It’s OK to build a business that makes you proud. It’s also OK to walk away from it when you need.
As a solopreneur who took great pride in the business I was building, I thought slowing down would be a sign of weakness and failure. It turns out, it was the exact opposite.
I am the founder of the ethical lifestyle brand JoyBound Apparel, a company that was built on doing the “right thing" and treating our suppliers and artisans fairly. However, I began to notice that I became so worried about treating them fairly and helping them create the life they wanted that I somehow got lost in the mix.
My wants, dreams, goals and needs. I pushed them all to the side as I strived to be everything to everyone.
But with these good intentions came great difficulty. My health suffered, the attention I was able to give my children lessened and at the end of the day I was left with more feelings of guilt than accomplishment. Something had to change. After all, the main mission of JoyBound was to empower women to choose joy and, at that point, I wasn't sure if I was choosing it myself.
Sure, I was happy. And, yes, I loved what I was doing. But something was missing: balance. That little thing that we often read about as being nonsense. I needed it. It wasn't until I shed many tears and had many long conversations with my husband that I gained clarity about what I needed to do.
I needed to worry about myself. Remember why I started. My goals, my dreams and my needs.
It took months for me to decide how it would all play out. How does one step away from their company, leaving it to hang in space somewhere and then just pop back in when the time was right for them? Would our customers still be there? The following we gained along the way? Would we still be relevant? Would I even know how to get it going again? To be honest, I still don't really know the answers to those questions but the answer to getting our hiatus started was to quiet those thoughts. To have the strength to put myself and my family first. To give my children the childhood they deserve without jeopardizing my health to do so.
It was a very liberating feeling. Waking up and only having to worry about the normal day-to-day things. My kids felt the shift and so did my husband. I had more time to sit on the floor and play make-believe. I was able to cook quality meals again. I even got a haircut—something that had become a once-a-year luxury.
Instead of rushing to answer emails the moment I wake up, I spend time on my sons' floor while they pile on top of me as I tell them just how much I love them. Something I somehow fit into my day before—but not without the constant nagging in the back of my mind over the sheer quantity of items I needed to get done.
There were lessons I needed to learn. Among those would be that it's OK to want to build something you're proud of. No one should feel guilty about that. The next? That it's OK to need to walk away.
It doesn't make you weak. In fact, doing so took more strength than I would've ever expected. I fought to show my children that they are worth it. Both in starting and in stopping. But I also fought to show them that I know that I am worth it. I needed the time away for clarity. I was so engrossed in the tasks of the business that I didn't even know how to find the time to reorganize the way I did things. How do you take the time to look for help when you barely have time to finish packing up the orders for the day? Or responding to necessary emails?
Over my hiatus I was able to figure out a system that would work for us. I started organizing my days differently and understanding the importance of focusing on one task at a time. It's the best way to avoid brain overload. I no longer reach for my phone the moment I wake up. Instead, I give myself the time to be “just a mom" and enjoy breakfast and conversation with my boys. I pick a few tasks per day and make sure those are completed, giving me an amazing sense of accomplishment without the overwhelm.
I also focus on what my friend Calli of Storyweaver Mercantile refers to as daily themes. This is when you assign each day a theme, for example: Mondays for photographing product, Tuesdays for designing new product, Wednesdays for writing blog content and so on. It's amazing how much it alleviates stress, which allows you to find more joy in your work. And I'm all about finding joy.
My business looks very different today. I learned to keep the things I was passionate about while letting go of the rest.
I was able to find help to fulfill my orders while I use that extra time to fulfill my dreams of being ever present in the lives of my children. I get to fulfill my other loves: writing and encouraging women to choose joy through my intentional living blog. I still design clothes, but allowing others to help reminds me why I fell in love with this line of work in the first place.
My business no longer runs me, I run it. Life has become less about surviving and more about thriving. Designing a life I truly love while leaving room in my mind and heart for the possibility of something different.