So here I am again writing my second blog from the chaos of our kitchen on a Sunday morning and the kids are wearing as much as they have eaten. It’s been 6 weeks since my last blog so I thought I’d post an update of what’s been going on, what hurdles I have faced and how they have been overcome, reduced or set aside to be tackled at a later date.
My first blog post was written during self-isolation due to our youngest having a temperature so we self-isolated for two weeks, this was the Sunday before lockdown started on the Tuesday and at that time, isolation was as much a mental state as a physical state. There was panic, fear and questioning my life decisions to run a business and the potential financial catastrophe that my mind was constructing, all events had been cancelled and 95% of my site work booked was a big no no. I quickly realised that this mindset had to change otherwise this scenario could have become a reality by my own doing. So, after running a half marathon outside my house one morning, it was time to set to work. With the help of my wife and some friends it was time to get tech savvy and stop being a luddite! The first port of call was my website and learning how to use WordPress, plugins and all the other things I thought were above my skill set. With the help of Kathryn, Pete and Phil the website took on some changes (still more to come) and I even published my first blog. I also pushed the use of social media more than before and some targeted marketing was put in place (you’ll hear about that later).
During this time, I received an email from Jane, the organiser of the Treacle Market about a virtual market they were setting up on Facebook to help businesses through the current chaos. This was huge success and some orders started to come in. The Market Co opened up their online store called Artisans Online, which I started to list some items on too. As another way to gain some sales, I also hosted my own online market. It was a little chaotic but with the help of friends and family sharing the event and some targeted Facebook advertising using a meagre £15 budget, it was a success and a weeks worth of work came in by the end of that day alone.
Now I had orders to fill, social distancing and working measures were put in place to protect my clients and myself. I was up and running but there was one huge factor looming and it is still a prevalent factor now – sourcing materials. As many of my suppliers had closed and furloughed their staff, I predicted that I had enough materials in stock to keep me going for 4 weeks and
it was tight at that. On ordering my wood finish, I was told that it was in stock and the next day I was told they were all out. With no advance warning, 5 days later a pallet arrived with 120 litres on it! Phew! To guarantee my timber supply I ended up buying twice the amount that I normally would. Luckily it turned up in time as I ordered in advance of them reopening distribution (albeit on skeleton staff levels). There are still many things I can’t get but I’m keeping my customers informed of any progress or further delays.
So how do I feel about the future? Short term, I have work ahead of myself and I’m doing my best for all my customers and they are being wonderful in return by sharing my work, recommending my services and being supportive in these difficult times. In the long term, my reach as a business has expanded through Facebook, Instagram and my website but there is still much to do with networking on Zoom with other businesses supporting each other, offering advice and an insight which someone from outside their work bubble can see.
Be kind, be supportive and shop with small and family businesses.