ROANOKE, Va. – Customers are saying goodbye to a sweet treat after the owner of Mama Crockett’s Cider Donuts announced last week he is closing the doors to focus on his mental health.
“I’ve been struggling with mental health issues my entire life,” Fredrick Willis, the owner, said. “Not a huge deal, but sometimes these things tend to get the better of us.”
Brittany-Marie Aarons said if mental health doesn’t become a priority soon, she fears the loss of more beloved businesses.
“I think that’s a deep-seated fear,” she said. “I think we lose a sense of identity. Our small business owners as individuals bring a unique identity. Each and every one of them. Together they make Roanoke, Roanoke; Lynchburg, Lynchburg; the Blue Ridge, the Blue Ridge.”
Aarons used to serve as a mental health clinician. Now, she helps clients get ahead of financial troubles to avoid future mental breakdowns as a New York Life agent.
“Quite often, especially if they are not very well supported, they don’t have a team of advisors, nothing is really consistent ... What I have really noticed in the past two years is that’s where the break down begins,” she said.
Aarons suggested collaborating with other entrepreneurs and building a relationship with a mental health counselor. But she said the stigma behind mental health needs to be shed by creating listening environments.
“Go back to the mom and pop shop days of stepping outside on your patio and going next door to Mr. Ice Cream shop,” she said. “Shake his hand, that will lead to a ‘how are you?’ and reciprocate.”
Macklyn Mosley with Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center said to take a day of rest and start a to-do list.
“A lot of people will use a to-do list but then add more to it,” he said. “But try to make sure to have that goal saying, ‘This is what I am doing this week. This is what I’m going to focus on.’”
Though the lifted COVID-19 restrictions attracted more customers, the influx can lead to quicker burnout for entrepreneurs.
“Know your capacity,” Mosley said. “Know how much you can take on. Don’t feel you need to take on more just because someone comes to you with more.”
The center will host a free virtual mental health workshop on Tuesday at 9 a.m. to provide tips to avoid stressors and guide entrepreneurs.
You must register to join the event on the center’s webpage.