If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s likely you want to make a meaningful impact; you’re passionate and willing to do whatever it takes to grow your company or organization. But what happens when your dedication to your work comes before your mental and emotional well-being? BURNOUT.
In this episode, Akua welcomes the founder of the FemGems Club, Dora Petrova, to talk about burnout and how putting yourself first is integral to the success of your business.
Dora started her podcast, FemGems, as a way to feature early-stage female founders in a male-dominated field. As the podcast grew, Dora’s realized she wanted to do even more than inspire women to start a business; she wanted to give them a framework of support to build and grow. This led to the FemGems Club, which offers effective mentoring, mastermind, and accountability systems for female entrepreneurs in every stage of their business.
With first-hand knowledge of letting entrepreneurial burnout get the better of her, Dora shares ways to make sure this won’t happen to you. Grab your headphones and learn how you can find fulfillment as you bring your business vision to life without digging an early grave in the process.
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What's Covered in this Episode About Entrepreneurial Burnout
- Dora dives into the challenges facing female entrepreneurs and why she wanted to start FemGems Club.
- She reveals her experiences with burnout and why she should have listened to her body, to those around her, and to her feelings when she started to feel worn down.
- Why creating the space to connect with yourself can be the antidote to burnout.
- Akua asks Dora to share her own routine and rituals for avoiding entrepreneurial burnout (hint: Taking a holiday does not cure burnout!).
- For the sake of your business, you should come first. Because without you, your business can’t run.
- Running a business shouldn’t be exhausting; it should feed your spirit and give you energy.
- Find out why a metric for success doesn’t need to be results-based; Dora’s is based on how she feels.
Quotes from this Episode of Open Door Conversations
- "It's about progress, not perfection, and it's about your own progress, not others." - Dora Petrova
- "If people see you being close to burnout, you know, being on the verge or being prone or you know, having this likelihood of going there. Listen to them." - Dora Petrova
- "Listen, listen to yourself. I think people who get to burnout get there because they don't listen to themselves to their bodies to how they're feeling." _ Dora Petrova
- "It is about feeling good. This is ultimately what it's all about." - Dora Petrova
- "I realise the importance of a positive mindset is probably the foundation of everything." - Dora Petrova
Get to Know this Episode's Guest
Get to Know the Host of the Open Door Conversations Podcast
Learn more about your host, Akua Nyame-Mensah.
Akua is a certified executive and leadership coach, recognized learning and organizational development facilitator, speaker, and former startup executive.
Since 2018, she has had the opportunity to partner with amazing organizations, from high-growth startups to multinational brands all around the world, to maximize people, performance, and profit. Outside of her coaching and corporate speaking engagements, she is a regular mentor, coach, and judge for various entrepreneurship-focused organizations.
Stay in touch with Akua Nyame-Mensah, Leadership & Culture Advisor:
Here’s the transcript for episode 38 about Entrepreneurial Burnout
NOTE: Please excuse any errors in this transcript; it was created using an AI tool. Akua Nyame-Mensah 0:07 Welcome to the open door podcast. My name is Akua Nyame-Mensah. I also respond to Aqua and I'm a certified executive and leadership coach recognised facilitator and former sort of leader that loves supporting reluctant buyer fighting and overwhelmed leaders. I work with them to help them clarify where they should focus their time and energy each and every day so that they can love themselves, love their work, and ultimately love their life. If you're looking to learn leadership information and hear different perspectives, you are in the right place. My aim in this podcast is to help you see that one of the most productive and profitable things you can do is deeply understand yourself. Understand how you show up, understand how you thrive, and allow yourself to align everything in your work in your life, and in your business to support that think of this podcast as your weekly opportunity to receive leadership support. And remember, there is no one right way to lead yourself or others. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. Let's get started. Hello, and welcome to this week's podcast interview on the open door conversations podcast. As always, I am incredibly excited to share this week's interview with an amazing entrepreneur called Dora. And Dora and I have known each other now for a few years. And I'm so excited to have this opportunity to share our conversation because we're talking about something that I think tends to be overlooked, especially from the female perspective, and that is entrepreneurial burnout. And before we actually get into the episode, I want to share the one piece of advice she would share with her younger self to my younger self, I would say stop wasting time on details, self doubt and perfectionism. Just go for the things you want, act and adopt a growth mindset. It's about progress, not perfection, and it's about your own progress, not others. comparing yourself to others too much means you're not honouring yourself and you're putting others first, instead of yourself. This is not going to make you happy, or help you progress faster. So if this is something you want to learn a little bit more about if you want to hear how Dora thinks through burnout and how she tries to create routines and rituals to help her work through burnout, right? Because this is something that will come back. This is something that I even still struggle with every so often. You definitely want to take a listen to this podcast episode. I am so excited because today I am joined by Dora to talk about burnout, and how she's evolved this amazing community that she calls them gems. Dora, welcome to the show. Speaker 1 3:09 Welcome. Yeah, thank you so much. I really feel welcome. And thank you so much for the invite. Super excited to be here. Akua Nyame-Mensah 3:17 Yes. So for folks who were meeting you for the first time, could you share a little bit about who you are and what you Speaker 1 3:24 do? Yeah, sure. So I'm Dora founder of femme gems and femme gems was initially the first podcast in Europe to feature female startup founders and evolve to firm gems Club, which is the support system for early stage female founders. And we help them get their startups off the ground with effective mentoring mastermind and accountability systems. This is the short kind of pitch, but happy to share more later on. Akua Nyame-Mensah 3:54 I love that you have that down to a science and I've been lucky enough to actually be part of this film gems community. I think that door has done an amazing job. Yeah, building relationships and connecting with entrepreneurs and mentors really around the world. Can you share a little bit more about what inspired you to create this community? And yeah, tell us a little bit more about some of the things that have come out of of building this community, I think, because I believe it's been built in such an organic way. Speaker 1 4:25 Hmm, yeah, yeah. Oh, my gosh, there's really, yeah, multiple, multiple layer motivations. So it all started with me, you know, coming at this point of light, where you start asking yourself some big questions like, What am I actually gonna, you know, do long term in terms of, you know, where I'm going to invest my time and my energy and my potential and how can I contribute to a positive change in society that I really care about that's, you know, creating a meaningful impact. So right Really everything started with with this type of questions that I started asking myself a few years ago, back then I was working as a freelance designer. And I just felt that I really kind of cool to do something with social impact, I always felt drawn to this type of activities and projects. So yeah, that's, that's how it all started. And honestly, there were so many things that led to, you know, the birth of FEM gems. First, like, there was a friend of mine who dropped out of law school who started her own business, and it took off, and this for me was this huge eye opener of, you know, if she could do it, I could do it too, you know, it's just seeing someone whom you can relate to, that gives you the belief and you know, the confidence that you could do it too, because you're kind of similar, you can relate to this person. It's not like this big shot, or this, you know, super successful and experienced person whom you feel like this huge distance to, but it's someone like you. And this, this, really, this type of experience was what I wanted to multiply and what shaped the focus of FEM gems podcast, because on it, I really wanted to show female founders in the early stages, so not not the ones who are already all over the media or super popular, but the ones who are just starting out and just give more prominence to early female successes in entrepreneurship and not. Yeah, as I said, So focusing on the on this early stage, this was our FEM Jim's podcast was born. And then, you know, we started growing, the podcast, the audience, the network, specifically in Berlin, and then yeah, cross boundaries. And we started doing events and different types of projects and initiatives. And at some point, I realised, you know, this is not really solving the problem that I want to solve. And I also realised what is a problem I want to solve. And this is not just about inspiring women to turn their ideas into business, to take the leap to, you know, jump into entrepreneurship to try it out. And the podcast was a great source of inspiration in this regard. But what you really need is a little bit more than a podcast, right? If you want to help someone. So there's, you know, probably your listeners already know, there's huge, like obstacles, especially for women in entrepreneurship, like they don't have the same access to capital, they don't have the same access to, like financial and social capital to they're still like so much. Yeah, so many boys clubs. And there's also, you know, these facts and figures that do not really change much in the in the last decade, like 2% of venture capital funding goes to women. And so there's so much to tackle in this space. And basically back then what I thought was, okay, what can I do right now with the resources I have right now. And it was this amazing network that has been growing from the podcast that I just wanted to, you know, leverage and to bring to the next level and to create, like a structure where you can not just listen to these people on the podcast, but you can talk to them in person. And you can talk to them when you need their help on a particular, you know, problem and particular challenge you're experiencing right now where they can give you first hand advice. And this is basically how the idea for Sam's Club was born. Akua Nyame-Mensah 8:40 I love that thank you so much for taking us through that. And one of the reasons why I wanted to make sure that this was shared is because I've you know, had the opportunity and the privilege to support other early stage, founders. And I think that really seeing how something can grow so organically, right? So you started with just trying to create that platform and give people the opportunity just to share their experience and then wanting to create systems and sort of accountability spaces for them to take it to the next level. And I really love that. And I think that so many people really can learn from your experience and really learn from what you've been able to build. Can you tell us maybe a little bit about some of the challenges that have come up for you because I know that's something that we've spoken a bit about, and you've even wrote written about as well. Speaker 1 9:30 Honestly, the first thing that comes to my mind is the very very, very beginning of FEM gems where there was absolutely nothing out there. It was just me and my idea for this podcast. And I want to you know, I want to try and get really good guests on it, but they don't know me like nobody knows me. Nobody knows about because we didn't have a website. We don't have anything like I can only share my idea and my passion with them. And it was so much about you know, chasing people and following up and following up with them, because they're, you know, busy and they cannot like reply to everyone. And I can relate to this so much now, because, you know, as I advance myself on this founder journey, I find myself in exactly the same position, like just honestly not having the capacity to reply to anybody, to everybody. So yeah, this was really interesting, you know, to have this, this type of challenge in the beginning that evolves to the country kind of down the road. And so yeah, I think this is like, probably, yeah, the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about the podcast, and in terms of FEM gems club, it is a purpose driven, mission driven startup. So there is a really fine balance between you're doing all this, because it's a big word, but it's, it feels like your life's purpose. So it's a really big passion, and you invest so much in it, so that it's so easy to forget yourself, and to stop putting yourself first and to forget, like all your needs, because you're just so invested in this mission, and you care so deeply about it, that you're willing to sacrifice so much. But once you kind of forget this boundary, or once you cross it, it really becomes dangerous also for, for the mission itself for the startup itself. So yeah, this, this has been definitely a challenge to, you know, to notice these types of boundaries and to put yourself first instead of the mission. Yeah, because you're the one driving the mission. So you should actually be come first, right? Akua Nyame-Mensah 11:52 Yeah. And I think that's a really great Reno, great segue to talk a little bit more about sort of some of the lessons that you've learned, specifically from burnout, can you share a little bit more about what you've learned from burnout, and some of the things that that you think are important for other founders and founders, especially those that identify as female to keep in mind? Speaker 1 12:12 Um, yeah, sure, there is so much like, I truly feel grateful for going through this experience, because it is really only when you kind of bang your head into wool or when when it really hurts that you learn the lesson. Because again, like to be completely, you know, open and honest, many people have warned me, you're on a good way to burn out, and I did not listen to them. And this is also one of the reasons I'm speaking on this podcast about burnout right now, why I'm willing to speak about burnout, because that's really one of the one of the things I want to share. Like, if people see you being close to burnout, you know, being on the verge or being prone or you know, having this likelihood of going there. Listen to them. Try to listen and like you don't really don't have to hit hit your head, like you don't need to go through this huge pain to you know, wake up to realise like, yeah, they were right. Maybe just try to listen to them upfront. And also, of course, in the first place. Listen, listen to yourself. I think people who get to burnout get there because they don't listen to themselves to their bodies to how they're feeling. They're not really connected to themselves, they put something else first. It's work. It's I don't know, solving a problem. It's something you know, other people expectations, ambitions, goals, nothing should come first. Except for you. This is one of the major learnings for me. Yeah, there's, there's more. But yeah, I remember there was one episode focusing on mental health mental well being as a founder on the founders journey, you know, from this point of view, and this was one of the most played and then episodes that got the most reactions and I talked to to this guest, you know, off the record, sometime, like after this episode, and she was like, you really need to take this seriously because your business is also going to be hard, you're not going to be able to work on your business for a couple of months, maybe and, or even more. And the thing is, I just didn't feel like this is a real danger. I didn't feel like this is really going to happen. I just felt this huge amounts of energy and I wanted to put it into invest in this project and it made so much sense. And I felt like I can go on forever. And this is where you know, where this self awareness comes in. Like if you if you could Rate a space where you can really connect to yourself and be honest about how is it that you're feeling? Do you really want to keep working like one more hour and one more and work all weekends and have like 14 hour days? Answer these questions, you know, to yourself in a candidate way. If you make this space, this is this is the best thing you can do. You know, this is a great start. I think this is one of the missing pieces, you know, when you don't do this, this is where the real risk comes in. So yeah, I highly encourage everybody to, you know, just just create this space to connect with themselves and to understand like, what is it that I really need? Why am I doing what I'm doing right now? Why am I pushing myself? What's going to happen? If I don't do it? How would I, you know, perceive myself? What would I think of myself? How much do I care about others? How much am I comparing myself to others? These are all really essential questions. Akua Nyame-Mensah 16:01 I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that and sharing a little bit about your experience. Would you feel comfortable sharing maybe some of the routines or rituals that you've implemented? To really make sure that you're able to create that space? Are there any particular things? Yeah, that you think have been incredibly helpful? Speaker 1 16:20 Mm hmm. Yeah, sure. There's, there's tonnes of things you can do, I think it's really important to find your own ways, your own tools, and not like be okay, you need to do this, you know, what this person says, or what another person says, it's really about what helps you and this is, again, this point of view, connect to yourself and see what you really need. The first thing I did, apart from taking a break, which is not what cures burnout. Akua Nyame-Mensah 16:50 Thank you for sharing that so many of my clients, so many people that reached out to me were like, well, I'm taking a holiday next week. And I'm like, that's great. But we need something that allows you to have that space, like every single week, or maybe even every day. Yeah, Speaker 1 17:03 exactly. So I went through three rounds of burnout, the first time, I was like, Okay, I'm just, you know, gonna take like, three days off, and go to a spa. And I went there with my laptop. Super smart, super effective. Did not really solve the problem, or made me realise what the lesson there is. So next year, a little bit earlier, in the year, I found myself in a very similar place, then it went for a little bit longer, like for a couple of months, but there were a lot of, you know, so personal experiences that just came on top of everything. But then, you know, again, I took like, a couple of weeks off, and I went back to work the same way I did before. And then the year after, which was this year, I was not able to work properly. And I didn't even you know, I just stopped caring for our mission. I became like, really cynical about it. And basically everything turned upside down. Like I didn't, I lost, like my motivation and my drive. And this is obviously the engine of everything, right? If you don't have that I don't have anything else. Like I don't have anything to give, I don't want to you know, wake up for this thing that I was waking up every single morning before that. And yeah, I mean, you just lose everything this way. So what I started to do, was going to therapy, this is this was like my number one thing, like what my number one tool to try to solve this problem sustainably like to really get to the root of it. And to Yeah, understand, like, why is it like, why am I reaching this type of exhaustion, this level of exhaustion, but unless you face them, you cannot solve a problem. You cannot grow and really create a positive change in your life. So the only way out is through and it's a painful type of growth. I think probably all like real tangible growth is painful, but it's so so so worth it and I'm doing so many things differently now that I have this awareness and now that I went through all this and I left it behind and I yeah, I I just know deeply that there won't be another time like I won't let this happen again. Because I know how it got to this point and I know what to do too. would not get close to it again. And I've established a sense of, you know, connection with myself where I just constantly check. Like, how am I feeling and I can register and I can, you know, yeah, just notice all these signs of you're overworking like this is too much like this, you're too stressed out. And this is not the point. You know, it's not about working yourself to an early grave, it's about you, you know, shining, flourishing, feeling great and fulfilled and motivated. This is this is what it's all about, like, this is why you start a business because you want to have this type of life, this type of work, you want to be enthusiastic and full of energy. So why are you you know, draining yourself on this road? This is absurd. It doesn't make any sense. So, yeah, this is this is the type of reality check that I, you know, experienced. And it's really interesting. And I and I want to talk a little bit about seeing a therapist, because there's a lot of stigma around that. There's still huge misconceptions that are too popular around therapy. And it's not about, you know, people with problems or crazy people. I mean, obviously, everybody has problems, and everybody's facing some types of challenges in their life, and everybody needs help. So, you know, I, like every other human being, I am operating on the principles of human psychology, and I am not aware of them, because I didn't study psychology. So just becoming aware of like, how your brain operates, or how you're, you know, ego plays a huge role in what you're doing. And the choices you're making, this knowledge is something that can profoundly change the your actions, your choices. So yeah, there's, I mean, everybody has, you know, things they struggle with, everybody has things they need to heal and wounds and emotions that are super, you know, strong and you don't know how to, to deal with them. And you are kind of like, in their control. So if you want to get in control of them, you need to understand them understand why they're there, and what you can do to you know, liberate yourself from from them in a way that you know, that they're messengers, actually, you know, every emotion is a messenger. And if you acknowledge the message that you're receiving, if you get it, then the job's done, basically, Akua Nyame-Mensah 22:45 I love that. Thank you so much for being honest and open and sharing, you know more about your experience. You know, before we even started recording this, we actually had a little chat, you know, a little chat about therapy. It's something that I've also had the opportunity to invest in an experience. And I know, it really shifted my perspective on how I was showing up. And you know, what success looks like for me, so So I'm curious, Dora, now that you've gone through this, has your definition of success changed? And if so, what are you keeping, you know, in mind, in terms of how you're showing up, and even what feels good? Speaker 1 23:23 Yeah, I don't think my definition of success has changed. I think I just started becoming more aware of it, because I kind of neglected it. This, you know, this whole time, I was not like, I just put it you know, somewhere behind where I was living in a box. Where's that I was not opening? Like, what was like the second part of your question, because I think this was Akua Nyame-Mensah 23:48 just has it, you know, how would you define it? What does it look like for you right now? You know, when? When is it? You know, when do you know, like, oh, it's been a good day, I'm good. You know, I can move on. I can go to sleep now even you know, what is that metric that you use? Speaker 1 24:04 Hmm, yeah, this is really good. Because it's not about results. This is the biggest like surprise probably for was definitely a surprise. For me. It is about feeling good. This is ultimately what it's all about. And the reason why this is so important is because only if you feel good, you're going to be able to have a positive impact on others. And you're going to be able to be your best self and your most, you know, high performing self. If you're, you know, pushing yourself in a way that is kind of, you know, that lacks self respect and lacks self care and self support. If you're just being hard on yourself. If you're criticising yourself, guess what, you're not going to come far you're not going to achieve achieve the results that you want. So it is totally counterproductive. So I guess For me, like the way it change things, or the way how I show up? Yeah, what you mentioned. And I realise the importance of a positive mindset is probably the foundation of everything. So shifting from mindset way of thinking, where you focus on problems, like I need to do this, I need to do this, we need to form like this, we need to improve this, this is not good enough, like we need to achieve this, this and this, and this, and you're constantly in this type of, you know, solving problems and seeing only the problems it once you shift to, once you shift to seeing, like, what have we achieved, what is the progress we're making, like, really put things into perspective, and put in at least the same amount of weight to what you are already doing? Good, I want us because nothing is black and white, nothing is, you know, only good or only bad, there's in life, there's a balance always, you know, between good and bad, and between things that are, you know, going great and things are not going great. And you need to see both, and you need to acknowledge both and not just focused on on the negatives or what needs to be, you know, improved or solved as a problem, but really are like, you know, see see yourself as you really are. Akua Nyame-Mensah 26:25 Yeah, that I mean, honestly, what came to mind is one of the things that I've tried to implement, since I started working for myself is making sure that I create time to celebrate some of those really small wins. I don't know how this, this works for you. But I know that I can get very, you know very much what you described very focused on these problems, right? This isn't going well, this isn't working. And so creating time and honouring time, just to be like today, I did three things. And these three things were awesome. Sometimes it's just taking a shower, I ate and I sent one email, but I did those three things, and I completed them when right that can you know, just that small thing can really shift my entire day. Speaker 1 27:05 Yeah, and for like, you know, high performing individuals or for overachievers, it might be extremely hard to say like, oh, you know, taking a shower, or like having a good night's sleep, or just knocking off this first to do task is something I can celebrate, like this can be extremely hard. And to these people I can say it is not about the size of your win. It is not about how big or how small it is, it is about having, you know, adopting this mindset of acknowledging your wins no matter how big or small, because what's important is that you develop this habit to focus on the progress to focus on what's good, because only if you're in this type of positive mindset, then you can, you know, inspire and lead others to do something good. Which is your job, right? As a founder. So, Akua Nyame-Mensah 28:03 yes, yes, well said. And I think that's a really great segue to thinking about what's next. What's next for Dora? What are you excited about? In 2022? Or what's coming in? 2022? Speaker 1 28:18 Oh, yeah. So, um, we are, I don't know, like at the point of where this podcast is going live, like what's going to be the news there. But currently, we are developing three different membership levels it from gems club, based on the needs of our members and the different stages they're at. Because, you know, we started out with this general universal offering. And then we saw, okay, there's people who are at idea stage who just need to, you know, first validate their idea, there's people who already have quitted their jobs, who already quit their jobs and you know, are working full time on this, who have an MVP or proof of concept and they have different needs. Then, you know, also people who are already a revenue stage and Gen, you know, have founded their companies went to market and they have different needs to so based on that, we are launching three different membership levels. So that's, that's really interesting. But what I'm really most like grateful about and super excited about is the team that I'm building and that I think I was only able to find and to attract and to build because I went through this you know, burnout experience and realised all the things that were stopping me from from growing that some of them we mentioned already, but it really just, you know, takes time to have this mindset change this, this shift from even from, you know, employee if you've been an employee your whole life. And suddenly need to get into an employer mindset. This really takes time. Because if you're used to, you know, doing everything yourself, and if you're a perfectionist and you want to do, you want to have everything done in a certain way, then you're going to, you know, as long as you operate with this mindset, you're going to be stuck and not be able to grow. Because you're your own glass ceiling. And you're your own, like break. And you need to, you know, break free from your own type of thinking in order to, to create an impact to be to be able to find the right people, to attract them, to motivate them to lead them, and then ultimately, to delegate. And so you can really have a greater impact, which is, I guess what most founders want, right? Akua Nyame-Mensah 30:51 I love that. And I think that honestly, it just once again, just so resonates with me, when I think back to my own story, story, and like leadership journey, and even, you know, the leaders that I support, right, I start with their self awareness first, right? Because I think for so many of us, we're like, Oh, it's my team, like, I need help with my team. And I'm like, That's great. We can totally support you, right with getting in you know, and engaging better with your team, but it starts with you. So yeah, thank you. Thank you for sharing that. And I'm also really excited to see where Finn gems goes and continuing to support with mentoring. But this has been absolutely amazing. Where can people find out more about you online and about them gyms online. Speaker 1 31:35 So FEM gyms femme gems club is just w w w femme gems dot club, super easy. And our handle on Instagram and all over social media is femme jumps club. So yeah, and I have written some articles on medium. If this is interesting, and it's Dora minus dora.medium.com. And also on LinkedIn, Dora Petrova, and on Instagram, more of Dory, Akua Nyame-Mensah 32:06 I love that. Speaker 1 32:08 We're Yeah, but you're good. I guess you're gonna put the handle in the show notes, right. Akua Nyame-Mensah 32:11 Yeah. So we'll make sure that we link up everything in the show notes, including her articles, which I think are just so actionable, I think incredibly helpful. So we'll make sure those get into the show notes. Thank you so much for joining me today, Dora. I really appreciate it. And I'm really excited to share this with the listeners. Unknown Speaker 32:28 Thank you so much. Akua Nyame-Mensah 32:29 Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to today's episode. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please share it with your friends. We can continue this conversation on social media the links to my socials so that is LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. You can find them in the show notes. If you tagged me in a story and include the hashtag hashtag ask Akua I will share a special little gift with you. Thank you so much once again for your time and I cannot wait to share my next episode with you stay safe and sane.