Is “Balance” A Myth? This Startup Founder Thinks So

Jenna Kutcher 

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October 16, 2023


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I’ve got news for you: if you’re digging an ambitious goal of building a hugely successful business and brand, it won’t always be possible to achieve the perfect balance between work and life, hustle and rest. 

Most founders would agree that running a business is like a series of sprints and cool downs… you’re constantly exhausted, running at peak intensity, putting out fires… and then there are the rare quiet periods or ‘lulls’ where you can finally catch a breath. 

In fact, some may even say that ‘balance’ can’t possibly exist during the first few years of entrepreneurship!

Nicole Gibbons, the founder of next generation paint brand Clare, has experienced them all… from peak productivity to burnout; from constantly having to make difficult tradeoffs to leaning into what this season of life is bringing her. 

In our conversation, Nicole is sharing her perspective on why she believes balance is a myth (and why that’s okay), plus her tactic of “rebalancing” on a regular basis in order to thrive during those intense times and the reality of what it’s really like to be funded by venture capital. 

It’s such a treat to get to chat with her about the ebbs and flows of business, different seasons of life, different styles of entrepreneurship and how it all affects our lives!

How She Built A Brand From Scratch

A few years ago, Nicole’s interest in technology and startups played a significant role in her decision to build a venture-scale business. She admired the groundbreaking companies that emerged from Silicon Valley and saw the potential for young entrepreneurs to make a significant impact. 

Nicole’s passion for innovation and her desire to make a lasting impact led her to choose the paint industry as the category for her brand. She saw an opportunity to build a better brand in an industry that hadn’t seen much innovation (in, like, decades)!

Despite the doubts of others, Nicole was confident in her ability to add value and disrupt the market.

To pursue her vision, Nicole had to make sacrifices. She gave up her successful design business and media work, which had been a significant source of income for her. She committed to not making any money for a whole year, dedicating all her time and energy to building the foundation of her business. 

She also had to go through the process of raising money, which required her to pitch her idea to venture capitalists and secure funding. Nicole is the perfect example of the idea that building a brand from scratch requires passion, perseverance, and a clear vision!

Entrepreneurship Leads To Burnout

Through building her brand from scratch, Nicole learned very quickly that entrepreneurship, particularly in the startup world, is notorious for burnout.

According to Nicole, the constant drive to meet milestones and secure funding can take a toll on entrepreneurs’ health and personal lives. The pressure to deliver results within a tight timeframe can lead to a relentless work pace, leaving little room for balance or self-care.

In Nicole’s case, the need to raise capital to grow her business meant that she had to constantly push herself and her team to hit milestones… The fear of not being able to secure further funding and the risk of the company’s survival added to the already high-stress environment… And the demands of running a small team while pioneering a new business further exacerbated the burnout potential.

Nicole admits that burnout was a part of her entrepreneurial journey. She describes the experience as a roller coaster, with highs and lows.

During the lows, when challenges and fires need to be addressed, burnout becomes more prevalent. However, she also recognizes that burnout is cyclical and temporary. Just like any other aspect of life, it comes and goes in cycles.

To cope with burnout, Nicole had to prioritize and make choices. She acknowledges that she couldn’t have it all – work, family, sleep, fitness, and friends – all at the same time. 

She had to let certain things go in certain periods of her company’s growth in order to focus on what was most important at the time. Sleep became a priority for her, recognizing its importance for her overall well-being.

While burnout is not a healthy state to be in, Nicole’s perspective is one of resilience and perseverance. She sees it as a necessary part of the entrepreneurial journey, something that can be managed and overcome. Her ability to cope with burnout and continue pushing forward is a testament to her determination and passion for her business!

Is Balance A Myth?

Through her experience, Nicole believes that balance is a myth and as business owners, we must prioritize wisely and find ways to recharge amidst the demands of entrepreneurship.

In our conversation, she also expressed her dislike for the notion of balance, stating that it doesn’t exist in her life. She argues that there is never a time when everything is perfectly balanced. Instead, she suggests that it is more important to prioritize the things that add the most value to one’s life in the present moment.

She also highlights the societal expectations placed on women in business. She points out that men are rarely asked about their balance or how they prioritize various aspects of their lives. This observation sheds light on the gender disparities that exist in entrepreneurship and the need for a more inclusive and equitable approach to work-life integration.

To cope with the challenges of entrepreneurship, Gibbons shares her strategies for resetting and recharging. She emphasizes the importance of taking mini escapes to reset, whether it’s taking a few days off or engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation.

For her, playing golf and spending time at the beach are ways to escape from work and find moments of peace and rejuvenation. I hope these serve as reminders for you to prioritize self-care and find activities that provide respite from the demands of your business – no matter how infrequent they may be sometimes.

If you loved this episode as much as I did, follow Nicole on Instagram or shop Clare Paint today!

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Before you get any further... Hi! I'm Jenna Kutcher!

A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

I’m an expert at online marketing, a nerd when it comes to the numbers, and my obsession is teaching others how to make a living doing what they love (without it taking over their life). 

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