In June and July, Andra and I experienced a completely new season in our business journey: we took a 6-week maternity leave and sabbatical from our business. The experience of preparing for our 6 weeks away was unlike any other; in the 3 months leading up to our break, we worked 50 to 60 hours per week to serve our current Clients wholeheartedly. As we prepared for our break, though, we experienced challenges we never knew we’d face:
- Some had expressed anger about Andra’s pregnancy,
- Some had suggested Andra was distracted, and therefore, less talented as a designer due to her pregnancy,
- Some had accused us of doing less — with our maternity leave and sabbatical on our minds.
We. Were. Heartbroken.
We knew in our hearts these suggestions simply weren’t true. For 3 solid months, we had been more consumed by our work than ever before; we put aside everything we believe about work-life balance, to provide our Clients with the best possible experience before our departure.
We met on Google Hangouts and tearfully confirmed to one another — we were doing the very best we could. What more could we do?
The 2 weeks leading up to our departure were the toughest. Andra had given birth unexpectedly early (Andra and baby are healthy as can be!) and I trudged through a minefield of mean comments about my best friend, about our business, and about the work we hold so dear to our hearts.
If I am totally honest, these hurtful comments made me question everything:
- Am I too sensitive to be a small business owner?
- Do other business owners experience these types of criticism?
- Is it wrong to have a family and a lifestyle beyond our business?
- Where does our responsibility as business owners start and end?
- Should I be afraid to start a family, too?
These questions swirled around in my head, and as I began my sabbatical, I was numb.
The Heart Behind Every Business
While on my sabbatical, I opened up a few books — The Magnolia Story, Chasing Slow, Present Over Perfect, Uninvited — clearly on the search for answers to these questions. Along the way, I learned:
- Every small business begins with a person and a dream. There is a human element to every business. In a busy, fast-paced world, we often overlook the heart, the person, the family behind small businesses. How different would our world be if we remembered the heart behind every business? If we spoke with kindness? If we reacted with patience? If we practiced understanding?
- We need to give one another — and ourselves — grace. Andra is beyond strong… but my heart breaks for her when I wonder to myself, “I hope her pregnancy isn’t marked by the mean comments we received. I hope she knows what an amazing designer she is. I hope she knows she can be a mom and a designer… and anything she wants to be.” Behind our computer screen, there is a real person, doing her best. What if we assumed the best, rather than assuming the worst?
Finally, and most importantly:
- We can’t find our identity in our business. Our success is not defined by the successes of our business. Our failure is not defined by the failures of our business. Although we love (and I mean love) being able to serve women in business each and every day, our faith comes above all else. It took these bumps in the road to remind us: when we’re standing on our business, we’ll come to find our business is shaky ground. We need to stand on our faith and on the deeper purpose and plan God has for us and for our business. Our faith, our family, our friendship — these make up our hearts. These will sustain us, while the sting of this season in our business fades away.
A New Chapter
With fresh eyes, we’re so excited, honored, and humble to serve a new cohort of Clients at With Grace and Gold. We’ve polished a few components of our business, to ensure we’re clearly showing the heart behind our business, while honoring the hearts of the business owners we are serving. We’re excited to begin a new chapter in our business, and we’re grateful for the lessons we’ve learned over the course of these 3 years in business.
From our With Grace and Gold family to yours, we wish you:
- The courage to be yourself, wholeheartedly. The courage to stand by your values, through thick and thin.
- The grace to step away from your business or your work when needed.
- The strength to overcome the tough times small business ownership — and life — may bring.
Let’s do this!
Our story began in a coffee shop, when I very creepily blurted out, “I’m new here! Will you be my friend?”
This is our “hand sandwich.” Do you get it?!
Our With Grace and Gold family!