Ethics in Biz

5 Lessons From 5 Years of Ethical Entrepreneurship: Losing (and Finding) My Voice

Are you an ethical entrepreneur or aspiring content creator? This post is for you! As I turn a corner in the first 5 years of my ethical entrepreneurship journey, I reflect on the 5 biggest lessons that I've learned about what it takes to build an authentic brand online and a sustainable business that I'm proud of.

In a world where success is often defined by external measures, vanity metrics, and social norms, finding your own voice and defining success on your own terms can be a challenging but liberating journey. In this blog post, we'll explore the importance of finding your voice, choosing mental health over instant wealth, and believing in yourself through a purpose-driven mission. Let's dive in!

Est. reading time: 8 minutes

1. Define success on your own terms.

In a dog-eat-dog society, there’s gonna be a lot of people shouting over you in a competition for who can shout the loudest. It’s only when you find your voice (i.e. become an individual who is crystallized within) can you recognize this shouting match for what it is—a feeding frenzy—and decide how to participate without letting it consume you. This is really challenging because our society rewards those with the loudest voices: i.e. those who hustle, outcompete, self-promote, and take advantage of others. I used to compare myself to other content creators and entrepreneurs who had enviable success, likes, popularity, etc. It takes a strong sense of individuality to be able to define success for yourself and your business outside the unified, undistinguishable noise of capitalism propaganda.

Here are some metrics that I use for my own success:

  • Building a newsletter community of over 2,000 subscribers
  • Having an average  ~40% open rate on my emails, which puts me in the top 20% across 45 major industries.
  • An average of ~450% increase in listening time on new podcast episodes.
  • Averaging ~500 new followers on IG/month.

This is not including the intangible metrics that bring me joy and inspiration, like collaborating with other like-hearted entrepreneurs, the engaging conversations that go down in my DMS, and the immeasurable feeling of acceptance and respect that I’ve earned by building trust with my audience.

2. Choose mental health over instant wealth.

Any ethical entrepreneur will tell you that there is no get-rich-quick path to success, unless it is shaped like a pyramid. Entrepreneurship is not a one-way ticket to financial freedom, especially if it comes at the cost of taking big financial risks, falling for scams, or participating in fraudulent schemes and other deceptive trade practices. This is not a sustainable way to build a business and anyone who participates in and promotes it is once again operating from the feeding frenzy of capitalism propaganda. I believe you can make a sustainable living through ethical entrepreneurship, but it can’t just be about making lots of money—you gotta have a bigger why and not just in a feel-good aspirational sense, but in a real and grounded way with measurable, tangible outcomes that go beyond:

  • Making lots of money for yourself
  • Helping the top 50% of the population elevate or maintain their class status

Being an ethical entrepreneur means making peace with the reality that you might not make a million dollars and you certainly won’t make a million dollars overnight. The sooner you can embrace the path of the ethical entrepreneur, the better you can build a sustainable business that won’t lead you to sell out, burn out, or drop out altogether.

3. Know your mission.

I’ll say this: If it wasn’t for my bigger “why” that’s related to the advocacy work I’m doing now, I’m pretty sure I would have given up after my burnout experience in 2020. Like I said, I had to reach deep down into the depths of my soul to find a why that was bigger and more compelling than my crippling self-doubt.

The truth is, believing in yourself is not an on-off switch. It’s not like you can do a bunch of healing work and suddenly all your insecurities and self-doubt will melt away. Believing in yourself is hard; insecurities will always creep in and it’s unrealistic to expect that your self-confidence won’t waver.

I’ve found that it’s much easier to stay the course and not give into my ego’s demands of needing to ‘prove’ myself when I have a purpose-driven mission. Focusing on a mission is also part of redefining success on your own terms. It makes entrepreneurship less about your personal achievements and financial gains and more about the purpose of entrepreneurship itself, which is to solve a problem or fulfill a need.

As I’ll discuss in the last point, entrepreneurship is inherently other-centered. Ethical entrepreneurship is purpose-driven. This means you really have to take yourself out of the equation and believe that your mission has a life of its own and will continue to operate, with or without your input. From there, you can build a purpose-driven business because you can, not because you have to. This perspective shift really makes a difference in times of self-doubt. It also means asking for help, working collaboratively, and building community.

4. Embrace social change as currency.

We often hear ethical entrepreneurship described as a people-over-profits model; while this definition is catchy (and I use it myself), it is incomplete because it assumes that putting people first is not profitable. This couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, organizational psychology would argue that PEOPLE are the most valuable investment that you can make. Investing in people is not a trade-off, it’s a strategic advantage.

It was really helpful for me to shift my perspective around this, especially when I was working to redefine success on my own terms. My goal as a social change innovator is to help entrepreneurs and business owners see that building an effective and sustainable (as opposed to scalable) business is profitable because it fosters important markers of long-term success like consumer satisfaction, brand trust, brand loyalty, and brand reputation. (Not to mention, it is so much healthier and stable for you as an entrepreneur).

So what do I mean when I say social change is currency? Just as currency represents value and helps us trade or buy things, social change holds value by shaping beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors on a larger scale. Just like money shapes our economy, social change shapes our society and influences how we act as a whole.

Embracing social change as currency into my business model gave me so much more freedom and flexibility to move at my own pace, slow down when things weren't working, and a take a break when I needed to rest, reflect, and recalibrate. Knowing that social change takes time and I was in it for the long haul relieved so much of the manufactured sense of urgency that I had internalized from hustle culture. In its place grew a sense of social responsibility that I felt to lead by example and make business choices that align with my values, which in turn helped me earn the trust of my audience.

And ultimately, earning the trust of my audience is the fuel that drives my mission to create an equal, fair society.

5. Free your brand (and mind) from capitalism propaganda.

Early in my entrepreneurial journey, I too fell for the seductive  ‘American Dream’ propaganda sold to us through bro marketers, boss babes, and spiritual scamfluencers online. I mean, who could resist the modern millennial rags-to-riches story of how they went from couch surfing to self-made multi-millionaire at 25? Never mind the part where they moved back home to save enough money to start their own business, lol. No one cares about that part because it’s not sexy.

Being ‘self-made’ is a myth sourced from toxic capitalism propaganda.Other myths of toxic capitalism propaganda about entrepreneurship including, but are not limited to:

  • The myth of meritocracy: everyone has an equal shot at entrepreneurial success.
  • The myth of the ‘get rich quick’ business scheme.
  • The myth of romanticized financial freedom.
  • The myth that you are your own boss.
  • The myth that entrepreneurship is better, more fulfilling, and noble than a 9-5.

I’m not saying this to discourage anyone from pursuing entrepreneurship if they feel called to it; and I would absolutely support any aspiring entrepreneur to the best of my ability. I just think it’s important (and ethical) to be realistic so we don’t perpetuate the cycle of toxic capitalism propaganda that leads so many entrepreneurs down a dark path of financial scams, exploitation, manipulation, and deceptive practices born out of desperation and burnout.

The sooner you can free your mind and your brand from these myths, the more grounded and strategic you can be in your business ventures.

It’s important to acknowledge and talk about the realities of entrepreneurship and be transparent about the work it takes to make a dollar in this economy. More importantly, we need stop gaslighting ourselves that ‘being your own boss’ is really a thing. Contrary to popular opinion, being self-employed is not about the entrepreneur. As I mentioned earlier, entrepreneurship is other-centered. It is about the people, or consumers, who are pay us to deliver a service. The success of any business is conditional on how well its serve its clients and consumers—entrepreneurship is no different. If you are not beholden to a traditional boss, you are beholden to your clients and consumers. This can arguably be just as, if not more, stressful. This is why I advocate for a people-centered business model; it is not just a feel-good aspirational value to embracing the way of people-over-profits. It is simply a more realistic and grounded way to approach your business to maximize your chances of success.


My hope is that reading this post will inspire and guide  your own thinking about ethical entrepreneurship. These lessons have been valuable in shaping my approach to business and have deepened my commitment to making a positive impact on the world. And I feel all the more successful, fulfilled, in love with my business for it!  The best compliment I get from people is hearing that my work encouraged them to redefine success for themselves, or empowered them to take action about issues that they care about. Remember: we are the social change we seek. There is no hard and fast rulebook for ethical entrepreneurship; it’s up to us to collaborate and pave the way for a sustainable, equitable, and compassionate future.

Thank you for reading! I would love to know how this post landed for you. Questions? Reflections? Feel free to reach out!

And if you'd like to learn more about building an ethical business that is purpose-driven, trauma-informed, and antiracist, enroll in my enriching, 10-hour foundational course: Ethical Entrepreneurship 101.

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