If you know the reference I am sure you are already humming along, if you don't its the TV classic 'Happy Days'. I am back with a second blog post with imposter syndrome in full swing, will I be more 1 hit wonder like Chumbawumba or than Bryan Adams, who knows, but I have never been one to let a little thing called fear get in the way of a good story.
Back in November 2019 whilst Sat in a gorgeous cafe called the Cotton Works (if you're not far from Derby it is definitely worth a visit), the windows steamy, the coffee hot and the table stacked with laptops, books and plans to bring an immersive interiors event for the second Interior Junction were well underway, It was big, it was bold, it was brilliant. This was all part of the Milk Home strategy, as part of Interior Junction we would exhibit at events in the Midlands, and beyond, and run a small webshop for the rest of the year. Having a demanding day job this seemed the most sensible approach, although you probably already guessed from my last blog (thanks for reading by the way) that I am not always known for taking the easy path. We had big names involved, support from key local businesses and a fully booked exhibitor line up.
Along came Covid.
With the savings pot now empty and a spare room full of stock we had a decision to make, our plans were no longer viable, but there were a few niggling doubts standing in the way of a new plan, some potential fundamentals missing, lets play a game of 'I have never"
I have never run a business before
I have never run a website
I have never done product photography
I have never been so terrified
I have never skinny dipped, not relevant but I got carried away with the game
Some more pragmatic folk may say I was foolish to go into business without the above, but I have always been tenacious and strong willed (pain the in arse). When I was 15 I went on a French exchange without ever having a French lesson, you can imagine how that went can't you, there was no Google translate in 1994. I go full steam ahead always, if I don't know something, I learn it. Of course within reason, I am not planning on become a brain surgeon anytime soon, although there are a few minds I would like to explore, but this no place to start a Johnson/Trump debate and right now my biggest challenge is the world of SEO. The mind boggles, its a vase, but don't call it a vase, create your own authority I am told, what does this even mean?
At the time when lockdown first went boom, I was lucky enough to be working full time, my day job busier than ever, I had only joined the company in December and was quickly thrown in to managing a team of 30 remotely, boy I have learned a lot this year. It felt wrong for me to continue advertising my business when so many were struggling, so I went into hibernation, I spent months with extreme guilt, I had used up savings to pursue my dreams and now with a room full of stock I felt sick. So I deleted my personal account, threw myself into work and decided to take some time out. My daughter was having her first baby which took us sometime to come to terms with so I went into full on mummy mode.
Then something happened (and not just a beautiful baby girl, she is totally adorable by the way and definitely gets her cuteness from me :)
I woke up, the blue skies returned
I felt grateful. Like many I have a lot to be thankful for and it took a lockdown to make me realise that. As the cycle of change throughout this pandemic continues we must step back, not everyone has had a positive experience so I tread lightly with my words. I have relished in spending more time with my family and friends, albeit virtually at times. We now have better conversations, we actually ask how each other are doing and more effort is made, albeit the weekly zoom calls and quiz nights, trying to get a word in edgeways did start to take their toll, but we were all trying and it felt good. Our fitness game was also strong, and not just for the first few weeks. Honestly at the start of this I have never seen so many people out walking, cycling and jogging, it was like the January gym boom, but where are they now? 100% Netflix or in the huge queue for McDonalds maybe!?
Its been 4 months since Milk returned to activity and this rollercoaster ride continues with no real view of when things will settle, so we have to live in the present day and deal with tomorrow when it comes. To take it step by step and open ourselves up to change even when it scares us the most. So what have I learned:
1. The acceleration of the virtual world - The world of virtual showrooms, virtual consultations and showrooms in vans, were in my opinion already part of our future, but Covid has accelerated this process by some years possibly. We have all been made to think more creatively about what we do.
2. Say 'yes' - to the right opportunities. When we say yes to everything we can stretch ourselves too thin. I have found myself saying yes to things just in case I stopped getting asked, crazy right? I was so thankful to Gemma of Jord Home for inviting me along to her Shop Small Market, this was a turning point for my business as prior to this I was seriously considering giving it all up.
3. Engagement - Not a new one I know, but lets think differently about how we engage. I have been part of socially distanced photo shoots with other business and we have all shared content. Other small businesses have sent products and with my amateur skills I have combined my products with theirs. Collaboration is powerful, more of this please.
4. Don't put all your eggs in one basket - Its easy to get complacent with Instagram, I am definitely guilty of this. The truth is it could be taken away from us at any time, does anyone remember My Space? We have to make sure that we can survive if this happens, which is why the final point is SO SO important
5. Pinterest and SEO - I am still working on this bit, but learn it, understand it, or seek help from those that do.
Who knows what the future holds? The new new, could become the newer new, the newest new, the future new and so on. We have to focus on what is happening right now. The way we buy products has changed, we can't stand still, can you remember what happened to Kodak, if you don't, Google it.
So with SEO Youtubes saved and a load of Reels to explore, watch this virtual space!
I would love to hear some of the learnings you have experienced so please feel free to share
Coming up next week is a Gift Guide for the Independents in the Midlands, making shopping easy just for you