11 Biggest Challenges for STARTING a Small Business
The Challenges of Starting a Business When You Have Ulcerative Colitis
An IBD diagnosis in early adulthood can thwart career plans. Find out how to get back on track.
By Brooke Abbott
In This Series
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In my late teens and early twenties I was on a clear path to becoming a television and/or film producer. I grew up with parents and friends working in entertainment. I studied film in college. I was mentored by some of the most talented filmmakers in Hollywood. My future was set. But that all changed when I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC).
I couldn’t keep my hours on a film set or handle the stress that comes with production because of how it affected my condition. I had to re-evaluate my career path. It didn’t seem realistic to work for someone else while trying to live through the unpredictability of ulcerative colitis. So I decided that going into business for myself and working in the nonprofit sector would suit me best.
Being able to work from home, set my own schedule, and be my own boss would take down part of my anxiety. It would also help me monitor and care for my disease in a controlled environment. The comfort of home and proximity of an open, private bathroom was also a huge incentive.
But how would I pay my rent? Most people believe that going into business for yourself means you will either be incredibly rich or poor. Neither is necessarily true. I control my pay by how much I hustle my independent contracts.
My peace of mind has helped strengthen my healing and helps me work smarter and more efficiently.
How to Get Started Building Your Own Business
Although I was completely in love with working in film, it didn’t define me — or work well with my IBD. I had many talents and resources and knew that I needed to find a job that would accommodate my condition. I started by making a list of my passions and considered how each would be impacted by my ulcerative colitis:
- Policy and legislation
- Health activism
- Fiction writing
- Public speaking
Then I put a star next to the subjects I was most familiar with and for which I may have had resources already in place. Once I starred those subjects. I put them together and brainstormed what I could do in each of those areas. For example, I was interested in policy, health activism, motherhood, writing, and public speaking. I felt I could best work in those subjects by blogging, advocating, and writing.
I decided to become a health advocate with a focus in legislative policy and lifestyle while living with IBD and arthritis.
The Crazy Creole Mommy LifeBrand Is Born
Social media has not only made it easier for people to start a platform with an audience for their business, but it also helps with molding brands. Social media became my best friend. I noticed the influence it began to have on everyone’s day-to-day. And for me, I knew that spreading awareness of inflammatory bowel disease needed to include sharing with an audience not familiar with IBD in order to have a real impact for the disease.
So I became transparent with my life, and exactly when and if IBD affected my life. It was also the easiest way to build my brand.
Whether I was healthy at home or in the hospital, I was able to move the pendulum on my platform. It also helped me quickly share information I wanted to share about IBD-related legislation. Slowly my social media ramblings began to get attention.
With an audience, I was able to begin my real work: advocating, sharing awareness, empowering patients with information, and connecting IBD-friendly brands with patients. Soon it was time to create a marketing strategy to brand myself.
Branding is more than coming up with a logo and a catchy slogan. It’s making sure that everything about your brand is cohesive. That it speaks the same language. I wanted people to find me easily. I also wanted my business to remain organized and professional.
For example, I have branded my personal life. My brand is all about who I am. I’m a mother, a patient, a political junkie, a nerd, a coffee enthusiast, and a philanthropist. Every aspect of my brand, including social media, reflects that. One day you will see a story about my child, or a new kind of low-acid coffee. Perhaps I am talking about a new piece of legislation that will affect my readers. It’s all encompassing.
Working for Yourself While Living With IBD
The key to working for yourself is to stay organized. At the end of the day, I’m a single mom and a patient with an unpredictable disease. If someone needs to step in behind me to help make sure that my business will stay running while I take a health day, I need to make sure the foundation won’t implode.
To do that, I have to make sure my calendars and schedules are all up to date. I schedule as many social media posts as I can to run in the future, to ensure traffic to my pages when I am unable to be active on them.
Going into business for yourself without health problems is difficult, and doing so with health concerns can be daunting. Because stress can exacerbate symptoms and extraintestinal manifestations, I must take time away from my business once in a while and separate my work life from my home life.
It’s been six years since I began The Crazy Creole Mommy Chronicles. It started off as a light mommy blog that slowly evolved into a hub for advocacy and legislative information for IBD patients and caregivers alike.
My words have been lifted off of the pages of social media and into the halls of Congress. I’ve been able to connect patients with one another for support groups, create avenues for patients to receive medical supplies during a natural disaster, connect patients to IBD-friendly brands to help give them a better quality of life, and represent patients to the pharmaceutical companies creating their medication.
I’ve personally made connections that have led me to a healthier place physically and emotionally with my IBD. And my knowledge on the disease itself is growing.
The Crazy Creole Mommy Life brand has allowed me to take my son places and share experiences with him that I never thought I would ever be able to do for him. My life has done a 360 from the days on a cold soundstage.
I’m not wealthy, but I set out to change the way America sees people affected by IBD. In that, I have been more successful that I could have ever dreamed. And I’m still not done.
Brooke Abbott is an IBD advocate. She blogs about her life as a mom living with an IBD at The Crazy Creole Mommy Chronicles.
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