How A Die-Hard Optimist Kept Her Business Alive During The Pandemic

What I learned talking to a creative woman over green tea.

woman working at home Vadym Pastukh / Shutterstock

"Those were fun times! My toy business was thriving beyond anything I could’ve ever imagined. It was a practically household name. Every kid in town owned at least one of my toys. Oh.. do you remember how crazy weekends at the store were? A beehive of activities, an absolute mess… the good kind.” Betty said.

“I can still hear the giggles and scampering feet of little kids, milling around the playground like a swarm of bees. Their exasperated parents struggling to keep up. Oh, the magical years. Those memories are still braided into my imagination. Who’d have known that somewhere far, a cyclone was brewing and that before long, it would make landfall and alter the trajectory of my life?”


Suddenly, sadness masked Betty’s face as the mood turned somber. She rested her eyes on the big yellow mug clasped between her long delicate fingers. The light from the window fell on the light blue blanket that covered her feet. On her bedside table stood a big steaming pot of green tea.

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I, too, brewed a large pot of green tea as my childhood friend narrated how she’s surviving the pandemic over Zoom.

“When the pandemic reared its ugly head, I dismissed it as a passing whiff that would soon dissipate. As a die-hard optimist, never once did I entertain the thought that I’d be affected. It would happen to others, but me? Naah. I know it sounds selfish. But tell me: After pouring my entire life savings, time, and energy to grow this baby from scratch, how could I not?”


Betty said, her left palm on her chin.

Unfortunately, the pandemic lingered and hit her business hard. Customers reduced, sales plummeted, and monthly targets became unattainable.

“In July, I sunk into a dark abyss of despair. I could no longer meet my mortgage payments, and moved from a five-bedroom house to a little two-bedroom apartment.” Betty continued as I top up my cup.

“But one cold Tuesday morning, everything changed. I caught a glimpse of an old, little, brown book. Flipping through it, I saw words I’d scribbled and forgotten.”

“I’m so happy and grateful now that I’m the C.E.O of my company, Betty enterprises, a haven where I create toys to bring smiles, laughter, and giggles to little kids.”


She paused before leaning over to top up her mug.

“Njoki, you know nothing gives me more pleasure than the giggles of young kids. That’s why I wrote this as my life purpose. On that cold Tuesday morning, I drew a line in the sand; I wasn’t giving up my business without a fight. I’d do whatever it took to survive the pandemic.” She said firmly.

With those words, I thought: There she is! The tough cookie I’ve always known. I propped up my pillow, and leaned back, eager to soak up her story of resilience. I gathered the little nuggets of wisdom. Hopefully, they’ll ignite a fire in your belly to fight for your own purpose.

Going Back in Time.

“I’m so happy and grateful now that I’m the C.E.O of my company, Betty enterprises, a haven where I create toys to bring smiles, laughter, and giggles to little kids.”


These words reminded Betty why she’d started the toy company. They restored trust and fresh hope in her. That’s the power of knowing your 'why.' When you’re on the verge of giving up on any worthy cause, asking yourself; Why did I start? can restore self-trust and help you get back on your feet.

Like Betty, when you know your exact reason, you can trust yourself and be optimistic. Psychologists from the Center of Self- Determination Theory say that knowing the exact importance behind your goal can motivate you to take action quicker. Being aware of your reason restores your self-trust and unleashes the magic.

In a famous speech, Steve Jobs said: “… you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

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Unleashing the Creativity Genius

“When I read those words, my optimism rekindled instantly. I grabbed a pen and drafted a recovery plan. It was time to stop licking my wounds,”

Betty, topping up her mug, explained her recovery plan:

  • Keep only two staff to minimize costs.
  • Invent recycled products.
  • Be more hands-on.
  • Put in two extra hours to the business daily.

The next day, she surveyed the workshop’s scraps, rang the recycling company, and organized for pick up. A week after, her toy company had transformed into a recycled home decor company. She now makes table mats, coasters, and trays from recycled materials. By tapping into social media, sales continue to rise. Sure, she isn’t making toys anymore, but her business is still alive. For her, that’s everything.

If you’re in a tight wedge like Betty was, remember, nothing will change until you take a step. Don’t straddle the fence one more day. Today is the day to rise. “But I don’t know where to start.” You say. The good news is, you can learn from the experts.


When asked how they’d start over if their businesses collapsed, successful entrepreneurs had this to say:

  • Reset your attitude. With a positive mindset, you can take action faster.
  • Pay your rent for six months to give yourself a safety net.
  • Seek people who’ve gone through a similar experience. Don’t isolate yourself.
  • Brainstorm strategies and business ideas suited to your skills.
  • Make a plan. Set new goals. Know your numbers.
  • Build a team and empower them with a “why” that is bigger than money.

The Tiniest Baby Step Matters

“I’m gonna turn into a leaf if I drink any more tea! Njoki, do you know how I make progress? By focusing on the baby steps, I’m taking now. I no longer think about my gig before it crumbled. I’m soooo done with that.”

Every week, Betty and her staff brainstorm fresh ideas. She physically records every little progress — an act that researchers say can help you achieve your goals. Benjamin Harkin, Ph.D., of the University of Sheffield, explains:

“Prompting people to monitor their progress can help them to achieve their goals, but some methods of monitoring are better than others. Specifically, we would recommend that people be encouraged to record, report, or make public what they find out as they assess their progress.” To make progress, you need to track your baby steps. It can keep you motivated and reinforce your self-confidence.


“Those three things have enabled me to keep my business going. You know what? I’m hopeful about the future. Will I ever go back to making toys? Absolutely! That will always be my first love. But for now, I’m grateful to have kept my head above the water in this pandemic. I’m taking one day at a time. Speaking of which, I’ve got to get back to my daily chores. Let’s catch up soon, shall we?”

“Sure! I’ve learned a looooot today! Thanks, girl!” I responded and ended the Zoom call.

In a Nutshell

A fact of life: “Some things are so unexpected.” Leo Rosten said. “That no one is prepared for them.” You can’t predict the future. Be flexible in your expectations.


However, “Nothing is more creative,” says Dan Brown “…than a brilliant mind with a purpose.” If you know your purpose, you can climb the steepest mountain.

Finally, “The best part of the journey,” said Ken Poirot, “is the surprise and wonder along the way.” Track your progress, and don’t allow it to be eclipsed by the expectation of the destination.

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Leah Njoki is a writer who has been featured in  Medium, Ladders, The Good Men Project, Towards Data Science, and more. Follow her website.