Why we're celebrating the women entrepreneurs who rest | Porth

I meet with entrepreneurs on a daily basis. From sales to product development, finance to information systems, entrepreneurs (especially in the early stages) are required to understand and perform every aspect of running a business. While the conversations and trainings I have with these burgeoning business owners typically cover their business models, funding sources, and marketing strategies - one thing I try to stress is the importance rest plays in growing a business.

The concept of slowing down and resting isn’t new or novel, but it is something often forgotten in the business world. Words like “hustle” and “grind” are constantly used as a reminder that if you want to succeed you need to push yourself to your limit and then go even further. Being surrounded by this type of mindset and the frustration that can come with it led me to an interesting conversation a few months ago with Ashley Gurley, an extremely talented portrait photographer based in Knoxville.

Resiliency is exhausting

Every March my organization, Let Her Speak, honors Women’s History Month with a special project that celebrates our history and stories. Last fall, I asked Ashley if she would like to collaborate with me on this year’s project. She enthusiastically agreed and we got to work on deciding what the topic and project would be. During one of our conversations, I brought up something I had been hearing over and over again from the entrepreneurs I work with - the feeling of having to be resilient and push oneself was causing many to get burned out on something they were once so passionate about building.

That conversation inspired the theme behind our collaboration for this year’s Women’s History Month. We are both big believers in the power of rest. It’s in periods of rest, when we are doing something for pure enjoyment, that we can find who we really are. It becomes easier to shut out the noise and focus on finding ourselves. That is why we named this collaboration “The Found Project.”

Where do you feel found?

Femeika Elliott, founder of Meik Meals, chats with Chris Battle, founder of BattleField Farms and Gardens, during a Food Insecurity "Hackathon" at United Way of Greater Knoxville in Knoxville, Tenn. on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. Community organizations came together to discuss initiatives to help fight food insecurity in Knoxville.
Femeika Elliott, founder of Meik Meals, chats with Chris Battle, founder of BattleField Farms and Gardens, during a Food Insecurity "Hackathon" at United Way of Greater Knoxville in Knoxville, Tenn. on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. Community organizations came together to discuss initiatives to help fight food insecurity in Knoxville.

Rest can look like a lot of different things. It could be playing a sport, reading a book, creating a piece of art, or listening to music. For this project, we asked women in Knoxville to tell us why rest is important in their lives, what they do for rest, and how rest impacts their sense of self. We received some amazing responses and invited 13 entrepreneurial women to be featured.

Each woman gave different answers to her restful activities and how resting makes her a better business owner, better parent, better spouse, and better friend. We heard from Femeika Elliott, founder of The Lotus Program and co-Founder of Rooted East, feels found through soul nourishing food and taking tea time. Raquel Leal, founder of Latinas Time, practices rest while doing anything creative. While Rachel Woods, owner of Smoke Signal Media, finds clarity when spending time with her horse, Belle.

A to-do list is never done

40 Under 40 Class of 2022 member Catherine Porth, founder and chief advocate of Let Her Speak.
40 Under 40 Class of 2022 member Catherine Porth, founder and chief advocate of Let Her Speak.

Rest plays an important part in all of our lives, no matter your industry or profession. It’s through rest that complicated problems seem more clear, our minds feel more free to be creative, and we can be more effective leaders and community members. Rest isn’t something that naturally happens in our over-packed schedules and endless to-do lists. It’s something that must be intentionally planned and prioritized. One of my favorite quotes about rest comes from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of “Women Who Run with the Wolves”:

“I've seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write... and you know it's a funny thing about housecleaning... it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she should be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”

While in the quote she specifically focuses on women doing household chores, the intention behind what she’s saying can be applied to anyone. It’s unfortunately too easy for most of us to put our to-do lists ahead of rest. Especially when we’re led to believe that success comes to those who just keep hustling. So let this serve as a reminder that your to-do list will never be done - and honestly some of it likely doesn’t have to be done anytime soon.

So my challenge to you is to ask yourself, “what type of rest could I use most right now?” and make sure that is the next thing you check off your unending to-do list.

The Found Project will be featured in a gallery show during the Let Her Speak Women’s Summit on March 29 and 30 at The Lighthouse Knoxville. It will be accompanied by mini-episodes of each featured woman on the She Speaks Podcast. Following the gallery show, all photos and podcast episodes will be shared on AshleyGurley.com and LetHerSpeakUSA.org for anyone to view virtually.

Catherine Porth is the Director of Insights & Development at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, the Founder & Chief Advocate of Let Her Speak, and the Co-Chair of the Women in Entrepreneurship - Knoxville group. Her mission is to improve and grow opportunities for women across the community one-inspiring-story-at-a-time. If you are interested in learning more about or getting involved in Knoxville’s community of women entrepreneurs and leaders, please contact her at catherine@letherspeakusa.org.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Let Her Speak honors Women's History Month with art exhibit