I began my first business at the age of 22, 8 years ago. Over the years, I started, failed, and started again at business, interspersed with stints in jobs working for other people.
My most recent business incarnation- Sugar Bee Cakes (now Felicity Cook)- was the first real success I had had on the business front, and over the last three and a half years, provided me with a bucket load of lessons and feedback. I strived for hours and days and weeks, working both part time and full time in other jobs to get it off the ground, before finally taking the plunge and devoting myself to the business alone.
The desire and drive to build an empire is there. I've sweated, cried, panicked, lost sleep, stressed, whinged, procrastinated, worked through the day and night, and forgone a social life to build what I've got so far. But there was often one thing that was missing. And that was me.
Building a business takes time, dedication, effort, and resilience. It requires long hours, repetition, sacrifice, and a doggedness that not everybody possesses. But what I also discovered, was that that wasn't enough to make movement. Giving everything I had, all day every day, was destroying my business, not building it up.
What I learnt (the hard way) was that if I wasn't me, my business (and my dreams of building an empire) had no chance. When I was overworked, stressed, tired, overwhelmed, or just plain broken, my business, and the energy behind it, suffered. I wasn't on form, which meant I wasn't productive, I wasn't a pleasant person towards my customers, I made silly mistakes, missed opportunities, and caused unease in my personal relationships.
Worst of all, by giving every bit of myself, for every moment of every day (and I was doing 7 days a week for a long time!), I found myself resenting the whole thing. I absolutely hated Mondays, cried about having to get out of bed yet again, hated clients (as a whole), hated everything about myself and my business, and was ready to throw it all in.
And so, I made a change. I took a day back. I took myself out of my business, and discovered, almost instantly, that the sun began to shine again. And therein I found one of the most crucial elements of running a business. NOT running a business.
Goals, dreams, plans, and passions all have a place. And for 12 hours of my day, 5-6 days a week, my focus is on building my empire. But then there are the times where the office door is closed, voicemail takes over, and Felicity exists only as Felicity. It gives me breathing space, it gives me clarity, it basically just gives me a chance to escape the constant guilt of 'not doing enough' that runs through my mind when I'm switched into work mode. It allows me to be human, and to remember the WHY behind the building of my empire- to create a better life.
It took some getting used to, taking back time for myself. I struggled to say no to clients for Sunday orders (changing them to Saturdays only), and even when I got used to that, the thought of 'doing nothing' (which is how I viewed anything that wasn't directly work/business related) was terrifying. But what I discovered, after the first couple of Sundays off- doing practically nothing at all, hello pyjamas at 3pm- was that when Monday arrived, I felt rested, excited, and ready to go.
And it's not every day. If I have deadlines to meet, I'm not an idiot- if I need to work into the night, I still do. But I recoup that later. If I've had a full weekend, with deliveries both days, and no time to myself, I shift my 'me' time- I might take the next Monday morning off, sleep in, get breakfast, or go for a window shop, before kicking back into gear at lunchtime. And you know what? I am a nicer, happier person for it.
I love where my business is heading. I've rebranded, set my sights in a new direction, and am working on creating a world of creative passions, and I'm loving it. It excites me every day, and I've always got something ticking in my brain. I will never not work for myself, I will never not love creating whatever my mind sets as a challenge.
But I will not let it consume every particle of me, to the point where passion is lost in the face of 'business'. Because that defeats the purpose of embarking on this adventure in the first place! I will keep the balance, to keep the fire burning.
Today is Sunday. I had a little bit of work to do this morning, but then #thelove and I went on a day road trip down south, and experienced a bit of the countryside. I switched off from business, and was wife instead. Emails didn't exist, phone calls didn't exist, even plans for the coming week didn't exist. And do I feel guilty for 'ignoring' my goals? Not at all. Instead, I'm pumped to smash them out tomorrow.
I'm building an empire, but not today.