During these times of uncertainty, it can become hard to project ourselves into the future. Not knowing what tomorrow holds can feel daunting at times. Of course, as a business owner, you always face a level of uncertainty and risk. All of this has now been amplified, as people across the globe share a common level of uncertainty from a health and economic perspective. 

For entrepreneurs and small business owners, it can be easy to get lost in too much focus on the business and not enough focus on the health and wellness of the people behind it. But it’s all intimately tied together. 

As part of an informal consortium of female founders, we’ve been inspired to not only quickly evolve our own business to the current state of the world, but we have also evolved the way we treat ourselves and our employees during these intense times.

Caring for those who care for others

Marina Tarasova is the co-founder of Paloma Health, the first digital medical practice improving the care for hypothyroidism and reimagining the health practice of the future. An underactive thyroid affects over 20M people in the US and disproportionately so women. With symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, infertility, anxiety, and depression, it can be a difficult condition to manage for the patient, doctor, and the support team.

Managing the busy virtual practice can be taxing on the team. Marina and her co-founder, Guillaume Cohen-Skalli, prioritize their team’s wellbeing to ensure the team doing the caring is taken care of, too. Everyone can take advantage of mindfulness applications like Calm and the VR app TRIPP courtesy of Paloma and the whole company gathers weekly to play games on HouseParty to unwind. Marina leans on the cofounders of LUPii and The Big Favorite in what they dubbed “founder therapy happy hours” to talk about common growing business challenges, share tips on keeping their respective teams thriving, and what they can each do as busy founders to maintain their wellbeing and give back to their communities in this time.

Putting on their own oxygen mask to build a food business for the future 

Isabelle Steichen and Allie Dempster, the co-founders of LUPii, a newly launched company introducing lupini bean powered protein bars, are on a mission to help people live more plantiful lives. As avid plant based eaters, they were deeply motivated by their personal passion to provide truly healthy and sustainable food to the world. When the coronavirus epidemic hit two months after their launch, they needed to quickly adapt their brick & mortar retail strategy and move online, while learning a whole new set of tools. 

Allie has a background in meditation, and both co-founders are also certified yoga teachers. That side passion has a tremendous impact on how she and Isabelle currently run LUPii. Practicing surrendering has been a focus for both of them. With that comes a focus on things they have actual control over, like prioritizing their sleep, scheduling their lunch time on the calendar so they take actual breaks to eat and finding time on the weekends to step back from the business.They believe in putting on their oxygen mask first so they can be fully present for LUPii after they are taken care of.

The Mental Health Benefits of Giving Back

Eleanor Turner is a fashion industry veteran. She has spent over a decade in the industry working for brands like Tory Burch and J.Crew, before co-founding women’s work apparel brand, Argent. Her latest venture is The Big Favorite, her great grandfather’s brand revived as a sustainable zero waste undergarments company. She was almost ready to launch when COVID-19 hit, and was forced to delay. 

The pandemic has created a tumultuous environment, and prioritizing mental health is important. A key part of Eleanor’s mental health practice is to first validate her own feelings and then gain perspective by giving back. Scientifically, acts of generosity and giving have physical benefits like lowering anxiety, depression, blood pressure, and risk of cardiovascular issues and dementia.

In light of her launch delay, Eleanor has been focused on giving through The Big Favorite’s platform. She transformed her Philadelphia apartment into an at-home mask factory. Committed to reducing waste, she used fabric scraps rescued from the trash to make and sell non-medical facemasks, raising over $1,600 (3,200 meals) for local food banks. She will be posting updates about giving initiatives and launch information on the company’s social media, @thebigfavorite, and via email in the coming months.

Healthy companies grow from within

Given the timing of the pandemic and the stages of these three companies, the founders are even more conscious of the need to prioritize mental health and well being, and are implementing various practices to keep themselves and their teams well. They check in daily with their teams, encourage them to take screen and mental health breaks, and they have been able to lean on each other for peer support and share advice as they face hardships associated with leading and launching a business during this unprecedented time. Building a healthy company for their customers, starts with building a healthy company from within. That’s the only way in their opinion to sustain themselves and their businesses in the long run. It’s a marathon. Not a sprint.