The struggles of a small business & Covid-19

We have all been affected by the outbreak of Covid-19 in some way or another. The struggles have been real for everyone whether you’re employed, unemployed or self employed and sadly we have seen a massive decline in small business who haven’t been able to make it through the pandemic. This blog post is about my business and how covid has had an affect on it.

At the begining of the year we decided to move from Cornwall to Lincolnshire to enable our son to get the medical & educational help he needed that was proving impossible to get in Cornwall. At the end of February we put our house on the market knowing we had time to sell as hubby didn’t start at his new posting with the RAF till November. This was going to give us lots of time to find a house, a shop and a school for our son.

Then March arrived……

My father in law was rushed into hospital for open heary surgery and we had to go to Dorset. After a week with the in laws we came home ready to go back to work and school. That never happened. We had a phone call from the hospital could you all please self isolate the nurse that was treating your father in law has tested positive for Covid -19. Well ok fine. So we isolated and passed the time away for 14 days. On day 14 the government put the whole country into lockdown and that was us.

This quarentine and then lock dock meant I couldn’t get to the shop and the business had to shut and to this day I haven’t been open again yet. Then the RAF rang we need you to start sooner like in 12 weeks time. Oh crap what do we do, we have no house, no school and no shop. Thankfully we have my parents who live half an hour away from the base.

Lockdown restrictions ease. This meant that I could clear out the shop and we could start having viewings on the house and move up to Lincolnshire. (there is another long story to this too but that’s another time)

Roll on a few months and we are back to some sort of normal even if we still have restrictions and covid is still running wild in the country. However I am still not moved, I don’t have a new shop and my husband and I haven’t lived together since the end of June. Son is in school though and he is doing well.

So what’s all this got to do with a small business and covid-19? A lot actually. I haven’t had a wage since Since February I haven’t run my shop or opened it in person since the second week of March and I am desperately trying to keep my business alive.

Now moved in with my parents and my newly turned 8 year old son for 3 months has had it’s toll and I am missing my shop so so much. We have found a house we are still waiting to exchange and get a completion date but we know where we are going. This meant I could look for a shop.

I had to look too as with my ethos and personal want’s the shop had to be accessible and welcoming for all. The first shop I found was perfect but it wasn’t totally accessible so I had to say no to it. Then the agent found it. The shop was perfect, the shop space was everything I needed, it had a store room, a toilet and a kitchen. The rent was within budget too so I took. Then the real cost came out once it went to the solicitors. The rent I was told didn’t include VAT, there was a service fee for the year to pay, the landlord would be passing on the building insurance costs too and I was expected to pay 3 months advance rent (this is normal im aware of this) so encouraged by others to start a go fund me to try and get these funds and keep the business going till I can open a shop was greeted with hate and abuse so that wasn’t going to work. I did have some lovely donations and I have kept them to put towards the new shops deposit.

I have now found a new shop in a lovely market town called Horncastle. It’s not as big as I would have liked but it’s accessible and has potential. I really can’t wait to get into it as I am missing it so so much. It doesn’t look like I will be in before mid October thogh so still a little while to go.

This brings me to how have I kept the business going during this time? It’s simple grit and determination is about it really. I have some amazing friends too who have allowed me to throw out ideas and they have helped me to fine tune these ideas and make them work.

First off was Christas in July. This was a surprise box full of Christmas delights including a knitting kit, chocolate, a Christmas DVD and lots more little goodies.

Then came the 80 day sweater along. Make a sweater eaither crochet or knit in 80 days and enjoy some fun in the chat group whilst we did it. Now there wasn’t a charge for this so I wasn’t making any more but the point of it was to keep my name in peoples minds and to keep me visible on social media.

Then was the go fund me as stated above.

Finally I seemed to have found something that people wanted and I let the Knit Lit boxes out. These are a different box every month witht the theme of a knitting book and a kit to knit with a drink too and sometimes other little trinkets. The idea was to have 6 months and all but 1 month sold out in the first week of release. The boxes vary in genre but they are all about knitting in some way or another. They post out the first week of the month and are nice as they are bringing a little bit of joy to people when they arrive and then they get the pleasure of reading and knitting. I limit these to 10 boxes a month but I will do more if their is demand for them.

Following on from the knit lit boxes I came up with the idea of the British Isle boxes. These like the knit lit boxes contain a kit but this time you can choose from Knitting or Crochet and the books vary hugely. The boxes are all themed around places in the British Isles and I have places to visit up to next September. You get a book normally written about the place we are visiting or at least based in it or the writer comes from that place. Then you get a treat from that place too for example a biscuit, you get the kit so yarn and needles/hook plus the pattern. The yarn may come from that area too for example shetland wool was in the box when we visited the shetland islnds this month.

The Knit Lit boxes ended in December and this led me to think what I can do next year. Well I am hoping that the shop will be thrieving and I won’t need to worry about finding ways to bring in some money to keep the business going but I have enjoyed doing the boxes so much that I will continue to do them and so I have come up with The Woodland Walk collection if you want more information on those you can find it here

Now these boxes have not only brought in a little bit of money to help keep the business open but they helped keep me a little bit sane and distracted from what’s going on. They are a joy to put together and find the places to visit and most of all the reading of the books. I can’t remeber the last time I lost myself in a book before I did these.

The next thing that I was able to do to help bring in some money and keep the business going whilst im not in a physical shop was the ability to open the online shop although in a very limited capacity as I am living in my old bedroom in my mum’s house and all the stock is in it with me too. It’s quite a sight to see and the term cardboard city has a whole new meaning.

For the end of the year we have the Layland shawl and the Bee things knit along. These are kits and lessons to learn new skills.

I know for some people the price of the boxes and the kits seems expensive but it’s not just about the contents when I price them it’s about sourcing the contents, paying postage fees, internet costs etc etc. I offer payment plans and I run a sponsorship scheme as I do want to make what I offer available to everyone even in these current times and struggles.

Keeping the business going since March has been a big struggle and I haven’t had a wage either so money has been tight. But I have been trying to do it and I will keep trying and hopefully when I get into the shop in Horncastle I will be able to build the business back up and it will survive. Welcoming all of you and continuing to support the communities that are under representad from LGBTQ+, BAME, POC and any one from a minority to the wonderful world of woolly goodness.

Because of Covid I have had to make changes to how and what I stock in the online shop and most of the stuff on the website is on backorder this is because I have to wait for people to order it so that I can afford to buy it in as I can’t afford to have stock sitting around at this time both in terms of the space it takes up and the money I have to pay out.

The next month is going to be hard we are moving house, I hope to get the shop and get it open but I need to find money for the deposit, mine and the landlords solicitor fees, and buy stock but with your continued support I am sure that I will be able to achieve it and keep the business going and survive this period.

In the meantime I would like to thank all of you for your support and for your trust and for keeping me going this far into a really crap year.

Below is the link to the boxes I have mentioned above in case anyone would like to sign up.