Rest is our birthright
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get so caught up in wanting to constantly be productive that you become a slave to productivity. Personally, I’ve had to consistently remind myself that rest is my birthright and that it does not need to be the “reward” of productivity.
When I am well-rested, I am extremely creative. When I am in environments that I love, I am extremely inspired. When there is enough space protected on my calendar for creativity and collaboration, I can offer things that are extremely innovative.
To keep the right balance, I have exercise blocked off on my calendar in the mornings. I have naps blocked off on my calendar in the afternoons. I have weeks where I’m unplugged and immersed in various countries for enjoyment and creativity. Outside of those time blocks – there may be meetings, production projects, etc. – but I don’t compromise on the boundaries that I have clearly marked on my calendar for restorative balance.
I also try to ensure that my success is never at the expense of my mental or physical health. I want to enjoy the life that I’ve structured for myself. I want to be fully present in it – even as I’m building my future. I don’t trade all hours of my day for money. I don’t compromise on breaks. I set clear boundaries for my clients – and those boundaries are for my own enjoyment. I’ve become very comfortable in that, loving and caring for myself.
Learning from the losses
It’s important to keep in mind that losses are also a normal part of entrepreneurship, regardless of how hard you might think you are working at things, they will happen. Learning to not be too hard on yourself when they do occur is key. I can tell you about the times that I didn’t win things that I sought out. There were grants and pitch competitions that I applied for – at least one hundred of them. You know what? Those reps have helped me to perfect my pitch. I can walk up to anyone cold and clearly articulate what we do and who we serve. These refinements have resulted in me now having partnership meetings with the largest financial institutions in the world, quickly scaling tech companies, and more.
There have been times that I’ve pitched for sponsorships – at least dozens of them. Turns out, companies were not willing to make bets on a startup that was less than two years old. They needed to see proof of concept. And so I showed them! I bootstrapped my own dreams and have even won the distinction of 2022 Webby Award Honoree for Best in Business & Finance. Now, I’m able to show up to those pitch conversations with powerful market proof. At the end of the day, I don’t really see failures in my journey – just a whole lot of learning and refinement.
Learning to iterate is another technique that has helped me on my entrepreneurial journey. Apple sends software updates to my phone virtually every two days. They continue to learn and optimize what their solutions are. I give myself the same level of grace every day. It’s not about me offering what I want my customers to have. It’s about me offering what my customers want. To do this, I have to listen to their direct and indirect feedback. I have to realize when I’m wrong and adjust to offer what is right. I have to be willing to evolve as the desires and needs of my customers evolve. Aside from that, I lean on my support system for affirmation, perspective, love, and help.
Give yourself grace
Ultimately, my advice to Black women entrepreneurs out there who are just starting a business and have doubts about succeeding while keeping their balance is “pole pole” (Swahili for slowly). I would pass on the same advice that beautiful people from the continent have passed on to me.
Take it one day at a time. Know that some parts of the journey need to be completed in Month 3, others in Year 3, and others in Year 10. This is the seat the founder has to be in. When Amazon started in 1994, they were only selling books. Books! The founder knew the entire time that he wanted to create an online marketplace for convenience – but he simply started with online book sales. Four years later he added a digital component, selling digital computer games. Now, they’re selling everything! Pole pole.