I knew starting a business as a solopreneur wasn't going to be easy. The long hours, late nights, sacrificing time and money was sure to lead to some level of stress. But what I wasn't prepared for was how it challenged my inner self.
You see, during the first six months or so of this exhilarating white-knuckle ride of a journey, I was forced to face my own fears. Basically, I ended up questioning everything about myself. I became incredibly self-conscious or I should say, conscious of my true self. In short, my mind became a chattering monkey as they say in Zen Buddhism. A constant ricochet of thoughts. Am I good enough? Did I make the right decision? Will people buy into my brand? Will people find me interesting enough? Niggling insecurities would keep me awake at night or catapult me out of bed at some ungodly hour in the morning.
All these emotions came from a fear of failure, made worse by a layer of perfectionism which added a new dimension to everything.
Overwhelm was my new best friend!
It seems I'm not alone in this story of self-induced angst. When I speak to my network of female entrepreneurs, they've all had similar experiences. These amazing, confident women have at some point quivered at the thought of giving a speech, felt terrified of picking up the phone or over analysed themselves to the point of tears. Yet somehow, they've come out the other end, heels an inch higher and their sanity intact. So, I decided to ask three amazing solopreneurs, how they navigate themselves through this rather rocky terrain of inner conflict and introspection.
Lauren Gayfer - Founder of The Fairy Food Mother - a nutrition business aimed at new mums.
When you step out of your comfort zone and decide to implement something which was once an idea on a scrap of paper, you unleash all of your insecurity demons. Will anyone like my idea? Is it complete rubbish? Am I any good at what I do? I've been through the whole range of emotions from "this is the best thing ever and it's going to take over the world" to "this is awful and everyone is going to hate it" - and everything in between! But with support from friends and family, a fabulous network of female entrepreneurs and a lot of sleepless nights, my ideas have become a reality. People love them and are prepared to pay money for them. My business is going from strength to strength, but the hard work never stops. You have to keep challenging yourself, stepping out of your comfort zone, making mistakes and learning from them.
Nic Fox - Founder of Velo Sister - Ethical, online shop for women who love cycling.
Before I launched my business I felt sick at the thought of my friends and family knowing what I was doing. It sounds a bit crazy now, but at the time I was so worried that they'd think less of me. I imagined them thinking "Ooh who does she think she is?" and "oh no, that's a terrible idea!" I also felt too small and amateur to write to magazines and newspapers about my new business. I think the thing that helped the most was having a purpose bigger than making money for myself. Velo Sister exists to raise money for charities, so I've had to push past the fears and go ahead anyway. The more I've done it, the smaller my fears have become. Six months after launching Velo Sister, the fears and insecurities are still there, and sometimes they delay me from taking actions - but they don't stop me.
Bella McCrudden - Founder of Nutribelle - Follows her dream of helping people find a way of making a healthy lifestyle part of the natural balance of life.
Running my business so far has been a beautiful rollercoaster - scary, terrifying. It made me question everything, but it's also exhilarating, inspiring and humbling. It's definitely not an easy ride - emotionally more than anything. But you start to understand yourself more. You realise that the little hiccups don't define you. That you can do it. I hear from people who I least expect, tell me that I've had a positive impact on their lives - and man you need to hear that! Because it's all too easy to find yourself quivering under a duvet and not wanting to come out. Realising that you have the strength to deal with things, help other people and live a healthier life, is empowering. You just need to remind yourself of that more often.
It's comforting to hear these experiences. I guess I'm not the only one having imaginary conversations with my alter ego! Fast forward a year and I'm much more at ease with my own idiosyncrasies. I've learnt a hell of a lot. By discovering what I'm good at, I've surprised myself in the process and built my confidence by pushing through my fears and thinking, hey what's the worst that can happen? It's cathartic.
As for those gremlins. Well, they come out once in a while, but I know how to deal with them now!
Today, my mindset is stronger than it was when I first started out. I've gained valuable experience, by taking controlled steps towards my goals and sometimes giant leaps of faith when I feel brave. Most of all, I'm realising that my vision is finally becoming a reality. Jewelled Buddha is steadily gaining a following of dedicated customers who appreciate fair trade artisan products. So while I give myself a high five, I think the best way to ride out this crazy journey is to appreciate your unique identity, never underestimate your abilities and realise imperfection is better than doing nothing.
Remember, mistakes and fears don't define your success or failure. It's how you deal with them that does.