A few days ago, I woke up grumpy. My alarm went off and, as usual, I hit the snooze, glanced at my phone and found myself not wanting to get out of bed. While this is a pretty common occurrence for me (any other non-morning people out there??), I could tell that there was more to the story. Instead of simply feeling tired and wanting to sleep more, I was actually grumpy. Upset. Frustrated.
Being the incredibly self-aware and sometimes too reflective person that I am, I delayed getting out of bed as I pondered on why I was feeling the way I was. I didn’t feel sick; I wasn’t hungry; I had slept a full 8 hours; I didn’t have a particularly difficult day scheduled; I didn't go to sleep in an argument with my husband… so why the grump?
I stayed in bed to scroll through my phone—delaying the day and seeing what all I had missed during sleep. Being in Asia, most of my social media notifications and emails happen while I’m sleeping as my friends/family are awake on the other side of the world. I noticed my annoyance deepening.
Suddenly, I realized why.
I hadn’t exactly woken up grumpy. But it grew almost simultaneously as I grabbed my phone to hit snooze. My lock screen wasn’t full of notifications as I’d hoped to wake up to. Our post didn’t get as many likes or comments as I’d expected. And as I’d scrolled to see everybody else’s posts, likes, and comments, I found my competitive nature rising. My irritation increasing.
In the world of small business and social entrepreneurship, sometimes it all feels like a competition—who has the best photos, the most likes, the biggest following, the coolest video, the prettiest models, the biggest stats of impact, the most dramatic story (which is not always a good thing)... the list of things we compare ourselves on is endless. Being a new (and lets be real, very small,) company, it’s easy to look at these other enterprises and feel inadequate. Comparison really is the thief of joy.
Of course, I realize that in a lot of ways business is competition. Marketing relies on standing out and grabbing people’s attention-- usually more so than your competitors. A company can’t survive without sales. People are only going to buy so much. Competition pushes us to be better. I get it.
But when I’m looking at posts from other social enterprises around the world who are making beautiful products, empowering others, and getting attention, I don’t want to be angry in the face of competition or comparison. I want to be inspired and encouraged by what other incredible men and women are doing to make this world a better place. I want to clap my hands and cheer, “YES!!! Way to go, Sseko! Keep at it, FashionABLE! You're incredible, Causebox! Beautiful products, Noonday! You rock, Raven + Lilly!”
I want to cheer instead of compete because I know Freeleaf is not enough to reach every man, woman and child in need. We’re not enough to reverse the environmental destruction that’s been going on for generations. We’re not enough to change the narrative of injustice against women across the world. Any company that is working towards social good is a partner in this larger fight—not a competitor.
Just as I work to empower women within our company—I want to be a company that empowers and encourages others in my industry. I want to learn from others who are further along, encourage those in the same place, and teach whatever I can to those who are a few steps behind.
So to all you small businesses, social enterprises, and entrepreneurs (male or female) out there—know that Freeleaf is for you—cheering you on from afar, and inspired by your courage and perseverance. Let’s make the world a more beautiful place.