Co-Founder Karen Knowles with Bon Accord Soft Drinks

The Juggle is Real: Life as a Small Business Owner by Karen Knowles

Life as a small business owner can be challenging and with a young family, it’s definitely a balancing act. During the pandemic, I heard the phrase ‘living at work, rather than working at home’ and this really resonated with me since the launch of my soft drinks business back in 2016. I’ve had to accept the messy, blurred lines between home and work, work-time versus me-time, carving out time for myself, for family, for friends, fitting in the kids, playdates, weekend plans – life can be one big juggle. 



In the early days of Bon Accord, when my first baby was only months old, I would often meet friends in the morning, bonding with them over sleepless nights, routines and the need for coffee and cake. We would then say our goodbye and I would go home to get stuck into writing a business plan. I had almost forgotten this until my friend reminded me recently. I found starting my business really difficult. There was just so much to get my head around, so many decisions to make, so much to do, and the endless lists! However, much like childbirth, I forgot the pain over time and things slowly got easier. I love looking back over my old notebooks and to-do lists thinking how far we’ve come. I am an avid list writer and beyond my daily work list, I have my medium- and longer-term business goals. It’s not just work lists, there’s all my personal lists too; things for the home, general life admin that needs sorting out, shopping list, meal planning, birthdays to buy for, things I’m grateful for…. I’m truly lost without my notebook and pen or the notes on my phone. For me, list writing helps me feel calm, grounded and in control. 

However, even the best laid lists and plans can go astray. On Hogmanay 2020 I was party-ready (well as party-ready as things got in the middle of Covid lockdown with two young kids… party for 4, anyone?) Dress on, gin & tonic in hand, away to commence another game of Dobble and I received an email saying that a recent grant application needed updating so I had to drop everything and sort it out. I opened my laptop at 7pm on Hogmanay to ensure the funding was in place for projects we wanted to start in January. Over the past few years, I have come to learn that I can’t control and micromanage every part of my life so now I try to enjoy the journey and accept that ups and downs are all part of it. 

I read and hear about a lot of female business owners experiencing imposter syndrome, doubting their abilities or feeling like a fraud. I have come up against these feelings as well as prejudices, such as being asked who owns my business...Eh, I do! I regularly found myself in a room full of middle-aged men in suits at networking events, struggling to find common ground for conversation and having to overcome the sense of not deserving a seat at the table (or place in the room). As women, we often have a different approach and perspective on things and we definitely have valuable contributions to make to our industries.


Recently, I was out for a quiet Tuesday afternoon wander in our local park with my children when I received a call from a national journalist asking for a quote on the recent crisis in the drinks industry. My initial thought was that I should just say that I’m not qualified to comment, but she wanted the view from a female business owner and I realised that I’m exactly the right person to comment on this. I gave a quote about the Scottish drinks industry, our unique business and the challenges we’re facing, whilst my kids were running around carefree, asking me for a Cream Soda and to push them on the swings. Sometimes life can be hectic and I wear many different hats: wife, mother, sister, friend, auntie, business owner, business partner, employer, yogi…but that’s just the way I love it.

If you’re thinking about setting up a business or are on that journey already, I hope you’re doing something you truly love. It isn’t easy, but with hard work, flexibility and many (many) lists, it’s absolutely worth it! 


(Reposted from October 2021)

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