Running a business is tough. Living with a chronic illness? Even tougher. Here’s how I balance both.
Owning a business is like a roller coaster ride. When the highs are high it's the best, when the lows are low, they are the lowest. (One of my favorite quotes from my dad)
The first few years of starting Gracefully Fed were thrilling. It was such a high. It could have been because prior to this I was sick and hardly functioning at life. The business gave me focus and ignited my passion for cooking. As businesses grow, small or large, so do responsibilities. At times it's overwhelming, and at times you feel under supported. But, when you love what you do, it's easier to take a breath and dive back in. We've had some lows, as anyone could imagine, and we are still climbing our way back up. However, when I look around my shop, or I'm sitting outside eating one of my own baked goods, drinking a cafecito, soups cooking in the kitchen it just hits you, look what you've done. And that's an incomparable feeling.
Someone once asked me, how did you come up with all of your spreadsheets and work flows. Who taught you this?
No one. I didn't go to school for business, nor did I think I would ever be an entrepreneur. However, one of the things my illness taught me was that no one was going to provide you with all of your information and make a calculated effort to dig deep. So, I did, with organized spreadsheets. I tracked pills, symptoms, doctors' appointments, and blood work. I found that if I highlighted the abnormalities prior to my doctor's appointments then my doctors wouldn't give me the runaround and charge me for time. We could get down to the nitty-gritty. I once had an oncologist say, it was the prettiest spreadsheet he had ever seen, unnecessary but pretty. But that's the thing, being organized wasn't for him, it was for me. It keeps me on track, clear-headed. It provides me with answers when I have questions. I carried this into my business full force and while some see it as aggressive, to me, it is ultimately cathartic.
Go slow. Try new things.
When people ask me for my business plan and the projections of the company, it kind of makes me laugh. I had no business plan. There were no projections. It was a hobby that took off. I didn't want to get too excited and I didn't want to spend too much money, so I went slow. Everything was slow. I think keeping this pace, it keeps you patient, it keeps you learning. It helps you analyze what works and what doesn't. Again, it's very similar to treatment. You are constantly figuring out what works for your body. What supplement, what antibiotic, what form of healing will help you breakthrough. It doesn't happen overnight although we wish it did. But it happens, if you're patient, you keep trying and you remember that all things take time.
Never too old.
We hear this all the time. You are never too old to change the course of your life. For me, this couldn't be truer. Right before I got sick, I was living in Los Angeles and decided to move back to New York. I had a bad break up and I just needed a change. I wanted to be closer to my family. I thought for sure, this is where I would meet the love of my life, have kids, get a house next to my sisters. As soon as I landed, I knew I made a mistake. I felt it in my body, in my heart and the worst part of it, I packed up EVERYTHING. Nothing was left in LA. I was in shock at how quickly what I thought was a good opportunity for change turned into a bit of a nightmare. And I was sick at the time and didn't know it. I was having all sorts of symptoms and blowing them off because I thought...well it's just New York. When I finally decided to move back to LA, I thought I'm back. I can have my life back. I can breathe. And then I collapsed and my life changed once again. During that time, I was upset, I was angry that life was stolen from me. It took me years to feel good. However, if I didn't have those experiences, if I didn't move, if I never got sick, my life would be so different than it is now. Dare I say it, I'm grateful for it. And at 41, I've learned how to run a business. I've learned how to manage a staff. I've learned how to cook my heart out. And if this doesn't work out, maybe at 51, I'll become a professional ice skater. You never know. But...you're never too old.
Key Lime Cake.
I wanted to make a Key Lime Pie for Lyme Awareness month. I kept trying, and to be honest it kept coming out like shit. I ended up finally getting it right but I hate lime in dessert. I hate anything that tastes tart. I'm always going to put my best foot forward in life, in business, in friendship, in food and that's why I attempted the pie. However, I decided to try a Key Lime Cake. I'm good at cake, cake excites me. Decorating cake is something I'm still trying to perfect, and it's a challenge. Getting the syrup right to soak the sponge cake has to be just the right amount of sweet and just the right amount of tart. So I tried it. And I succeeded. It was out of this world delicious. For me, the moral of this story is DO WHAT YOU LOVE. I don't love key lime pie. I know others do. I know it's a favorite. As soon as I made that decision to do what I love, love was put into what I was doing. So I'm gonna give the same old advice you hear over and over again, find what you love and keep on doing it. Fuck the key lime pie.