Many of us entrepreneurs don’t fit ‘societal norms’ and often our vulnerabilities and passions are our reason for starting a business – to put power into our purpose from saving the environment to mental health issues.
Our founder Sophie Mei Lan shares how business has helped alleviate personal challenges with her mental health. Here she explains how her mind thrives off soulful enterprise and most of all, the importance of community.
Lockdown life has been lovely for my distant friend. It has been dismal for many businesses however but my distant friend depression has loved being the only thing allowed into so many homes.
The problem is my distant friend had disappeared for a long time and normally he visits unannounced and for no reason but recently he began knocking at my door again. His visit was inevitable but his impact has been greater than before because I rarely have to even leave the house these days because most of my life is based from home.
Whereas my stubborn determination has always meant that no matter what I have kept to commitments because collaborative work, community, and personal development is my ultimate self-care. But this time my depression has been easier because other than my Zumba classes, my Friday teaching dance and media skills, and the odd pre-planned day trip, all of my commitments have been from home since lockdown. My writing, my business, and my studying have all been online.
Yet when depression has been my comfortable comrade recently, I have been challenged by my increasingly busy diary coaching digital skills in Leeds as well as online, attending the first Wakefield BID Awards, learning sign language in person and a few days at my new co-working office-come-content creators studio at The Ridings Shopping Centre.
I have desperately missed real humans yet I have lost a lot of confidence to physically get out of the house too. After a long day working from home at the screen last week, I somehow had to get myself out of my work-from-home scruffs (let’s not lie, we have all been sporting the half smart Zoom outfit) into a dress and in a taxi to the awards ceremony. I went from 0 humans to hundreds.
But as soon as I was warmly greeted by the Business Improvement District team of business advocates and seated next to some fellow multi-media business owners such as Rhubarb Radio and Wakefield Official News, all of whom I had connected with online, but we had never met each other in person. The more we chatted the more we realised we had in common.
So many friendly people as well as my plus-one wing-woman who is a fellow wellbeing advocate I met through dance at the local church, helped to calm my own anxiety. I looked up and was thrilled to see so many familiar faces all adding to the warmth of the community hub of Wakefield Cathedral. As soon as I was served my starters from a local social enterprise cafe, I actually couldn’t wait to go over and re-connect in human with the Leeds Beckett team which is home to my other documentary business who have introduced me to the chamber of commerce locally and a female leaders programme WE:CAN.
Even en route to the toilet I was reinvigorated by bumping into former colleagues, editors, and clients I’d worked with.
I’d gone from wanting to be invisible in black to wearing red as it’s a Chinese lucky colour. I took taking one small step and a huge leap back into reality, from thinking I’d be the first to leave the event to not wanting to go home. One small step, to 20,000 steps.
It was a wonderful reminder of how many humble businesses and leaders there are even in my local community, and more than ever people were sharing personal stories as well as their usual censored business news, which felt so refreshing as so many of us run enterprises because that’s our personal and professional passion to create some positive change.
Whilst I have been fortunately busy in lockdown working with clients such as regional and national media outlets online, whilst running online communities and my own wellbeing blogs and vlogs, I hadn’t realised how much my confidence had waned.
It also reminded me of all the shops, cafes, and people I hope to reacquaint with. This was the perfect boost to my confidence professionally and personally. This transformational change to a hybrid direction of authentic leaders, came at the perfect time because that weekend was spent half with family and half with friends and colleagues who helped me start to move my largely ‘from home’ business across the road from Wakefield Cathedral into The Ridings Shopping Centre.
My new office and multi-media hub which comprises of a community wellbeing room, a co-working space, and our very own content creators studio equipped with professional podcasting, vlogging, instagramming and tiktoking equipment – embodies my core values of combining community, collaboratively connecting, and celebrating communication skills. We can all experience challenges in one area of our life whether it be work, personal or health which is what makes us ‘well.’ And up until recently where I have seen a real revival of businesses locally, have I realised how resilient we may be but how much we need community spirit in all aspects of our lives and especially working in teams however it works for you.