And what’s neat about your journey it sounds like and I think diving kind of more into this is just the business as you mentioned so far there’s so much variety. It just shows there’s just not one way to create a seven-figure business or income. It’s not just Internet marketing. The babysitters for example, what a brilliant idea. It sounds that people can really follow their interest and their passion in a way that they can generate great income, but they can do it on their terms, doing something that they’re passionate about. Is that what you found that there was a lot of variety in the different businesses that were out there?
Elaine: Absolutely, Hal. That was what was so inspiring to me because no two businesses were alike. They were as individual as the owners and they were in so many fields. It was really encouraging to see that it wasn’t so much the type of business, but it was more the way they ran the business. I did feel after doing my research that there were six main categories that were most relevant to most people. I mean there are certain niche businesses that are so specialized that very few people can do them but the ones that were most accessible were in e-commerce manufacturing which believe it or not can be done by one-person; informational content creation, so that would be things like webcast, courses, e-books, etcetera; professional services which is the standard professional services firm; personal services so things like personal training or nutrition coaching or things like that; and then finally, real estate. But within those, there’s a lot of variety and there are also lots of businesses outside of those categories as well.
What’s been so exciting for me to see since I started covering this is the growth. So, there are now more than 35,000 of these businesses in the US and that number rose by 33% from 2011 to 2015 and I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg because most people have not been exposed to the ways that these entrepreneurs scale their revenue without adding employees and I believe there are a lot of smart people out there running small businesses who if they start to deploy these strategies can grow their revenue exponentially. It’s just very encouraging. It’s not a miracle type of thing where it’s going to happen overnight but when you use the strategies that they’ve used, you will grow your business.
Hal: I recently saw Russell Brunson. He’s been using in his marketing, he’s the founder of ClickFunnels which now it’s a multi-hundred-million-dollar business I think but his marketing was really interesting and I think it was a Facebook ad. I’ve seen it a few times and it said something along the lines, without looking at it, so I’m going off memory here which mine’s not the best, but it was something along the lines of the life you want, the business you want, what you want for your family – or I’m sorry. It was, “The life you want, the family you want,” it was all these personal things and it said, “all begins with you figuring out how to create the business that will give you that life and give your family that life and give you that freedom and give you those.”
And so, what I love about what you just shared, I mean, 35,000 that’s pretty incredible. That’s just the tip of the iceberg I think. It will be only a matter of years before it’s 350,000 and there’s probably not too long before there’s well over a million, million-dollar one-person businesses but that it really is about, and I know from experience that it gives you the lifestyle where you get to live life on your terms and you get to eat healthy foods no matter how much they cost essentially. I mean you get to be like for me now, I get to play with my kids in the morning and throughout the day when they’re home and in the evening. And so, in between calls and between working, I can go out and I can have that freedom to really live life on my terms and to me, that’s what this is about. Your book is not just teaching how do you create a million-dollar business. It’s how do you create the life of your dreams and I think that to me is really just a beautiful, beautiful thing and really a beautiful contribution that you’re making to the world in writing this book so thank you for writing it for that reason.
Elaine: Thank you so much, Hal. I do think more people want the things that you’re talking about and are going after them today. I think we went through a phase where the whole workaholic lifestyle was in vogue and people sort of bragged that they worked 90 or 100 hours a week but then I think people woke up as a society and said, “Hey, wait a minute, I only go through life once and I only have so much time. I don’t know how much time I have, and I have these people around me that I love and that I want to spend time with. I have interests that I want to pursue, and I may love my work, but I don’t want my work to be my whole life and to take up my whole day every single day and every day on the weekend too.” So, I think we’re seeing a hunger for information on how to make that happen and what we have also seen is that since the great recession, corporate jobs have gotten much more difficult for people.
A lot of companies have winnowed down the workforce. It never really rebuilt it so the people who are still there are working really crazy hours under a lot of pressure and they’re in a situation where the company may not have that much loyalty to them and they get to a certain age or a certain salary and sort of tap out in terms of what their cost is to the company and the company kind of forget until this person gave 25 years of their life to this company and make all kinds of sacrifices and then they’re gone and then the next round of layoffs. And so, I think people are saying, “Hey, does it really make sense for me to put all my eggs in that basket? Maybe it works for me for right now but maybe I need a side gig that I can transition into if that were to happen even though maybe I prefer to be on a corporate payroll,” because the benefits or whatever else the company brings to them and then you have other people that just like to work for themselves. They want autonomy and for so many reasons.
That was one thing that I found super interesting. You would have people who are in their 20s who maybe wanted to be digital nomads and travel the world and wanted a location independent business or young parents who want to spend time with their kids like you do or there were people that were in a pre-retirement or retirement phase where they just want more freedom. They don’t want to be pinned down to a job but they all had this sort of common lifestyle desires but the thing they need to achieve those dreams is some money. You don’t need a ton of money, but you do need some because otherwise, you can afford things like healthcare which is very expensive.
You’re self-employed. Unless you get it through a spouse or partner, you need to have a cushion to protect you in case of cash flow fluctuations. Sometimes everyone who’s in business knows this. Sometimes even your best clients may pay you late, and so you need to have some savings. Make sure that you can still pay your bills. You don’t get workers compensation if you, I’m sorry, unemployment insurance if your contract gig dries up. So, you have to protect yourself and the way to do that I found at the time when there’s very little being done on a society level to protect free agents, you have to build your own safety net and by increasing revenue, you really can do that and it’s not out of reach.
I should also say, Hal, I know you run a business but there may be people listening who don’t run a business, when you bring in $1 million in revenue, you don’t take home that million dollars. That’s not your income. Probably when all is said and done, taxes are paid, your overhead is paid, what you really take home would be between maybe $200,000 and $400,000 depending on whether you have inventory and other things. So, this is building a comfortable lifestyle, enough that you can save for retirement and go on vacation and travel and put your kids through college but it’s not a book about how to become a million overnight, but most people don’t even care about that. They don’t aspire to that. They just want to live their lives in peace and not under financial stress, so this is what the book is telling people how to do.
Hal: I couldn’t agree with you more. So much what you said, in fact, I wrote an article about this on it was at Entrepreneur.com a few years ago and I have a strong opinion about this and that in today’s economy and tomorrow’s economy, the idea that I think we have responsibility to ourselves and to our families to have multiple streams of income because as we’ve seen and as you just said, companies aren’t really loyal to their people, most companies, they’re looking at their bottom line, right? They’re making decisions based on the bottom line and as we’ve seen in the last economic crash which who knows when the next one’s coming but if you study economic trends, it’s overdue.
And back in 2008 when we had a big economic crash, millions of people that had great paying jobs that thought they were set for life or they were secure, they lost their jobs, they lost that income. And so, I really feel strongly especially if you have family but even just to take care of ourselves if we’re single is that we have a responsibility to create more than one source of income so that if we do lose our primary source of income, we have something else to fall back on and we can put our energy into the income source that is the most viable, that is the most reliable moving forward and that is your book that’s exactly what it’s going to give.
So, even if somebody doesn’t want to create, “Well, I don’t need a million-dollar business. I’m okay with $100,000 business.” Well, Elaine, I would imagine but would you say that the principles in the book are going to work for somebody whether they want to create a six-figure, a seven-figure or anywhere in between level business?
Elaine: Absolutely. And you’re right, Hal. Not everybody needs a million-dollar one-person business. You may have no dependence in which case your overhead may be a lot lower than somebody who has a family to save for college with the astronomical college costs, etcetera. So, that number will be different for each person, but I do think the folks in the book who got to 1 million have a lot to teach all of us and folks in smaller businesses who don’t have that aspiration can still leverage your time more effectively by using the strategies in the book. So, for instance, one of the common things I saw throughout the businesses across industries was a willingness to automate routine tasks.
A lot of us say we’re going to do this and we never get around to it, but these folks are masters of using inexpensive free tools sometimes to automate boring time wasters in their business. It might be things like just attaching your business bank account and business credit card to your QuickBooks or FreshBooks, so you don’t have to manually enter things. It might be using a scheduling app like Calendly or ScheduleOnce so that you can just send a link to your colleagues who you want to make an appointment with that shows your public schedule instead of emailing back and forth six times with each person.
Hal: Oh my gosh. Yes, ScheduleOnce changed my world for that reason is being able to send out that link. In fact, that’s what we use to schedule I think our time today but sorry to interrupt.
Elaine: I’m a raving fan of ScheduleOnce too. That thing saves me at least two or three hours every week because I set up about 20 appointments a week sometimes and it’s an unbelievable time saving that I don’t have any regrets about not doing that myself. A mileage tracker, I use Everlance on my phone instead of writing all the numbers down every time you get in a car and forgetting about it half the time. It just automatically does it. And if you can free up one day a week to focus on higher-level activities in your business by finding apps to do routine things for you, you’ll be amazed at how much more you get out of your business because you really as the owner of a business and I think we all know this, we should be thinking about strategy and marketing and how to win new business and how to increase our profit levels but if you’re constantly in the weeds and you’re constantly just churning out projects, you never have that mental distance to really think about the big picture and then all of a sudden a year has gone by and you’re in the exact same place you were.
So, these folks gave themselves some breathing room. The other thing was that although they did not have employees, a lot of times they would use contractors, so they weren’t teaching themselves how to do web design or bookkeeping. They would just hire a pro as they had the cash flow to support it. It wasn’t always something where they could hire the five pros that they needed the first year. They would maybe dip a toe in the water and just hire the bookkeeper the first year and then they’re doing a web redesign so why not bring in a pro then? But they weren’t trying to do every single little thing themselves and these are not even little things. Those are important things that have to be done right.
The other thing that was kind of interesting was outsourcing which is a little different than using contractors. So, one fellow in the book, Harry Ein, is a young dad. He lives in California and he runs a company called Perfection Promo which sells swag so we’re talking about those pins that have a company’s name on it or you go to a hotel and it has t-shirt that has a brand on it. And he brings in $3.5 million to $4 million in revenue a year from his garage and the reason he’s able to do that is he uses a back-office service called iPROMOTEu that caters to other salespeople in his field on things like sending out invoicing and collections and that sort of thing. So, he doesn’t have to deal with that at all.
There was another fellow in the book, Chris Cadigan, who runs a Unishippers franchise on Long Island, New York and he uses a service that does his back-office and, in fact, he liked it so much that he became a partner in it and wound up providing as part of that team to other franchisees. So, when you think about it in a franchise, you think, “Oh, you’re not going to have a lot of freedom to do things your own way. They have all the systems in place.” He actually found a way to do his own individual thing to make the business more efficient.
So, if you just do those three things, you’ll definitely free up one day a week where you can focus on things that will move the needle on your revenue and profits and bring you closer to that lifestyle that you were talking about, Hal, where you can play with your kids and you can do the things that you enjoy and you can afford to buy healthy foods no matter how much they cost which is expensive actually. You have a family and a lot of people can’t. So, those are tremendous things that will really enhance your life, but it takes a little bit of planning and thinking about it and that’s what these people did that makes them different from other people in one-person businesses who aren’t scaling their revenue in that way.
Hal: Got you. No, that’s great. I’m curious. Why are more one-person businesses and partnerships hitting a million in annual revenue now than in the past? I mean you mentioned hitting 35,000. Well, what is driving that trend?
Elaine: I believe it’s technology because if you go back about I would say the 12 to 15 years, I remember, well, I started my business 10 years ago and I remember advising one of my clients that he couldn’t really build a good website for his business for less than $50,000. That’s what it actually costs 10 years ago.
Hal: Wow. $50,000 to build a website?
Elaine: Yeah. And because you needed a team. You had to bring in a team and he needed some bells and whistles and I think he needed a shopping cart. Now, all these things my kids can put up a website and an afternoon for me. They do it for school all the time. So, it’s brought the barriers to entry down. The other thing is like say you wanted to do a tech-related business. You start to buy a server. I don’t even know what a server cost, but it was not cheap. Now, you don’t need to buy a server. Everything lives in the cloud.
Marketing automation is out there so there are great CRM, customer relationship management software out there that you can use to build a mailing list. A lot of the people in the book took time over a number of years to build a really good mailing list of people that engage with their company, thereby buying or having an inquiry, and kept in touch with them so when they had news about a new product or something they were doing, they could easily reach out. Facebook advertising, pay-per-click on Google, LinkedIn, etcetera, depending on your business, that’s accessible to the average person.
So, all these tools have sort of come together at one time plus I think societal attitudes are changing and that a lot of people would like to be self-employed or maybe they don’t want to be, but they’ve been thrust into a situation where they are. Maybe their company let go of them during the recession and they’ve never been able to kind of get back into that traditional career track. So, now they’re a self-employed consultant or independent practitioner and they want to do more to make their life more stable and so they’re hungry for the information so they’re receptive I think also.
Hal: Well, was there any business that you in any entrepreneur that you interviewed where their business surprised you? Like, what was the most surprising business like you’re like, “Wow, what an interesting business. I never would’ve thought of that or I never would’ve thought that you get to $1 million in that type of business?” Any one thing you discovered that kind of fit that mold?
Elaine: Well, there are a lot of businesses in that category. I had a really interesting conversation with the business broker, David Fairley, who I interviewed for the book and he was telling me about businesses that he actually sold for up to the seven figures. So, he said there were businesses selling muck boots which are for slugging through the mud, fairy figurines, decorative mailbox flags, fireplace screens, gumballs, origami materials. So, I mean, what was so interesting was there were little communities around the world around any niche interest, probably no matter how niche it is, and what he told me which I think is a powerful lesson for one-person businesses and partnerships is that’s your strength. If you’re sort of geeking out on a subject and there aren’t a lot of other people who are, you can become the person in that niche and your customers and followers were really appreciate that you shared their passion. And it’s something that you can do that’s different from the big Amazons of the world who are big corporations.
You’re a real person that the customer can deal with face-to-face maybe or by email or on your website and share your passion and your knowledge and expertise. So, that’s so exciting I think for the one-person business that you can transform these interests into a high revenue business. I mean, there were so many sort of accidental businesses in the book, it’s hard to choose one but one of the businesses is a honey business, an organic honey business. It’s called Royal Hawaiian Honey and the founder is Rebeca Krones and Luis Zevallos, a married couple. Her father is a beekeeper and he was selling the bees to farms but not doing too much with the honey, so they were in other fields. She had studied art history and he was in the restaurant industry. They decided to build a business around organic honey and at that time there was sort of been an issue with adulterated honey, having toxins in it and that sort of thing in the US so they distinguished themselves by having honey where people knew the origins of it and that business has done really well. It was just sort of happens then type of thing where that her father was a beekeeper, but they looked at the situation in their life and that they found an opportunity in their life.
Another person in the book, Sol Orwell, runs a site called Examine.com and he was trying to lose weight and he started researching nutrition and vitamins and things like that and he felt there was not a good source of accurate data on the supplements he wanted to take so he started hiring PhDs and nutrition researchers who write reports on individual vitamins and supplements and built this seven-figure site around selling these reports. And that’s something where you think, “Well, are there that many people that would buy these reports?” but there were, and he had kind of built up a presence on Reddit commenting on this passion for knowing about nutrition. So, I think folks who have an interest like that where you just go totally walking on it, you might have a business and you built around it.
Hal: What I love about your book is or one of the things I love about it is that going through it, there are so many. You interviewed so many entrepreneurs. There are so many different types of businesses started by people from all different walks of life, all different ages, all different backgrounds and it’s really one of those, “Wow. If they can do it, I can do it too.” You know what I mean? Like, that for me as one of the most important beliefs for us to adopt is if another human being has accomplished something, that doesn’t mean they’re better than me or they’re different than me. That’s evidence of what’s possible for me.
And your book does such a great job at giving there are so many different types of businesses and entrepreneurs that it’s just like a constant thought jogger like, “Ooh, wait. That’s interesting. I could do something like that with my expertise.” That’s one of the things I found is just constantly you’re thinking it really stimulated your thinking. I think that’s a really kind of a neat side benefit or byproduct of all the different entrepreneurs you interviewed is that it gives people reading that might go, “Yeah. I’d love a million-dollar business, but I have no idea what business I would start.” By the end of this, you’re probably going to have at least a dozen different ideas that you can write down based on just relating to or connecting the dots with the businesses in the book and then with some type of business that you might start as the reader. So, I thought that was really cool.
Elaine: I’m really glad to hear that, Hal. I do have some exercises in the back because I found that when I was working on the book and I would tell people what I was writing, and it would say, “I would love to do this, but I can’t come up with an idea. How do I come up with an idea?” So, interviewed the entrepreneurs in the book to ask them about how they came up with their idea and sometimes the advice, “Do what you love, the money will follow,” isn’t the best advice that you want to create a million-dollar one person. Well, sometimes your passions are not meant to be monetized. You have things that we do as volunteers or just for fun that we do to relax ourselves and we don’t want to worry about making money from them but one thing you can do is talk to the people around you because sometimes you may have gifts that you don’t even realize could become a business. I mean, everyone has something that they do that people say, “Well, that’s so great like you make these fantastic cupcakes. You should turn that into a business.” Or whatever it may be, or you give great advice about fixing cars or whatever. There’s probably somebody out there on YouTube who’s created a million-dollar channel just showing that.
There was one woman I interviewed actually. She’s not in the book but she likes using drugstore beauty products. She’s a young mom. She’s got two little kids and wanted to work from home and she wound up creating these videos about how to use things like a curling iron that she bought at the drugstore or Maybelline cosmetics and look great and she got sponsors lined up and now she’s able to run a business from her home. Sometimes her kids and her husband are on the screen and it works out beautifully. So, those little passions that we have can really turn into something big if we want them to. But I would encourage anybody who doesn’t have a sense of where to start, there are some exercises in the appendix that will help you start asking yourself the right questions about what your interests are.
There was one couple in the book, Ben and Camille Arneberg, who went through several iterations of running a business together before they found the right one. Sometimes that’s necessary. So, their business now is Willow & Everett. It’s an internet store on Amazon where they sell housewares for parties. They love entertaining and so they curated a collection of items that they like, like brass mugs and things like that. But to get to that point, they went through a thought process. He was in the military and he’s involved in jumping out of airplanes with a parachute, very athletic and she’s very athletic too and they both love running. She’s also a personal trainer and they started out selling running compression sleeves. It’s like a little band that goes around your arm for holding things and it didn’t sell well. So, they regrouped, and they said, “Okay. What are our other interests?” And Camille has a photography business on the side, but they didn’t want to do that together because that was something separate. They wanted something they were both interested in.
So, then they thought, “Okay, well Camille has an interest in painting,” but that’s something private that she just does for herself and the home entertaining was something they did together, and they started testing their idea to see if they actually were onto something, so they ordered a small group of products. They put in about $5,000 and said, “This is like a college course. We’re going to learn from this no matter what even if we lose all the money.” And then when they saw what sold, they doubled down on that and then the items that didn’t sell well, they sold at a discount and use that money to keep on fueling the business. So, that might be what happens to people. You might not get it right for the first time, so it helps to save up a little bit of money like they did so that you can experiment a little, but you may have to sort of take inventory of your personal interest and think about, “Okay. If customers were calling me with questions about this subject, how would I feel as answering the hundredth question about it?”
Like, Allen Walton really loves spy cameras. He worked in a spy camera store before starting his store, became like a graduate education in the best spy cameras and he enjoys them. For someone like me who’s not very camera-oriented, I would find that overwhelming. I wouldn’t know how to answer the question. So, you have to find something that you have an aptitude for that you like that you like reading up on all the time and staying current on. There’s a lot to it but fortunately, you don’t have to do it in one day.
Hal: Yeah. And the beauty of that is that when you find something you enjoy doing, I talked to my daughter about this the other day, she’s eight years old and she’s going to a school that kind of teaches her how to be an entrepreneur at eight.
Elaine: Wow. That’s awesome.
Hal: It’s amazing. You should look it up. You love it. It’s Acton Academy and I don’t know if it’s ActonAcademy.org or .com. I think it’s .org but it’s the most amazing school I’ve ever seen. But in fact, actually, Elaine, if you go back a few episodes ago, we interviewed the founders of Acton Academy, Jeff and Laura Sandefer. If you go back to the episode of The Achieve Your Goals Podcast, you can listen in their interview and it’s just fascinating on why they started a school and what the school is doing. I believe it’s going to change the world. So, you mentioned I want to ask just one more, let’s wrap this up with one more question and you mentioned a few minutes ago that following your passion may not always be the best idea because you may or may not be able to monetize your passion. So, what advice would you give to someone who is not happy in their job and would like to start a business around their passion?
Elaine: What I would say is talk with as many people as you can who run a business, tell them what you’re hoping to do and get their input. If you don’t know a lot of entrepreneurs, I think there are a lot of people like a government career or corporate career who aren’t around entrepreneurs. It can be a little isolating and you can feel like you’re the wacky one who wants to start a business and people might feel what you’re doing is too risky. I would say don’t quit the job. Do some research. Go to meetups in your community or a business group and hear what people have to say and start asking questions and start. If it’s a brick-and-mortar type of business, start visiting businesses in that space and see how they run and talk to the owners because real people in those fields will give you the unvarnished truth.
It’s easy to get pumped up listening to podcasts and reading entrepreneurship books and we need that enthusiasm because it’s hard to run a business. And so, if you’re always sort of dealing with the tough parts, you won’t be inspired enough to keep going but you also need to know what you’re getting into and hearing all the realities might make you alert to a pain point in this whole industry that you’re thinking about where you can solve a problem. So, I’d say just talk to real people. They’re online. They’re everywhere and find out what it’s really like to do that type of business. Even if you decide not to do what you originally thought, it will definitely point you toward something that you might enjoy if you keep on going with it. Don’t give up if you don’t figure it out right away.
Hal: Great advice. And I would say maybe even a faster way to implement the advice, Elaine, that you just gave for people is read The Million‑Dollar, One‑Person Business because the equivalent of talking to dozens of business owners about what’s working, what’s not working, what they tried, what they failed at, what they learned from that, how they pivoted, what they changed, etcetera. Everybody listening, the book is The Million‑Dollar, One‑Person Business, make great money, work the way you like, have the life you want by Elaine Pofeldt. I encourage you to go get it on – Elaine, what’s the best place to buy the book?
Elaine: You can buy it on Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com or in a Barnes and Noble and other major bookstore.
Hal: Awesome. Well, hey, you are delightful. You’re a very pleasant person to chat with. I really enjoyed our conversation today. Thank you so much.
Elaine: Thank you so much, Hal. You ask great questions. I really enjoyed it.
Hal: Awesome. Well, we will be in touch soon. And Achieve Your Goals Podcast listeners, thank you for tuning in to my first episode back as the host of The Achieve Your Goals Podcast or I should say the cohost because Jon Berghoff I think I’ll still let him run half of the episodes at least if not more. But anyway, I love you. Thank you for being a loyal listener. Thank you again on a side note for your love, your support, your prayers over the last year or so and they were answered, and I could not be more grateful for you and being part of the Miracle Morning Community, part of the Achieve Your Goals Community and I will talk to you next week. Take care, everybody.
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