How To Become An Entrepreneur: Convincing Yourself To Take Action And The Key To Behavioral Change

I’ve been helping would be entrepreneurs for nearly eight years now and one thing I’ve discovered is that you can’t really push someone to take the entrepreneurial plunge.

Either you have the desire to start your own business or you don’t and most people can’t get over the uncertainty that’s involved with how to become an entrepreneur.

A while back, I went through several months worth of email for and came to the conclusion that most people get stuck on 2 main things when starting their business.

One, they can’t come up with a good business idea and two, they aren’t confident that they can succeed.

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I Can’t Come Up With An Idea


In fact, one commonality I found interesting is that most would be entrepreneurs are self-deprecating.

  • “I’m not that creative. How am I going to come up with something unique?”
  • “The market is saturated already with what I want to do. Should I even bother?”.
  • “I don’t think I have the skills to take on the competition.”

If you fall into this category, then I highly recommend that you go and read Seth Godin’s book “The Purple Cow” for some inspiration.

Here’s the thing that most people don’t realize.

As long as there is demand in your niche and customers with money to spend, what you ultimately decide to sell doesn’t really matter as long as you make your business “remarkable” in some way.

Choose products that you are interested in and put your own unique spin on it. I’ve personally sold many different things in the past and the one thing that I’ve found is that you can sell almost anything if you position it correctly for a specific audience.

Even if your niche is already crowded, the amount of competition doesn’t matter as long as you can stand out.

If you take a closer look at our wedding linens business, my wife and I essentially sell wedding favors on our online store which is a saturated and competitive market.

One quick browse on Etsy instantly reveals thousands of competing products. Not only that, but many of these items are listed at substantially lower prices too!

In fact, I often get emails from readers wondering how we can make so much selling such a small niche product.

But despite the competition, we’ve managed to carve out a healthy 6 figure profit which has been growing in the double and triple digits every single year since 2007.

I also want to emphasize that everyone is creative. Maybe you’ve gotten too used to working a day job where your boss simply tells you what to do and you don’t have to think that much.

Maybe you are simply out of practice. Set aside some time to brainstorm and exercise those muscles instead of complaining about it.

Solve Your Own Problems


If you often struggle with finding business ideas, the best way to move forward is to simply look at your own everyday problems.

My friend Albert Lee wanted to lose weight and discovered that it was really difficult to keep track of his calorie consumption from the foods that he ate.

So he started the most comprehensive nutrition database online at MyFitnessPal which later sold for over 400 million dollars. Click here to listen to his story

When my wife knew that she was going to cry like a baby at our wedding but couldn’t find a place to buy handkerchiefs, we knew that we were onto something. Click here to listen to our story

When my buddy Greg Mercer had difficulty with his product research on Amazon, he created Jungle Scout for his own personal use and later decided to release it as a product.

In my post on how to find the best products to sell online, I discuss various tools that you can use to discover profitable niches to sell into if you are stuck.

But often times, the best products to sell online are the ones that you personally need the most and don’t require ANY tools.

The simpler the better!

In a recent podcast episode, my friend Chris Boerner started selling pill holders online because she wanted a fashionable way to carry her medicine.

Pill holders!!! That’s almost as silly as selling handkerchiefs!

Remember, you are never alone. If you have a problem, then chances are other people do too so scratch your own itch!

I’m Not Sure That I Can Succeed


Overcoming doubt is huge part of the entrepreneurial process but doing research will only take you so far. Having confidence in your business idea is largely based on knowledge but at some point you need to just take a chance and go for it.

The good thing about running a business online is that it doesn’t cost very much money at all to begin. So why not just throw something up and see what happens? This isn’t like the old days when you had to take out a business loan to start a brick and mortar store.

We’re talking hundreds of dollars, not tens of thousands. There really is no excuse. If you don’t succeed, tweak your idea or start something else.

My wife and I started with $630 dollars and turned it into a six figure profit in a year.

My student Jen Depaoli started her online store for less than $100 and now makes over $50k/month. Click here to listen to her story

Abby Walker (another student) spent several thousand dollars to start her insole business which now makes 6 figures per month. Click here to listen to her story

Toni Anderson invested $1500 into her business and ended up making $190K in her first 7 months. Click here to read more about her story

Starting an online business often involves taking a small risk for the potential of an oversized payout. The expected value calculations are almost always in your favor.

How To Become And Entrepreneur


Early on when my wife and I were brainstorming business ideas, that’s essentially all we did for a very long time….we talked about it. We got stuck in an endless loop of research and couldn’t push ourselves to take the plunge for the same reasons outlined above.

But then something miraculous happened. For starters, my wife became pregnant which put us under time pressure and gave us a sense of urgency. But the real key to our behavorial change occurred when we started talking to other entrepreneurs and shop owners.

In fact, I remember having a very specific conversation with a former college classmate of mine from Stanford about some of my ingenious business ideas. Looking back every idea I came up with was kind of silly, the kind of business ideas that would never make more than some weekend spending cash.

When it was my friend’s turn to talk about what he was up to, he casually told me that his side business was on track to make over 500K in profit this year. And I was completely flabbergasted.

This whole time, I had thought that his online business was just a pet project that made no money but here he was spouting out numbers that seemed way beyond what I believed that I could ever make.

In fact, his business success made me uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to say because he seemed like he was in another league.

What particularly resonated with me was that my friend was a classmate, a peer of mine, and someone who I considered an equal. If he could start a website on the side while working a full time job, then I could as well.

Once I realized this, I got a huge boost of confidence and started asking my friend a flood of questions about his business.

And after hanging out with him some more, I came to the conclusion that I needed to think about my future business on a much grander scale.

Your Environment Is Important


What’s interesting to point out here is that your perception of business success and money are all based on your current context.

Your goals and your potential are largely determined by the people you spend the most time with and how you were brought up.

If I hadn’t spoken with my friend that day, I might still be wasting time on ideas that would only make me a few hundred bucks a month.

In fact, the secret to behavioral change is to hang out with the right people, people who will inspire you to try new things and who will push you harder.

Your mindset and your limits are all relative to your environment. If all of your friends work in dead end day jobs, then chances are you will too.

Instead of making excuses and self-deprecating comments, start talking to people who start businesses all the time. I guarantee you that you will get inspired and start believing that what was once an impossible task will now be within your grasp.

Initially, you might feel inferior or uncomfortable but getting over these feelings is the only way to grow.

photo credit: jseliger2 frustration-1081 Rubik’s cube solve Have You Seen My Keys? Chocolate coins

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?

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About Steve Chou

Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at

His blog,, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times,  Entrepreneur and MSNBC.  

He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.

In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts

To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store,, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.  

Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses. 

44 thoughts on “How To Become An Entrepreneur: Convincing Yourself To Take Action And The Key To Behavioral Change”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Starting A Business: Convincing Yourself To Take Action And The Key To Behavioral Change | --
  2. Tyler WebCPA says:

    You seem like such a takes-charge and gets-things-done kind of guy that it was refreshing to hear you admit that you were uncomfortable and intimidated by your friends success. I think that it is key that you told him about what you plans were and discussed your plans with him, as without that you never would have found out how well he was doing and have had the chance to learn from him. It is a fine line to be confident enough in yourself to share your ideas openly and yet humble enough to see the opportunity to learn more.
    A thought for future blog posts; I would love to hear some more success stories about how you and perhaps others you have worked with got started in online stores, what the obstacles to success they faced and how they overcame them. Success is so inspirational!

    1. Steve says:

      I’ll take your suggestion to heart. I have several close friends and acquaintances who have started great businesses all while working a full time job. BTW, I’m not always a takes-charge get-things-done guy. Ask my wife. She’s always complaining how I never take charge to clean up the house more or take out the trash:)

  3. Jeff L. says:

    “Your goals and your potential are largely determined by the people you spend the most time with and how you were brought up.”

    I guess it is time to find new people to hang out with… Most of my friends are employees, and most of them think spending money on a web store is just a waste of money. They think save up and buy house or invest in 401k is the “safe” way to go.

    For me, I just hate the 9~6 everyday schedule, but I think it is really hard for people to even try to get out of the “rat race”. We always hear 9 out of 10 business fails, and most of them fail within first 3 years. There are many “fact” out there discouraging people to start a business.

    Your blog really helps on boosting confidence and gives a good guidance for me.


    1. Steve says:

      Looks like you have your act together. Your store looks pretty good already and with a few tweaks, you ‘ll be making money in no time. 9 out of 10 business failing is just some stupid statistic that represents the average. Don’t be average.

  4. Alexa Samuels says:

    Bravo, Steve!

    Your friend from Toronto,

    1. Steve says:

      Good to hear from you!

      Practically all of my entrepreneurial friends have surpassed my wife and I in terms of revenue but not in terms of lifestyle. There are always certain tradeoffs that we have to make and we have to accept them. But it is always interesting to share each others tactics and success stories intimidating or not

  5. Carla | Green and Chic says:

    That is so true. I was brought up to believe that all I can and should do is complete school, maybe do some vocational school to get a “good job”. Boy were we wrong! Back in the early ’90s when I was in high school, we all had no clue were the economy would end up today.

    Thankfully, my associates are very supportive of my business, but its sometimes difficult to let go of those old patterns.

    I can see how hearing someone else’s success stories can be a bit intimidating. I know of someone whose business totally took off and surpasses anything that I have been able to accomplish and her business is only four months older than mine.

  6. Carmen says:

    I have to say, “Great minds think alike”. I did a post last fall on behavioral change called 6 Stages to Successfully Design Your Lifestyle ( I talked about the stages of change as defined by Prochaska and used the exact same photo you used on this post!

    You’ve got a lot of great things to say about the mind game involved in being an entrepreneur. I enjoyed reading the post!

    1. Steve says:

      @Carmen The Nomad
      What a coincidence! And we chose the same photo from Flickr too? What are the chances of that happening? Thanks for sharing your article. I’ll go and check it out now.

      Thanks! I’ve meaning to incorporate my son in the header as well but he’s still young and not as cooperative in front of the camera.

  7. A-ron says:

    While I agree that hanging out with the “right” people can definitely boost your confidence and motivation, it’s best to start DOING the things that put you line to meet the right people. It’s like the chicken before the egg (or is it the egg before the chicken?). Waiting for the right folks to come into your life isn’t going to bring them into your life.

    I take myself as an example. I don’t have any friends that I hang out with on a regular basis who are driving towards the same goals as me. Most of my friends are cube lifers, and their perfectly happy being docile little servants. But what I am doing is putting me in line to meet those folks who have the same aspirations as me. Online communities are also an effective means of meeting people who are in the same boat (like this here kick ass blog!).

    I’ve learned that you have two choices: you can choose to wish, wonder, and dream or you can choose to act on your desires. Trust me, once you start creating some small victories for yourself, the motivation and passion will come. The key is to get busy creating.

    1. Steve says:

      You know what they say…..You always get more motivated and passionate when you start kicking ass. Most people are passionate about what they are good at and it’s just a matter of getting to that same level with their business.

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  9. Gourab Nanda says:

    Great article. Start-ups need to think big at the initial stages of their business. They should have a growth plan and select vendors keeping in mind that the need might increase.

  10. Mandy says:

    It’s hard to start a small business and keep it going, especially when you feel you don’t have time nor money to spend on marketing or advertising your business, let alone doing everything else. I’ve found an inexpensive tool called that teaches businesses the ins and outs of marketing and advertising. You should check it out for yourself. It might help.

  11. Carol Dunlop says:

    Your blog posts are so inspiring and really hit home with me. I am in the middle of creating my online store and finding this blog and reading your posts have helped and are continuing to help me so much.

  12. Jeremy Day says:

    Hi Steve,

    This is awesome insight and advice! You know, the funny thing is that we all know that what you say is true, yet we don’t do much about it….

    We sit in our comfort zones…

    We never force ourselves to get around people that are doing the things we want to do…

    Our brains are more powerful then we could ever know, and if we could just let ourselves dream a bit, and see that what we wish could become reality, then the world could truly be ours….


  13. Mark Dykeman says:

    Just as an aside: one of the best books about making changes in your life (or in organizations) that I’ve read is Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Rock Your Day (a blog) also has good tips about this topic.

  14. Mei Velas-Suarin says:

    Hi Steve! We have been lucky enough to receive your E-Book about starting an online business. Thank you so much! We have started an e-shop last year and although we are not there ‘yet,’ we know we just have to be patient and continue believing in our vision.

    Thank you for all the sound advice and the sharing of your experiences! For would-be entrepreneurs out there: It is really a difficult path to take but with patience and hard work, you will definitely reap the rewards later.

    All the best to all!

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  18. Ricky says:

    Inspiring post Steve, fear is biggest resistant of creativity and innovation.

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  20. Jameson says:

    I found this site through the blog roll of a Semmy winner, but anyway I like how more people realize that environment does matter and that you are a by product of it. It is of course not the only thing that matters but I remember getting frowned at by people who knew/thought nothing of details like that. You must come up with a game plan and get started, more details will fall into play as things get rolling.

  21. Feng shui says:

    Its always challenging to step into the unknown, especially when starting up a business that you’ve never tried before.

    Well, its worth the risk my friends!

    Muren @
    feng shui master, singaporere

  22. Jamie Dolan says:

    This article has inspired me to go ahead and start again. I’ve been debating about if I should try again or not for a long time after I lost about 500,000 on my last venture. But what you said about getting customers even in a saturated market is what I needed to hear.


    p.s. I apologize if this is a duplicate comment, I tried to post from my Ipod and it kept coming up as a blank pages when I submitted it.

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  24. hire a virtual assistants says:

    I get inspired on this blog, I learn something, thanks for sharing this very elegant and beautiful inspiration blog you have, great job.

  25. Kevin Saunders says:

    I can’t agree with you more regarding the two reasons why we are not all making money online. I always think that I have great ideas. I research them and find a little competition and my dreams are on to my next idea. I have a few ideas that keep sticking and I keep going back to them. What would you say is important to determine before you make the plunge and start? Passion, so you stick with it?

    What I have realized lately is that you have to start something that you know you will do or can do for a certain time period. This will give the idea a shot to be successful. A good way to see we’re something started and where is is now, is to look at websites when they started and how they progressed. It is a good representation of a good real life example.

    Do you have any other money generator besides bubblebee linens and this blog? How did you determine the name of your linen business?


  26. kuzabiashara says:

    Only a strong foundation can support an enduring business growth. Get your basics right. Once the business gains pace and you gain control on the way forward, success is sure to follow.

  27. Julia says:

    Steve, I admire the fact that you grew two businesses so successfully while still having a full time job. That’s a huge feat! I totally feel the “is this idea going to work?” Question.
    Another fear that can stop me in my tracks is comparisonitis. Oooh boy. I look at my work or my website and think “so and so’s website is SO much better. Mine sucks. I should give up now.” Did you struggle with that at all?

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  31. Joseph lasalle says:

    My friends and I want to start a successful business but it not working out we live in a area with a bunch of 40 and up people who need help but it not going as we plan. What are we doing wrong. at the beginning stages. How do we start it off after the idea we made $200 in the last year we need tips on how we do make it pass the 2nd stage

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  33. Adriana @MoneyJourney says:

    Most of my friends are indeed stuck at dead end jobs, but knowing just the right people has helped realize a 9 to 5 job is not “a must”.

    My best friend has been successfully working from home for the last 15 years. My dad has failed many times at being an entrepreneur, but he kept trying until he found his niche.

    Personally knowing successful business people can help a great deal, because you see first hand how being your own boss is not only possible, but better than working for someone else too.

  34. Nate Alger says:

    Thanks Steve, it’s people like you that have propelled me forward in my business ventures. I have finally stopped studying entrepreneurship and am actually taking action.

    Even though I haven’t made much, I feel like I have a plan in place to get my side projects to full-time ventures like you soon.

  35. Amy says:

    Wow I really needed to read this today. The products for my Amazon idea arrived last weekend and I’ve spent the last few days just staring at them thinking, “This will never work. What am I even doing?”

    This post has helped snap me back into my take the plunge mindset. Thank you, Steve. 🙂

  36. Carmina says:

    Hello Steve, I’ve been following your blog for quite some time. Today is my first time leaving a comment, and first I want to thank you for sharing your journey in building successful ecommerce businesses. You inspired and motivated a lot of people, including myself. I’m so grateful.

  37. CHIbuzor Bioseh says:

    I am starting a non-profit organization. And I read that I should run it like a business. Do you have any experience with non-profits?

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