Recently I have been battling a sense of frustration in managing this small business. I love this little enterprise and have dreams for the future, but in order to get there, it feels like I need to 'scale my business', make reels, understand the social media algorithms or outsource my Instagram/Facebook posting. I am attempting to gather my tax paperwork for the upcoming tax season and all the while seeking to discern what to include or phase out of the Distaff Collection for the coming year(s).
There's no denying that this business does not fit the models of small business enterprises, at least not in my local area of Winnipeg. When I speak with other business owners they are usually making 100% of their own stock, or importing 100% to stock a brick & morter storefront.
The so called 'Instagram Experts' talk about how to beat the algorithm to get my posts seen by more people and engaged at a higher level. Reels, videos, IGTV, more background information on the Makers and how Distaff products are made, more information and transparency on the sustainability and ethical practices of the products. How and where to best invest in advertising. Which online platforms are the best and how to use them for best engagement.
Not only is this already overwhelming for someone who hasn't put in 10,000 hours (the amount of time necessary to become an expert) into understanding social media, advertising, film-making, sustainability, the ins and outs of small business management and filing small business taxes, but I am also a person who has children, a person who interacts with my community, a wife. It often feels like when I search for ways to better manage my business these other parts of who I am are not recognized as having rights to this same source of energy, time, and financial resources.
Also, while it's annoying and I'd rather not have to battle any limits to my endeavors, I have to acknowledge and handle my mental health with tenderness. The effects of depression/anxiety are very real, not only in limiting my capacity and abilities in business, but also in how I can show up as a mom, spouse and a person living in a specific place and time. I am often beleaguered by inexplicable fatigue or heaviness of heart. It often makes me think I should just give up. Just get a "real" job (that is, a job that is not self-employed, but gives a steady income with less onus on me to make things -ie. everything- happen). And this was my reality before the Pandemic hit in 2020! Add Pandemic factors into the mix (including but not limited to supply complications in Madagascar, my smelted aluminum supplier going dark and impossible to connect with, the inability to travel to restock, increased daily stress and therefore fatigue...) and there appears to be an insurmountable obstacle to doing much of anything resembling business growth.
So. There you have it. I need a business coach/social media expert who takes those things into consideration and aids me in implementing actions that take these unique factors into account. I have yet to find such a person. Honestly, I think I mostly need someone to identify my strengths and tell me what they are on a daily basis for a year. LOL.
Here's the thing I've recently realized. As a society, we don't applaud people who wait until they have everything in order before they step into the arena. Nor do we applaud those with little to no handicaps who achieve so-called 'greatness'. It's those with the handicaps, the limitations, obstacles, barriers and challenges who keep going and press on with their limitations - acknowledged but not cowed by them - who seem to exude the most strength, and receive the most admiration from those with the eyes to see them. This is significant, I think. It is indicative of what we must all know in our depths: that greatness is about taking all the things we've got in our deck and applying it toward our dream. NOT about filtering out all the 'bad bits', weaknesses, or things we'd rather not deal with and only using the pretty things that are socially acceptable to gain what it is we're striving for.
We are all given challenges to 'take up'. They are by no means the same size nor the same weight. Simply pressing forward with the challenges we have been given to 'take up' is what is worth praise and encouragement my friends. I dont have expert-status on business management or in media, but I am in the arena and I have come so (relatively) far already since Distaff&Spindle's inception 11 years ago. This is significant.
One more thing: the very fact that some burdens are more difficult to carry alone, or are part of systemic oppressive systems that don't budge without significant community resistance requires - invites - partnership and collaboration. It is those very voices that are hushed because they're too caught up holding the weight of their own challenges who need to be heard! Those are the ones who have the key to new and transformative ideas. That means: women's voices within the community of men, people of colour's voices within the community of whites, those with mental health challenges within the community of the healthy who never give mental health a moment's thought. There's no doubt it is difficult to begin listening to voices that do not sound like the ones you have been listening to until now. That very difficulty is indicative of the rewards and personal expansion this act can hold!
So. Here's my message to myself and anyone who needs to hear this today: While I dont allow my limits define who I am, currently I need to be recognized, by myself and those around me, as a business woman with small children + anxiety/depression.
Being a Business Woman with small Children + Anxiety/Depression does NOT look like:
- Moving as fast as I see other female business owners moving, even if they have kids and/or mental health challenges.
- Being consistent on social media despite what the 'Experts' insist.
Being a Business Woman with small Children + Anxiety/Depression DOES look like:
- Verbally acknowledging the fatigue, anxiety that limits my output to my community. I think this is important because otherwise it looks like no one is struggling and pressing forward with business at the same time.
- Moving forward with what resources I have at my disposal on a daily basis. I dont need to have 100% capacity to do everything.
- Being open to receive help when i find someone who is a good match to help me. Still looking for this.
Is there a way I can hitch my burden up a bit to make it easier to carry while I run my business? I think that's something worth looking into that will reap benefits greater than ignoring these challenges and struggling to look like I am running at the same speed as everyone else. How do we acknowledge our limits and work with them, rather than in oposition to them (which, frankly, makes challenges even more awkward to carry and creates ripples throughout the other parts of our lives).