meet shannon davenport
The founder of Esker Beauty who believes mental health is always a work in progress.
How do you relieve stress and practice self-care?
I am a big, big bath person and always have been. That’s what I built my whole brand around, the joy of bathing. Even as I got older and started dealing with more stress and work-life balance, I came to lean on bath time as a self-care practice.
“It’s a very simple ritual that has always been really helpful for me, especially mentally.”
Historically, the bathroom was this utilitarian space. We’re trying to open people up to this idea of making your bathroom your space, where you can go in and feel safe and make your own little Haven.
I bring my phone into the bath, I do emails, or I call people, depending on who it is. Now that I’m a mom, my kids love to join, and it’s been something that I’ve done with my daughters since they were born. My husband also loves baths. I remember I would come home from a business trip and we would take a bath together. Not even in a sexy way. It’s a time for us to pause and talk to each other and create a moment that we don’t often get in our crazy lives.
How does your dog impact your mental health?
My dog is my best friend. She’s the sweetest. She came from an abusive home and it took her a really long time to warm up to us. A lot of people say after you have kids that you stop caring about your pets or your dogs become secondary. But she’s such a special, special dog and requires almost nothing of me. She’s so great with our babies and lets them pull on her ears, and they try to ride her. She’s a very gentle little soul and I love her to death. She is my ride or die. I really love dogs. We don’t deserve them.
What grounds you?
I am definitely not a skilled gardener. But we have a pretty small yard here in Austin and I really lean into something where I can tune out. I am on my computer and my devices all the time, and for me, working with my hands, and that feeling of mentally being in flow, it’s my time when I’m in the garden to put on my podcasts.
It’s funny; I primarily just do the weeding. It sounds weird, but I love pulling weeds. For some people, it’s like knitting. So I love having my garden.
How has your mental health been lately?
My mental health is always a work in progress. I’ve gone through a lot of changes over the last four years. I have my daughter and she’s a little over four. And then we had our second daughter in May of 2020, so right in the middle of COVID.
“COVID has been hard on all of us, but having kids in COVID and giving birth during COVID has some serious challenges.”
I struggled a lot with pre- and postpartum and I had really bad pregnancies both times. Not bad health-wise, but I was sick the entire time. The first pregnancy I had pubic symphysis disorder, where your pubic bone starts to spread apart because of the hormones. There’s a hormone called relaxant that relaxes your joints, but it can relax too much and it makes it painful to walk, to put your pants on, and get in and out of the car. And postpartum depression is definitely something that I dealt with both times around.
Also, entrepreneurship is really lonely and anxiety is something I get hit with really hard. So there’s been a lot of peaks and valleys.
From prenatal to postpartum depression and the loneliness of entrepreneurship, is there anything that you feel shame or stigma around?
The cultural conversation has changed so much even in the last few years, but one of the things that really helped me during my second pregnancy was being on antidepressants. I was really stressed and the physical impacts of stress on your body and on your baby are real. This is probably semi-controversial depending on your beliefs around medication discussions, but my doctors said the benefits far outweigh the risks.
“I felt a lot of stigma around antidepressants during my first pregnancy and that’s why I didn’t want to do it.”
But once you start talking to people about it, you’d be surprised how many use antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. I think back on it now, and I was suffering a lot and I didn’t have to. It’s been a few years and I feel very differently about myself now. My Zoloft helps me. It helps me feel much more level. I feel like myself, but I feel like I can take things as they come with more strength at my core.
How does intimacy and relationships impact your mental health?
I’ve always been a person with a lot of close female friends. I do have some male friends too, but I’m a girl’s girl. Now in my new role as an entrepreneur and a brand founder, I’ve got a really nice supportive network of women professionally who also have become important to my mental health, especially during fundraising.
I feel really lucky because my husband is a very equal partner in our home and he’s an equal partner as a parent. He’s also helped me with my company in so many ways. He’s kind of my secret weapon. And whenever I tell people that my husband works with me and they respond, oh, so he does the finances. But he doesn’t. He makes everything beautiful. Not that I don’t have opinions on that stuff, but he executes all the visuals and all the branding. He’s insanely talented.
You’re an entrepreneur, so how has fundraising impacted your mental health and self-worth?
Honestly, raising money has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It’s taxing on an organizational and technical level. I don’t have a business background. I come from consumer research, so I didn’t go to business school and I have a lot of insecurity about that. There are a lot of female founders in the beauty industry, so I don’t feel isolated in that. But at some point, when you go out to fundraise, you are going to be pitching primarily to men.
“There’s also a stigma about being a solo female founder and it’s even harder for women of color.”
We all have a lot of work to do around this, around fundraising, and around female-owned businesses. I did not raise much money from white men. It just didn’t work out that way and that’s totally fine with me. It’s important for your investors to be a cultural fit. I feel really great about what we raised and who we raised from, but it was rough.
When do you feel most at peace?
When I’m on the couch with a really big cozy blanket wearing my sweats and hanging out with my kids.
When do you feel your body tense up?
I feel my body tense up when I have a day where I have back to back to back to back meetings and I have to do a lot of code-switching, which was the worst part about fundraising. One minute you’re trying to help somebody because their package didn’t arrive. And then the next minute, you’re selling this vision.
What gives you serotonin?
Besides my Zoloft? Taking a bath. Also, babies and dogs. What’s better than babies and dogs? I love my babies and my dog. I love other people’s babies and dogs and I like looking at them on Instagram.
What does your body language say about you?
There are a couple of books about power poses where before you go into a meeting or a presentation, you make yourself big and try to take up space. I do believe there’s something to that. There’s something to making yourself big, opening up your chest, and standing up. I feel as women, we don’t do it. When I need to, I try to think I can take up space. I can command my space. I can maintain eye contact with people and be in my body.
When do you speak your mind?
I try to speak my mind as much as I can. I don’t have all the answers and as I get older, I acknowledge that the more I know, the less I know, or the more I learn, the less I know. But I feel it’s really important to try to be as honest as you can with other people. It doesn’t mean that you have to hurt anybody’s feelings. I’m a big Brene Brown fan and being vulnerable and trying to speak your mind, even when it’s hard, is something that I try to do.
next story — tess taylor