Is Small Business Worth It?


As a mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend, I made a whole lot of sacrifices for my business. Especially in those early days when I was establishing my business, it felt like every spare moment was devoted to the business and not to the people I loved. Who am I kidding, there were no “spare” moments at all! Every waking moment was either working, thinking about work, preparing for work, or recovering from work. I cried many, many tears out of sheer exhaustion. For several years I didn’t see much real money out of the business. I felt like my kids really resented cake and certainly my devotion to it. When you combine that with all those hours of work,  the crazy clients and the distinct lack of funds, it hardly seems worth it, right?

As is often the case, one of you recently challenged me to think a lot harder about this question: ultimately, is the sacrifices made to be  in business worth it?

Before I answer that fully, let me say that I think the sacrifices are big for all  of us, but for those of you who are parents, you understand when I say the sacrificing feels a whole hell of a lot bigger because there are little people depending on you. You didn’t have kids to put them in daycare, have them looked after by your Mom, or be so tired that you fall asleep half way through reading a Dr Seuss book, right? For parents especially it can really start to feel not worth it pretty quickly. I started my cake business when my triplets were toddlers – so believe me, I  felt that whole, “remind me again why I’m bothering with this?!” feeling pretty early on.

That being said, I also know that even if I’d not gone the cake route, I would have been a working parent. So the issues would have been smaller, but much the same -and certainly I’ve met LOTS of working-for-others parents who wonder if the work is worth it.

And yet…obviously I STAYED in business for a reason though, right? I mean there had to be *something* in all of that which was worth it.  So if not  money, time, rest…what then?

2015-04-06 15.57.39

After thinking on this for a long while, I came to a few conclusions (or as Oprah might say, here’s what I know for sure):

  • When you’re in the eye of the storm, it’s virtually  impossible to see that it might have any worth – we see and feel only destruction, desperation and exhaustion from the battle. We are so caught up in the minute-to-minute issues (be those personal or professional) that we rarely stop to take stock of things and find the value. As a result, we end up looking for the value when we are feeling most vulnerable – super tired, not enough money, complaining friends or kids- and in that vulnerable moment, we only see what we lack rather than what we have.
  • It’s a LOT easier to focus on the smaller things we do not have (money, sleep, time) than to focus on the bigger things we are getting (independence from a 9-5 job, learning to deal with people, teaching our children about entrepreneurship, achieving things daily, learning new tasks, empowering ourselves.)
  • If (like many of us) you started your business because you’re good at making cake and felt pressured to start selling  it –  and your reason for being in business never evolved from there – you’ll struggle even more to find any worth in the blood, sweat and tears. Let me say it like it is: cake, in and of itself, just isn’t worth it.
  • Even if  you DO have a much bigger  purpose for your business, AND you take the time to stop and ask yourself what it’s all for… most of it’s true value and meaning won’t make itself known until after you have moved on from it.  As an example, on a small scale it’s only AFTER we’ve dealt with the client from hell that we can see the value in having solid terms and conditions.  On a bigger scale, it’s only after the cake falls over that we can appreciate the lessons we learned about problem solving on the fly or remaining calm in a crisis – both skills are useful in real life. It kinda all makes sense…later.

Let me show you how the value is only obvious later:

This article I wrote about quitting your business was written while I still was in business.

This article I wrote about quitting your business was written after I’d sold my business.

Can you feel the difference in the Michelle who wrote those?

Both are heartfelt, but the first one was like, “I’m stressed out and need to fix that,” while the second one takes a MUCH broader, more mature view of both the situation and how to deal with  it.

So how do you cope when right now all you can see is the anemic bank balance, the bags under your eyes, and the sight of your kids bedroom door (which they slammed after yelling “You only care about cake!”)?

You stop.

You take a deep breath.

You remember – even if only for a moment – that you are enough.

You acknowledge that this is Really. Damn. Hard. Work.

And then – you take the advice of Mature Michelle (in that second article).

And then – you go and find a way to recharge your batteries in whatever way suits you (a decent nap, bottle of red, weekend off, whatever.)

I’m almost certain that if I handed you a crystal ball which saw yourself after you moved onto the next thing- you’d probably find that yes, it was (and is) worth it. It’s just that right now you’re too tired to see it.

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