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Focusing on Your Mental Health as an Entrepreneur

Miller Fellow, Anna Petrova, shares on the importance of focusing on mental health as an entrepreneur.

Court of Carolinas from wide scope angle showing bricks and blue sky full of clouds

As entrepreneurs, we work through challenges and are enamored by the word “resilience.” But, the truth is entrepreneurship is filled with ups and downs, and what we see highlighted most of the time are the highs. We don’t frequently talk about the lows and how these hard times can impact our mental health – and let’s be honest, there are a good amount of lows or moments where you feel lost on the way to success.

We sat down to talk with NC State alumna Anna Petrova, founder of Wolfe Cravings, to discuss mental health in the entrepreneurship community. Anna graduated from NC State College of Design with a Masters in Industrial Design in 2021. After graduation, she joined the Miller Fellowship Program, which offers recent alumni a monthly stipend, mentorship and a supportive community so they can continue developing their business post graduation.

Wolfe Cravings Food Co. is a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company that produces food that happens to be gluten-free and safe for those affected by celiac disease. Their first CPG products are tiramisu and ice cream sandwiches. 

Below is our Q&A with Anna. If you are experiencing one of the lows, we want you to know you’re not alone. 

What do you think mental health is like within the entrepreneurship community? Is this something that is talked about much within this community? 

From what I have seen, mental health is not the first topic or question that founders usually receive. The hustle mentality reigns supreme in the entrepreneurial space, and I have a lot of frustration with that mindset. 

In my opinion, entrepreneurs are creatives. To be able to think outside the box and generate ideas, you have to be in a relaxed and balanced state of mind. You cannot be creative when you are constantly stressed and overworked. When you add in having to deal with constant criticism, feedback or rejection of your ideas, brand, and/or company by investors, users, and clients, you have to be even more level headed and mentally strong to deal with it and keep going. 

What is the biggest struggle you have experienced as an entrepreneur? What resources or tools would you recommend to other entrepreneurs? 

I do not have a co-founder or a business bestie to keep me accountable, so it can feel a bit isolating from time to time. I would recommend getting an accountability buddy, mentor or someone that you know can hold you accountable to keep you on track of your business goals. Setting up a system to keep you on track with your business goals is important.   

How do you keep yourself motivated and centered?

I do the same things that I did in design school: I surround myself with sticky notes of quotes that keep me accountable and designs that inspire me. I have also been digging into lots of books and podcasts to keep myself informed. 

What would you like to see change with the conversation around mental health?

I would like for more founders to share their stories—not only focusing on the product or service that their company is creating, but also how creating and growing that brand impacts them, their community and their users. The problems entrepreneurs are facing do not exist in a silo. Entrepreneurship is hard work. Having to constantly improvise, keep yourself outside the comfort zone, and balance limiting beliefs, setbacks, and frustrations while bringing your vision to life is challenging. 

Entrepreneurs face very unique challenges. Are there any NC State University groups or organizations that have helped you keep pushing forward? 

Being trained as a designer helped me become an entrepreneur. Design school taught me to think creatively, iterate, communicate visually, and conduct market research. I think that surviving three years of design school taught me to stay creatively curious—not getting too attached to ideas, but rather falling in love with solving the problem. It also helped me become more comfortable with receiving feedback. However, without NC State’s entrepreneurial community, specifically the Miller Fellowship, all of those learned skills would not have resulted in the food company that I have now. The fellowship believed in my idea enough to give me the financial runway to run with it and push forward.

While the road to entrepreneurship is not always easy, it sure is rewarding as it allows people to follow their passion, tackle big problems and make the world a better place. Remember that NC State Entrepreneurship offers many free resources, connections and can help you find funding to help you along the way. 

Below are resources for NC State students to help them navigate their own mental health journey through the Counseling and Prevention Center at NC State:

  • Individual and Group Counseling
  • Emergency Triage Services
  • Counselor on Call
  • Online Screenings
  • Psychological Assessment and Psychiatric Consultation
  • Academic and Career Counseling
  • Consultations
  • Clinical Outreach
  • Drop-in Services

If you have questions about the mental health services at NC State, you can email for more information and connect with NC State Entrepreneurship on Instagram so you can join our entrepreneurship community.