When COVID-19 struck, Amy Suto’s company took a fatal hit. Prior to the pandemic, her business held live events, including a series of sold-out open mic nights.
“All our programming, including our expansion to a new venue, was canceled overnight,” says Suto. “We tried holding an online event but didn't have much interest, and much of what we did live didn't translate to the virtual space. Eventually, my co-founder and I decided to shutter the company and part ways.”
The loss of her business hit Suto hard.
“I was crushed,” she says. “Right before the pandemic, we had started scaling. It was devastating to lose what we’d built. I had many sleepless nights and days spent feeling lost in the ashes of our blooming company.”
Tapping Into Self-Care to Survive Business Loss
Running a company takes a great deal out of an individual, physically and emotionally. This gets compounded when a business starts to fail, notes Carey Yazeed, founder of Beauty, Brains & Business, a virtual network for Black women entrepreneurs. Although she ran a successful private practice as a mental health therapist for 23 years, she's also experienced failure and had to shutter her coaching business.
Your business can’t be your only focus. Make room in your life for things you enjoy and protect them as priorities.
—Claire Hunsaker, CEO and founder of AskFlossie, a money community for women
“When your business begins to flounder, you will do anything and everything to try and save your baby,” says Yazeed. “That means working longer hours and emotionally giving what you don't have anymore. If you don't take care of yourself, it will catch up with you. When my coaching business was failing, doctor bills were mounting, stress levels were high, and I was having anxiety attacks and bouts of depression.”
While it may seem contrary, making space for self-care and not working is essential to facing and surviving a business loss or failure. Yazeed found that self-care is vital to a business owner’s health and well-being—especially when a business is failing.
“During my business failure, I had to remind myself to take care of myself,” says Yazeed. She now counsels women to do the same when they run a company.
“Self-care included—and still includes—walking 1-2 miles daily, meditation, eating healthy, learning to say no and knowing when to turn the business off and focus on myself and my family," she says. "It was self-care that allowed me to clearly see my company’s failure and helped me pivot as an entrepreneur."
Self-care is vital during business failure because it replenishes you. It gives you the energy and objectivity to slow down and take a look at your business and what is occurring. From there, you can analyze the situation and decide the most productive next steps, which may involve closing the business or pivoting.
Cultivating a self-care practice helped Suto process her pandemic-induced business loss. Though her initial instinct was to work even harder when her business was faltering, Suto soon discovered that self-care was critical to her well-being.
She prioritized being gentle with herself and making her health and well-being a top priority. After some reflection in a safe space, Suto was able to clear her mind and reignite her passion. This resulted in her pivoting and completely restarting the company.
“I partnered with musicians from our original open mic nights, bringing our journey full-circle,” she says. “Kingdom of Pavement is a completely new company that now produces podcasts, but there was a lot of darkness before we got to that point.”
Making that space for mental and physical well-being is crucial for moving forward, says physician and wellness coach Kristin Miller of Dr. Kristin Miller Wellness.
“The most successful people continue through their failures, but if you don’t take time for yourself and work on your mental health, you likely won’t have the confidence and resilience to press through those failures,” she says.
Effective Self-Care Tactics for Entrepreneurs
“When things feel chaotic, we tend to spend less time taking care of ourselves when we need to spend more time on ourselves," Miller says. "Turbulent times are a sign that it’s time to focus even more on exercise, eating healthy and enjoying hobbies.”
Here are some tips for making self-care a priority when your business is floundering:
Avoid overworking yourself. “The loss of a business is a real grief and takes part of your identity with it,” says Claire Hunsaker, whose online jewelry company Little Pretty failed during the 2008 recession.
Just as the Stanford Business School grad was getting her company off the ground, the stock market crashed, taking Hunsaker’s $11,000 investment and pride with it.
Now the CEO and founder of AskFlossie, a money community for women, Hunsaker says the loss of her first business still smarts, but she took this lesson away from the experience.
“Your business can’t be your only focus,” says Hunsaker. “Make room in your life for things you enjoy and protect them as priorities.”
Get adequate rest and eat well regularly. Replenishing your body with sleep and healthy food will keep your mind alert and focused. It's much easier to make hard decisions when you're well-rested.
Exercise. Moving the body will help you de-stress and be better able to handle rough days in the office. You may also gain clarity as you take a walk or participate in a yoga class.
Create a safe, quiet place to reflect. Your first instinct will likely be to act to save your business. While you want to do what you can for your company, at some point it's important to stop and reflect. Think about what went wrong and what went right, and what the future could hold if you do x, y or z.
Seek help. "If you’re having a tough time coping, Hunsaker suggests getting help.
“Reach out to a friend, loved one or therapist,” she says. “Failing in business will challenge your identity and self-esteem. It helps to have an experienced navigator to guide you in digesting the experience and finding perspective.”
Suto did this through reading how other entrepreneurs navigated challenges in their businesses.
"That helped me contextualize my own struggles in a bigger picture," Suto says. "The strength in entrepreneurship is in solving problems. The problem part is inevitable. The solving part is where experiential learning comes in."
Read more articles on work-life balance.
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