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Lockdown a year on in this small business

We are just past the year anniversary mark of the very first lockdown, the anniversary that no one wanted to celebrate! When the date came  I tried to avoid all conversations about it because it felt quite heavy. However it has been in the back of my mind and I have started to reflect on just what a crazy year it has been for me and my small business. There have been lots of ups and downs but some truly wonderful things have come out of this hard time. So I wanted to look back and share with you some of the good (and the bad) times over the past year at Hannah Joy Designs.

So we can all remember 23rd of March 2020! The day we all went into full lockdown in the UK. We had seen it already spreading across the world and there was a lot of worry and anxiousness about what was to come. It took me that following week to decide what to do. Did I close? Did I carry on as normal? I was worried about using the post office and going out too many times, I was worried about getting supplies and I was worried about getting ill and letting my customers down. There was the panic felt by many - what people would think if I just carried on business as usual when so many people couldn't even leave their homes and businesses were being shut down. Was carrying on insensitive and irresponsible? So after lots of thought and tears! I decided to compromise and buy a load of stamps in bulk, I took anything off my website that was too large to fit through letterboxes and put an announcement on my homepage warning of delays and reduced postal deliveries.

I shouldn't have worried because as we all stopped the orders did too! March 2020 was my worst month of sales for a long time and then came the worry that my business was not going to survive. Everyone, including me stopped buying, we were just focussing on essentials. We also thought that this might only last a few weeks so we would all wait until life got back to normal (crazy to think that now!)

12 months on I am still here and thriving so I my business has lived to tell the tale but beginning felt pretty shaky!

At this point all of my plans to grow my business in 2020 seemed to fall apart and I really didn't know what to do to keep going. But then time passed and the public started online shopping, big time and the support for small business really started to spread. The small business community pulled together in support of each other and amazingly for me as it was one of my core designs, rainbows became the symbol of the year! 

I started creating free downloadable activity sheets for children to help parents keep them busy whilst the schools were closed and wrote some blog posts about activities and learning through play. Lots of small businesses offered freebies or things to help parents during this time and although it has been a bit rubbish the community feeling was strong.

I was gutted at first that all the markets I had booked were cancelled as they were a big part of my income, but online markets started popping up. Some have been good and some not so much but they have kept me going and given me a purpose to focus on. I have had to get more creative online and have started making more videos, showing more of the behind the scenes and doing live sessions with other businesses. I have got to know so many more small businesses through taking part in these markets and have made some amazing friends.

Obviously like everyone I have been really sad not to see my friends and family and we have all waved goodbye to any kind of social life for quite some time now, but the silver lining of this is that I have had much more time than before to focus on designing and properly planning collections, rather than releasing products here and there when I have time. This planning and designing time had a huge impact on my Christmas launch and this is where things really started to grow. I had more orders in the last quarter of 2020 than I had in the whole of 2019! My Christmas launch day I took a months worth of orders in a day! I was also approached by Joules to sell with them as they had seen the collection and this was a major high point for me. 

There are a number of lessons I have learned over the last year. The first is you need to be flexible and to be able to adapt, none of us saw this coming and knew how it would effect retail. Many businesses have unfortunately not been able to adapt and have had to close so I am really proud of how I have managed to continue to move forward. The second (which might sound slightly contradictory to the first) is to plan more. I have seen the difference that not rushing and spending more time planning products and launches can make over the last year so as life gets busier I want to continue to prioritise. 

And lastly one thing I have manage to get rid of over the last year which surprises me more than anything is imposter syndrome. Don't get me wrong it pops up every now and again and I am sure once we are out of the house again it will come back with a vengeance but something about being able to spend so much time working on my own style has made me feel so much more secure about where I fit in.

So there have been lots of tears and worries over the last year, I have missed people and the things that I love doing but there have also been lots of highs and positive lessons. We are not through it yet but we hopefully will be soon and I am starting to plan for markets and to have my products in more shops and to generally take over the world!! Or my little bit of it anyway!


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