Canada announced recently that the national debt has risen from about $2 trillion to $2.4 trillion over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Retail businesses, including popular, heritage brands like Aldo, Coalision, and Frank and Oak, are filing for bankruptcy protection. COVID-19 has brought on turbulent, uncertain times. Everyone is trying to find a way to deal with the stress. Nathon Kong would like to share how he is coping with self isolation and quarantine.
Being an entrepreneur and running a small business during quarantine has been stressful. When you are a leader, responsible for leading your team, you feel pressure to have answers and to be confident, even when you do not have an answer, even when you are feeling incredibly anxious about the future. It difficult to show vulnerability when you are a leader. I do my best, but I have a hard time acknowledging my moments of vulnerability and asking for help.
It is okay to ask for help. It is important to ask for help. You take care of your team and, if you pick the right team members, your team will take care of you. They will be there for you when you need them. But as you cannot rely only on yourself, you also cannot rely only on others. So again, it is very difficult to accept as leaders when we fall short of our goals. But it is okay to not be okay.
The trouble with mental health is that there is no criteria for when one is okay or not okay. You can vary how you feel from one day to the next. What we notice are trends.
For myself, this year it has been difficult because I've seen many businesses like Le Chateau, Group Dynamite, and other Montreal heritage brands that have filed for bankruptcy protection. Then you ask about yourself, and it is scary.
I have come to accept that the world has changed and that I have to, and can, do different things to keep my brand relevant, so that it has an income, so that I can teach my team new skills. You can't wait for things to get better when faced with a crisis. You have to act. I have come to accept that I have to change my vision. But changing my vision does not mean I am changing my identity or myself. I need to keep that essence of who I am. Even though I have extended our product from suits to fashion accessories and digital commerce, I will never stray from my mission. My mission for people to have emotional engagement with the what they wear. My mission to make them feel special by wearing an art piece with a story of how it was created.
Sometimes we have a hard time understanding why we love someone or something. With art it is difficult to articulate why we like it. We just do. I want to give you a reason to understand why it is important. It is about more than telling the story. You are helping the community by telling the story by raising awareness for mental health. You are also helping the community since 10% of your purchases are donated to nonprofit organizations we collaborate with. Over the last four years, we have contributed over 70 or 80 thousand dollars to the artist community. 50 thousand has gone to Les Impatients and the cause of mental health.
I do not have an answer as to what stage I am at in terms of how I feel. We are all in the same storm, but we are not on the same boat. As a leader, I want to be honest and truthful with my team. I have to continue to develop products, whether it is a suit or a mask. In the end, I create something you can wear and engage with because it has a story. I would never accept doing anything that goes away from that idea. That is what I believe. I do not create products to sell. I will figure out a way to be okay personally, to accept this change. We will be hopeful. I want my leadership, my vision, and my team to feel secure so we can ask for the trust of our customers, our fans, our community, to help us support mental health.
The world will make sense again. It will become more predictable. For now, with the lockdown, I feel something needs to change. I need something to decompress. Something to distract me and to take care of. I am thinking of adopting a pet.