At the end of last year, I sold my home to fulfil my dream of having a business that celebrates artisan, eco and Fair-Trade.
Starting a new business during a pandemic has been, hmmm…..interesting. Its been a rollercoaster of emotions, while on a learning curve with unprecedented events. I have lost hair and sleep. But I have also gained self-confidence and a stronger conviction to fight for this business.
Like many other businesses, I have suffered the Covid19 unpleasantness. I had no customers for periods during the shutdown. When customers started to come back, I was only allowed to have 2 in my shop at a time. They were welcomed with hand gel and had to move around the shop at 1.5 mtrs from each other. It has been awkward and stressful navigating through this.
My brick and mortar shop opened its doors during the last three days of Jan, so any monthly comparisons being used for eligibility for Job Keeper and rent relief are based on my February month of sales. February, being my first month of business, people were still getting to know I existed and it was a period when people were already starting to get too scared to go out. I couldn’t even have a business launch party.
The most stressful part of my covid19 experience thus far has been that the rental relief is still under negotiation, this part has been very disheartening. And like most businesses tethering onto their existence, I am counting on it.
In the month of March, I didn’t sell one clothing item for three weeks!!! So, I had to take a risk spending money on stock that was more relevant such as tea, facial masks and creating care packages. My goal was to keep relevant and connected to my community. It worked, because at least I was making some sales and getting noticed. As a new business, this was vital to my ongoing survival.
My staff were not eligible for job keeper, so I had to let them go. Thankfully, I am deeply in love with what I do, so working 7 days a week isn’t so bad. Every morning when I open my doors, the products make my heart flutter with joy.
During the days when I sat in isolation in my shop, I did not waste a minute – I spent it learning, designing and planning. I can now do my own accounting to a higher level, I understand social media better, I have learnt how to build my own web site and I have started a u- tube channel.
My customers have been AMAZING during this time. Some of them I now affectionately call my patrons, because without them I don’t think I would still be here. For example, one customer walked in and saying “I got my government money to help the economy, so Yvie help me spend it”.
Now that that the isolation is lifting many of my customers are bringing their friends and family in to visit the shop. It is reassuring knowing that this shop is finding its way into hearts of my community. It gives me confidence that I am not alone in my fight. I have hope and love on my side, and that is a wonderful and empowering thing.
I started this business to prove to the world that Fair Trade is a viable business model. You could say, that if I am going to prove it, this would be the best the year to do it in.
There are no regrets and I am optimistic about the future. It might get tough, but so will I.