I am finding that this is an extremely integral part of being a female entrepreneur. One of the things that I quickly realized while starting my own business is that my mental health / outlook on life / positive or negative thoughts DIRECTLY impact the success and momentum of my business. Shit.
Gone are the days when I could log onto my corporate job with my mental health in the trash and still make it seem like I was doing a good job, still get that promotion, still get that raise. Still be “successful”.
“You don’t get to fake it here.” – a terrifying, yet exciting aha moment of mine.
This journey makes you go deep into yourself. Especially the triggers and the fears. I will vulnerably share that money (or lack thereof) is something I have always feared deeply. But you will read more about that below.
What I want to focus this introduction on is how my support system helped me quickly rebound out of the hole that my fear had dug itself. Without support, I would have been stuck there for who knows how long.
We need people in our lives who can empathize and help us see the forest through the trees when we feel scared and lost.
We need a safe and inspiring space to escape the everyday chaos of being an entrepreneur to reflect, strategize and dream big.
That’s why we are so excited to announce that our Biz Retreat is opening up to a limited group of female entrepreneurs this year in Phoenix, Arizona! Before I go into the details, I want to share what I wrote after a series of really tough weeks being full-time. Here goes nothin’.
The passage below was written in early March of 2022.
It’s a Friday and I made it through one of my hardest weeks ever as an entrepreneur. First, we are going to get through the hard stuff because I promised to be honest & transparent about my experience — but I promise this story will get positive eventually.
I knew that one of the unique challenges I would experience in my transition to being a full-time photographer was leaving my cushy-corporate job of 8 years. A job that, while time-consuming and a little soul-sucking at times, provided me with a big steady paycheck and great benefits. A job that funded a city-girl lifestyle of treating myself, traveling & never having to think twice about saying yes to plans or events. A job where, as long as I physically showed up, I would get paid. I always knew that in some ways that financial stability also contributed to my mental stability. Even though I was lacking passion for what I was doing, I was okay.
I thought I did EVERYTHING I could to prepare for this change. I saved money, I worked my butt off, and most importantly, I worked on my mindset. The most important thing to me was understanding that the road ahead would be hard and I would be challenged (probably more than I ever have in my entire life), but that I would never feel so defeated that I give up. I refuse to call any of that preparation a failure because I am where I am today because of it. Taking the emotion out of it, I am in a *great* place. I just don’t feel that way most of the time now that I am fully on my own.
A life lesson I am still in the process of learning is that no amount of preparation, research, or control can keep you safe in life. The universe can, and will, throw things at you that shake your foundation — make you question your choices, your path, everything. I know, logically, that everything happens for a reason – especially the tough stuff. I have seen proof of this on so many different occasions in my life. Every perceived failure was just a redirect to a better path — the path that I am currently on.
The thing is, you can know you are on the right path and still deal with *really* tough feelings at the same time. If I am honest, not a day has gone by since I quit my job that I haven’t been pulled under by the fear that I can’t be an entrepreneur and live the life of ease that I’ve always desperately wanted.
I liken this fear to the feeling of being out in the open water, with no land in sight, sitting on a small life raft. Ultimately, you are safe, supported, and floating, but you have no fucking clue how you are going to make it to land and you have no idea if and when the little life raft is going to fail. You’re drifting on the little raft when you’d much rather be on a speed boat — but you are so stressed about the current leaks in your raft, you can’t even start to figure out how you can make that happen.
I know that it’s just a limiting belief shouting at me that I can’t make this work. I see it exactly for what it is every time it comes up — the stupid little devil on my shoulder that insists on raining on this parade. But as it turns out, brains are tricky. I can say something isn’t true, and call it what it is, but that doesn’t mean I feel it or hold trust in my conclusion yet. This is where the reinforcements need to come in.
As a soloprenuer, I am a one-woman show. Not to mention, being a one-woman show requires that I do things that I feel wildly underqualified for. Finances, accounting, marketing, customer relations, sales, tech support — I am quite literally doing the job of at least 6 different functions in the corporate world. All of that hard work — but without the coworkers to grab coffee with, find the humor in the shit show and dust yourself off as a team to take on the next challenge.
Something I have valued from the very start of my business was building relationships with fellow female soloprenuers. I can see how this journey could be so lonely if you’re not intentional about finding support. For reasons unknown but ones that I will be forever grateful for — I embarked on this entrepreneurial path around the same time as my best friend, Alex, who was building her personal training business (Alexandria Jean Fitness). Catching up on a friend’s life evolved into talking about our businesses. What started off as a way to vent turned into having a support system to catch us when we fell.
We both found so much value in these conversations, that they eventually gave way to formal meetings on a weekly cadence. We called these weekly chats our “Biz Meetings”. At first, they didn’t have any structure. But now, two years later, we never miss a meeting, we look at our goals, we problem-solve together, and most importantly, we celebrate our wins. We still vent. We even cry sometimes, because holy fuck, this is hard. But the beauty of it all is that I am not doing this alone.
The Biz Meetings were working so well for us that they birthed a second idea — The Biz Retreat.
Remember a few paragraphs ago where I talked about wanting to be on the speed boat but being too stressed to be able to make a plan to get there?
Yeah, that’s what it feels like to operate your business as a soloprenuer with big dreams. As a soloprenuer, your to-do list never ends. NEVER. There is always something you could be doing. In fact, there are probably things that you *need* to be doing that you can’t even get to. This is why entrepreneurs are passionate people, without the passion for what you are doing, you would quite literally be considered a sociopath for choosing this path. It is hard, full stop.
Alex and I were feeling the pain of the entrepreneurial hustle struggle in 2021. We so badly wanted to look forward to our big dreams and strategize, but we couldn’t put away today’s problems in order to do so. During one of our Friday Biz Meetings, one of us joked that we wished we could travel somewhere sunny, block out the world and just focus on the future of our businesses.
It was that moment where a light bulb went off in both of our heads…uhm…why couldn’t we do that?
Flash forward to November of 2021. Alex and I boarded our flights to Phoenix, Arizona for our very first Biz Retreat. As we were planning the trip, we both knew in the back of our minds that this idea would someday serve other female soloprenuers, so we took the planning of it super seriously.
We designed everything about the Biz Retreat with intention.
I drew upon my experience at Starbucks working in the Strategy organization to develop a full workbook of writing and brainstorming prompts. Every day of the Biz Retreat had a focus.
Day 1: Reflect & Strategize
We spent the first evening of the retreat looking back at 2021. We journaled what went well, what opportunities we could see, and identified areas where we needed more vision and structure.
We then looked ahead and mapped out our next 3 years in business. We started by visualizing what we wanted 2024 to look like and worked backward from there.
Day 2: Develop a 2022 Action Plan
The second day was fully dedicated to what we wanted the next year of our business to look like. Using the foundation of our 3-year roadmap from Day 1 made it easy to see what sort of goals we needed to accomplish in our immediate future.
We also used Day 2 to go deeper into our marketing strategies. Asking ourselves how we will attract our ideal clients and sharing innovative ideas with each other.
Another exercise that I really enjoyed from the second day was identifying a focus area for every month of 2022. That has been the backbone of my year – knowing that even if I feel off track, I am still accomplishing the things I set out to do when my head was clear.
Day 3: Dream Big
We deserve to get that damn speed boat. In fact, we deserve a fucking yacht. Focusing on dreams during our last day of the Biz Retreat was my absolute favorite, because when do we ever give ourselves permission to dream that big, as adults?
The truth is, you can only go as high as your dreams will let you. If you never let yourself think big, you will stay small, that is one guarantee we have in this life.
What I loved most about the Biz Retreat was the clarity and excitement I felt working through the workbook and throughout the activities, we structured for the weekend. Alex had us eating healthy, we were outside 90% of the time, and we moved our bodies. We are both big believers that self-care leads to bigger success as entrepreneurs. We know firsthand how much your physical, and especially mental health, impacts business. You cannot pour from an empty cup no matter how stubborn about it we might be sometimes.
Can I be honest? I was supposed to write this blog post in 2021, lol. I procrastinated for other reasons, but I know now that this blog post needed to be written right in this difficult moment. Not when I was reflecting from a place of stability.
Because the truth is, I am 100x more grateful for the work we did at the Biz Retreat now that I am in a state of anxiety. Every time I get worried that I am not working efficiently enough towards my goals, I refer to my workbook and I am comforted by the fact that I am AHEAD of where I set out to be. Just that fact alone against how anxious I feel proves to me how easy it is to have a falsely negative outlook of ourselves as soloprenuers.
And every time I get stressed about not looking forward, I remember that there will always be another Biz Retreat. I will get that precious time away EVERY year to take care of myself, center myself, and look ahead. To reflect on how far I have come, to check and adjust my goals based on my evolving passions, and to plan for the future. To take the first step in achieving my biggest, wildest dreams.
Alex and I benefit so freaking much from the supportive relationship we’ve built together as entrepreneurs. I truly wouldn’t have been able to do this without her. We see the value of this support system we’ve built in our businesses every day.
We knew that eventually, we wanted to bring this support to more women. More women deserve to live out their dreams without fear of having to go at it alone. So we are starting by opening up the Biz Retreat to a small group of female soloprenuers in 2022.
If you are a fellow one-woman show in your small business seeking community, support, and structure – JOIN US <3
Our second-annual Biz Retreat will be held in Phoenix, Arizona from November 17th-20th of 2022. We will follow the same rough structure as Alex and I did in 2021 — taking intentional time to look back at the year, developing a forward-looking strategy & action plans, and brainstorming our biggest dreams together as a community of badass women.
During the Biz Retreat, we will also nourish our bodies & minds and get a lil’ creative. I will *of course* be documenting the weekend and hosting mini branding sessions for each of our attendees in the desert. So not only will you come away from this retreat inspired, you will have that *content* too, boo.
If you want to take a peek into our weekend from 2021, Alex pulled together a video of a little chat that we filmed on our retreat that will share what to expect as an attendee of the Biz Retreat.
We will be opening up the Biz Retreat for reservations in May of 2022. In the meantime, if you are interested in the goodness, drop us your email to receive first access to a spot, here.
Lastly, here is to women out here kicking ass every day in their businesses, following their dreams and never giving up — even when it gets really hard. Cheers to us. XO