Tennille Graham runs her cloth nappy business Apikali from home while also caring for her daughter Abigail Graham, 12 who has a rare genetic disorder.
Tennille Graham runs her cloth nappy business Apikali from home while also caring for her daughter Abigail Graham, 12 who has a rare genetic disorder. Inga Williams

Impact of mental health on small business owners

38 YEAR-old mother of four Tennille Graham has a lot on her plate.

Not only a mum, the Greenbank resident is also a full-time carer for her daughter Abigail who suffers from a rare genetic condition CDKL5 disorder and which sees her endure multiple seizures, sometimes on a daily basis.

The condition also means that as Abigail aged she required more assistance, which is why Graham decided to start her own nappy cloth business, Apikali, to ensure she could provide her daughter with the resources needed.

Tennille Graham runs her cloth nappy business Apikali from home while also caring for her daughter Abigail Graham, 12 who has a rare genetic disorder.
Tennille Graham runs her cloth nappy business Apikali from home while also caring for her daughter Abigail Graham, 12 who has a rare genetic disorder. Inga Williams

"We started the business for Abigail five years ago because we noticed she needed more equipment which is very expensive and we also thought we needed to do something to have a financial future for her,” Mrs Graham said.

"I tried a couple of things and get bored quite easily, so we started with a cloth nappy library and that grew so popular that we decided to start the business and it just took off.

"I have to watch her 24/7 which means I can't hold a job which is irritating, so that's why we gave the business a go.”

Mrs Graham who has a Ph.D. in environmental economics said despite her qualifications, nothing could have prepared her for when the business began to grow and said that was when her depression and anxiety started.

Tennille Graham runs her cloth nappy business Apikali from home while also caring for her daughter Abigail Graham, 12 who has a rare genetic disorder.
Tennille Graham runs her cloth nappy business Apikali from home while also caring for her daughter Abigail Graham, 12 who has a rare genetic disorder. Inga Williams

"In the first year it was quite slow and I could manage which was alright, but the second year we grew very quickly and I had no prior training in how to run a small business,” Mrs Graham said.

"All of a sudden I had all these different roles which I didn't realise would happen, so trying to find assistance was quite difficult.

"Having a young family and trying to balance a business is hard and there wasn't really anywhere you could go to get advice.

Tennille Graham runs her cloth nappy business Apikali from home while also caring for her daughter Abigail Graham, 12 who has a rare genetic disorder.
Tennille Graham runs her cloth nappy business Apikali from home while also caring for her daughter Abigail Graham, 12 who has a rare genetic disorder. Inga Williams

"It was very overwhelming and I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety due to a hospital trip with Abbey, so we managed, but it started to rear its ugly head again.

"Even now I struggle with it especially if I have a customer who isn't happy with our service and find it hard not to take it personally.

"When the business gets really busy I know my triggers now and know when I need to go have a chat with my counsellor.”

A recent study from the Bank of Queensland found that more than one in 10 small business owners in Queensland had been diagnosed with depression, stress or anxiety as a result of running their own enterprise.

The Business Balance Report explored the emotional and psychological pressures faced by Australian SME owners which found the alarming result.

Corporate Psychologist Stephanie Thompson said it was quite normal for small business owners to experience generalised stress, which if left long enough, could precipitate into depression and anxiety.

Corporate Psychologist Stephanie Thompson.
Corporate Psychologist Stephanie Thompson.

"I'd say there are two main themes, with the primary one financial stress around cash flow,” Ms Thompson said.

"The other theme is difficult personalities which can be an issue around behaviours or business partners or a major relationship with a key client.

"My example may be biased, but I tend to find this dip happens for most within one to three years into the business.

"Another common issue is that many come to regret starting their business and sometimes decide that the best thing to do is close it.

"I work with clients to manage their internal response to those events and how they are reacting to what is happening.

"We look at thought-patterns and managing their health in response to it, yet sometimes people are so stressed they can barely engage with the problem, so occasionally we have to go right back to basics and start with the physiological side of things to calm their body down.”

For more information about Apikali, visit the website.

For a copy of the full BOQ report click here.



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