Running a small business during COVID-19
I’ve been a bit quiet on social media the last week while I’ve been trying to process what is going on in the UK and the rest of the world. My mind is full of how Coronavirus will affect us as individuals, our community, small businesses, the economy and well, I know this will sound dramatic but life as we know it.
Running a small business is tough. Here at MAiK, I am a one-woman band, but I also have the help of a wonderful freelancer to help me with my social media and an amazing fulfilment warehouse who hold my stock and send out the orders. With their help, I can run the rest of the business single-handed.
2018 and 2019 were tough years for lots of small businesses; with the high street struggling and the uncertainty of Brexit, sales were lower than expected. When you work by yourself and your sales are down, you have a tendency to panic and wonder if its a problem with the brand, the products or the design. I am lucky to have surrounded myself with lots of other small business owners and on those dark days where I feel alone and worried about sales, it is a blessing to be able to check in with my friends to find out how their businesses are doing.
For MAiK, 2020 started off really well. The sales were up on the previous 2 years and I had decided to start offering wholesale again after receiving requests from new and existing stockists. I also have a very exciting collaboration in the pipeline that was due to launch on the 19th March but we have now decided to postpone. All in all, I was feeling incredibly positive about 2020 – this was looking like a big year for MAiK.
As well as it being a big year for the business, it is a big year for me. My first baby is due in April and it has been quite the journey, learning how to run the business and at the same time as navigating a tough pregnancy. I have been nervous about what is going to happen in April when the baby arrives and trying to get as much work and preparation done as possible but generally, I have been feeling really positive about running a business and having a baby. I've been inspired by some amazing women who are totally winning at running a business with a newborn; Rosie Davies-Smith from PR Dispatch and Nina Falk from Kalopsia, I am talking about you! The one thing that I wasn’t prepared for and no one could have seen is Coronavirus.
Initially, I found myself reading about what was happening in China and thinking that we were probably safe from the virus here in the UK but very soon I became increasingly aware of the impact it was already having on e-commerce businesses and brands that manufactured their products in China. I started to see more and more posts on business groups from people who were struggling to get their stock as the factories were closed. I was momentarily grateful that my products were made in the UK and Europe, but that didn’t last long.
In the last two weeks I, like everyone else, has watched Covid-19 take hold across the world and turn life, as we know it upside down. The effect on us has been profound; people are dying, the economy is contracting, businesses are failing and people are losing work. It is and will continue to affect everyone from all different walks of life.
I’ve had lots of interesting conversations over the last week and most people I speak to are wondering how seriously should we be taking it. Should we self isolate, should we stop seeing friends, should we cancel dinner plans or stop eating at restaurants? At 35 weeks pregnant, these thoughts are constantly going round in my head as I am not just worrying about myself but also my unborn baby and I still have no idea what is best to do.
And then my head moves to business and all small business owners. Running a small business is tough and this has added yet another layer of uncertainty and worry. I will be completely honest and tell you that my sales have pretty much stopped; I have been joking with my friends that people are too busy spending their money on buying loo roll to buy socks and placemats but this is just to mask the fear that I have for my business and income.
With the sales trickling to nothing the obvious thoughts take over; Will the business survive? Will I have enough money to pay my invoices and freelancer? What is going to happen when the baby arrives if no money is coming in? All of these thoughts are going round in my head and there are no answers. The only thing I can do in this situation is to try not to panic, keep calm and try to ride it out.
At the moment my business is still running, as usual, if a sale comes in the order will go out. But is this same for my friends and stockists with bricks and mortar shops? Are people shopping for anything aside from hand sanitizer and dried pasta?
I have mainly talked about e-commerce and brands but this is affecting my friends in all industries. In my previous career, I worked in French ski resorts and on Saturday at 10pm all the ski resorts were shut; the ski lifts are not going to run for the rest of the season; bars, restaurants and all non-essential shops were closed. This happened hours after thousands of holidaymakers arrived in resort. My heart goes out to my friends that run bars and restaurants, their businesses are shut and they do not know when they will open again.
Friends who are artists, speakers and yoga teachers have had their talks cancelled, their exhibitions postponed and their classes are empty. They make a living through speaking, exhibiting and teaching in front of people. There is no indication when they might be able to resume their work.
I have seen lots of inspiring posts from people about what we can do during this quiet time, whether it is rebuilding your website, learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby. There are also wonderful humans out there who are sharing their skills and knowledge to help people, such as the amazing Briony Cullin who is sharing a 'How to do your own SEO audit' to a Scottish women's business group.
I've been thinking a lot about what we can do to help ourselves, small businesses and our community and below I’ve listed my top tips that will hopefully bring a little joy to ourselves and those around us in this uncertain time.
FIVE TIPS TO BOOST OUR MORALE
- Take up a new hobby - I am painting and I have found some amazing teachers on YouTube!
- Upskill: there is a whole world of online courses out there – Udemy is my bible.
- Hygge your house: if you are going to be spending a lot of time at home, make sure it is a lovely place to be. Lucky Cloud has some beautiful candles and she is offering 25% off.
- Get cooking – break out your favourite recipes or make yourself some healthy food! We have a whole load of sweet and savoury gluten and dairy free recipes on our website – I made the Lemon Drizzle cake which has provided some much-needed joy in the afternoon with a cup of tea.
- Meditate – take some time to look after your mental health and switch your mind off. I am a big fan of Headspace and I also bought it as a gift for my husband… 'the gift of zen’ as I call it!
FIVE TIPS ON HOW TO SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESSES
- Buy from small businesses – don’t forget that online shops are still open and will ship direct to your door.
- Promote small brands on social media – give them a shout out and share their beautiful wares.
- Shop local – if you are able to, do your essential food shopping at your local butchers, bakers and fishmongers, rather than the big supermarket chains.
- Skillshare with small business owners – if you have a skill you can share, perhaps set up a Facebook Live, IGTV or offer a downloadable course.
- Get involved in online exercise classes and talks. Contact your yoga teacher and see if they are able to offer their services via video.
THREE TIPS ON HOW TO SUPPORT PEOPLE AROUND US
- Wash Your Hands. It is so simple but it can save lives and remember not to touch your face when you’re out and about.
- Check on vulnerable people (but be careful to minimise physical contact). Do you have elderly or disabled neighbours? Ask if they need any help or groceries. Are there local food delivery services being set up that you can volunteer for?
- Keep in touch with friends and relatives. We may be far away from people we love or we are not able to see them as we are in isolation so pick up the phone, jump on Skype or send them a card. Hearing a familiar voice or reading a text from someone you love is the ultimate morale booster.
And finally what’s happening here at MAiK? The online store is open and orders will be processed as usual. If anything changes with our warehouse or couriers, you will be the first to know.
I am at the end of our emails, so any questions or queries you have, I am here to answer.
And for UK customers we are offering free shipping on all orders from now until the end of March. Use the code ‘FREESHIPUK’ at checkout.
Thank you for supporting MAiK, small businesses and freelancers during this time.
Ps – don’t forget it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday!