Adrienne Bailon-Houghton shares resources for entrepreneurs and talks about mental health and navigating the recession

Adrienne Bailon-Houghton is an Emmy-winning actress, singer and host of the hit TV show Really. Bailon-Houghton originally rose to fame as a member of the girl group 3LW, and then starred in the The Cheetah Girls movies. In this interview, Bailon-Houghton sat down to discuss her new partnership with Adobe Acrobat and share how she prioritizes her mental health and well-being. She also offered advice to business owners, especially entrepreneurs of color, as we prepare for a possible global recession.

Janice Gassam Asare: You recently partnered with Adobe Acrobat to launch the Home Service Boss Kit. Can you tell me more about that?

Adrienne Bailon-Houghton: Honestly, for me this was first and foremost such an organic partnership and bigger than that. It’s a great honor because I’ve been using Adobe Acrobat for such a long time, for so many of my projects that, frankly, they’ve been a lifesaver for me. So many of us now work from home and are our own bosses, including me, who is an entrepreneur and literally runs my own brand, plus my two businesses, XIXI, my jewelry company, LA VOÛTE, my fashion company, and then on top of that and renovating the house.

Runner: Can you explain a bit how it works?

Bailon-Houghton: Absolutely. What I like is that you can actually create your own templates here and that’s pretty much what I did. I actually created my own daily planner with the things I need. And I love that the software actually allows you to create everything you need, whether it’s budgeting. I know many of us have used Acrobat without even realizing it. There are things that are sent to us…whether it’s a schedule Really, they definitely sent stuff like that. I love the fact that our team can actually collaborate and approach them together…that’s super important.

You can use this to create a template, which is what I did. While I’m checking things out, I have a team of three other people, which is my brand manager, Lana…and I also have a graphic designer and a creative director for my brand. The awesome thing is that they can all log into Adobe Acrobat and see when I’ve updated the planner…you can personalize it on so many levels. My daily planner starts with, what am I grateful for? I also incorporate mental health into my daily plans. Just don’t go, go, go, here are the things you have to accomplish, but what are the things that motivate me to accomplish those things?

Runner: That’s actually a great segue into my next question, which is, as someone in the public eye who has to be ‘on’ all the time, how do you prioritize your mental health and well-being?

Bailon-Houghton: Exactly; you have to make it a priority. Charting days and times where you put only yourself and your mental health first. I think a year ago me and Lana sat down and said, listen, we’re going to burn out. We’re in such a burnout culture right now…I actually love that the burnout culture is turning its ugly head on itself, where now we’re seeing memes that are like, no, it’s not all about, ‘I’m in a hurry, I’m in a hurry. I can’t stop, it won’t stop.’ No, please stop. Stop for a moment and give yourself a moment not to burn out, so you can prioritize your mental health. We actually started planning time for my mental health. In my weekly schedule, we would watch everything. We would figure out where we were going to do something and then we would say, you need a day off. So, I would take one day off a week…that is, literally nothing would be scheduled for that one day. And it wasn’t always the same because obviously with the demanding schedule, there were people who said, ‘no, we need you on Saturday, so you can’t take Saturday off.’ And maybe on Tuesday I could fly. I like the saying, if it’s not scheduled, it won’t be finished. Put in your scheduled time, an hour, two hours, a whole day if you need it. It took me a whole day…just one whole day a week, which I can dedicate to my family, my mental health and myself. We make sure that it’s on my calendar…that it’s on my planner.

Runner: So when we talk about mental health and mental well-being…I want to know more about the support systems you’ve used throughout your career. What support systems have allowed you to thrive throughout your career?

Bailon-Houghton: I have to say I’m really, really grateful and I’m so lucky to have an amazing family. To me, it really is my family. I’ve always been given wings to soar because I know I have a strong foundation…I have a foundation of people who don’t expect me to be amazing all the time. They have no expectations of me that I have to live up to. I think sometimes that kind of pressure can be really exhausting and really hard and really scary and it can cause anxiety and depression when you’re like, oh my God, all these people depend on me, all these people expect this certain thing from me. I am truly grateful to have surrounded myself with people who expect me to be healthy mentally, physically and happy.

That’s the kind of people we need to surround ourselves with. Being mentally happy means that I will have a creative outlet…that I can make my dreams come true…so for me, I like to work. Work is an outlet for me. I have a creative job…I think the key is to have people who support your dreams, support your goals and ultimately want to see you happy and want to see you healthy. And they are with you in good times and bad. And to lift you up no matter what.

Runner: Absolutely. I love it. The last question I had was…we’re still dealing with a pandemic…going into a recession. Do you have any advice for women entrepreneurs of color trying to navigate this space of uncertainty we find ourselves in?

Bailon-Houghton: I think when you look at your life and your life…whatever you’re passionate about, what does it take? What do people need right now? And I think that’s when people’s business really flourished. You see a recession coming. What affordable things can we provide to people that they actually need? As the recession comes and that brings panic, what kind of things can we provide to people that give them a pocket of peace now? As creatives, entrepreneurs and business people, you can actually find ways to use these difficult times in a positive way to help people to… think about what you would like during this time.

With the Adobe Acrobat planner I made, I feel like I can get very anxious thinking about all the things I have to do. To be honest, I had no idea that renovating my home would be so expensive and there would be so many delays. And that was very difficult for me. The only way it made it better was I made this spreadsheet that really allowed me to see and know, okay, so these things are coming this month. Okay, these are the things I should expect. And it gave me something to look forward to. Even in a recession, and even in a pandemic, and even with all these things going on, you have to give yourself something to look forward to. If we are in a recession, as business people, let’s start thinking about how to reduce those costs and make them profitable for ourselves, but also for our consumers. Taking advantage of people’s needs in difficult times is definitely the key.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

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