First, stepping out
Here is me few months after quitted my two successful businesses and I couldn’t be happier.
It all started when…
I was very close to have a mental break down without knowing what caused it. The businesses were going well. I was working a lot and yet still managed to have at least two holidays a year. So what the fuss?
In 2018, I was in a process of raising 2nd round of funding for HER coffee products while HER cafe was running as usual with additional of our 2nd site that newly opened end of 2017. There were a few good potentials in all aspects. And the best of all was I had an incredible VC supported me at a very early stage. But then something inside me triggered myself to ask a question ‘Do I really want this?’ Do I really want to be a founder of consumer product? HER Coffee would become much more complex as a brand if I successfully closed 2nd round of fund raising. There will be more VC, investors and more people involved. Do I really want it?
The answer was and still is NO. I never wanted any of this, really. I am no inexperienced founder. HER cafe was in year 7 and still going strong. But the nature of both businesses were just not quite right from what I wanted to do professionally. My happy place, at HER, was only when I was using my creative and design skills. And that is what I really wanted to focus on regardless how good I was with the business side (HER cafe managed a small profit since year one, which I’m very proud of).
It is always harder when things are going well since you wouldn’t be able to convince yourself easily to drop it. How can you justify your emotion against a profitable business? Only one thing you’d keep telling yourself is you’re in the best position being your own boss, having a lifestyle you wanted and earning sensible income. Everyone envy you.
We all know that setting up a business takes a massive toll on us. So we need to ask ourselves of WHAT we really want for ourselves? Perhaps we focus too much on WHY as if we’re trying to justify our very own existence. In this case, with HER, I did believe in the product, and still do, that it was a great alternative for coffee lovers who appreciate a good quality coffee but time poor and mainly couldn’t care less about a complication around speciality coffee. Hence, I was very convinced that I was doing for a good reason, better design product while supporting small coffee farmers. What could be a wrong doing in it? apart from I was so unhappy and my ability only kept me going without checking with myself.
The revelation nearly caused me the mental breakdown and a break-up in order to carry on business as usual. At the time, I truly believed that breaking up with my boyfriend of over 6 wonderful year relationship was very sensible. The business was very demanding and I was raising funds so I needed to keep my focus and energy on my business only. I had no energy left for anyone, myself included. In order to survive, I had to sacrifice the love one. It was the only way. How could someone ever think that? But I did. First with our dog, Chester, and I still regret it deeply until today. Second it was my boyfriend’s turn. What sort of person I was!
A lot that we, founders, often don’t openly share or discuss as somewhat it seems to let us down, doubt and discourage us to moving forward. Everyone is killing it so I could never ever let the negative energy interfere! But I’m encouraging you to have a reality check often with your emotion and mental stage. Remember that a successful business requires a healthy founder, physically and mentally.
You can’t lead anything and anyone if you are not 100%.
And our business does not define who we are.
Last year, I made a very big turn around to quitted it all after 7 years having built HER from cafe to product, to being a brand. I cannot put it into words how much it has such impact on me. I am very thankful to myself and my honesty that I gave to myself. I didn’t pretend that I would love to become one of those who own super cool brands and then I’d become a super cool founder who got interviewed on ‘how I built this’ podcast. Of course, it wasn’t purely just me having an epiphany but also something I started doing last year without knowing how much effect it would have on me.
This year 2019, I’ll be focusing on creative works, especially place making and experienced design that I’m passionate about most. I’d like to have an impact through the works I’ll be doing.
Founders or Freelancers out there. You are not alone and if there is no one you’re comfortable to talk to then I am here to listen.