How to keep your business afloat during a personal crisis

How to keep your business afloat during a personal crisis — by Paper + Oats

Business + personal crisis. This is a topic that has been on my mind since the day I decided to launch The Oat Bar. I knew I wanted to write about it, but every time I sat down to do it, the words just weren’t quite there. The more I put it off, the more I saw posts popping up inFacebook groups with other boss ladies – women asking for advice on how to keep running their business in the midst of a tragedy that was just dumped on their lap. Most of the time, the comments poured in and it was so encouraging to see strangers come together to give support and motivation to a struggling fellow business owner. They shared their stories of heartache and how they managed to keep their businesses afloat – strength in numbers :) After a few of these posts, and not a lot of writing flowing in my camp, I decided to turn the tables around and ask a few ladies to jump in on the topic.

So today, I want to share a bit of my own strategies for keeping Paper + Oats alive during that season I affectionately refer to as, “that time my life exploded.” In addition to that, I’ve got 5 other women with truly inspirational stories to share the ways they were able to keep their entrepreneurial dreams alive despite the trials that were going on in their personal lives. I hope you’ll find some encouragement in these women if you find yourself in a similar situation. It can feel like you’re the only one in the world during those moments, but I assure you, you are not. Here are some ways me and these fine ladies have managed to run our businesses in the midst of tragedy.

Surround yourself with positive cheerleaders who love your business as much as you do.  

Support from family + friends is vital to surviving a personal crisis and running a business at the same time. When you feel like throwing in the towel, they’re there to remind you why you started this thing in the first place. Meg owns a small business, and knows all about leaning on loved ones when you feel like your world is spinning out of control.


How to keep your business afloat during a personal crisis — by Paper + Oats

I’m Meg, and I am the owner & creator of Bumblewood, a natural handcrafted soap & skin care company that I began in 2013.

I have dealt with severe anxiety and panic attacks since I was 8 years old. My biggest “storm” (so far) came at the end of last year, in the middle of the holiday rush.

After a huge emotional hit in my personal life, the panic attacks I had spent the last 20 years trying to get a handle on came back in full force. I felt like everything was spinning out of control and I spent a LOT of time wanting to give up, quit my business, and just crawl into my nice little hole and hide.

It took a lot of effort and a huge amount of support from my husband, friends and family to pull myself up and keep going. I learned that I needed to let go of the people I had been holding on to, and start holding onto myself more.

The biggest lesson I learned was to surround myself with positivity, get rid of the negativity, and keep close to the people who love and support me the most. So many people reminded me of the dreams I had, how hard I had worked to get where I am, and that I couldn’t give up now.

It’s ok to be vulnerable and honest. It’s ok to sit back, cry a little bit and say, “This is way too much for me to handle on my own right now.”

But then you have to take a deep breath. Find the people who will hold you up and give you the tough love you need. Not just tell you it will be ok, but give you a kick and say “Oh no. You don’t give up. You keep going. And here’s why.”

Most importantly, you have to find the strength in yourself to be the best you can be. Nothing will ever be easy every step of the way. There are always hard times in life and business. But the fight to keep going and not let the hard times keep us down – to keep pushing for what we believe in and why we do what we do – is what makes us who we are.

written by Meg Hollar   |   Bumblewood

Make yourself get out of the house, step away from your desk, and interact with others.

I know from personal experience, when your personal life takes a blow, it feels really nice to just stay in bed all day and not talk to another human being for – like – ever. This is therapeutic for a day, but don’t make it a habit. Force yourself to get out of your usual workspace and go somewhere new. It can be really refreshing to meet some new faces – people who don’t know your life is a mess – and talk about something else for a change. Lix is a designer / photographer who discovered this when her mental health began to paralyze her personal well-being and her business.


How to keep your business afloat during a personal crisis — by Paper + Oats

My name is Lix Hewett and I blog at and run my branding, print and web design business at

I've always struggled with depression and anxiety, but the past year was particularly challenging because I moved to London — yay! But my business didn't grow fast enough, and I was continually worried about money. Anxiety, for me, is paralyzing. Depression manifested as a lack of motivation and affected my sleep schedule to the point where I was getting up at 5 or 6pm, and barely getting an hour of proper work in. Yeah — not good for business.

I kept going. I kept going because I had to, and I kept going because this is what I want to do with my life. I allowed myself a small investment — working from Starbucks every day. Getting out and being comfortable did wonders for my mental health, if only for a few hours.

I decided I wouldn't work after 9pm, and I wouldn't work on Sundays. I failed at the Sunday bit often, because I was so behind, but I have kept up my free nights, and I got back to watching TV and gymnastics regularly. Mindless entertainment was invaluable.

Talking to people made a huge difference, too. I was often so stressed I felt guilty and I didn't want to talk about what was going on. But actually talking about it — or writing it out — made everything feel manageable, even if it was hard to get started!

If your finances and mental health allow, I'd suggest three more things: prioritize, say no more often, and give yourself more time. As much as you can, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself daily. You're doing the best you can.

written by Lix Hewett   |

Keeping a positive attitude can make or break your chances of keeping your business alive.

The art of positive thinking and self-affirmation can sound cheesy or cliche, but truthfully, it works. During my season of “life explosions” I would continually tell myself, “You are stronger than you think you are.” Even at your lowest point, things can always be worse. Carry a positive attitude into your work as you decide what your priorities are and how you’re going to make it through. Yvonne has experienced the ultimate heartache, the loss of a loved one, but she managed to keep her business afloat by having a positive attitude and a supportive community.


How to keep your business afloat during a personal crisis — by Paper + Oats

I’m Yvonne Heimann, owner and “can-do geek" at Ask Yvi. My business has evolved from social media management to web design, and is evolving again into a full-fledged agency (name change to Pacific Crest Media), including online coaching and consulting.

Pete was the love of my life. He got me started with my business, always pushing me to go after my dreams, live out my passion to help people, educate, and make sure customers were treated right. In July of 2012, Pete was diagnosed with HPV based Head and Neck cancer — and everything pretty much came to a stand still. I took a few weeks off to get situated, acclimate to the situation, and get plans and procedures in place. After that, I tried to work as much as possible. I was on my laptop during his chemo treatments, and working at home when he was resting. In October of 2013, he got his “free and clear” from his doctor.

But a couple months later, Pete was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, this time in his sinuses. He was operated on soon after which resulted in the loss of one eye. We tried every type of treatment we could find. In addition to his illness, I was in the midst of immigrating to the United States, and we were planning our wedding.

To keep my business alive, I had to move clients to associates of mine that stepped in to help. I even had local friends give me little jobs without deadlines so I could at least do a little work.

Sadly, Pete passed away in September of 2014. After his passing, I started to get my mind back. I looked back at the last couple years and asked myself, “How the heck did I get through that?"

Attitude is key. If you have a bad attitude, you'll have a bad outcome! Instead of telling yourself, "I can’t," keep telling yourself, “I can." 10 times, 100 times, 1000 times a day – whatever it takes to make you believe it. The best example — Pete always had a great attitude. He got special treatment from the nurses because they love being around his smile and geniuinely wanted to make him feel better! 

written by Yvonne Heimann   |   Ask Yvi

Put systems in place now that will allow your business to run on auto-pilot if needed.

Things like automation, passive streams of income, and turn-key systems can be your business lifesaver during a season of personal crisis. If you need to step away from your business at a moments notice, these systems will allow you to keep make a living even if you’re not physically working. Passive income alone was what kept Paper + Oats alive while I sorted out my mess and found my new normal. Jennifer is a fellow single mama and knows all too well the stings of divorce. She shares some super practical advice for how to keep your business bulletproof in case tragedy strikes.


How to keep your business afloat during a personal crisis — by Paper + Oats

I used to be such an optimist. Not so much like “everything’s going to work out in the end,” more so “nothing bad’s ever going to happen to me.” It’s almost funny in retrospect.

Four years ago, I shared a successful wedding entertainment company with my husband. We had two beautiful sons in preschool. Sure, we argued; sure, there were signs we were growing apart. Still, I clung to my optimism as my husband started to pull away from our business and from me. I worked hard enough for both of us, kept my head up, clung to my belief that this was just a phase. Until it became clear that it wasn’t.

Midway through 2012, my husband informed me our marriage was over. Devastated isn’t a strong enough word, and I doubt I could ever accurately describe the feelings of loss, betrayal, anger, and failure.

Still, as a mother and business owner, I didn’t have the luxury of time or space to grieve. Instead, I had to find a new home, learn how to parent solo, and create my new normal. I also had to learn how to run my business by myself. I had to find my hustle. And hustle I did.

I’m fortunate that I’ve always been passionate about business, so I’d already devoured books like The Four-Hour Workweek and The E-Myth. I had systematized my company, was comfortable with delegating, and had a great team to rely on during this transition. I also gave myself permission to step back when needed – when you’re going through a crisis, any given year may not be your business’ best year ever, and that’s okay. The older I get, the more I realize that some phases of your life are for achievement, others are for reflection and still others are for just being. I’d never given myself permission for that before, and it was incredibly freeing.

Truth be told, the setbacks haven’t ceased. Both my sons, now 8 and 5, have been diagnosed with neurological disorders, and my divorce has been (and continues to be) contentious and exorbitantly expensive. And yet, by taking stock of my own goals and dreams, I feel happier and more like myself than ever. I’ve created several more ventures, including a blogging and social media service, a business blog, and coaching/speaking, that are all taking off. All in all, my kids and I have settled into a pretty great life.

I guess I’m still an optimist. I know now that I’m far from immune from bad stuff. But I also know I can handle anything.

written by Jennifer Reitmeyer   |   Firebrand Messaging

Outsource, delegate, and learn to ask for help.

Running your business solo is a huge responsibility. If a crisis were to come up in your personal life, you may need to consider bringing in some back up. Tasks that don’t have to be done by you can be dished out to an assistant or a helpful friend. If you have a team working for you, get a plan in place to know who will take care of what in these types of circumstances. It can be hard to let go of the reigns, I totally get it, but when it’s time to focus on your personal matters, this will become a necessity. Ebonie is a great example of how to outsource and delegate to keep things running “business as usual.” Here’s her take on how to keep your business thriving during tough times.


How to keep your business afloat during a personal crisis — by Paper + Oats

I operate 8Twelv, a social media management company that helps small businesses use social media to accomplish their goals.

During my pregnancy last year, I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis — a condition characterized by violent, persistent vomiting. In addition to that, my pregnancy was categorized high-risk. I was experiencing labor symptoms so early in my pregnancy that if my son had been born, he would have been too early to survive outside of my womb. My faith, my family and sheer love for son helped me triumph.

During the few moments I felt well enough to even sit up in bed, I would listen to TED Talks or tune into webinars. There's something about mentally staying in the game, even if you are physically ailed, that illuminates hope and healing even in the most dismal circumstances. I am fortunate to have an amazing support system through my family, but for someone who might not have family near, outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant or service like TaskRabbit is ideal. Fiverr was a Godsend for my new business. Though I had the knowledge to code my own website, I didn't have the energy. I partnered with a designer who specialized in SquareSpace, and in about a week and a half we were able to launch my website.

As most women, I'm a wearer of many hats — a wife, a mother, an employee, a student and entrepreneur. I learned that it's perfectly okay to pull back, and that you have to be responsible enough to take care of yourself first. Only then was I able to to launch, operate and keep my business afloat.

written by Ebonie Townsend   |   8Twelv

Be honest with your clients and customers.

hey’ll know you’re human and they won’t hate you for it. Set some boundaries for yourself so you don't get overwhelmed with work and can afford the time away to focus on yourself.


If you're new to The Oat Bar, here's my life explosion in a nutshell — almost 2 years ago, my now ex-husband asked for a divorce, and about 30 minutes later I was staring at a positive pregnancy test. Yep, it was a day forever burned into my memory. He moved out a week later, and I made it through my entire pregnancy with my loyal dog and a whole lot of support from family and friends. It was a crisis like nothing I had ever experienced. Before that terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-day, I was taking a lot of custom orders on Etsy that were frankly taking more time than they were worth. It became very clear very quickly that I couldn’t keep taking on that type of work. I would get several requests a week for custom work, and I finally started replying with a canned response. I obviously didn’t want to spill the details of my personal life with complete strangers, so I politely told them that I was going through some family issues and wouldn’t be taking any more custom orders for the next several months. I kept it super short, no details. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t this. Here are some actual responses I got from would-be customers after I told them no:

  • No problem, I completely understand. Hope everything works out!!

  • No worries Kelsey, I hope everything goes well for you and that things start to look up in the future!

  • I am sorry to hear that! I hope things get better! Thanks for the information!

  • Thanks anyway! Best of luck with your family.

  • Thanks Kelsey for getting back to me! I'm sorry to hear and I totally understand. I do appreciate and enjoy your work and designs.

  • No problem! I completely understand.

  • Kelsey, I totally understand! You do what you have to do - family always comes first! Wishing you all the best!

These are total strangers! It may seem silly to an outsider, but I was blown away by people’s kindness and respect. I was at one of the lowest points in my life, so to hear a stranger say, “Hey, it’s ok, I understand,” was sometimes the highlight of my day. 

If you’re worried about telling a potential client or customer no because a personal crisis is occupying your time – this is your permission to stop worrying! Your clients and customers are humans too. They understand that life happens – and sometimes life happens, like, really really bad. Like explosions, bad. And they won’t hate you for setting boundaries and saying no.

Your turn

Have you ever needed to put your business on hold while you dealt with a personal crisis? How did you manage both and still earn a living? If you haven’t experienced this, what are some systems you can put in place right now to make sure your business keeps running even if you have to step away? 


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Kelsey Baldwin

Graphic designer + blogger providing design resources to help creative entrepreneurs navigate the world of design + branding for digital products so they can share what they know.

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