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and financial setback—PLUS, how to stabilize, strategize, and shift amidst any unforeseen circumstances
Trauma-informed business guide
unlock the power of your own "Crisis Protocol"
To my fellow CEO,
I want to start by saying this:
We’re so sorry for what YOU are going through.
Even though we’re all in this collective moment of unexpected adversity, we understand that you may feel wildly alone in this. You may also feel scared, frustrated, angry, or confused—and you have every right to feel that way. These are all normal responses to sudden, unexpected loss.
Whether your business is currently dwindling or booming, pivoting or contracting, flourishing or floundering… this is a period of collective trauma, collective grief, and collective loss.
From the loss of our normal, everyday ways of being …
To the loss of our identity (and how we measure “success”) …
To the loss of potential revenue …
To the loss of time and freedom …
To the loss of any tools you usually lean on to feel “balanced and normal” …
So if you’re still scrambling to find your footing and feel secure moving forward, I want you to know you’re in the right place and reading the right guide. Because even though this moment is unlike anything we have ever experienced on a global scale, there’s a lot that feels oddly familiar to Scott and me.
Over the past 9 years that we’ve been in business, we have lived through so many intense moments of sudden crisis, loss, and upheaval, and we managed to recover and thrive through them all—however impossible it may have seemed at the time.
And after spending the last few weeks analyzing exactly WHAT we’ve done in the past and HOW we’ve taken action whenever a crisis happens, we feel particularly equipped to share our battle-tested “Crisis Protocol” with you—as you navigate through this new season of uncertainty.
We know from experience that while recovery may feel impossible right now—and you might not know how—you can and you WILL recover from this.
In fact, if you aren’t familiar with our own story, our entrepreneurial journey literally began with us quitting our jobs and building our business during the economic fallout from the Great Recession.
Which sounds bold and brave in hindsight, but in reality it was MESSY. There was so much immense loss and grief woven into our first year of business (as we navigated being disowned by my family, moving across the country, and getting married amidst my battle with depression and anxiety). In fact, in those beginning days, there were many mornings where getting out of bed was an accomplishment in and of itself.
And yet …
You may already know this part of our story (especially if you’ve listened to our podcast series, Nobody Talks About This).
But within one month of starting our business, we had so many clients that we hired our first team member. Within the first 6 months, Scott quit his day job and joined the business full-time.
And within the first year, we got married and made our first 6 figures. Soon we were living in a big house in Austin, Texas and had grown into a full-on branding studio with a team of 9.
Again, all of this sounds impressive in hindsight, but in reality it was MESSY. Not only was our multiple 6-figure business consuming us day and night, but we were running ourselves into the ground trying to scale, scale, scale. And then I got sick. VERY SICK. Like… I got West Nile and developed Meningitis (from a mosquito bite!) and ended up hospitalized for three months.
This meant I lost my ability to see, to walk, and my entire nervous system essentially shut down.
Our entire business relied on me to continue moving forward. I was the linchpin. Without me, everything was on hold. Our designers, writers, developers, and project managers kept working, but I couldn’t approve their work so none of the projects could be sent off to our clients. Our entire business stuttered to a halt while I was fighting for my life and Scott was doing his best to take care of me and save the business.
And yet …
I’ll never forget the moment when everything shifted for us.
Scott had managed to float our branding studio for three months, pay the team, and care for clients while I was hospitalized. But as the hospital bills started coming in, I remember Scott crying on my hospital bed (with HGTV playing in the background) realizing that we were in desperate need of a change.
In that moment, the most important question I’ve ever asked came pouring out of me—“What do we want? What kind of life and business do we really want on the other side of this?”
Answering this ONE question—in the midst of the biggest crisis of our lives—is what led us to where we are today.
(This is how our Branding School started, by the way.)
And yet, our story doesn’t end there. After our first launch of Branding School, we paid off all our debts, bought a camper and a truck, and downsized our entire life so we could travel full-time for 2 years. Which again, sounds inspiring and dreamy, but in reality it was MESSY.
Living our “dream life” on the road left us in a constant state of unexpected crisis. Beyond the emotional challenges I was still facing (from all of my unprocessed grief and trauma—wounds I would eventually tend to in our next season), everything about life on the road meant we were always in survival mode. I’m talking melted tires, cracked axles, broken A/C units in the heat of summer, the truck breaking down in the middle of nowhere, unexpected deaths, having to plan funerals, holding friends through unexpected grief and loss of their own. Everything that could go wrong did.
And since coming off the road and moving to Florida, these seasons of grief, loss, and unexpected crisis have not stopped just because our business has made millions of dollars or because we’ve been in business for 9 years.
The loss continues.
The grief continues.
The unexpected seasons of crisis (in the form of hurricanes, flooded houses, chronic diseases, emergency surgeries, and deaths) have continued.
All of this to say, despite everything you’ve seen us “achieve” over the years…
We’ve been through it.
And we’ve healed through it.
Which is why even though this global pandemic has brought so much trauma, grief, and loss for all of us—we know that your business CAN AND WILL thrive through this uncertainty, too.
As humans and entrepreneurs, we were built to recover, rebuild, innovate, grow, and lead ourselves forward again (and again and again) as the ground continues to shift underneath our feet.
And whether you’re nodding your head in agreement or struggling to believe this could actually be true for you, we’re here to help you stabilize, strategize, and shift your own life + business in the midst of this crisis.
Which is exactly why we’ve poured so much of ourselves into analyzing what we’ve done (and how we’ve advised our clients) to heal and grow through ANY new challenge, obstacle, or unforeseen circumstance.
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic is the current crisis at hand, this guide is about establishing a Crisis Protocol for you and your business that will not only work for you right now, but will carry you FORWARD whenever you need it in the future.
We are in this with you, for you, and alongside you.
With all our love,
Elise + Scott
PS: If a part of you has been secretly wondering just how “safe” it is to be in business right now, I want to remind you of this …
Before we started our business, I was working as a designer at Sony Pictures. A year after I quit, my entire department at Sony got laid off. And to my surprise, co-worker after co-worker privately wrote me to say that the smartest thing I ever did was figure out how to make my own money.
All this to say, even though this guide will help you create a NEW Crisis Protocol (so you can thrive through this season of uncertainty), I want you to know first and foremost: The smartest thing you ever did was choose to start your business in the first place.
And even if you feel like you can’t depend on something or someone else right now, I want you to know you can depend on yourself to save your business. YOU are the one you’ve been waiting for. Always.
Now, let’s do this …
Disclaimer: None of the information provided in this guide constitutes financial, legal, or medical advice. For complete disclaimer, please review our terms and conditions.