From High School Basketball Legend to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

From High School Basketball Legend to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

Check out the latest episode below. Mr.Biz Radio provides business owners with the knowledge and insights needed to drive their companies forward.

Mr. Biz Radio: Ask Mr. Biz - Why Do So Many Start-ups Fail?

Unedited transcription of the show is included below:

Welcome to Mr. Biz Radio Biz Talk for biz owners during the next half hour, Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth, a leading business advisor, and two time bestselling author we'll cover topics that will help business owners run their companies more profitably and more efficiently. If you're ready to stop faking the funk and take your business onward and upward, this show is for you. And now here's Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth.

All Right. Welcome to another episode of Mr. Biz Radio with me, Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth. And this week, you guys are going to love this. So we have another first for the show. We always like to do that, right. We like to curate our guests, provide new experiences new backgrounds, new approaches to different things. And I can tell you for sure, in almost five years of going the show, we, we definitely have a first for this one. So our guests this week as a Midwestern girl was born in the Midwest, I should say played collegiate basketball. So a college athlete, very mad props for that. Right. Very difficult to do. And she's the founder of Project Aspire. And the first for our show is that she is a former Mrs. America. So without further ado, welcome to the show, Marney Andes.

Thanks, Ken. Thanks so much for having me. I had no idea I was what the first was going to be, but as you went into the introduction, I thought, okay, I must be the first former Mrs. America you've had. Yes. Yes.

It's interesting. You know, the F again, to find people with different backgrounds and it's, for me, it's just fascinating to talk with folks about their, their backgrounds and knowing some of their accomplishments. Like again it's a good segue actually into, you know, the first thing I want to talk to you about is tell us about your entrepreneurial journey growing up and, and how'd you get to where you're at now and writing your book, start with the, give me shots. Walk us through that if you wouldn't mind.

So can I, I always tell people first and foremost, I'm a born and bred Nebraska farm girl. And, you know, obviously as we go into the book, I'll, I'll share a lot more, you know, the lessons and so forth, but those were lessons that I learned from my dad, not just growing up on a farm, but also working on the farm. I worked many summers with my dad in the fields driving combines. And I really think that that's where my entrepreneurial background and journey started was with my dad, because you know, that wasn't just a job that was being part of what essentially put food on the table. What, you know, what was our livelihood. So, you know, when you think about early on about your own businesses or how you've started your own businesses, or now how you're leading businesses that think like a business owner was ingrained in me very, very early on because I took ownership and all of that, anything I helped my dad with anything I was doing for the first time on the farm with him.

I mean, that was all because this was our business and this was what was required. And there really wasn't. Any, anything that my dad quite honestly, into there, there wasn't anything that he was afraid for me to try to do. In fact, I tell people, you know, I, I wonder what was going through my dad's head when he was thinking of, you know, letting an 11 year old or someone who wasn't even driving vehicles. Yeah. You know, drive, you know, tens of thousands of dollars worth of hundreds of thousand dollars worth of vehicles and tractors and combines on a farm. But yeah, he did. And I think that was, you know, one part out of necessity. It was I'm going, you know, my kids need to help. And that was probably far part of like just a farm mentality for many families growing up. But, you know, for me, I just, I just took ownership in that I enjoyed doing it. It was, it was great to be able to do something new all the time and to have my dad really leading the way and showing me the ropes.

Well, I can imagine. I mean, what, what did that do for your confidence? You know, knowing that your father trusted you with that, you know, again, whether it's a necessity or not, maybe you didn't realize back then that part of it may have been necessity, but gosh, I would think that'd be a huge confidence boost almost like when, you know, an owner or a manager or a leader in the organization and trust you with some, some tasks, you know, that's important. You know, I would imagine that helped build your competence. As, as a young girl,

I've talked to people about the value of hiring kids that come from the farms and for me as a woman doing work that wasn't gender specific, it was probably more so that it looked like it was a man's job. I was doing that. So, yes, I mean, my confidence was, was I can do anything as long as I know what exactly I'm supposed to be doing. So my dad would provide some basic structure. I mean, very rarely was it. This is exactly how you need to do it. Step one through 10, it was here's the end game. You know, we need these fields, some are followed. I need, you know, the week cut, we need to do these kinds of things. The fences need to be put up. And it was almost like an experimentation for me. My older brother worked a lot on the farm more so than even than I did.

So he has probably a ton of stories to share, but confidence and, and it was really a confidence in the way of you can do anything if you just understand what the parameters are, what you understand, what one of the, you know, what are the lessons in my book is if you just know the rules of the game and knowing the rules of the game is twofold. It's you understand how something works and how you sort of need to behave within that order, sir, you know, certain things or criteria might need to have within that certain environment. And if you know those roles, you can thrive, you can be really successful, but it also means that if you know the rules, you quite honestly can do anything. If you take the time to explore and understand what that is. So, you know, my dad I gave up, gave a ton of responsibility.

And so I think that was also part of it. So when you think about leaders who are trying to figure out, like, how do I get my teams to, you know, just take that extra step or do those go the extra mile, or be able to explore and build some of those skills, ask yourself how much am I, or how often am I putting them in roles that they're not comfortable in? Because there were plenty of times growing up, I was incredibly uncomfortable because I thought this is the first time I'm doing it. This can actually cause major wreckage. I mean, what, and, and yet I was put in those positions and if you're not ever put in them, it's a really, really hard for you to understand how you can execute in those circumstances. So yes, early on confidence was built. There was also this, you know, you know, almost a removal of fear, you would get nervous, you'd have anxiety, probably doing something new, but it was, but it was never like I can't do that or I would be too fearful of what I might mess up.

And so I've certainly carried that throughout my life when I was running my own consulting business, as I now lead teams within for-profit businesses, it's the, the notion and almost the acceptance that I can try to do something new. And yes, I might be, you know, anxious about it from time to time, but I can do that. And I absolutely encourage that. And the teams that I lead because I've seen people stretch into areas and do things that they never thought they'd be able to do themselves, but it was because I gave them the opportunity to do it, experiment, try it. Yeah. You're probably gonna mess up, but, but that's part of it and part of the learning journey. So I, I'm just incredibly fortunate to the background. I think I, for the longest time, quite frankly thought that the background was something that I, that I almost needed to hide because I thought, gosh, I'm going to the big city.

I'm trying to, you know, get a job or I'm trying to get people to take, you know, account for, you know, to, to recognize me. And I thought, gosh, if they know that I grew up a mile outside of a tiny little rural community that has 350 people, and I graduated with 15 kids who on earth is going to hire me. But what I found is the more I connect with people in the more I share that story, how incredible people think it is. And then they understand kind of how I operate and where I come from.

Yeah. No, and I sure I'm sure there are some people, big city folks, quote, unquote, that would look down on that. Maybe hopefully not as much now. So back then don't recognize all the valuable, tangible and intangible things that you would learn in that type of environment. But yeah, I know, I, I certainly recognize that when I was hiring in my corporate days and even now going through that process. So again, this week we're talking with Marney Andes and she is the founder of Project Aspire, former Mrs. America, you can find out more at We're going to come back after the break. We're going to find out a little bit about her collegiate basketball career, as well as being a former Mrs. America

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Welcome back to the show. It's time for Mr. Biz tip of the week. And boy, I'll tell you how often does this happen, where the tip and I promise you, this is completely coincidentally. We line these tips up for each week in December of the preceding year, but how often does it happen? That one of our tips, our tip we share for the week lines up with exactly the topic we're talking about that week in the guest with the tip this week is hard. Work puts you where good luck can find you. I'm sure a lot of you guys can re that resonates with a lot of you, but so I want to dive back into this so morning,

I will be remiss if I did not ask you. So you talked to us about, you know, your, this born and raised farm girl in Nebraska, but what talk to us about the transition from that to being a collegiate athlete on a basketball team, and then from there to becoming Mrs. America, how did that all unfold?

Well, I grew up playing sports. I tell people that, you know, when you come from a small town, it's almost required that you go out for everything because there's probably not enough kids to actually create a team. But, you know, my, my dad was a great athlete in high S athlete in high school. So was my mother. And we just always had sports around us and, and basketball just became the sport. I played volleyball, I ran track, but basketball really became my sport. And it was something my dad and I, we would watch NBA every Sunday together. I love to plan, you know, play horse or pig out on the front drive and, you know, we'd shoot back and forth. And, and that's actually where the, the title of the book came from, start with the, give me shots. And it was a lesson that I learned from my dad when I was actually playing basketball.

And it was, I remember one afternoon I came out onto the front drive and I just started heaving the basketball from everywhere and, you know, make an, a shot here and there. And my dad, not only did we farm, but we actually, when my dad passed away in 2012, he had a herd of almost 600 purebred Angus cattle. So grew up around calves. We show them in four H he raised them and he was down by the far pins about a hundred yards away. But as I was shooting those shots, I could hear him yelling Marne, start with the, give me shots. And it was, it was almost a moment of like embarrassment you know, like hanging in my head, going, gosh, I have heard this lesson so many times from my dad, but for whatever reason, he had to remind me again. And, and the give me shot to my dad was the shot that was really close to the basket and about two feet off from the rim.

So on each side and at the front of the rim, and before I could even really collect myself, I mean, he was just gunning up the hill toward me and the basketball out of my hand. And he said, you have got to start with the, give me shots. You need to do a hundred shots from here. And he went to the other side, he said a hundred shots from here. And he went to the front of the, and he said a hundred shots from here. And once you do that, you can shoot anywhere you want. And so I, I, I just did that. I would, I would warm up before a game when I would warm up at practice. I did that all the time. It was just ingrained in me and, and what my dad believed was if the, if good players actually concentrated on doing that, spending time on the, give me shots, not only would they hone their best shot and be almost unstoppable that close to the rim, but they'd be able to continue to have a really great forum and have a really great shot and certainly more success, even if they moved out from the rim.

And so for me, there was just no doubt that if I did that, I would do really well. And I did. I had a great career when I graduated high school in Nebraska. I was the fifth time or the fifth all-time bleeding score for girls basketball and Nebraska. I still think I'm in the top 25 at this point, but when I graduated, I was fifth, that was the fourth leading rebounder. And it was just something my dad ingrained in me. And so reflecting as a professional back on that, I have told this story to my teams that I've led, I've told it to other businesses and other clients that I've worked with. I I've presented this to my CEO in fortune 10 companies to talk about strategic direction, which is if your people focused on what they did really well, and you made sure they practiced it all the time, that would catapult not only them personally much further, but the business much further.

So I talk about the, give me shots. It's almost like the foundational pieces that any business needs. So I tell business owners or even leaders within a business, think about you and think about what skills are your, give me shots. What are those unique characteristics, those things that you do so well. And then I, and then I tell you to ask yourself the question, how am I doing this and practicing it every single day? Because what I have found is that too many times when people know what they're really, really good at, that might be the easy checkbox because you can, you might say like, I have this really great skill at, among my peers. I'm the best at it. And it might be one of those things you go, I don't need to practice that as much anymore. And my argument is it actually is why you need to practice it more.

It's what makes you uniquely, excuse me, uniquely good at what you do. And so I I've told this to other others, you know, that that is really fundamental, which is why it ended up being the title of my book too. It's less than two, but it's also the title of my book. And, and I really feel like that was what led me to, to play basketball as, as far as making the transition to Mrs. America, I will just tell you I'm a competitor at heart. And so I had done a handful of pageants really just starting my junior year in high school. I, I decided to compete for the Miss Nebraska teen USA pageant and won on my first try. And I actually talk about the story in the book, which was, it goes back to that whole principle of if you know the rules, you can do anything you want.

D did I know anything about pageants? No. I watched it for a few years. I looked at my mom. I said, I want to do this. I'm tired of watching it. Obviously Nebraska has a pageant cause there's a Miss Nebraska every year at team USA. And so we just did the research. We F we connected to people, understood what the sort of rules of the pageant game were and went down, drove to Omaha, Nebraska, and, and ended up winning on my first try. So later when I was married, I moved to Colorado and I had looked into like, what would be a pageant that I could compete in as a married woman. And there was the nationally televised Mrs. America pageant. And so I thought, well, that's the one I want to compete in. So I competed at Mrs. Colorado took me two years to win.

But then I was crown Mrs. Colorado. And I went on to Mrs. America and assumed the title of Mrs. America in 2007. So it's, I'm not a pageant person. I don't have a background in it, but I, like I said, I'm highly competitive. I love to interview that's part of the competition. And, and I have found that all those experiences, those are so incredibly important to my story because people start to see how I tick and how I work. And, and I appreciate you asking me the question, but it's kind of a, it's kind of a rail, you know, like kind of like a roller coaster ride of a, of a journey necessarily, you know, necessarily. But I, I've certainly enjoyed all the connections I've made through Mrs. America. I've certainly enjoyed all the connections I've made through collegiate athletics. And without a doubt, those of those have certainly made me the person that I am today.

For sure. I can't even imagine. So I should mention, we're talking again this week with Marney Andes, you can find out more at You can also go out to and gosh, darn it. We don't have much time left in this segment, but I do want to talk about that a bit. Go out and check out her book though. And as you mentioned, it's called “Start with the Give-Me Shots” and essentially the book is not essentially, it is, it is eight lessons that she learned from her father. And she's mentioned some of them throughout the show here that we've talked about, like less than three, it was know the rules of the game. Like you talked about when you joined the the pageant circuit or, or at least you know, first time you entered a pageant knowing the rules of the game and figuring all that stuff out. So we'll we're going to hit a break here, but what I, one quick question. So we've got about 20 seconds left. What advice would you give to your 25 year old self?

I would, I would tell the 25 year old self you're going to have to make sacrifices. You're going to probably not feel so great about some of those sacrifices that you have to make to push your business further. But if you communicate to those who are closest to you as to why you're doing it and why you're making those trade-offs, you could move forward without, without feeling compelled to do something different.

Love it, love it. Do you want us out to the break? We'll continue talking with Marney Andes.

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All right. Welcome back to the show again of talking this week with Marney Andes, former Mrs. America, founder of Project Aspire collegiate basketball player. And I mean, at least when she graduated high school, fifth leading score in the state of Nebraska high school, fourth leading rebounder learned some new things about her. Super, super impressive. So before we, I want to talk a little bit more about some of the lessons that are in the book, but before we do, I want to make sure that we give some time and talk about Project Aspire. What is that, Marney? How'd you get involved with

It? Project Aspire is a nonprofit that I created in two six, and it was really sort of out of my own collegiate experience. When I went to get my master's degree, I just realized there was just, wasn't a lot of funding available for women who were pursuing higher education degrees. And at the time I was also working for a proprietary school recruiting women into programs. And it just occurred to me that, you know, as we talk about women in leadership that, you know, many times a barrier for women in leadership is not just tuition and having the time and wherewithal to actually complete those degrees. But it's also just figuring out how do you take care of other aspects of your life? Because many women, when they pursue higher education degrees already have, you know, a career in progress and potentially have a significant other, maybe even children. And so I just felt like if I could create a nonprofit organization that gave tuition assistance to women who are pursuing degrees, that could put them in a position of leadership within their organizations or a business owner, that that would be the best way for me to spend my discretionary dollars and to be able to invest in those other women here in the state of Colorado.

Well, I think it's amazing. I, I, when I was doing some show prep, I went out and checked out the website again. So,, go out and check that out if you'd like to learn more about it. But and so I, that ties into I'm on segway into some lessons from the book, but I'm, I'm assuming that ties into lesson number eight from the book. Correct.

Well, it's interesting when I talk about Project Aspire, I talk a little bit about working while others are on break because many times, you know, when you're, when you're doing something, cause what I was doing with project aspire was I was still working full time. Part of that was when I was, had my own consulting business. And then the other part of that, and now to present time is when I've been working for other for-profit organizations. And so I have to figure out how to, you know, move my time between those two areas so that I can adequately support, you know, both of those. And so project aspire is something I don't get paid for. It obviously I actually give away every penny that I, I raise. And I talk to people about that. It's such a great story for how you many times will start businesses because I think too many people will look at other people that start their own business or do something and go, oh gosh, how lucky are they look how fortunate they are.

They're just, you know, they have this great business and what they don't realize is all of the effort that it takes behind the scenes to do that. But it's, it's also chipping away because I think too many times you might look at the grand scheme of thing and think, oh, I can't possibly start a business like that. And with project aspire, you know, I knew I wanted to donate money. I wanted to give scholarships. So I started doing that. So, you know, Ken, if you and I would have met and I would have told you about it, I would have said, would you like to support project aspire? And usually by the end of the conversation, you pre pretty connected to it. And again, yeah, I want to give something. And so I'd have friends that would say, well, yeah, but I, I don't have very much money on me and I I'd asked them the question, well, how much do you have?

And it didn't matter. I would take $5, I'd take $50, whatever somebody would want to give. And once I figured it was a, you know, a good sizeable scholarship, then I would turn around and give it to one of the local universities or colleges here in town. So I just think it's a trade. And I had to do that with my oldest son at the time when I was building it. I remember there were times where I missed a games or I might miss something else at school, but it became a point of learning for both me and him, which was, if I communicate this to him, if he understands why I have to miss those things. And when I did finally invite him, when he came, was old enough to one of our fundraisers for project aspire, I remember he looked at me and he said, this is what you've been doing this whole time.

And I said, yes, because this is awesome mom. So, you know, I think the hard part is you, you think you might be disappointing other people, but the reality is if you're just communicative about it and you let people know what you're doing and when they can expect you to be engaged or when they can expect for you to be, you know, saying no to you, then it gives you as a business owner as an entrepreneur, the time to be able to do that without guilt potentially. But it also tells the people that are closest to you, why it's so important and, and usually puts them in more of a supportive role versus a questioning role.

Yeah, it makes perfect sense. And I can only imagine, you know, look morning, just like, you know, you wrote written this book, start with the, get, give me shots from eight lessons from your dad. I can only imagine the lessons that your, your own children have learned from you just based on what you've shared with us on the show. I'm sure it's been it's been great for them. And you know, who knows, maybe one of them will write a book about you and lessons they've learned from you and, or, you know, kind of pass down from grandpa or whatnot. But you know, one of the ones I wanted to talk about I think that would be really resonate with some of the listeners is lesson six, always find a win-win situation or solution. I'm sorry. So talk to us a little bit about that lesson.

Yeah. This lesson you know, it's a story, of course, with my dad where I remember he was working with a local mechanic to help support obviously the farm and do some other business. And, you know, for, for a while there, he had realized that the mechanic was charging way more than he probably would be charged if he'd gone somewhere else. And so it was just a, a way for my dad to just say, Hey, I want to keep my business here with you. I want to keep it local. You know, is there anything that you could be doing to help me just keep this business? You know, thriving, I can support you, you can support me. And it just, wasn't a conversation that the mechanic really wanted to entertain. And so I remember my dad when I had gone home for a weekend I had gone in to pick up a part that had been fixed.

And, you know, he said you know, you can either come in here or you can stay here, but I'll be right back. And he told me the story afterwards, he'd gone into the mechanic and just said, is this absolutely what you're going to charge me for this, for these repairs? And the mechanic said, yes. And my dad asked him a second time and a final time, are you absolutely sure this is what you're gonna charge? And he said, yes. And so my dad wrote a check, shook his hand, took the part and walked out and he never did business with that mechanic again. And so some people will look at that and go, okay, so your dad didn't like what the service he was getting. So he just said, well, forget it. I'm going to cut bait. And the lesson is actually a couple of pieces in that, which is, you know, if, if you suddenly determine that a relationship or some sort of business connection that, that there isn't a win-win on both sides, then it's something you really need to consider.

Whether or not that's something you continue to engage in. And for my dad, he'd done it for such a long time. He had given and given and given, but he didn't feel like the mechanic, you know, was, was meeting him where it would be a win-win for both. And so he parted ways. And, and part of that is actually exiting with dignity for both you and the other party, which my dad did. He didn't go and tell everybody in the community that that was the, you know, the mechanic did this or that. Nope. My dad just decided he was no longer going to give him business and move on and find a different relationship where there was a win-win. And I share this because what my dad taught me that day was when win doesn't mean compromising and always meeting in the middle. Because what you may find as a business owner is, is your wind may be giving 80% of the way.

And the wind for somebody else has given only 20. And, and you need to recognize that because if that's still a win-win and I mean, keep doing it. But if you get to a point where you're thinking, gosh, I am the one given all the time, this isn't working out for me, this isn't giving me something back then it's time to move on, but it's the way you move on that matters. And I think definitely for business owners, your reputation and how you enter and exit relationships is key. And that's really the fundamental to that lesson.

Yeah. Yeah, no, I can't even imagine. And I agree with you a hundred percent. I think a lot of people do. I agree with you, they get it wrong. It's not always 50-50. Like I said, each situation varies and you just never know, or you have to adapt. I should say, you know, to that situation, like you said, it could be 20-80, 80-20 sometimes. And not necessarily 50-50, but it's still, even at 80-20 is a win-win.

So again, we've been talking this week with Marney Andes. She is the founder of Project Aspire. Find out more about that at She is the author of a recently released book. “Start with the Give-Me Shots”. We've been talking about that it contains eight lessons that you learned from her father, all sorts of different things. We've alluded to several of them during the show. Really, really appreciate you coming on. Marney shared a lot of great content and I really appreciate

It. Thanks so much for having me Ken, and thanks so much for allowing me to share my story and the lessons my dad taught me with your listeners.

Yeah. Awesome. Awesome. Love it. Love it. Follow her on social media, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Thanks for listening. Everyone had a great week and don't forget as always cash flow is king.

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