Business Bites Episode 106 Sustaining Your Business During an Illness

Sustaining Your Business During an Illness

Episode 106 on the Business Bites Podcast

The Gist Of This Episode:  In 2017, Tash Haynes had an unexpected illness that nearly took her life.  During that time, she and her husband, Ike, realized just how unprepared they were in their family and business should anything happen to either one of them.  In this episode, Rachel and Tash talk about the lessons Tash and Ike learned and the processes they put in place to be prepared for the unexpected. 


What you will learn:

  • Why you need to have systems in place so someone can take over for you if needed
  • The importance of separating personal and business
  • How not having proper things in place beforehand can prevent you from getting them later
  • Why self-care plays an important part in your health
  • and more!

Expand To Read Episode Transcripts

Rachel: Hey, Tash. Thank you so much for coming on. I’m excited to have you.

Tash: I’m so pumped to be here.

Rachel: Guys, Tash is one of my most favorite people. I say that a lot on this podcast, but that’s because I only really invite my favorite people. But she’s incredible. You guys have heard the bio. I just want to dig right into the questions with you, Tash. Let’s start with a little bit of your background and your path to entrepreneurship. Then we’ll get to the meat of talking about running a business and coming back from illness.

Tash: Yeah. I have been a professional photographer for the last 10 years. I left the non-profit world when I was 27 years old in 2009, exactly 10 years. I have been running a photography business with my husband for that time. We focus on families, high school seniors, weddings and engagements. Then we also are speaking … my kids are in the background being so loud. I’m so sorry.

Rachel: No, it’s great. It’s authentic.

Tash: Real life, right? We also are speaking teaching photographers. We’ve traveled around the country probably the last seven years or so teaching and mentoring other photographers. We hosted a photography conference for five years called Blink [crosstalk 00:00:01:21]-

Rachel: [inaudible 00:01:21]-

Tash: … that did really, really well. It was so fun. Then we have a lot of small little things and projects that we do. We have a mentorship program with high school seniors that focuses on kind of creating sisterhood and community engagement with girls. My husband is a YouTuber and has almost 200,000 followers on YouTube. I just launched a lifestyle blog that focuses on motherhood, faith, business and travel, family travel a couple months ago called We’re doing a lot of different things and have our hands in a lot of different things. It’s been really fun to be on this entrepreneurial journey over the last 10 years.

Rachel: I love it. One thing I just want to highlight to y’all listening, if you’re looking at a way to give back to your community, check out Tash’s program that she does with these senior girls. It is inspirational. Sounds cliche, but it’s inspirational and definitely a really good framework for showing how to be authentically integrated in giving back to your local community. I feel like oftentimes we hear about, “Oh, give back. We can donate at Christmas and this and that.” No, Tash and Ike show up year round to help these teenagers to be there for them and to be a presence and an example. If you’re thinking and your heart’s there to want to do something like that, they’re really good role models to look at. Take a look at that.

Tash: Thank you so much, Rachel.

Rachel: You’re welcome.

Tash: The other thing too, just to add on. We have done a lot in our community, but our community has done a lot for us too. As I look back over the last 10 years and all the things that we’ve been able to do. When we have been in a really rough spot or when we’ve really needed extra support, it was that sewing that we did without expecting anything in return that really blessed us in our time of need. It’s so fun to give back, but it’s like you do get a return on your investment too. That’s just a little side note, little sidebar.

Rachel: Well, that’d be a good segue kind of into talking about the illness and to come back from that. Before we mentioned that though, guys, if you want the links and everything, it’s going to be at We’re going to put Tash’s stuff there. I’ll link so you can find these very specifics that we’re pointing out really easily to check out.

All right, so talking about the illness, and you know what’s so interesting to me, one of the … you and I have history over the years. I’ve spoken at your conference. I love you. I love your kids. But one of the moments that stands out most to me was I came to your hotel room at that conference in Vegas to say goodbye, drop something off. I remember how sick that you looked. You’re like, “Oh, no. It’s just a cold. I picked something up.” But it wasn’t just a cold. Do you want to share a bit, like what happened and how you’ve come back from that?

Tash: You know what is so crazy? I forgot that you actually came to my room. In this moment, I’m just realizing that. That is so crazy. Yeah. Like most entrepreneurs and working moms, I was working super duper hard. I’d come to this culmination of being at this event that I needed to speak at in Vegas and really just feeling tired from just Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the things. This was February, 2017. I had picked up this cough that I had been to urgent care for several times. They were just like, “It’s just a viral thing. You’re just going to have to let it run its course.” But yeah, I just was like, “Okay, cool.” It’s just like, you know how you are. You’re just like, “Well, okay. I’ll take the medicine or I’ll do whatever I need to do and you keep pushing.”

I thought it was just a cough. What it was was the beginning of pneumonia. When I came back home, I still pushed really, really hard. Two weeks after you leaving my hotel room, I had to go to the emergency room. I was on my way to speak at another conference in another city and we were on our way to get on the airplane when I just felt my whole body seize up. Ike and I kind of looked at each other and he’s just like, “Are you going to be okay?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s wrong, but I know I’m not going to get on an airplane.” We fast forward a few hours. We end up in the emergency room. Fast forward a few days, because it took days for them to figure out what was going on with me. I was in heart failure. My little cough-

Rachel: Give them context of old you were at the time.

Tash: 34 years old, completely and totally healthy, no prior history, heart history. It was the flu virus, one that they weren’t able to ever kind of nail down. It wasn’t like the one of the flus that was going around, but it was a flu virus that had actually gotten into my heart and caused my heart to fail. I had pneumonia and heart failure. They were basically tag-teaming, destroying my body and my life.

Rachel: Terrifying, absolutely terrifying.

Tash: Terrifying, absolutely terrifying. 16 days in the hospital, six days in intensive care. I’m talking medical papers, last will and testament had to be drawn up. I had to turn over medical care to my husband. We had to come up with plans for our then four-year-old daughter, Wisdom. It was very scary. I was getting ready to be put on a transplant list. I mean just all of the things that you … I went from being healthy to being sick to almost dying in a matter of days and hours.

It was completely and totally terrifying. As a small business owner, especially the lead business owner, my husband is an amazing support, but he does not run this business. I run this business. When you’re not working, you’re not making money. When you’re sick and you’re the person with all the information, you have now made it impossible for anyone to step in on your behalf. That was pretty scary for all of us.

Rachel: What have you changed with that? Now that you’re back, you’re healthy, it’s been a few years, what have you changed in that process to prevent putting those problems like that scariness on Ike during that time? What are some things that you have put into place?

Tash: Well, I think that what I did when I came out of the hospital is I took a really hard look at, well just our business setup and our life setup and how how intertwined they were, because that’s really dangerous as well. Just really putting boundaries and putting lines in place to separate our personal life from our business, which can often get confused because it’s all kind of the same thing at the same time often. I spent a lot of time kind of reflecting on that. Reflecting on what things we needed to be doing, what things we don’t need to do anymore and where we could outsource those things.

Then I started looking at our business from start to finish and putting together a notebook or a binder that would communicate what needed to happen should something happen if I was not able to talk, which in that case I wasn’t. I could barely breathe and just having checks and balances in place for support if something were to happen to me, Ike could have a team or people, friends who could step in and help him and support him. If something were to happen to Ike, what would I do as I’m raising kids and he’s the one that goes out and do the jobs?

We started thinking through and talking through those plans. Then we started thinking about our kids and their future and making sure that as we are in the midst of really thriving professionally, that we are thinking about their futures and what it is that they’re going to need to do to survive and to be where they need to be. We got things like life insurance. We got our girls IRAs. We started educational plans. We started really actually saving and investing in different accounts and things like that. Then we started getting our insurances in place. That was the big thing. When I went to the doctor, I didn’t have medical insurance. When I was admitted into the hospital, I didn’t have medical insurance. We had just missed the deadline. We kind of just had this attitude that we would just pay for whatever happened because we never get sick. Well my 16 days in the hospital, I had a million and a half dollar bill.

Rachel: Oh, my God.

Tash: Yeah, it was crazy. I mean I had echos. I had seven different doctors. I had all these things. I mean it was just such a wake-up call for the reality of life. The other thing that I’ve started doing is sharing my story for other small business owners and having them think about these things that are not fun to think about. It’s so hard to pay for things that you think you’re not going to use, but you never know when you need something until you need it.

Rachel: That’s a story of my life. Talk about this. Legal stuff’s not sexy. Thinking about this stuff, especially when you’re young and you’ve never had problems, you are like, “I’m not going to need it. I’m not going to have an issue.” Then you fall into it. You know my story is I had cancer at 20. I had it really early on before I really got into a really successful business. I’ve always kind of had that perspective, but a lot of people are never, hopefully you’re never given those life circumstances or anything like Tash has.

What I’m going to do here, I’m glad you highlighted a whole bunch of things right there that you guys can do. Tash outlined it very well. We’re going to do a download checklist that’s going to be on the page. Kim who’s listening, my podcast manager’s like, “Oh, I’m creating a checklist now.” Yes you are. [inaudible 00:11:22] She’s going to put those things, But I want to flesh out a little bit more on the insurance stuff here, medical insurance. There’s also key person insurance and life insurance. You can also even get a disability variation.

When you go to talk to an insurance company, just tell them exactly like Tash said, “I’m the primary business owner. If I get sick, if I get hurt or I die, everything’s in me. Everything was on me. What can be done help my family?” That will be a good financial resource to have in place.

Tash: I want to just add this because probably, I mean we are friends and you do do this. Rachel, you’ve talked to me for years about putting things in place and I’ve always kind of laughed you off, never taking you serious.

Rachel: I told you.

Tash: No, but here’s the thing, right? I go into this situation without these things in place. I come out of them, I am completely healthy, workout, very fit, all of the things, but I have a scarlet letter of a heart condition on my record for the rest of my life. My heart is fully 100% healthy. It’s like it never even happened. It’s such a fluke. I get echos every year. They can’t find any trace of anything. People who see my heart, they’re like, “It looks like a healthy functioning heart that’s never had any issue.”

I cannot get life insurance because of that. Had I taken care of my situation beforehands, I would’ve been straight. But now I have this scarlet letter. It’s been impossible for me to get anyone to insure me. My family’s insured, but I’m not. That is the most frustrating situation. That was the biggest lesson. When you feel prompted to do something or you feel prompted to take care of something, you’ve got to do it. Because you just don’t know how the circumstances might change. I never saw this happening in my life. [crosstalk 00:13:19].

Rachel: [inaudible 00:13:19].

Tash: Go ahead.

Rachel: No, I was just going to say in this situation right here is really why Business Bites exists. This is why I started out doing the different brands and stuff that I have. Like I said, I had a different perspective. Mine was at 20. It was before I even got into all this. I already had that fear. I’m obviously okay and well now, but I didn’t want anyone … then it breaks my heart to hear that you’re in that situation, especially since I love you and your family so much. I want those listening, I want each of you guys to not be in a position like this. I often will make the joke, “Oh, you never have an issue till you have an issue.” But it’s true.

Tash: It is true.

Rachel: It’s kind of hard to undo it all at that point. You can’t.

Tash: It’s true. It’s just so now I’m like, “Okay, now I have to make different choices because I do know that that’s the reality of my situation. I have this heart condition.” I don’t have a heart condition, but I mean to anyone looking it appears that way. I have to now think long-term what do I need to be doing for my life and for my body to make sure that I don’t have these issues because I’m not covered. That is a really hard wake-up call and awakening.

Now I believe in the Lord, I know I’m going to be covered no matter what. However, it would be nice to have the real insurance. If you are seriously on the fence or if you felt this tug about doing whatever, insurance, car insurance, business insurance, whatever, do not waste time. Do whatever it is that you need to do because I don’t believe that knower, that thing that you feel inside, I don’t think that’s in vain. I think it’s on purpose.

Rachel: Very true. Let’s shift. You guys can download the checklist for that, but I want to shift a bit more to your approach of transitioning as you were becoming healthier. How did you integrate back into doing business tasks while also not pushing yourself? FYI guys, this episode came out of my own personal experiences last year. I ended up sick after Ironman World Championships. I don’t know if I contracted something. It led me down a spiral of tests. Found out I have lung disease, all these things, but we don’t really know what happened.

When you guys, and this is what’s so awesome about a lot of our episodes, they come out of what you, the listeners, want to hear. When you guys were reaching out to me on social media asking, “Oh, well how are you working while you’re sick?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I’m just doing it. I don’t really have any tips.” Tash was the one I wanted to bring on of … I mean, what do you tell people when you’re going through this? I guess share your experience in how to manage it all? Obviously, health is number one.

Tash: Yeah, I mean definitely we are not an island. We definitely need support. As I think about coming back, I came back very slowly. I used the opportunity and the grace to really redesign my life and reset things up. I think when you have like a near-death experience or an illness or a loss of some sort, there is a lot of grace from people around you for you to kind of figure stuff out. I think I really spent time thinking about what it was that I wanted for my business and for my life. I started kind of making that my rule of thumb and creating those boundaries. Coming back for me was really a restart I guess in some ways. It was a restart of how my business would exist in the world and how I would exist in that business.

Some of the main, I guess, themes I would say that came up was just first and foremost, I come first before everyone. Because I cannot function and be who I need to be to anyone around me if I am not putting myself first. I started really thinking about, “What are the things that make me happy? What are the things that renew me? What are the things that keep me going when things get tough, when I feel overwhelmed by business? What things restore me?” I made sure those things were in place. Then it was like, “Where are the boundaries between work and my family? When does work stop?” That was something that I never really had before. I feel like I worked really hard for eight years and never stopped. Work was always the priority.

But here’s the thing, what’s for you is for you. Nothing can be taken from you if it’s for you. You can stop. You don’t have to work yourself to the bone. Then as different circumstances would come up, I would just start thinking, “Okay, like is worth it? If it is worth it, like what makes it worth it? If it’s not worth it, am I willing to bend to make it worthwhile?” Just those kinds of questions. I think the biggest thing was just establishing boundaries. I think when people end up being sick, it’s usually comes from being worn out. It’s usually comes from a lack of boundaries or a lack of self-care.

Coming back to work was really just an assessment of those things and making sure those things were in place and making sure that I was protected and that I was doing things that made sense. I think like a lot of us as business owners, we allow our business to drive us because we’re so hungry for opportunity and so hungry for next level. We don’t spend a lot of time just sitting in where we are and really thinking about the strategy behind it. I think strategy is the key to everything. Even in staying alive and functioning, right? You got to have a plan for how you’re going to take care of yourself.

I think that’s how I came back. I don’t know if that’s really helpful to anyone, but I think that the biggest thing that we need is permission to take care of ourselves and to slow down and to do things the way that feel right for us. Not on someone else’s timeline or the way that someone else does it or the way that we believe different industries have called us to live. We are in control of our own destiny. We’re the only ones that answer that.

Rachel: That can be difficult too if you’re the primary breadwinner, obviously, and everything is on you. When you said you came back slowly, are you talking you maybe started doing minimal tasks every day, maybe you’re only doing once a week? What does it structurally look like in your schedule?

Tash: That’s a really great question. I came back slowly. I took the time to heal. I want to say that from March of 2017 until probably the fall, so September, October, I didn’t shoot or work at all. But I will say this, it was because our community came through for us. All of that sewing and all that loving and all of that that we did and all that giving back, when we were down and out, it was our photography community, our local community that one of our friends set up a caring fund for us. We raised like $35,000. That gave my family time to really slow down. It gave Ike the opportunity to take care of me.

When I came out of the hospital, I ended up with reactive arthritis. I couldn’t walk and couldn’t use my hands and my arms and stuff. There was a lot of rehab that had to happen after that. There wasn’t a lot of work that could happen, but it was because of the money that people sent, the meals that people provided, we were able to slow down and really take time to kind of come back. When I did start shooting again, I had shorter sessions. I really streamlined my communication so that I was communicating less and didn’t have to do as much.

I really started looking at systems and putting systems in place. In this last season of life, this last year with our new baby that we just had, we lowered our prices a little bit so that we could spend less time with clients. Because for us, our time and our freedom was more valuable even than the money that we were making. We adjusted our income and adjusted our style of living so that we could spend less time on clients and more time with our family. That was what felt right for us in these last couple of seasons of our life. I think again, just sitting down and thinking about what makes the most sense for you structurally for your business to carry out your life the way that you need to and then doing that.

Sometimes that means sacrificing. Maybe that means a few less vacations or a few less times eating out during the month or maybe you don’t get gear. We don’t upgrade our gear every year. We haven’t upgraded our gear in a while. They’re just things that we just don’t do so that we can do other things. There’s a cost, right, no matter what you do. It’s just really figuring out what cost is worth it for whatever sacrifice you’re making.

Rachel: Let me ask you this, do you guys have people that work for you contract or employee basis, or is it just you and Ike?

Tash: It’s Ike and I. We have a makeup artist on staff. We have a stylist. We hired one of our high school girls who has been working. We have a stylist. We actually hired Wisdom and Courage as child models.

Rachel: I love it.

Tash: They’re on staff.

Rachel: They are so [modelesque 00:22:38]. I love them so much.

Tash: Because they receive a paycheck, they’re also able to invest in an IRA. That is one of our things. Then we have an accountant who does all of our accounting, all of our taxes, all of those things. That’s what we do. That’s it.

Rachel: Well, let me ask you this. Do you think that it would have been easier during the event had you had somebody to be able to manage communications that wasn’t Ike, so that Ike could solely focus on you? Looking back, what’s your perspective of having even a virtual assistant to help manage and keep that stuff rolling for you?

Tash: 100%. I do. I do think that would have been helpful and would have been amazing. I think that one day I would love to get to that point. I think my struggle has always been that my voice is such a huge part of our business. I can’t imagine turning that over, but I am learning that it is so important to give those small things up so that you can move into the bigger things that you want to do. There’s so many things I want to do with-

Rachel: Yeah, but think about this. You’re saying it’s your voice, but when you were laying in the bed, girl, you weren’t talking.

Tash: I know. That’s the whole thing, right? No, you’re absolutely right. Yeah, I do think that would be amazing and key. But also for more than just that, just for scaling your business to the next level. There are other things that Ike and I want to do, right? He’s doing his YouTube thing. I’m doing my lifestyle blog thing. It’d be wonderful to have a virtual assistant handling our day-to-day Ike and Tash stuff that we’ve worked so hard and built that’s already foundationally solid so that we can work on building these other things. 100% I think that would be an incredible asset to us or any business person who’s looking long-term to scale their business.

Rachel: Well I was even thinking in this, I mean yeah, I agree with that, but I was thinking of the sentiment of even just creating relationships. Maybe this is a business idea, but creating relationships with virtual assistants you may not need all the time, but that are already knowledgeable, have access to your processes and flows so that if something does happen, you can call on them. You don’t pay them. Or maybe there’s a minimal retainer amount, but then they come in in the event that something happens and they can pick right up. There’s no onboarding-type process, right? Ike would have been able to say, “Hey,” [crosstalk 00:24:59]-

Tash: Just having that motivation to keep going. Yeah, I love that. I love that. I think it’s a great idea. Somebody steal that idea and make it happen.

Rachel: Ike and I [inaudible 00:25:07] too many businesses. We have way too much going on here. Someone do that. I love that. What do you think, I mean I kind of already heard this, but I just want to finish off with what is the biggest lesson that you learned personally and professionally, I guess two lessons, out of this illness in having tried to come back from it?

Tash: Personal and professional, wow. The biggest lesson personally that I’ve learned after all of the things that have happened over the last two years is that what we have is today. I don’t wait. If I have a desire or if I want to eat a piece of food or if I want to whatever, if I want to go somewhere, I just am like, “Let’s do it.” I think a lot of people work really hard their whole lives for their dreams that they hope to live out later in life. But we are not guaranteed that. I think that life is about living and enjoying now presently. I live my life now. I don’t worry about tomorrow. I don’t spend a lot of time on the past either. I just really try to be in the moment.

Professionally, what I’ve learned is that if you build something that is solid and that is strong and that’s integrous, you don’t have to make a comeback. People have grace for you and they will ride that wave with you. But I think that comes with treating people well and being kind and producing good quality product-content relationship. I felt like our lives were over when I got sick. I learned that it was really just a pivot and that when you are good to people, people are good to you. They’ll take you wherever you are.

I haven’t posted on social media probably for two years consistently. We are steady getting followers, the support is there. But I think that comes from being a good business person and treating people with kindness and respect and being genuine and not always trying to see how you can get something. I think it comes from being a giver. Those are the two things I think that I learned from this situation.

Rachel: That’s incredible. Thank you, Tash. I love how you’ve walked it through, gave us a checklist, walked through structurally and some great tips. Guys, if you have any questions at all, dig into the Business Bites Podcast Facebook group. We will be answering and providing other resources there. We’re also going to link the checklist, all of Tash’s stuff so you can check her and Ike out. As well as some resources on insurance and all the topics we talked about here,

Oh Snap Business Disaster Kit Ad
Today's episode was

Sponsored by:

Sponsored by Big Picture CPA

Featured Guest & Resources

Tash is a professional photographer & blogger based out of Seattle, WA.   With over 10 years of experience in the entrepreneurship world as a small business owner, speaker and coach and Master’s in Public Action from the University of Washington,  Tash’s platform exists to inspire the beginning entrepreneur, the working or stay-at-home mom and every woman in between.  

Tash helps women take a leap with their dreams, whether it’s starting a family, a business or quitting something to live life on their terms, she models that the life they hope for is both possible and attainable and that they CAN have their cake and eat it too. You can be a wife. You can be a mom. You can travel the world. You can pursue your dreams. You CAN have it all (mostly). 

Motherhood, Faith and Family are her topics of choice and in her spare time she enjoys writing, picnics, tea parties and catching flights around the world to escape the rain showers of the Pacific Northwest, with her husband and two daughters, Wisdom and Courage, and finding ways to connect with her Haitian culture.

You can find Tash here:

Hi, I’m Rachel Brenke

Rachel Brenke

As a mom, team USA athlete and cancer-survivor, I want a real life while I have a real business.  This is why my resources don’t promote hustle-culture, rather tough-love and no-holds-barred tips to achieving both.  In addition to this website, I have a top-ranked business podcast, been featured in places like Forbes and work 1:1 with so many of you.

Enough about me though. I am proud of you for pursuing entrepreneurship. It is rewarding and amazing.  Keep at it!

Now enrolling: RealBiz Accelerator[GET INFO]
+ +