Being an entrepreneur can be challenging, scary and liberating all at the same time. Shulamit Ber Levtov is no stranger to the challenges and wonders of being her own boss. As the founder of Compassionate Support for Stressful Times, a holistic stress and trauma clinic in Kemptville, Ontario, she has a lot to contribute when it comes to building a business and dealing with stress as an entrepreneur.
Sustainability is important
Shulamit fell into her career as a social worker and counsellor later in life. Although she started out in a social work program in university, she got involved with community radio and decided to pursue that as a career path instead. She worked at CBC, did some PR consulting and owned a steady-cam businesses for a short while. “Coming into that arena there was a lot of freelance work,” she says. “I’ve been self employed with side-hustles ever since.”
In 2000 Shulamit took a job as a translator and worked in that field for over a decade. It was a typing injury that forced her to look at other career paths. “I had no savings, no retirement money and no pension even though I worked every day since I was 16,” she says. “I had to figure out how I was going to be sustainable until I basically crap out.”
Shulamit says her return to social work and starting her own practice was the way that she felt she was going to remain sustainable, something that she values highly. “My training in nonviolent communication has taught me to think in terms of need consciousness,” she says. “Sustainability is a universal human need.”
Support is key
In order to be sustainable in business Shulamit says having holistic support is very important. This means cultivating your own inner support, support from friends and family, and support from other business owners in the community. “From a mental health standpoint isolation or social support is a determinant of health,”she says. “As an entrepreneur if you are struggling with your mental health it is hard to be sustainable in business.”
Shulamit says that struggles are magnified by isolation and having support from people who understand can go a long way in alleviating stress. This is one of the main benefits of networking groups and seeking out other business owners in the community. “It is a universal problem that all entrepreneurs face,” she says. “You can feel better just by being recognized.”
Don’t compare yourself to the “greats”
Shulamit says that while she thinks there is a lot to be learned from books like “Deep Work” by Cal Newport, it is important to put his success in business into context. “He is a white man in academia whose sustainability is not in question and in a structure that has been set up in a way to support what he is doing,” she says. “Then we look at his book and feel like shit because we can’t do what he does.”
Shulamit says this is the problem with listening to advice from business greats like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. They already have the privilege of having the money and support around them to make them flourish that most of us don’t have access to. “I’m not saying they don’t work hard,” she says. “But their privilege is an exponential amplifier of the work they do.”
Another challenge of comparing yourself to many high-powered business men is that often the spotlight is shown on one individual while there is actually a whole team behind them. “We don’t see the shadows because we are not trained to look,” she says.
Find a mentor
Shulamit says she has had several women who have helped her along in her journey to entrepreneurship. Although she sees herself as a strong, powerful woman now, it wasn’t always that way. “I am very grateful for two strong, powerful women who saw my gifts before I saw them,” she says.
When it comes to business and marketing Shulamit credits her mentor Maggie Patterson for helping her find her way. “ She has been great facilitator of the mastermind group I am a part of,” she says. “I did the hard work, but she provided the support, the knowledge and the structure in which I was able to grow.”
With the help of Maggie’s wisdom Shulamit was able to fill her practice in just a few months, something that takes counselors on average five years to do. She now has a dedicated clinic and several associates who help with the client load. “To me that’s proof of my determination, persistence and hard work but also what I was bringing was exponentially amplified by the support I got,” she says.
Find your direction
Shulamit says that her success can also be attributed to finding her niche, passion and direction. As soon as she decided to focus on stress and trauma, clients seemed to fall into her lap. “When I started asking the question what is my niche it became clear with the people who sat in my office that stress is huge,” she says.
Finding your direction in business and sticking to it is important. “Focus is what gets you traction and what gets you somewhere,” she says. “Then you assess, evaluate and correct as you go.” She says that finding your path as an entrepreneur is a spiritual journey in that creates meaning and defines how you fit in the world. “We don’t say that business is spiritual but we do talk about vision, mission and mandate,” she says. “What’s that other than spirituality in your business?”
Overall Shulamit is adamant that everyone has what it takes within them to achieve their goals. “People innately have this life-forward energy that when it’s given expression will take them toward their goal,” She says. It’s what you do with that potential and the support you have around you that makes all the difference.
To learn more about Shulamit and Compassionate Support for Stressful Times visit her website.