Small Business Mindset Tips For Handling Rejection

When you think about it, it’d be impossible to live a life free from rejection, and if you’re a small creative business owner, it’s part of the job.

So, with this in mind, I wanted to share my own experiences of facing rejection with my business, and to share some of the mindset mantras I rely on when a rejection has me feeling a bit short on confidence. 

At the heart of it, rejection can leave us feeling a bit low and dejected. It’s human nature to feel like this. And I think this is because, deep down when we feel rejected it’s a reinforcement of our deepest insecure beliefs about ourselves.

When you run a business there are plenty of opportunities to be turned down. You often have to apply to be a part of things, and when you receive a ‘no thank you’ in response it can make you think: “Of course I didn’t get in. I’m not good enough for that. Why did I even try?” Or even: “It’s because I don’t fit in.”

And while it’s completely normal to think these things, its better not to encourage this rumination because it can be harmful to our mental health and our businesses. 

And, if you allow it, this feeling of not being worthy can encourage you to create a horrible negative narrative about yourself and your business which is only going to be detrimental. 

I’ll be totally honest and tell you that I felt quite low  on confidence when my application to become a Not On The High Street seller got rejected four times in a row. 

I hope that telling you that makes you feel better about yourself. FOUR TIMES! Sometimes I wonder why I kept putting myself through it. 

It’s hard not to take something like that personally, I don’t even know why I applied the fourth time; I suppose I did it on a whim. Looking back, I think I just wanted to feel part of something, the makers club, and to feel accepted by a big brand. 

But after receiving the fourth standard rejection email in my inbox: “While your business sounds extremely interesting...” it quickly dawned on me that maybe I’m just not what they want on their website, and actually I'm ok with that now.

These days this blip in my business history doesn’t make me doubt my abilities, my products or my business ethos. The site is carefully curated, and maybe my designs just didn’t fit their chosen aesthetic, maybe they didn’t think my business was ready for it, I don’t know. Maybe it was an impersonal financial business decision on their part. I don't ruminate on it anymore because, in the end, the reasons for their nos were none of my business.

After the fourth no, I realised there were other things meant for me, and I didn’t want to keep putting my energy into applying. So, I simply changed direction and moved on.

Although I was hurt, I chose to see the rejection as a redirection. I refocused and reconsidered what was important to me and my business.

I knew there were other ways to grow my business away from NOTHS and I focused on those. I moved from using a Big Cartel website to a Shopify store which turned out to be a great business decision. And, I decided to put more work into my Etsy store, and my Instagram too. I didn’t lose heart. 

Another time, in 2019, I unsuccessfully applied for a stall at a popular maker’s market, twice. The first time I was ignored, the second time I was politely turned down. Again, a lot of my maker friends had secured a spot, so after the rejection I initially thought: “Oh. It's because I’m just not as good as them.” However, rather than obsessing over it I reflected and realised that I probably only applied because I was distracted by what other businesses were doing, instead of focusing on my own plan. I’m quite happy to sell online, and I've always found fairs to be quite hard work in the

I realised something  while I was writing this post. That a feeling of rejection can come at us in many different ways in business.

It isn’t just the straight up “no thank yous” that can leave us a bit flat. 

You can feel hurt if you launch a new product that no one buys. Of if you run a competition that no one wants to enter.

Occasionally you might just get a weird feeling that you don’t belong to the pack which can conjure up of feelings of rejection too. 

Feeling like an outsider is something I think is particularly prevalent in the online world. Because there are lots of little communities on social media, which can seem quite intimidating and hard to join in with.

The maker community is very friendly but, no matter how much faith you have in your own ability there will always be lots to see on Instagram which can give you the wobbles. People you think are far more creative, or MUCH more popular than you. From the outside looking in, it can be quite hard to feel you match up to it or that you’re worthy of joining the gang! 

But I always try to remember that we all feel a bit like we’re on the outside looking in. We all start somewhere, and people are never as intimidating in real life as they seem online. 

So, what lessons can we take from rejection instead of feeling awful about it and jumping to thinking "I’m not good enough"?

Well if I’m faced with a big rejection in business was I ask myself these questions:

  1. Was the rejection personal, or simply a head over heart business decision?
  2. Would receiving polite feedback really help?
  3. Was being accepted truly important to you, or were you influenced to apply or do that thing because everyone else was doing it?
  4. Can you change direction, and do something else to grow your business instead?
  5. Could the rejection be leading you to something better in the end?
  6. Will reapplying and doing whatever it takes to be accepted be a good use of your time and energy?
  7. How can I redirect this rejection? 
  8. Is your success going to be determined by that no?
  9. Do you always feel you have to be part of the special club, the fair, or the website to succeed? Or, actually can do it your own way?

And ask myself, do I really want something that doesn’t want me wholeheartedly? It isn’t petulant to turn on your heels and walk in the other direction after receiving a no. It’s self-preservation.

Comparison is the thief of joy. We all know that by now. So, I always think it’s more productive to work on ways to nurture my self confidence, and boost my self esteem instead of worrying about others. I sometimes write down all the things I love about my business and my brand values which gives me a boost. 

And, just remember you could be the juiciest peach, and there will always be someone who just doesn’t like peaches.

So, now I try to stay optimistic, hopeful, and motivated. I encourage resilience. Because, my business needs me to.

Rejections can certainly diminish your confidence if you allow them to, but they can also make you feel stronger and more determined. So now I allow a rejection to fire me up. I think to myself “I can and I will.” And, “Watch me.”

And, I try not to let a rejection make me bitter because bitterness is not the path to success. I try not to obsess over the what-ifs because many times a rejection will lead me down a path that’s much more suited to me.

Because, although initially a bit painful, rejection can be a good thing: it can liberate you, make you refocus and reconsider what’s important in your business.

Rejections are just going to happen and that’s   ok. I always try to remind myself that I can’t turn myself down or say no to myself. The only advantage I need is myself. I can do this. And so can you. You don’t need universal approval. 

If you love what you create, love your customers and feel as though you’re doing something rewarding then you will ALWAYS be good enough.

So ultimately I think we can be thankful for our rejections: in the end they can make us resilient  and more determined. Our path to success might take a different turn after a big rejection... but if we keep trying hard enough we'll get where we’re meant to be.

Love as always,


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