July 26, 2022

Why A Little Mental Turbulence Can Be a Good Thing for Early-Stage Startups

a stack of entrepreneurship books
By: Sarah Williamson


After welcoming each new cohort of idea-driven participants to Entrepreneurial Mindset Training, facilitator Joel Barrett issues a warning: Turbulence Ahead. 

Barrett is a business development consultant with the Missouri Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He and his colleagues use the Ice House model to redefine entrepreneurship as the self-directed pursuit of opportunities to create value for others by discovering and solving problems—and he has firsthand experience with the mental disorientation this shift can bring about. 

“The Entrepreneurial Mindset Training is aptly named because it really did challenge how I think about everything,” Barrett said, reflecting on his own introduction to the Ice House model four years ago. “It has changed my approach to problem solving instead of solution building, which is so contrary to how most entrepreneurship is taught.” 

A Personal Perspective

As a small business owner, Barrett said, “I tend to think things through with an entrepreneurial mindset now. I am a creative person, and in the past, I would have been like, ‘Here’s what we should do’—but without any proof that it was actually solving the problem. So the Ice House model really opened my eyes, and I feel the same thing happens with my students.”

For some participants, this sense of disorientation can be so intense that they drop out partway through the training. “I warn them on the first day that this is going to cause turbulence in your mind. It’s going to challenge your thinking,” Barrett said. “I tell them to hang in there. Know you’re going to feel that way, but it will smooth out, and you’re going to have a better understanding.”

Ongoing Support for Startups and Beyond

The Missouri SBDC at UMKC offers the Entrepreneurial Mindset Training once per year at around $650. Participants can partially or entirely offset with scholarships. Barrett explained that there are three equally successful outcomes:
1. Participants feel equipped to get their business going.
2. Participants realize they need to tweak their idea or go in another direction.
3. Participants decide to get a full-time job because the entrepreneurial path isn’t for them.

It’s just one of the training programs offered through ELEVATIONLAB, the overarching collection of all classes and workshops at the Missouri SBDC at UMKC. They’re divided according to business stages: Spark for startups, Scale for growth, and Surge for technology and innovation. 

Barrett and his colleagues work with hundreds of companies annually, either through training programs or one-on-one coaching. For example, in 2021 alone, the Missouri SBDC at UMKC helped launch 57 new businesses and increase sales by $28.5 million. 

Prior to the pandemic, they hosted a reunion of past participants. It was so popular that they’re planning another for the fall of 2022. “People came out of the woodwork because they want to stay in touch,” Barrett said. 

The organization fosters this sense of connection through interactions within courses as well as the ongoing relationships it builds with entrepreneurs and small business owners. “Once they become a client, we’re there for them for life,” Barrett said. 

To learn more about the Missouri SBDC at UMKC and its Entrepreneurial Mindset Training using the Ice House model, read this case study.