Saturday, December 1, 2012

When Small Business(es) Meet High Stress

I had promised to share the real ups and downs behind owning a small business, and what's more real than a post at 7:30pm on a Saturday night?

The past few weeks have been overwhelming - in both good and bad ways. It's been about three weeks since I started Designers Care, which is a shop filled with gorgeous note cards that are hand stamped using designs donated but lots of talented designers. We've had over 100 sales and raised close to $900 to donate to Hurricane Sandy victims - I'd say the shop is absolutely a success.

But for whatever reason, I just don't feel very successful. I feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and beat down. October through December is my absolute busiest season - between holiday cards for Believe Notes, papers and finals for graduate school, busy season at my full time job, and then of course the chaos of the holidays in general - I feel like I'm starting to shut down.

One day, last week, I went to work without my glasses or my watch and I only had eyeliner on one eye. 

I'm finding that in my stress I seem to be focusing too hard on the negatives: orders are backed up (I must not be efficient enough!), I don't have enough time in the day (so I should get up super early and stay awake super late, right?!), I've made a few mistakes & one of my entire product lines failed (this was the hardest on me, by far). And even though, deep down, I know I'm not failing, I really, really, really feel like I am.

I also know that the more stressed I am, the more stress I put on my husband, and that of course leads to stupid bickering and hurt feelings. He may not be as busy as me in terms of working + school + 2 businesses, but he's NYPD and he certainly has't had a stress-free experience dealing with the hurricane aftermath. Long hours & overtime combined with seeing the underbelly of a city in crisis has definitely lead to an exhausted husband. He and I handle stress in completely different ways - he likes to sit back and do nothing but watch TV in order to escape, while I like to bury myself in even more work to take my mind off of things. But then, of course, we argue about the stress itself because I constantly push us both to do more, more, more, and he is trying to do less, less, less. At this point I think we can agree that we'd both like to just ditch the jobs, and school, and businesses and just try to catch up and cope with all the madness. And thank goodness this is temporary - things always calm down a little in January.

So yes, I feel like I'm failing sometimes - at being a good friend or wife, at cooking healthy dinners, at being present for the people around me. I can beat myself up all I want for missing a deadline or making a mistake, but then I get an email like this and it all seems to melt away:

I know you've been totally swamped! If I can help with anything, let me know. 
By the way, you really inspire me!
When I'm up at 4:30am working on a design, bleary eyed and exhausted, I can't imagine being any form of inspiration for anything (other than maybe Dunkin Donuts). But I wake up almost every morning to amazing emails from amazing people and I remember that I am not in this alone, and I am not doing this for myself. 
And even in writing the blog post, I may be feeling uneasy about it in the morning, but I wanted to share some of what really happens during high stress - you may be seeing beautifully styled photos, and RTs from fabulous people, but that isn't the whole reality. The whole reality is me at 7:30am in my office building noticing that I have eyeliner on one eye.


  1. Hang in there Jackie! I promise there will be light at the end of this tunnel. xo

  2. Jackie, you are a huge inspiration to me! I am so impressed at how you handle all the many things you do! You have such an incredibly big heart, and I love the way you just jump into things when you see that someone needs help. Taking on DesignersCare (a whole 'nother business) while you're already quite overwhelmed with work, grad school, and your own business - well, it takes a really special person with a really special heart! I think you're awesome!! Wish there was something I could do to help! Please let me know if there is!! Take care + God bless! - Lori :)

  3. Jackie-- you are one of those women who others see as someone who does it all, does it well, and still has time for others (in addition to being a gorgeous dog lover with great hair)-- and inevitably, doing it all starts to crush the spirit physically and emotionally. And for some reason, I know from experience, even if others think you are doing it all and doing it well, you can't give yourself the credit. I could say, c'mon, Jackie, give yourself the credit, but it isn't that easy is it? So I'm giving you the credit. :)
    I truly believe that our strengths are also our weaknesses.Your personality drives you and drives you crazy. Your ability to stand back and reflect here on your blog is such a gift. What I hear from you is that your emotional well being and your relationship need a priority boost. Deep breaths until January and start 2013 with a long massage. Thank you so much for your work - you mobilized a community and made us stronger as a result. But know that none of us are holding you to the same impossible standard you set for yourself.


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