#81 Entrepreneurship in a Burnt Out World
And free business training from a favourite teacher of mine!
When I was a six or seven, I tried to start a business selling the cakes I made in my Easy Bake Oven. It didn’t really go anywhere after I ran out of cake mix and my mom refused to continue to buy the mix and then the cakes from me. As a teenager, I wrote a screenplay that I was sure would be sold for millions of dollars. It did not go beyond the screen of my old home computer. In my mid-twenties, I tried again, launching an online magazine called The Gaze with a journalism school friend. That went a bit further and was a lot of fun. When that wrapped up (we got too busy in work and life to organize interviews and write longform pieces weekly), I started an online clothing store focused on helping to build the brands of up-and-coming Canadian designers. I learned a lot about what it takes to run a real business with that one. But all of them were about trying to make money and improving my skills as a baker, writer, journalist and then marketer.
And then last year, partway through my yearlong creative sabbatical and in the early days of healing from burnout, I had a potential client reach out about me doing work for them to help build their brand’s marketing strategy and content approach. They were a growing custom suit brand and just the type of company I had been thinking about over the past year wanting to do more work with. Small companies that can really benefit from my storytelling-infused approach to brand strategy and marketing. So, I formalized the thing I’d been doing a lot of over the years leading up to it—my freelance strategy business became a full-on consulting firm. A small, but mighty storytelling-led business.
The timing of my decision to formalize the work I’d been doing on the side over the years into a business in the middle of what was supposed to be a creative sabbatical and a long-term burnout healing journey all during a pandemic was kind of perfect. It meant I built a business with priorities beyond just profit and growth in mind. Growth was important, but that of my clients and their businesses and my own personal growth as a human and as a storyteller. I prioritized those things. This part of my adventure in storytelling continues to open me up to new worlds and perspectives about what’s possible when it comes to how I show up and evolve my own larger story.
I call what I’m trying to do mindful entrepreneurship. I infused all of my learnings from reading about burnout and healing from it into how I approach work and life now. The traditional systems and structures that didn’t work for me (and don’t work for so many of us) were things I considered as I built out the foundations of my business. And I’m lucky enough to work with clients who respect and sometimes even honour the effort I put into creating a life that fills me up and doesn’t deplete me while getting to do amazing work with amazing business owners.
It's not easy and it often feels uncomfortable to let emails after six pm sit in my inbox until my designated email time the next afternoon, or to tell clients when we’re meeting initially about my ways of working—which includes Fridays off for creative exploration (aka play)—or to put an out of office note on all my emails over the weekend and actually not check email until Monday. Paying contractors at every level a living wage also means having to be very careful about the financial choices I make. Living in a culture where everyone else is pushing through and so many of us still measure our value and success by our output and productivity, it feels uncomfortable to tell a startup client who works 12 hour days that that’s not how I do things, but I still get the work done on time to a higher calibre than most. That’s because I’m rested and I love what I do.
And don’t get me wrong, I get caught up in the hustle of things sometimes. I have Fridays where I end up taking meetings or doing a bit of work on a Saturday, but I try to stay true to what I’m creating in my business as much as possible. For me it’s about being flexible and also finding those places where my boundaries need to remain firm.
I do it because I believe in deeply in the idea shared by Mahatma Gandhi about being the change we wish to see in the world. Even when it’s uncomfortable. While I recognize it’s a great privilege to have the resources and ability to go about building my business in this way, I also think it’s really important to share my experience and be open to chatting with folks about it so that people are opened up to other ways of living their lives and building their careers or businesses.
So for you the entrepreneur, or you the career-builder, or for you the marketer, and you the creator or writer, I share this with you as a way to encourage you to think about your story and how you want it to evolve and what you can do to shape it so that you can ensure you experience as much of life beyond a screen and 9-5 as you can. Just something to think about as we move on this journey. And if you’re ever curious about what else I’m doing and continue to do and learn about mindful entrepreneurship, feel free always to reach out (just hit reply to the email or comment below). (For the record, I also never worked 9-5 when I had a typical job in the corporate world—it just wasn’t for me and I worked with my bosses to make other approaches work there too).
A Story Well Told
I have been a student, fan, and follower of Marie Forleo and her youtube channel MarieTV for a huge portion of my adult life. I’ve mentioned her before in this newsletter, often, partly because she has helped make me a better and more heart centred marketer and business owner. She showed me what was possible. Last year, I was lucky enough to be invited to be a mentor in her B-School program* which gives entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs the skills needed to grow a business (and life) they love. Think of it like an MBA, but fun and practical. I feel lucky to get to guide and learn from the amazing people who join her program. In the lead up to B-School opening for 2022 (enrolment starts today!) Marie is offering a three-part series* of free training for entrepreneurs and marketers that I wanted to share with you. She’s also offering a free webinar*—with a ton of bonuses for those who are interested in doing B-School this year. If you check them out, let me know what you think.
*NB: This link is an affiliate link that lets Marie know I sent you and if you sign up I get paid a small amount in thanks for introducing you. Sharing with you because I’ve seen firsthand the difference B-School can make for a business.
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