They say growing a business is hard. Financially. Emotionally. Physically. And while you can prepare to experience some of these emotions, there are some you can’t see coming.
I recorded a podcast today (the last one before we launch on July 1st!), wherein the topic of “building a business” came up quite a bit. When people ask me about this experience, I sometimes gloss over feelings, such as pride, euphoria, and fulfillment, and jump straight to the hardships, the labor, and of course, the financial setbacks. In a way, the rockier roads hold more weight because they threaten the thing you covet most. But as I was talking, what surfaced were all of these other ‘entrepreneurial-emotions’ that no one could have prepared me for. For example, watching your business grow is JUST as scary as it is celebratory. Doubt and anxiety can sit alongside wrong decisions AND right decisions. And my favorite, that your team defines you and your purpose, even if they don’t stay with you forever.
This much I know: these are four emotions I have faced, in growing SkinOwl over the last five years:
1. Doubt + Anxiety: I mentioned this before and I’m mentioning it again because this is real when it comes to keeping something you love afloat. Unpredictability is a huge part of running a business. Labels come back misprinted. Bottles arrive broken. Or, a 6000 piece handmade and hand labeled order damages in transit (yep, that happened). To survive, I had to find peace in the punchline. Shit happens. You just don’t want it to be all that happens.
2. Hunger: Hunger is what keeps your eye on the prize when any of the above tragedies hit. Hunger is what keeps you creative, focused, and diligent. Hunger is also what sometimes causes you to work harder, not smarter. Good ideas don’t have to happen right away. Leak them over time. You will need those great ideas when you’re tired and not feeling super-innovative. Slow and steady wins the race.
3. Fear: There’s something about starting something from the ground up that makes you feel like you have no place to go if it fails. So often you’re following a dream. And without that dream, everything else you could be doing seems small and unimportant. Remember this: When you avoid fear, you avoid challenges. Without challenges, you avoid growth. Without growth, your dream gets stunted. And in the end, if your dream doesn’t come true, that just means there’s something better waiting for you down the line. Walk towards fear. It will take you places you never thought you would go.
4. Loss: Since the inception of SkinOwl, I’ve lost two employees that have been with me through very pivotal times. Without them, SkinOwl wouldn’t be where it is today. They were both employed at different times, yet they were each instrumental in helping to create systems that allowed SkinOwl to flourish and create a ‘culture’ that I will never believe is real. To say I will forever be indebted to both of these girls is an understatement. Upon leaving, they both said roughly the same thing to me: “Annie, SkinOwl gave me the wings I needed to fly.” What comes after these words is a mixed bag made up of pride, elation, and deep sadness on my part. SkinOwl has never had more than 5 employees at one time. We average three in-house and five total. So, when someone leaves, it’s like your first-born is going off to college. Only college is South Korea to teach students English and deep down, you know they’ll never come “home” again.
In the end, starting a business is not just about product development, expertise, and distribution. It’s about putting yourself in a position to experience more than you ever thought you would. To allow some of the hardest feelings to sit alongside pride and personal growth. It is possible to watch someone walk out the door, into the arms of another opportunity, and take great comfort in the time you shared together. It is possible to receive an email that reads, “All 6000 items are deemed unsellable” and survive. In a sense, being an entrepreneur has allowed me to peel off the layers of certain emotions and witness the well-rounded nature of them. Entrepreneur Craig Bloem once said, “When we dismiss the multi-faceted nature of our emotions in business, we’re rejecting our body’s own way of analyzing data and metabolizing the full picture.” Truer words were never spoken.
To wrap it all up in a proverbial bow: Fight for your culture, want the best for your people, give life to your passions, and above all else, and trust me: the toughest decisions are best made sooner, not later. Thank you for being along for this incredible journey.
Wishing you great strength and love in your life,