The best medicine Lisa Kornstein shrugged off her husband's and her doctors' advice that she slow down. She has since divorced and opened a fourth store.
In our February 2010 issue, we chronicled Lisa Kornstein's struggle to balance her work life with managing a serious medical condition. (Kornstein was then using her married name, Disbrow, but now goes by her maiden name following her recent divorce.) In 2008, Kornstein, owner of a pair of small but fast-growing clothing stores, found out that she had multiple sclerosis. The symptoms were sometimes debilitating, and Kornstein's doctors advised her to take it easy. But the diagnosis came just as sales at the stores, called Scout and Molly's (after Kornstein's two Labrador retrievers), were taking off and she was making plans to open a third store.
To stay in charge of the business but work fewer hours, Kornstein delegated more responsibility to a trusted staff member. She also retained a bookkeeper to manage the company's finances, though she continued to buy merchandise as well as head up marketing.
What the Experts Said
Rosalind Joffe, founder of cicoach.com, said Kornstein was smart to stay engaged with work. Abandoning the business, Joffe believed, would have only created more stress for Kornstein. Dava Muramatsu, owner of Matsu, a boutique in Boston, agreed that Kornstein's decision to hand off some responsibilities was a smart one. And Thom Ruhe, director of entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, said Kornstein needed to budget her time and save her energy for tasks she enjoyed.
What's Happened Since
Kornstein decided that slowing down didn't suit her. She has stepped up her work pace, moving her original store, in Raleigh, North Carolina, to a new, larger space and striking a licensing deal for a fourth store in Cary, North Carolina. She also launched a website last year.
This has come at a cost. Kornstein endured a brief hospital stay late last year to treat an infection related to her disease. Though Kornstein does take her doctors' advice to rest when her body needs it, "they don't tell me I can't do something," she says. "They know me too well for that." Despite all the changes over the past year, Kornstein remains energized and excited about the future. "Being happier now and OK with where my life is going—and not being scared to be alone—has actually been less stressful," she says.
Kornstein is working with Chicago-based denim designer Henry & Belle on an MS fundraising gala. On the business front, she wants to hire an experienced person to lead her budding e-commerce business. "It's really picking up steam," she says.