July 20, 2024

Objavlenie

Business Strategy For Economic Revival

How to find balance after business burnout

How to find balance after business burnout

Breaking societal stereotypes isn’t easy, but that didn’t stop Fisayo Longe.

Growing up in Nigeria with a mum who ran her own business, Fisayo was always surrounded by strong role models and this triggered her own entrepreneurial spirit.

After discovering her passion for fashion, she created her own business, Kai Collective, but very quickly had to learn how to combat self-doubt when her business wasn’t performing.

However, all it took was that one hit product and her business went viral, her stocks sold out, and she couldn’t keep up with demand. This led to the inevitable issue of business burnout.

This is the unfiltered story of how Fisayo overcame her own burnout and reshaped her business to improve both her professional and personal life.

Here’s what we cover:

Breaking societal stereotypes by becoming a woman in business

Finding a passion for fashion and turning into a business

Seek out manufacturers at trade shows and do your research

Combating self-doubt when your business doesn’t perform

How to cope when a product goes viral, and your business begins to boom

Invest everything in community and build emotional connections

Diversify your product range and avoid focusing on one specific product

Learning when to prioritise your financials or your creativity

Getting comfortable with outsourcing and hiring people who are better than you

Focus on serving a community rather than gaining industry recognition

Your business doesn’t have to be a number’s game—success comes in many different forms

How to combat copycats and produce better products

Recognising business burnout and when to take a step back

Changing both professional and personal processes to improve your business and avoid burnout

How to know you’re ready to go back to work after taking a business break

A holiday won’t cure your business burnout­—you need to find the root of the problem

Don’t attach your self-worth to your business

Breaking societal stereotypes by becoming a woman in business

Kate Bassett:

I want to start by quoting you back to you.

You’ve said, “I want women to never accept limitations or stereotypes from anybody to realise how powerful they are.”

So to kick off, tell us a little bit about your experience of growing up in Nigeria. What were your early influences, and what were the societal expectations of women?

Fisayo Longe:

I loved my childhood growing up in Nigeria, I think it was the best place that I could have grown up.

But at the same time, I saw how the society treated men and women differently and how there were very different expectations of men and women. Women just had so much pressure, societal pressure around marriage, and how their ambition wasn’t as encouraged or respected.

And generally there’s just a lot of misogyny, and I saw it upfront, whether it was not letting a single woman rent a house because you think she can’t afford it. Just like little microaggressions, actually, that’s a big one.

But just various things like that I saw over the years, and it felt like women were not encouraged to be limitless and achieve their full potential.

And so that is something that has mattered a lot to me ever since I was young.

Kate Bassett:

So what was it that made you break that stereotype? Because you are quite fearless and ambitious, aren’t you?

Fisayo Longe:

I would definitely say that has to be my mother. My mum is very confident, very entrepreneurial. She always ran her business. She always had money. She was always able to get the family out of tough situations.

And so growing up with that strong woman who was very good at planning, very good at bailing us out during tough financial situations.

I feel like a lot of the life that we have in being able to come to England and achieve our dreams and our goals, even helping me start Kai, is because of my mum.

And also a principal I had, her name was Mrs. Durhan, the principal of my primary school. I just thought she was the most amazing woman. Every day she would sit outside the school wearing all of this jewellery.

I just remember she used to wear the loudest, most obnoxious gold, and I just thought she was so cool, aspirational, and I just loved her. So those were my two early female influences that really made me feel like I could do anything.

Kate Bassett:

And you mentioned that your mother ran a business. Is that where you got your entrepreneurial spirit from, do you think?

Fisayo Longe:

Maybe. Because my mum has always been entrepreneurial. And funny enough, when I was very, very young and nobody would believe this now because she’s not in the fashion industry even remotely.

But my mum used to be a tailor, and she used to make my outfits for birthdays. She made me a Pocahontas dress once. So maybe there’s something there.

Finding a passion for fashion and turning into a business

Kate Bassett:

And is that then where your love of fashion came from?

Fisayo Longe:

I’m not sure because in my head I don’t associate both things because that’s such a distant memory. I was very, very young. But I think just as someone who is always been very expressive, fashion for me was just another way to express myself.

Especially at points in life where there wasn’t much else. I went to some very strict schools growing up, and fashion has just been a way for me to show who I am, and what matters to me.

Kate Bassett:

So what led you to starting Kai Collective then? Because you actually moved here and wanted to study law, is that right?

Fisayo Longe:

Yes. Can I just say, you’ve done an amazing job at your research.

Kate Bassett:

I have read every article about you.

Fisayo Longe:

Thank you so much. But yes, I wanted to study law, and that didn’t work out. I missed my offer by one grade. I was meant to get, I think threes As and I got A, A, B.

Well, my mum said I could only take a gap year if I got a real job. I just wanted to work at Topshop, but for her, a real job meant an office job. So I got a job at KPMG in a week on their gap year programme. And then after that, they offered me to stay all full time.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have taken it because I didn’t want to be an accountant. But once I started earning my own money, not having to ask my parents for money, I really, really loved that.

And so I wanted to keep a job and not go back to uni. So then I joined KPMG and did a part-time uni programme with KPMG.

And then while I was doing that, I started my fashion blog, as an escape.

Kate Bassett:

So it started as an escape. When you were blogging, did you dream that you would one day launch your own womenswear brand?

Fisayo Longe:

Not right at the beginning, but along the way it started to really make sense to me. I’ve always loved travelling, and I love fabric shopping. That’s where my inspiration comes from, seeing and feeling the fabric.

When I would go fabric shopping, I’d buy fabric, make clothes with a fabric, and post the clothes on my blog—I started my fashion blog in 2012. And then I would get loads of questions about where the clothes were from when I would post on my blog or Instagram.

And then I realised, “Okay, I could actually sell these clothes. People are interested in these clothes.” And that’s where it started.

Seek out manufacturers at trade shows and do your research

Kate Bassett:

See, you had that light bulb moment of, “You know what? I’m going to make my own brand.”

What were some of those early difficult moments in getting the brand off the ground? Was it sourcing material? Was it finding the right manufacturers?

What were the big challenges?

Fisayo Longe:

There were lots of challenges.

Sourcing material was actually the easiest part because I found, as I said, I’ve always loved fabric shopping, and I found amazing fabric during a trip to Turkey. So that was my first one, my collection where the fabric was fun.

But the capital to start was always a challenge because an uncle of mine said he would help and last minute he said he wasn’t going to, and I had already announced the brand. It was meant to launch in about two months.

I had to figure out income from somewhere else, and then my mum helped and manufacturers as well, finding good manufacturers was very, very, very difficult.

Kate Bassett:

Do you have any tips on the best way to do that?

Did you literally have to fly to different countries, meet them first-hand? Did you get any external help on that? Did you meet any other fashion owners?

Fisayo Longe:

So I did. At the time, I didn’t have any mentors or anything like that. I flew to Turkey to find manufacturers and find fabric, but actually I didn’t end up finding a good manufacturer.

In hindsight, I think the best way to find manufacturers is on Alibaba and also at trade shows and their trade shows, there are several trade shows a year in London.

And so if I could go back, instead of just rocking up in Istanbul and being like, “Well, I’m looking for a manufacturer,” because they’re pretty difficult to find, I would’ve done my research online, Alibaba, and gone to trade shows in London. Then after accumulating a list of manufacturers from the trade shows, then go there and meet them.

Combating self-doubt when your business doesn’t perform

Kate Bassett:

Did you find it quite hard that the business wasn’t an overnight success? You had to learn some of these lessons, find the right path, because obviously you’d already built up this fashion following.

You must have thought, “Okay, great. I’m going to launch my own brand, it’s going to take off.”

And then that didn’t happen, did it?

Fisayo Longe:

No, it didn’t happen at all. In fact, I always tell this story, the night before I launched, I thought it was going to be an immediate hit because I had 40-something thousand followers on Instagram.

And I thought, “Okay, 40-something thousand followers, 20,000 orders.” Which obviously would never have worked because we didn’t even have 20,000 units of stock.

But then the night before I launched, I was on RightMove looking for the house I was going to buy the next day in cash.

I really did think that it was just going to take off, and we would sell out and order more, sell out and order more. And that just did not happen.

And honestly, it affected me so much. It affected my confidence, it just made me question everything I thought I knew. I used to be a very, very positive, and I am still positive, but I had such high expectations of myself, and I really thought I could do anything.

Now, life has humbled me a bit and I questioned things more. But back then you couldn’t tell me anything. I thought that was going to be it.

So it was very difficult going from being so confident and sure of myself and my work to doubting everything, the self-doubt, the sadness. It was a lot.

Kate Bassett:

How did you overcome that self-doubt?

Fisayo Longe:

I definitely didn’t overcome the self-doubt until Kai reached a level of success. It was always there until I then reached some sort of success and began to sell out and began to get all this validation from our customers.

So I wouldn’t say that I was able to cure the self-doubt, I would say that the business success helped suppress the self-doubt.

The self-doubt, even until today, is still there sometimes.

How to cope when a product goes viral, and your business begins to boom

Kate Bassett:

And what was that pivotal moment then when you started to feel like the business was growing, it was a success?

How did you build that online community and turn those followers into customers?

Fisayo Longe:

In 2016, we launched, and it was a very difficult year. Then 2017 all the way through to 2019 were also very difficult years, but I began to see some traction, and that was because I changed my approach to business.

Because I didn’t have a traditional fashion background, I was never vulnerable, I never shared when I didn’t know something. I liked to look like I was always in charge and knew what I was doing because I didn’t want people to think or to know that I didn’t, in fact, know what I was doing.

But then one day, something just switched. I was just like,” Let me get customer feedback.”

And so I asked, on Instagram Stories, I did a question box being like, “How do you find our website user experience? What would you change on our website?”

And the feedback was basically, “Your website is rubbish.”

People said they would change all of these things. And I took that and built a better website. And from that day, the brand was just never the same again.

I really saw how involving the community in my decisions, even in, “Oh, should I make this product in this colour or this colour?”

Getting that feedback from the community really made them feel like they were part of the brand and built our relationship.

And that two-way conversation was really pivotal for us. And then, in 2019, we had some level of success, but we were still making a loss.

And then 2020, when we launched the Gaia print, everything just boomed, and nothing was the same.

Kate Bassett:

So tell us about that moment. What happens?

Fisayo Longe:

In February 2020, before the pandemic came to the UK, I was invited to a Bafta’s party, and I had sampled that dress the year before.

So it had arrived in January, and I thought, “Okay, I’m going to wear this dress to the Bafta’s party.” I asked friends, “Should I wear this?” And they were like, “Yeah, that’s stunning.”

And I just felt so good in the dress. I just had such a great feeling. I hadn’t seen anything like it on the market. I was so excited.

And then I wore the dress and the reaction on Instagram, on Twitter was unlike any reaction I’ve ever gotten to anything. And so I knew that we were onto something.

So I quickly placed a bulk order after that because I like to test the waters and I see what people think about something before I order more units.

And then the pandemic hit, and I thought, “I can’t launch clothes during a pandemic. People are worried, people are suffering.”

I was anxious, and so I thought I couldn’t launch, but every day, people would ask me, “Sis, where’s that dress? Where is that dress?”

Thank God I launched because I would’ve been waiting a very long time if I was waiting for the end of the pandemic.

I launched, and it was the first time that we did a launch, and it was just immediately order after order, after order.

Our website crashed. Nothing was the same again.

Kate Bassett:

How did you cope with that sudden surge in demand? Looking back, you weren’t necessarily prepared for that.

What things would you have put in place to cope with that sudden surge?

Fisayo Longe:

Because it was Covid, it would’ve been very difficult to put anything in place because we were in lockdown. The biggest thing was stuff, but I couldn’t have stuff because I was in my flat and all the stuff was in my flat at that time.

And my sister stayed with me during lockdown and that was life changing because she was able to help me, and we fulfilled orders together. So there wasn’t much I could’ve done.

And it was a stressful period. But since then, I have experienced a lot of stress, a lot of burnout, but I think that maybe it was an accumulation of all the relentless hard work over the years because, in that moment, it was almost like I was ready for it.

Even though I wasn’t logistically ready for it, but mentally, I had been waiting so long that I had been working so hard consistently to make things pop that, when things popped, it wasn’t shocking.

It wasn’t like, “Oh, my god, I can’t believe this.”

To an extent, it was, just because of how difficult things had been, but I deserved it, and I was ready. So I wasn’t stressed or depressed. I was excited.

Kate Bassett:

Mentally, you were ready. You were like, “Bring it on.”

Fisayo Longe:

Exactly.

Invest everything in community and build emotional connections

Kate Bassett:

I know, during Covid, you had to move manufacturing operations from China to Turkey, so slightly closer to home. What were some of those other business lessons that you learned during the pandemic?

Fisayo Longe:

Community is everything. Community really is everything.

Just that two-way conversation with our community, even just the fact that we knew that they were ready for the launch, and that was because we were constantly communicating with them, checking in on people, “How are you doing?” polls on our Instagram.

I think, just before the lockdown, we shared a newsletter with playlists, podcasts, and our favourite movies to keep them company.

The year of 2020 was all about our community and that is the reason why Kai is successful, but there’s so much more to do. So I would say the reason why Kai has reached a level of success is 100% down to our community.

So that was my biggest lesson invest everything in community.

Kate Bassett:

It’s interesting that you’ve become more vulnerable as an entrepreneur and also more personal as a brand, and that’s where you’ve really seen success, then.

Fisayo Longe:

Yeah, because at the end of the day, people recognise you for your achievements, and they’re like, “Okay, cool. She’s doing this and that’s lovely,” but people connect with you for your vulnerability.

People connect with you when they know that you share the same struggles, you have the same values. That is what builds that real emotional connection.

And whatever product or service you’re selling, it’s all about an emotional connection at the end of the day.

Diversify your product range and avoid focusing on one specific product

Kate Bassett:

That Gaia dress really changed the game for you, but how do you continue to innovate as an entrepreneur once a product has gone viral?

How do you stay ahead of trends and stay creative?

Fisayo Longe:

Thing is, as a very creative person, and this goes for, I think, most creatives, the ideas never stop coming.

Sometimes you might have a rut, like our equivalent of writer’s block, but you’re watching things, you’re on Instagram, you’re on Tumblr, whatever it is, you’re watching movies. You’re always consuming media.

And that really triggers our creativity, it triggers different memories, and triggers you to create. So the ideas don’t stop coming.

I don’t think the problem is a shortage of ideas as much as it is putting so much pressure on yourself to reach your prior success.

So I realised quite early on that, if I was constantly trying to outdo Gaia, I would always fall short, and I would feel like a failure.

So instead of setting that bar, the Gaia bar and being like, “Anything I do has to live up to this and has to be this amazing,” I just set out to create a full brand, a brand that had range with different products and not have the entire brand centre around this one product.

And when you remove that pressure, all your other ideas come to life, and you’re able to continue to build and continue to innovate without trying to live up to past success. That really cages you.

Kate Bassett:

And actually, to not rely on one product and to diversify your product range.

Fisayo Longe:

Absolutely, because everything goes out of style, at the end of the day.

Learning when to prioritise your financials or your creativity

Kate Bassett:

I’m curious to know, you are obviously an idea’s person and full of all these creative thoughts that are coming into your head, how do you prioritise?

How do you know which ideas to act on, and how do you, as a business owner, prioritise your time? Because you obviously have that financial background, as well, from your time at KPMG and from accounting.

So do you tend to focus more on the figures? Do you tend to focus more on the design? Where do you spend your time?

Fisayo Longe:

You have to juggle everything, especially in the early days, like we are now. People think Kai is bigger than it is in terms of staff. There’s still very few of us because I like to keep a lean business.

I don’t want to grow too quick and then have to do lay-offs when things get tough. And obviously, we’re in a very tough economic climate at the moment. So I have to wear a lot of hats, and you quickly learn that you have to wear all of them well.

So for the parts of the business that I can outsource to professionals and where I can collaborate with professionals, I do, but the finances are just as important as the creativity. It’s all important.

And I would say that life happens in seasons. You can’t be all things to all people at all times. So sometimes I prioritise finances more and creativity might suffer a little bit.

Sometimes I prioritise creativity more and the numbers might suffer a little bit. But the priority for me is, as we grow, we hire people who are better than myself.

So one of my team members now, Jasmine, is far more creative probably than I will ever be, and so that helps a lot when I have to focus on another part of the business.

Getting comfortable with outsourcing and hiring people who are better than you

Kate Bassett:

Do you find it hard to find great staff and to employ people who are better than you?

Fisayo Longe:

I find it very hard to find great staff. I really, really do. I think, especially because people see our business on social media, we’ve had a lot of press and therefore people think it’s a lot more glamorous than it is. And no matter how much I reiterate in the interviews, “This is hard work. This is not glamorous.” People still come expecting a glamorous experience.

And when they’re faced with the reality of a startup because that’s what it is at the end of the day, it might be fashion, but it’s still a startup.

The majority of work is not the fun work that people actually see. A lot of people are not ready for that. They just don’t have what it takes. They’re not prepared to sacrifice that, to make the sacrifices necessary to make things work and work hard.

But in terms of hiring people who are better than myself, I don’t find it difficult. Maybe I did at first, but not really.

There are certain tasks where, for me, I just love to outsource. I love it. I don’t want to do everything. I have so much to do, so many ideas, I don’t want to do everything.

Focus on serving a community rather than gaining industry recognition

Kate Bassett:

I want to use one of your other quotes.

You said, “Growing up black, you are told about how much harder you need to work.” What are the particular challenges you think you faced as a black entrepreneur and as a woman?

Fisayo Longe:

So I’m not sure why I said that, but I actually want to clarify that growing up, black life is harder, especially when you live in a place where you are in the minority. That’s a fact.

But I actually grew up in Nigeria, so my parents never uttered those words to me during my childhood. And for me, I think that that was part of what made me so confident, so limitless, made me feel like I could achieve anything because I never had a chip on my shoulder.

Everyone around me was black. I didn’t even know I was black. And so I think that really worked for me when I did move to the UK. And when I moved to the UK, I definitely experienced that and that was part of why I knew that I wanted to work for myself.

I do not like glass ceilings, invisible or not, I do not like people dictating how far I can go or putting a limit on my success.

And so for me, I really wanted to control that, and that is why I love entrepreneurship. Within the fashion industry, there definitely is that, but because Kai is so community focused, I’m chasing our community, I’m chasing a deeper relationship, a deeper friendship as opposed to industry recognition.

I don’t need to wait for the industry to recognise my work. I can just focus on building a community and working hard in that and serving my community.

Your business doesn’t have to be a number’s game—success comes in many different forms

Kate Bassett:

I mean, you’ve said, “Kai Collective’s not a numbers game.” So what does success look like to you?

Where do you see the business going?

Fisayo Longe:

Money is important. I’m not going to deny that. So when I say it’s not a numbers game, I’m not trying to build a billion-pound business, but money is definitely important.

We need to be able to invest more in our ideas, buy more expensive fabric, come up with more intricate designs, hire the best people, which we haven’t been able to do in the past.

But other than that, we had a pop-up shop last month, and meeting our customers in person and hearing how much Kai means to them and how it made them feel incredible and confidence wearing the clothes.

But also how us having that open channel of communication and showing how much we care about them has inspired them and has helped them, I don’t think anything can top that.

So for me, how we make our customers is our top priority. Money is very important as well, it just doesn’t need to be a billion. And constant creativity and constant creating. I love to create and bring beauty into this world, and continuing to do that is what success means to me.

Kate Bassett:

Any plans to open your own retail stores?

Fisayo Longe:

For now, not full time, but pop-ups, definitely, especially after our pop-up shop last month. We took over Dalston. Everyone was like, “What is going on? We’ve never seen a queue this long in Dalston.”

So I think our pop-up was a huge success and I want to have more in-real-life moments with our community where we really get to hug and feel each other’s energy in the same room.

That’s very important to me. But in terms of a permanent brick and mortar store, it’s not in my current plans, but you never know.

Kate Bassett:

Watch this space.

Fisayo Longe:

Watch this space.

How to combat copycats and produce better products

Kate Bassett:

I want to talk to you about the price of success, firstly in terms of the copycats. I know that last year you called out Fendi for copying your Gaia dress.

What do you do when you’re copied by brands that are much bigger and more powerful than you?

How do you respond?

Fisayo Longe:

Yeah, so it was the Gaia print that they copied, and I would say last year, the year before, it was very, very raw, and we had just created this thing that made our business go viral, and it was our first experience with a lot of recognition, a lot of success.

And so it felt really, really painful for another brand to appropriate that because then that would dilute our success, especially when the brand is so much bigger. And there were so many brands that were so much bigger that did it, but I’ve come to learn that is the fashion industry.

So rather than spending all of my energy, whether taking legal action or calling out brands on social media, it’s unfortunate, but the game is the game and there definitely is a trade-off between fighting people and continuing to create and come up with the best ideas.

And I choose to come up with better ideas and continue to create and keep that innovation and freshness rather than anger and sadness.

It’s the game, and so that’s how I’m choosing to handle it going forward.

Recognising business burnout and when to take a step back

Kate Bassett:

And in terms of the price of success, I know you’ve also experienced burnout, and you recently took a business break.

Tell us what sparked that.

Fisayo Longe:

It just got to a place where mentally I was not in a place to lead a team, and everything was going wrong. And I felt like if we continued working as opposed to taking a break, we would’ve dropped the ball and the people that we are there to serve would’ve noticed, and we wouldn’t have been able to serve them how we should— I just couldn’t carry on the way I was working at the time.

It was very, very good for us, but it really was the beginning. I’ve realised that to combat burnouts, you really have to change your processes.

And so I’ve spent this entire year since the break doing that, changing and updating our processes, working out better ways of working, better ways of living, and taking breaks.

I never used to watch TV. Now I’m obsessed with TV. There’s a show called This Is Us. I don’t know if you know it. I have watched so much of it.

That time off has changed my life, and I’ve realised the importance of that. So beyond a break, it’s been changing how we actually do things and taking my weekends, which I never used to do.

Kate Bassett:

So how were you operating as an entrepreneur before, and what was the moment that really made you think, I need to take a step back, I can’t cope with this any longer?

Fisayo Longe:

I was just working 24/7, all the time. When I wasn’t sleeping, and I wasn’t even sleeping properly because I had so much anxiety, I was working. I wasn’t watching TV. I wasn’t doing anything for leisure, apart from going to the gym sometimes.

So I realised that it couldn’t continue. But I was with a group of other entrepreneurs in Bermuda for a month in February this year with the Forbes under 30 group.

And another person in the cohort who owns a fashion brand came to me and said, “Oh yeah, we should host a fashion show. I’ve told them we’re going to host a fashion show, so get your sample sent to Bermuda.”

And I broke down. At that point, I just broke down in tears because I could not think of anything worse than hosting a fashion show in Bermuda. I was running away from my life, and for her to try and bring that to me, I couldn’t deal with it.

And so it just made me realise how unhealthy I was at that point in time. That was the catalyst.

Kate Bassett:

Did you agonise over whether you should take a break from the business and how it would run without you?

Fisayo Longe:

A hundred percent. I agonised over it. We are a small brand. I had to think “Would people even be here when we come back?”

There’s a lot of, here today, gone tomorrow on the internet and in business. I didn’t know that people would still care if we were not in front of their faces constantly. But the whole team was unwell, front facing, so we were not even shipping orders out on the website.

The website wasn’t taking new orders, so it was a clean break. We were working behind the scenes, but that was more changing our processes and getting things back to a decent place, and that was fine.

I just couldn’t have the customer-facing business running because I felt that we were not in the position to serve them well.

Kate Bassett:

So how long did you effectively close down the consumer facing side of the business?

Fisayo Longe:

It was about nine weeks in the end.

Changing both professional and personal processes to improve your business and avoid burnout

Kate Bassett:

And talk me through some of those processes that you changed, firstly, professionally, and then personally.

Fisayo Longe:

So it was just, for example, our website. Our website was always causing us so much grief. It wasn’t built very well.

So we finished a whole website rebuild, moved to a new website, and then we just worked out different ways of doing things like fulfilling orders, more efficient ways of doing our jobs.

So from the technical things like the website, our fulfilment, to me, I got an HR consultant, which we never had before, so figuring out ways to build a more fulfilled team and do things like more team activities.

Really, we just took a 360 look around the business and tried to figure out all the different parts of the business that we could improve. Processes, team, leisure, things like that.

And personally, I just stopped working constantly. I always felt so much anxiety whenever I wasn’t working. I’ve been dealing with that, and it’s gotten much better.

I was in therapy, started watching TV, and just sometimes would just sit on the couch and not do anything or read a book.

I got very, very serious about my self-care and me time.

Kate Bassett:

And how do you carve that ‘you’ time into your day every single day? Do you have a particular routine where you make sure you switch off your phone at a certain time, or you close your laptop?

Fisayo Longe:

I don’t have a certain time. I should, and it’s one of the things I’m working towards next year. But I would say as a startup, it goes up and down. It comes in peaks and troughs.

Sometimes I’m able to be super on it and I don’t work at all on the weekends, and I’m giving myself rest on the weekdays, I’m watching TV every evening, that kind of thing. But some weeks are just hellish, and I’m not able to do that.

And so, I try to make up for it the week after. There’s been a switch. I’ll never go back to working the way I was.

There might be once in a while I might have to work on the weekend, or I might have to neglect myself, just with what the business is and not being able to hire so many people.

Once in a while I might have to sacrifice for that, but then I make sure that I check in with myself, have therapy and make up for it the next week.

But yeah, it definitely comes in peaks and troughs. Ever since I made the decision to prioritise myself more, it hasn’t been like a linear ship sailing. It’s been very bumpy.

How to know you’re ready to go back to work after taking a business break

Kate Bassett:

How did you know you were ready to go back into the business and did you dread it?

Fisayo Longe:

I did dread it because I was still burned out, and I don’t think I was necessarily ready, but I had to. I had staff to pay. I didn’t lay anyone off. The whole time staff was still being paid, people were still working. We just had to.

But at the end of the day, I think because it grew so fast in 2020, we had grown beyond our processes, so we could have done with a month or two more to get everything in order.

But life is work, you have to work to earn money, and so we had to go back.

I don’t regret it, as much as I dreaded it because I was still very much burned out. I’ve learned so much this year and I wouldn’t change any of that.

Kate Bassett:

I’m curious to know what your team think of you taking a business break. Have they seen changes in you? Did they think you are different now as a business owner?

Fisayo Longe:

I’m going to ask. That’s a very good question. I’m not sure. I think at first, they were surprised, but then I think they saw the value in it, and they were burned out as well.

We were all stretched too thin at the time, so afterwards we hired more staff. But I think it was good for them as well.

But I’m actually not sure what they think about me personally after taking that break.

I’ll find out. That’s a good one.

Kate Bassett:

And did you have any kind of financial buffer in place to allow you to take a step back from the business?

Fisayo Longe:

No. No. We just had the money that we had made in prior months and just tried to stretch that as far as possible. I made sacrifices where I could, reducing how much I paid myself, that kind of thing.

But no, we didn’t have a financial buffer, which is why we had to come back before we were necessarily ready.

A holiday won’t cure your business burnout­—you need to find the root of the problem

Kate Bassett:

For companies that have been through this meteoric rise and then are battling with burnout, what would be your main pieces of advice or tips to them?

Fisayo Longe:

Have a look at your processes and systems and see where you can automate, see where you can hire. My advice would be that no holiday is going to change the situation.

Ever since I started feeling burnout for the first time, I’ve been on several holidays thinking I just need a week off, “After this week everything will be better.”

And for that week things get better, but they go back to what they used to be. It’s beyond any type of holiday or any sleeping over the weekend. You really need to make changes, so you need to hire, or you need to change your system to a more efficient one.

I would say spend some time finding out where you need to make those changes within the business and make those long-lasting changes beyond the surface.

Don’t attach your self-worth to your business

Kate Bassett:

And I know you started Kai Collective back in 2016, so if you had to go back to yourself as a younger entrepreneur and give her one nugget of advice, what would it be?

Fisayo Longe:

I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it was going to be. I just wasn’t.

As I said to you, I was so confident, a little bit delusional, so I would just have told her it’s going to be very, very difficult. I would’ve said to me, “Do not attach your self-worth and your self-confidence to this business,” because as I said, there will be peaks and troughs.

And because I attach so much of my personal brand, my personal worth and confidence to the brand, when the brand is not doing as well or when we receive negative feedback, when the customer isn’t happy, I’ve always taken it very, very personal.

I would’ve told her, “This is a business, and your business is not you.” Separate those two things and realise that you have a whole different life. And just because the business is struggling, doesn’t mean that you must struggle, and just keep going.

It’s difficult. Very, very challenging. Be prepared for a lot of sacrifices, but it’s going to be worth it. That’s what I would’ve said.

Inspired by this small business story?

Wherever you’re listening or watching, subscribe to Sound Advice on Apple iTunes here.

We are also on Spotify and anywhere else you get your podcasts.

Join our community to share your insights and stories on Twitter @SageUK using the hashtag #SoundAdvicePodcast, on Instagram @SageOfficial or in the comments below!

Want to know more about Kai Collective or Fisayo Longe?

You can check out Kai Collective on their website.

You can find out more about Fisayo Longe on Instagram or Twitter.