Shift Happens: Why mindset is the single most important tool for creative business owners.
For my inaugural post, I thought I'd share a little bit about a crucial turning point in my business journey, and it has to do with mindset.
I consider myself a pretty rational person, and tend to run swiftly in the other direction if I hear words like “energy” or “mantra,” but I also have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater and dismiss really valuable ideas because they sound a bit too new-agey, if you know what I mean.
Mindset is one of those concepts that I’m really glad kept knocking on my door until I answered because it certainly has been life-changing...
I just got back from Top Drawer in London, the UK’s biggest trade show for creative businesses, and I met some really inspiring and lovely people, but I also ran into many burned out creative business owners who are at that point where they’re starting to doubt their choice to walk away from their jobs to pursue their passions. And I can totally relate because I was almost one of them.
I always had the dream of launching a wildly successful company that would offer women truly eco-friendly skincare solutions and beautiful sensory experiences. In my vision, I would grow my business to the point that I would be able run the creative side of things (product and scent development) and be able to live a life of freedom and balance, but a few months into starting my business, I started to call my dream a myth.
Too many 16-hour days were making my burn-out really obvious! Whenever I heard some poor woman express a desire to start her own business because she wanted more time or a more balanced life, I would scoff and say, "Oh, you have no idea! You won't have any time for yourself at all!" I began to believe this story, and my belief became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I couldn't even allow myself to recognise opportunities that might extract me from this vice I found myself in.
Then one day, in the midst of a particularly huge opportunity that was both exciting and terrifying, I called my dad, crying into the phone, and he didn't do what we normally does, which is tell me that everything would be ok or offer practical advice. Instead he said, "You know what? You need to get out of there. You need to leave the situation for a few days.”
I resisted at first because the idea of leaving my business was really scary, but I finally just gave in. I said ok, I'm getting on a plane. And I did. I went to India for 10 days…and it was transformative. Not because I met anyone or did anything particularly interesting; I just caught up with family and ate yummy food, but it changed everything. It helped me understand things in a way that I'd been completely blocked from seeing - that I was living out these negative scripts that were shaping my life and my business.
And just 10 days of extracting myself from that situation helped me to see everything more clearly. So, if you feel like you're stuck in a rut, physically changing your location can be really really helpful, even if your brain resists it at first.
So what were these stories that I needed to unpack and rewrite? What I'd like to do is share them you because I think they're stories that a lot of woman can relate to, and that can prevent us from having the kinds of businesses and lives we truly want. In fact, since I began to recognise them and take active measures and interventions to rewrite them, my experience has totally been transformed.
I feel hopeful and excited about my business again! And I've only scratched the surface of what's possible, so let's dive in:
#1 Blood, Sweat & Tears...
The first one I recognised right away. It's this very warped idea of entrepreneurship and what it means to own your own business - and it's no surprise where this one comes from because you can find it all over quotes on Pinterest and Instagram and Blogs - you know, that entrepreneurs are those crazy folks who quit a job working 40 hours for someone else just so they can work 100 hours for themselves.
I definitely believed this one to the core!
Even before I became an entrepreneur, I told myself that I would have to give it all up for a while, and maybe it would pay off one day, and that was a huge maybe! So - shocker - this was my initial experience of running a business. It put blinders on me. I couldn’t see any way around the hustle, because that’s what I believed business was all about.
And when opportunities came along, like maybe outsourcing some of my work that I wasn’t an expert at, I couldn’t even see or accept them.
Easy wasn’t in my vocabulary.
Another thing I want to explore is the why behind all this negative story-telling. It’s not because we’re miserable people who want miserable outcomes, right? So what is it about these narratives that have such power of us? I think when you unpack them, a lot of it has to do with security, you know? Our brain’s primary purpose is to protect us and keep us alive. Business can be scary, so these stories help to keep us cocooned within a series of safe zones, and one of those safe zones is...
#2 Growing too big is bad...
I used to think that growing my business meant giving up what I want - peace of mind, my ethical values, time, sanity, security, and so on.
I’m quite introverted, so one of the reasons I started my own business is so I could be around fewer people (or at least have more choice in the matter!). So resistance to growing my business was my brain’s way of saying, look, is this really what you want? It makes sense, in a way, but it’s not necessarily true.
For example, I currently respond to every single email, review and social media comment myself, but if I grow my business, I can hire someone to manage customer service and do all these tasks for me, which would mean dealing with fewer people than I currently do.
And in terms of quality, there are plenty of excellent eco businesses out with there with high quality products, so that’s just erroneous thinking. Growth does not have to mean compromising your values or standards - in fact, growth can mean sourcing even better ingredients and packaging at more affordable prices - which is a serious win-win for me and my customers!
And I love this next one...it’s one I’ve heard several places online now, and it was one of those little tricks of mind that helped me so tremendously. My mental block was that growing my business would be mean working harder. This is true for those small business owners who are really hustling. You’re working 16-hour days. You are at max capacity. You are near burn-out. You want to grow, but you think, that would mean working double the amount, but I literally cannot. This is also faulty thinking, because in order to grow your business, you need to work smarter, not harder.
For example, one of the things Bloomtown makes and sells is candles, which are uniquely designed and scented by us. If I were to decide to outsource just the pouring of the candles to a local company who can do this much more quickly and efficiently than I can, I would be working less, but I would selling more. So, I could grow my business without defying the laws of physics. See? It’s possible! And it would mean being able to focus on what I’m good at, which is making amazing soap and other beauty products - and growing my business.
So, that wasn’t just a hypothetical example; it’s actually what we’re in the process of doing - all thanks to this little mindset shift!
But that’s not an easy one to overcome thanks to this next one….
#3 I have to do every little thing myself…
...in order to truly deserve my success. Asking for help, outsourcing, or using freely available resources is inauthentic or “cheating.” Uggh, this one drives me nuts when I hear it, but I am guilty of it, too. I take immense pride in the fact that all of our products are hand-crafted in our workshop here in Cornwall, so it’s difficut for me to let go of that.
But what makes it easier is examining my true goals for my business. What are my non-negotiables? High quality ingredients, innovative palm oil-free formulations, and beautifully sensory experiences - never tested on animals. Doing this on a larger scale means working to truly transform the beauty industry, which is my ultimate goal.
You can’t be everything to everyone - pick your battles - decide your non-negotiables, then you can really hit it out of the park. Excuse the long string of mixed metaphors and cliches!
The bottom line is that you don’t need to meticulously hand-craft every single little thing in your business in order to deserve your success- that’s faulty thinking.
I have a friend who is an artist. Along with her beautiful artworks, she sells little kits that allow people to get started with a similar drawing technique - they include a set of special pens, a pad of textured paper and a little “how to booklet” written by her. This is just brilliant - a smart way to grow her business without working as hard for each penny, which actually leaves her with more time to be creative.
In terms of free available resources, that one pertains to social media, which I’ll address in another episode.
So why is it that we create so many rules around how we’re allowed to make money? I think it has something to do with this deeply ingrained notion...
#4 Money is dirty....
From an early age we’re taught that there’s something distasteful or even sinful about earning money, and that even touching money is bad for you.
Not everyone is given this message, but I would say that most households and schools set up this dichotomy between doing what you love or helping people versus becoming rich and successful.
So it’s no surprise that many women I know, including myself, literally cannot say that they want to be rich and successful without qualifying this sentence with all sorts of softeners like, “while making a difference” or “by doing something truly valuable.” Now I am not saying you shouldn’t also want those things - they are super important - but isn’t it telling, this aversion we have to saying out loud what’s also very true for many of us - that deep down we do want an abundance of wealth and success?
Now this could be because we’ve seen money earned in unethical ways, or we come from a “work hard and keep your head down” family where overt shows of wealth were discouraged. Either way, it’s time to unwed the concept of money from all of these value judgements that we project onto it.
In reality, money is just a tool - it is not inherently good or bad, but you can do plenty of good and bad with money, that part is up to you!
For example, in our case, we donate 10% of our annual profits to environmental and animal rescue charities, and we’re really proud of being the first certified palm oil-free company in the UK - but I’ve had to work to really train by brain that it’s okay to become a very successful company, it’s okay to make money because from that amplified platform, I can actually make more of a difference by helping to shape consumer purchasing habits to be more eco-friendly, so that’s a good thing.
#5 Frugality = Wealth
There’s another narrative that doesn't affect me so much (I have no problem spending money!), but I hear it all the time, and this is that frugality = wealth; but actually, being super anxious about money and counting pennies does not make you wealthier. It's good to save money, but that act in and of itself does not increase your wealth. Instead, it can get you deeply entrenched in a scarcity mindset, where you stop even looking for areas where you could make money with less effort and stress, and where you could actually spend money to make more money. I think that's really key.
#6 I am not naturally good w business/money
This is one that I think a lot of businesswomen face: I’m not naturally good at business or good with money, and any success I've had is accidental.
So, if someone says, “Wow, you've come so far in two and a half years,” my response is normally like, “I know, it's amazing, right? We didn't expect it all.” Because I don’t want to admit, on some level, that I'm in control of my growth and my success, that my good decisions, creative energy or even my ability to delegate smartly - all these things have helped me to get me where I am.
It's somehow less scary to say that it just happened. But actually, when I think about it, deep down inside, I did expect it. But it’s easier to pretend that I wasn't expecting it because then I don’t have to admit that I want more, right? In reality, I want my business to be way, way bigger than it is right now, and I want my products to be in far more stores than they are currently sold in, but to admit those things is somehow scary because not having them makes me feel vulnerable.
If you say you weren’t expecting anything, then anything you get is amazing…but good luck trying to get ahead with that attitude. Yes, it might happen as a fluke, but as a general rule, it simply does not work!
The reason I got away with it for so long is because deep down I actually felt very differently than I was admitting, and that inner belief and drive pushed my business as far as it could. But now it’s time for the next phase, admitting that I want more, understanding that it’s not wrong, silly or impossible to want a wildly successful business and a gorgeous life!
So, these are just some of the stories that I have told myself over the past few decades and certainly since starting my business, and they’re stories that simply don’t serve me any more.
I’d really love to hear the stories that are getting in the way of your success and growing your business, so please leave a comment!
And make sure to check out next week’s post which is all about what you should and shouldn’t spend your money on when you first launch your creative business, until then, have a fabulous week!