Growing up, I was one of the lucky kids that never had to apply myself too much in order to get decent grades and perhaps this is one of the aspects of my downfall. From the age of fourteen, my view of the world took a sudden change for the worst. I was depressed, anxious and didn’t feel apart of the society that I had enjoyed during my younger years. This lead me to be diagnosed as a manic depressive, bi-polar and at one point gaining the diagnosis of border line personality disorder. None of these has stuck through my older years apart from depression and a tendency to battle with anxiety.
I’m going to point out what might be obvious here but I believe it’s important to say. When you are trying to navigate any kind of mental health issue, it becomes such a focus in your life. From seeking counselling, attending groups or just trying to get out of bed, you don’t really have much energy left for anything else. And, although there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking the time to over come depression or any other problem relating to mental health (and I strongly advise you do this), when you finally do come out the other side and are finally ready to move forward with other parts of your life – time has passed. Opportunities have gone. The world has kept spinning.
By the time that I finally had a grip on myself, I found that I didn’t have a lot of options for a job and also soon discovered that the jobs I did have qualifications for had a glass ceiling and lacked a challenge. I found myself working on a street food spin off for a restaurant, in charge of the creating the menu and booking us into events. After a few months, the owner made it clear that he had a lot of other projects on at the moment and couldn’t commit to spending any more time on the project. He suggested that perhaps I should start my own street food business and without knowing it, he became a catalyst for the beginning of my adventure in entrepreneurship.
It became apparently to me early on that although the street food opportunity was making money, the downside was how time consuming preparing the food was. Long hours and physical work on your feet can make it difficult to focus working on the business rather than in the business. Overtime, with the help from my time at the Natwest Business Accelorator, I came to the realisation that I had a choice to make. I could either keep working in a business that would have limitations to scaling up or I could break apart the growing interest in the condiments and focus on a business that I could scale quickly, with less need for early stage, large investment and wouldn’t need a huge team supporting it.
I’ve found that starting The Sweet Beet, although extremely exciting and fantastically liberating, can be quite a personal journey of confidence building, growth and exploration. As the only person in my at that time, it was completely up to me to take responsibility, action and control. You find that starting out everything is new and exciting and the world really does seem like it’s your very own oyster to crack however as your success grows, the pressure you will ultimately put on yourself to continue this can at times be quite terrifying. Imposter syndrome is something that is often found among entrepreneurs as though we can’t believe our luck and I have definitely experienced my share of self-doubt.
I’ve had days where I didn’t think I could ever get up again and I’ve had nights where I’ve cried myself to sleep. I’ve worried that maybe I wasn’t good enough for the world that I was born into and I’ve judged myself harder than most other people would ever think to judge me. I also know that I’m not alone in how I have felt and the hardship I have fought against. Resilience and the ability to bounce back quickly becomes your greatest asset. Entrepreneurship requires a lot of picking yourself back up, dusting yourself off and continuing on without too much momentum lost.
I do not claim to have all the answers to become a productive and successul women but I can offer encouragement and support. I am still learning and admit to have my good days and bad but I do believe that I stand as a testiment to all women that no matter how difficult the path you have chosen may be, you are worth effort, time and patience.
I think when we first decide to cut ties with the 9 to 5, we do so with no idea about how the future will pan out. And this is part of what makes entrepreneurship so exciting, liberating and fulfilling. However, I think it’s safe to say that many of us are not prepared for how lonely the journey can be and how challenging it can become when our passion for our business starts to affect our personal life and wellbeing.
It wasn’t long before I felt completely over my head and out of my depth. I experienced what is probably common when you mix a start-up while also recovering from mental health problems for the first time; that sudden anxiety freeze, your mind swirling with all the new “to-dos”, the business plan you never expected to actually complete, feeling as though there is no good reason you aren’t working at the same level as a business that’s been around for years longer than you have, pressured to admit that you thought a pitch was a kind of throw that was made in baseball.
Being a part of entrepreneurship and the start-up space has made me seek out challenges and goals that I wouldn’t have never set for myself. It made me confront the future head on but most of all, it made me realise that I had a future in the first place. Every day I found myself inspired by another founder or start-up, their tenacity, their ideas, growth and positivity. And one day it dawned on me that others felt the same towards me.
I was asked to talk during Newcastle Start Up Week this year, in my speech, I touched on how entrepreneurship has a side of vulnerability. Your putting your hard work, ideas and plans out into the world and regardless of how amazing your product or service is – it’s a really scary process and you will not always receive the kind of response you might be expecting.
But instead of looking at how we can push that fear aside or hide it way – I want to try and empower you guys and others to embrace the worries, insecurities and doubt and learn how to use that energy for positive results.
And a big part of that is pretty simple actually. It’s the kind of lesson that transcends beyond your business, further than your day to day and forces you to come to terms with something many of us never do. Learning to accept yourself. Ideally, mastering the art of loving who you are.
I learned that being proud of your accomplishments was not the same as arrogance. I realised that trying and failing is not a mirror image of who you are as a person and I experienced the freedom of sharing my hardships with those that understood and could offer help and advice.
Celebrating the success we do achieve, reflecting on the failures in order to learn from them and having an intrinsic knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses is one of the most powerful tools you can access.
I want you to know that what’s more important than the turnover of your business – is the knowledge and confidence of your personal growth and how you harness that into a force that drives you forward each and every day.
I started this amazing journey with a street food business, no plan and a fragile view of myself and the world. I’m running a completely different business focused on the food retail industry, a scalable business model and a clear vision of where the future will take me. My products are listed in over 80 stores up and down the country as well as store like Ocado and Fenwick. I won North East Young Entrepreneur of the Year and my products have won awards for their taste and innovation.
I am so grateful to be a part of something so motivating, challenging and fun. Thank you to those for holding my hand and helping me realise my vision, my passion and my path. I wish I had discovered this sooner but perhaps, it happened at just the right time.