Struggle and Success Go Hand In Hand: Part 2
This series dives into the truths and challenges behind the success of female creatives and business owners. The purpose of sharing their stories is to shine a light on the behind the scenes work and remind us that there’s no such thing as an overnight success. And maybe most importantly, we remember that in this unpredictable and sometimes unsteady career path we’ve chosen, we’re not alone in our experiences and feelings. You can read Part 1 here.
"What has been your biggest struggle as a business owner/creative entrepreneur? How have you dealt with it? And why do you think it's important to share stories of challenge and failure?"
Tania Gnecchi, Founder + Designer of Ruusk
It’s so hard to pick my biggest struggle as there have been many of them. I think it comes with the territory of running a business. Whether you’re just starting out or seem to have found your way, there are always going to be new challenges and struggles to face, they just seem to evolve as you do.
Perhaps self-doubt is the biggest challenge I have to overcome, as no matter how many times I conquer it, it always manages to reappear in one way or another. Choosing to do something that you love is an easy choice, but ensuring that it’s a viable choice takes constant work. It also takes constant learning, discovery and failure.
A few years ago, moved to the Netherlands and I’ll never forget how hard it was to try and start a new business in a foreign country, in a foreign language and with absolutely zero connections to work with. It was tough! By the time I finally got things up and running, it was clear that my relationship with my long term partner was coming to an end, and I was a mess. I left the Netherlands and abandoned everything that I had worked so hard to build to start all over again. Let’s just say there have been lots of ups and downs.
However, what I’ve come to realize is that more often than not, it’s the hard times that lead you to the most wonderful growth. Losing everything gave me the time and space I needed to re-assess and re-evaluate what I truly wanted to do and achieve. During this time I decided that I wanted to create meaningful made-to-order pieces in Sydney, focusing on creating jewelry that people really wanted to own and treasure for a lifetime.
Learning to see failure as an opportunity for growth is so important, as you’re guaranteed to make mistakes time and time again. Also having a solid support network is essential, especially if you’re working by yourself.
I’m so lucky to have an incredible fiancee who supports all of my crazy ideas and a group of creative girlfriends who are always there for me to have a chat or a glass of wine or two with. Connecting with others and reminding yourself that at the end of the day, all we can do is try our best and stay true to what we believe in. I think anything is possible if you’re passionate and resilient enough.
Shawnte Salbert, Author + Freelance Writer
First, there’s the sort of “external” struggle of seeking stability in an unstable career. Freelancing is a blessing and a curse. It’s true that I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule…but I also often work from 7am until 10 at night with minimal breaks - and I almost always work through the weekends unless I’m out in the field (or taking a precious weekend off). Yes, I’m grateful to write for amazing editors at dream publications…but sometimes the pay is dismal, or I wait months for a check to arrive. Sure, I am able to work on fascinating stories…but I also have to take non-writing work every single month to fill in the gaps. Despite finding deep gratitude in this opportunity to pursue a dream, to visit memorable places and meet incredible people and learn their amazing stories, I worry about burnout - and about how I’m going to keep paying the bills as I swerve dangerously close to annihilating my savings.
Then there’s the “internal” struggle of impostor syndrome. Of second-guessing myself. Of wondering whether my voice matters, or if I’m doing a good enough job elevating other voices through my writing. Thinking that maybe I’m a terrible writer, slow and clumsy with nothing but a head full of fuzz and a pen full of air. What makes this even worse is that writing is a pretty solitary gig; it’s just me and the computer most days. No one to commiserate with. No one to celebrate “wins” with.
As you might have guessed, there are some pretty great things about writing, too - and that’s why I’m still in the game. But it’s also important to acknowledge the challenges that come along with this career, because I know that I’m not alone. I see it in Twitter threads that talk about burnout and late payments and low rates and the struggle to find work. I hear it from my friends who also navigate the unpredictable waters of freelancing. It’s important for others to know that they’re not alone - and that their experience is valid.
Lynda Lopez , Soulpreneur Strategist + Coach, Co-Founder of Seattle Stay, Interior Designer
I often tell people that starting your own business is the best personal development journey you could sign up for. It takes all of your fears of the unknown (questions like, "what are they going to think of me?" "Can I do this?" and "Am I going to be okay?") and smacks them in your face over and over again. There have been days where I wake up feeling like the luckiest person in the world to get paid to do work that I would do for free. There have also been days when I have wondered if it was all worth it. As I've gotten more and more comfortable with the ebbs and flows of clarity, certainty, confirmation, and income, there are less and less bad days and more days where I know I wouldn't trade this life for the world.
So to answer your question, the biggest struggle as a business owner for me has been being okay with staying my own lane, defining success on my own terms, and letting go of any need for external validation. When I first started out in business, I spend way too much time looking at others for answers about what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. I thought that I had to figure out the formulas, lead sources, website analytics, blah blah blah in order to be successful.
With time, I learned that all of this was a distraction from what really mattered: saying yes to things, learning from them, pivoting, and knowing it's all growth and evolution. It's really simple: find people and projects to offer value to, bring your all to it, enjoy the process, and let go of your expectations of where it is going and how fast it needs to get there. As I continued to say yes to things, trust my hunches around what opportunities to pursue or cultivate, and just try things out, I have noticed that voice in my head that used to clamor for perfection has quieted, and I'm having a lot more fun.
Entrepreneurship is not a linear path. You never know what opportunities lie around the bend, and as soon as I learned to let go of the need to know before I said yes, things really started to open up for me. Some say that if they had known what they know now, they would have never had chosen the entrepreneurial path because it was so much harder than they expected. This may be true, but I also feel like all of the growth, learning, challenge, and overcoming the fear of the unknown is exactly why I wanted to do this in the first place.
The itch for growth, creative expression, and freedom is what calls many of us down this road and its really all the negative voices in our heads that get in the way, more than any actual physical danger. I'm not saying there are not sacrifices involved, or that it's not really uncomfortable at times, but for the thought of playing it safe and having to live with the "what if" and not trying sounded more painful than actually having to get dirty.
It is so important that we hear stories of failure and uncertainty from one another, especially as women. Otherwise, we mistake perfection for success and some of us never actually get out of the gate and try. It sounds cliche, but I believe that vulnerability is one of our greatest strengths. It connects us to one another. It's human. It helps us to remember that it has always been and will always be IN PROCESS. This connection to myself and others is one I am always pursuing through my work and is probably one of the most meaningful parts of anything I do.
Andie Pineda, Founder of Vinny Yoga
It’s so important to talk about challenges and struggles, because that's real life! Owning a business always comes with sacrifice, failures, and burnout. No one gets it right on their first try.
Personally, one of my biggest challenges continues to be where and how I spend my time. As Vinny is brand new and I’m a “one woman show”, I want to say yes to all the opportunities that arise, but I need to reign myself in and constantly assess what is worth investing my time and energy into and what can be revisited later.
As a content creator, I’m always testing different ways to structure and optimize my days in order to tap into my flow state, especially with writing. It’s a work in progress that I’ve been iterating on for a year. I don’t know if I’ll ever figure it out, but I keep trying!
Another thing I struggle with is patience. I have some big, lofty expectations for things that I’m passionate about, so by nature I get restless wanting to do more, grow more, achieve more. I have to put in conscious effort to remind myself to pause and show appreciation for how far I’ve come with Vinny and the amazing relationships I’ve made along the way.