Someone once told me that I fear things that no one else fears and am unafraid of things that everyone else is afraid of. This, perhaps, explains why I’m staring up an independent bookstore in the midst of a pandemic. To be clear: I did not intend to open the bookstore during a global health crisis. I began planning the bookstore long before COVID-19 was front-page news. And to be even more clear: I still haven’t opened my brick and mortar bookstore because…well…COVID-19 is still front-page news. But the pandemic hasn’t diminished my resolve to own and operate a bookstore. It’s just added to the stress of an already, off-the-charts stressful year.
More new businesses in a pandemic than the year before
My desire to start a new business in the middle of this mess is not unusual. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, applications for employer identification numbers (which entrepreneurs need to start a business) surpassed 3.2 million by September of 2020, compared with 2.7 million at the same point in 2019. In addition, new filings among the type of business owners who hire workers reached 1.1 million through mid-September 2020, a 12% increase over the same period in 2019 and the most since 2007. Many of these businesses are starting up out of necessity (job layoffs, business closings), and others out of opportunity (emerging trends).
Starting up is STRESSFUL!
In the very best of times, being a business owner is an outsized stressful endeavor. In the strong economy of 2014, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that 34 percent of entrepreneurs—4 percentage points more than other workers—reported they were worried. And 45 percent of entrepreneurs said they were stressed, 3 percentage points more than other workers. My own record-breaking stress levels over the past 12 months has led me to find new ways of coping for the foreseeable, anxiety-ridden future.
4 Tips to cope with starting up a business
- Don’t force what can’t be forced. I wanted to open my bookstore. I really, really did. But I couldn’t for a variety of reasons. The top reason being the world shut down (which is a pretty good reason). Then other issues began to pile on top of each other (SBA loan delays and lack of an appropriate space) and I realized that I would have to open online for the time being and build a following via social media. Once I was able to let go of what I thought should be happening, rather than accept what was happening, I relaxed considerably.
- Talk to someone supportive. It could be a friend, a spouse, a parent or a therapist. It could be all four. But find at least one person who will let you vent and provide you with moral support.
- Ignore the naysayers. You will find plenty of people who will tell you unsolicited, why you should abandon your dream. Sidestep them when you can, smile politely when you can’t and seek out your tribe promptly afterward.
- Take care of your mental health. When you need a reset what works for you? Meditation? Make time for it. Exercise? Make time for it. Reading? Make time for it. Cooking? Make time for it. Fit in your schedule whatever helps you clear your mind. For me, I decided to take horseback riding lessons for the first time and have been reading voraciously.
I also have been cutting myself some considerable slack as I am starting up. Am I where I want to be? No. Am I giving up? Also no. This is one business story that still has plenty of chapters to come.
Teresa Kenney, Founder of Village Books shares more on the Business Gist podcast about what it is like starting up a bookstore just as the world is closing.