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Guest article by Franziska von Hardenberg

Breathe in, breathe out.

Sometimes the world changes so fast, you get the feeling you're just not able to keep up. It helps, then, to take things one step at a time and start acting. Who would've thought that the year 2020 would spring a surprise on us with a global pandemic, which would make it possible to think up new structures. How, you ask? Entrepreneur Franziska von Hardenberg explains in this very personal guest article.

Breathe in and breathe out – something I need to constantly remind myself. As an entrepreneur and mother of two small daughters my day is usually jam-packed with little or no room for multiple breaks. Others would perhaps call it "stressful", I like to describe it as "brimming with energy". And this is how it should be. I firmly believe that whoever rows the boat, keeps it on course.

Meanwhile, I have been an entrepreneur for almost a decade. I've seen the highs and lows of business life and know that you can achieve a lot if you remain flexible, creative, yet disciplined at the same time. Apart from all the energy and a head full of new ideas, discipline is the quality that truly sets me apart from others. The year 2017 was particularly difficult for me. First, I lost my first company to a business rival due to a failed funding round; then I found myself in hospital and went through the far too premature birth of my second daughter. What encouraged me to press on at this low point was a line that someone had sent me: "The universe only ever gives you what you can handle." This line was such a great help to me at the time and continues to give me strength even now. I rolled up my sleeves and founded another company: HOLY GOLDY. With seed capital of EUR 500, I established what has now become a top-selling, high-turnover company – one that I own 100% and in which all decisions are made 100% by me. All of this obviously also helped me navigate the current situation with Covid-19.

The tougher it gets, the more light bulbs go off in my brain, the more creative I become and the more vigorously I surpass myself. Here are three tips to help overcome a state of shock – or even other rough patches you may go through now and then.

Tip 1: Remain flexible. I myself had completely different plans for this year, I had to cancel several trips and reorganise a lot of things. But there’s no point in losing one’s head over it, you need to constantly adjust to be successful.

Tip 2: Remain positive. I’m a die-hard optimist. I always see the good in things, look at the brighter side. My family is healthy, I’m healthy. So, no excuses – let’s get on with it!

Tip 3: Remain open. Identify and seize new market opportunities. I believe that this crisis could be a huge opportunity for many businesses – and even for personal ventures. The moment you stop wallowing in self-pity and open your eyes to the world, understand the need of the hour and adapt your business in the best possible way, a crisis may turn into an opportunity.

The great advantage of being self-employed for me is that I can practically work from any location – even from home, and very well at that. I can organise my day with amazing flexibility and I love the fact that I no longer have to be in office for twelve hours, attend hundreds of meetings in a week, which often are nothing more than a distraction. Instead, I can now adjust my work pace on a day-to-day basis. This way I get to spend much more time with my children – something I've always wanted to do and am now enjoying to the fullest.

Working from home and kids: peace and routine.

We're in an incredibly fortunate situation: four years ago we were able to purchase a countryside home in Brandenburg which has been renovated with a lot of time, money and elbow grease. Now, when the interior work is nearly finished, this house provides more space than the house in Berlin. Our two children have their own room and our living room is divided into a seating area and a play area. Moreover, since August we have an au-pair from Brazil. All in all, right now we are, quite unexpectedly, more than just privileged. We have tried to calmly explain the new situation to our children and also make them understand why it is all the more important now to maintain order and structure. It's not easy for any of us because otherwise we're only at home on weekends and even then mostly without a fixed structure for enjoying our time together in a relaxed way. My husband and I have set up our home office in the attic and have established clearly defined schedules and arrangements. Our routine, which may also help other parents in similar situation, looks something life this: We start the day with breakfast together, after which we try to work through for three hours with complete concentration. Lunch is prepared at noon, where my husband and I take turns. Early afternoon is time for the children to take a nap, while we continue to work. Then, when the children play for two hours, we keep working. I make it a point to stop for the day no later than 5 pm, so that I get time to spend with the children, to do some baking or go out. Schedules and structures not only help us but also the children.

A sense of relaxation in tense times

Right now, I'm loving my time at home, even if I find only a few moments to myself. A hot bath now and then, or a nice book – that's about the maximum me-time I get these days. On the other hand, I'm thoroughly enjoying family time and have considerably less stress. I don't need to do a lot of organising; we go shopping only once a week. In fact, all I need to make sure is that everyone stays healthy and well, but not run around coordinating a thousand things. So, despite the current tense times, there's a certain basic sense of relaxation. I hope that we all maintain this community spirit, mutual support and solidarity. In summer, I want to throw a grand party in the garden with the entire family and all our friends. Until then, I'm trying to make the best of the situation, as I've always done, and it's going better than I thought. Breathe in, breathe out.