So it’s a bit over a year since we opened our virtual doors, and I've been reflecting on all that has (and hasn’t) happened during that time. There have definitely been a lot of great memories and milestones, and I’m so grateful for the support of our fabulous customers and my friends and family. But for every success there has been infinitely more f*ck-ups, both small and not-so-small. Here are my top three:
#1 I underestimated how much financial stress screws with your mindset
I started this business with my personal savings - I think the fancy entrepreneur term for that is ‘boot-strapping’. For me, it was more like ‘pants-shitting’. I was paying myself $600 a week, which is roughly equivalent to the minimum wage in Australia. I live in Sydney so over half of that was already gone on rent, which left the rest for food, bills and life in general. I was prepared to cut down on my spending (which is tough when you’re in your mid-30s and friends get married, have babies and want to do crazy-expensive things like go out for dinner), but I was completely unprepared for how financial stress would impact every single area of my life.
As the year passed and my savings slowly dwindled, money was constantly on my mind - especially when our landlord sold our apartment and we were forced to move at short notice (and pay more rent), which threw everything into a tailspin. My creativity completely dried up as I was constantly second-guessing my ideas and evaluating them through a financial lens. My growth mindset quickly morphed into a scarcity obsession. I became paralysed, depressed, and filled with fear and anxiety, which isn't great when you're trying to grow a small business. I know a lot of people survive with much less than what I did, and I have a new level of appreciation for my own financial privilege as a result, but it affected me nonetheless.
#2 I burnt myself out…again
In 2015 I had my first experience of burnout, and it was really f*cking horrible. I cried for (seemingly) no reason all the time, was constantly fatigued and foggy, had no motivation and didn’t understand what was happening to me. Instead of treating myself with compassion, I yelled at myself to snap out of it and get on with work and life, which just made things worse until I felt like I was headed for a complete breakdown. It was really scary and once I came out the other side I vowed to never let that happen again. Ha!
Within about six months of starting Renegades of Chic, I started noticing the warning signs again. I thought to myself - I know what this is, it’s the start of burnout - I'm all over it. And then went merrily on my way, naively thinking that naming it would make it go away. Of course, it didn’t. I continued to work like a crazy person and once again found myself swirling around in the depths of burnout, struggling to understand how this had happened again. Except this time, I was kind to myself. I gave myself permission to stop. To care for myself, talk to myself with compassion, and slowly heal my mind and body back to a place of strength.
#3 I let impostor syndrome get the better of me
I've spent my entire career in the public and not-for-profit sectors, and still work part-time in the public sector. My only private sector experience was a six-month stint as the office manager for a failing IT company (which had striking resemblances to Wernham Hogg), so starting a business felt like stepping in to another world. Like most women, impostor syndrome has shown up in various forms throughout my career, and I was determined not to let it get in my way this time. I've read Lean In, dammit!
I took a year off to give myself time to learn how to build and run a website, find out what SEO actually stands for and source products from all over the world. I thought I was killing it. But then the voice started at the back of my head, faint at first and then so loud I let it take over everything.
Who are you to be running a business? You don't have the right to be here, not like the others do. What would you know about marketing? You've never sold anything before in your life, you don't know how to connect with people, not like the others do. You don't belong here.
And just like that, I listened to that insidious voice and let myself believe I didn't have the right to be successful in business, that I should go back to 'my world'. I felt completely adrift with no idea what to do next. My beautiful friend described it as though I was looking in at a room full of successful people in business, with my hands and face pressed against the windowpane, too scared to even knock at the door. It's taken me a few months of reflection to understand what's happened, and I'll probably need a couple more to completely drown out the doubting voice - but I will.
So, if you've ever read a book about entrepreneurship, by now you're probably shaking your head at my naivety, because you know that a growth mindset, resilience and self-confidence are essential to running a successful business. I know that too because I literally bought and read all of the books, but the last year has taught me that knowing something to be true and actually figuring out how to do it are two very different things.
Last year also showed me it takes a while to get something right, so it helps to accept the fact you'll f*ck things up, constantly step back and check in with where you're at. You might need to adjust what you're doing, or in my case, throw out 95% of the plan and start all over again. I'm still figuring out what that looks like for Renegades of Chic, but I'm excited to share it with you soon...