Is entrepreneurship right for you?
I started thinking about why I became an entrepreneur when I interviewed my latest podcast guest, Kelly Sinclair, So you want to be an entrepreneur with Kelly Sinclair Ep.94. Our discussion had me thinking about why I started my business, and how profound it was for me at the time.
Some of you have been here since the beginning of WOMENdontDOthat. And you will know that over the past few years, I have struggled with my health. In 2019/2020 I became very ill, I was having a wide range of debilitating symptoms and the doctor was trying to figure out what was wrong with me. It took MONTHS and MONTHS of testing, specialists, and medical appointments to get a diagnosis. There were times it was very scary. I have a family history of glioblastoma brain tumors, which are fatal, and according to the Brain Tumor Association of Canada, is the most common and most aggressive malignant primary brain tumor. Not surprisingly, waiting on the results of those tests was agony, I have lost 2 family members before their time to the disease.
I was finally diagnosed with chronic migraines. To give you a sense of what I was going through, some of the typical migraine systems according to the Cleveland Clinic are:
Head pain that is moderate to severe in intensity, worsened by physical activity/movement
Pain on one or both sides of the head
Throbbing pain or pressure-like pain
Sensitivity to light, sound, smells
Other symptoms include cognitive challenges.
Following my diagnosis, the specialist told me that I was having daily migraines. As we turned to treatment, it was another challenging road. Migraine symptoms, and treatment is very individualized, and the reality is that there are a lot of things medical experts still don’t know about migraines. After months of trial and error, I finally had a treatment plan that didn't eliminate my migraines (there is no cure), but made my condition manageable. I still continue to have migraines monthly, and it still continues to be a significant challenge in my life, but the frequency has dramatically decreased.
When I first sought treatment, one of my first questions was about my ability to work. I was told that 50% of chronic migraine patients can’t work. At the time I was on sick leave from my job, between appointments, anxiety about tests, and my physical health, I needed to take time to focus on what was wrong with me and how to get better.
So as someone who loved her job, is an enneagram 3 (achiever), is borderline a workaholic, and had developed an unhealthy relationship between self worth and work, I felt lost.
After months of treatment, I had improved, but I knew I did not have my old capacity back, and that it may never be the same. At the time I was fearful of how I would handle a full time workload. I love learning, growing, and being challenged by my work. I get bored easily, and the possibility of not having a fulfilling career was not something I was willing to accept.
These challenges were so pervasive that my doctor prescribed therapy related to my diagnosis, and a lot of my treatment was about how to relax, how to not see taking care of myself as lazy, and how to find my worth outside of my job. This was a challenging time for me, and on top of it, it was COVID, and I was ill at home with two kids doing distant learning.
But what was I going to do? I loved the job I had… the career I had created. I had a family member who had similar drive and ambition, and suffered from migraines as well. She recommended becoming an entrepreneur. I could better control my schedule, and take on as much or as little work as I wanted, which would help me balance my health and my career. For perspective, more recently, my migraines can last a day or two, or as long as a week (with varying symptoms).
By the time I was ready to go back to work, I was offered a part time position. This ended up being a blessing in disguise. Because at the same time I had someone that wanted me to take them on as a client doing government relations work. So I decided to do both. And Beacon North Strategies (a boutique public affairs firm) was born, and I started my official entrepreneurial journey. With both positions, I did not have to work full time hours (although I was also doing the podcast) and it gave me the much needed flexibility I required at the time.
The funny thing is, I always felt like I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but never knew what business I should start. Why I never thought to start a business in what my expertise is, I have no idea.
My health, life, and career are not perfect, but many days I am thriving, I know that I am where I am supposed to be right now.
As I explain further in episode 94, becoming an entrepreneur is not for everyone. There are a lot of new challenges that you have to take on in order to start and manage your own business, and although you have more flexibility, you may also find yourself working long hours, without colleagues for advice, and stressed about paying staff.
However, if you are someone who enjoys a challenge and who has other priorities you want to be able to work around, then entrepreneurship could make sense for you.
I hope this story gives you hope, hope that you can do hard things, and knowledge that overcoming barriers is possible, and that the hard things are worth it. My hope is that if you are having a hard time that you recognize that you are not alone, and that there is hope that life will get better. I want you to know that even when things can’t be the way we want them to be, there is beauty and thankfulness to be found - a lesson I am living everyday.
And if you want to become a successful entrepreneur, or just get started, let me leave you with Kelly’s advice, “there is only one thing that leads to success and that is action…but nothing happens if nothing happens.” So get started!