6 Weeks in at the Deep End!

So here I am writing my second blog from the chaos of our kitchen. It’s a Sunday morning and the kids are wearing as much as they have eaten. It’s been 6 weeks since my last blog, 6 weeks in at the deep end. So I thought I’d post an update of what’s been going on. I’ve had many uncertainties, hurdles I’ve had to overcome, reduce or set aside to be tackled at a later date.

My first blog post was written during necessary self-isolation as our youngest had an abnormal temperature. This was the Sunday before national lockdown began Tuesday, with isolation being as much a mental state as physical. There was panic, fear and questioning my life decisions to run a business, with the potential catastrophic financial implications. Every event had been cancelled, and 95% of my site work booked was a big no-no. I quickly realised that my mindset must change, otherwise this scenario could become reality by my own doing.

So, after running a half marathon outside my house one morning, it was time to set to work. With the help of my wife and friends it was time to get tech savvy and stop being a luddite! The first port of call was my website. I had to learn to use WordPress, plugins and all the other things I thought were above my skill set. With help from Kathryn, Pete and Phil the website underwent huge changes (more to come). I even wrote and published my first blog! This was not the end, I also pushed the use of social media more than before and some targeted marketing was put in place (you’ll hear about that later).

Can markets carry on virtually?

During this time, I received an email from Jane, the organiser of the Treacle Market about a virtual market they were setting up on Facebook to help businesses through the current chaos. This was huge success and some orders started to come in. The Market Co opened up their online store called Artisans Online, which I started to list some items on too. As another way to gain some sales, I also hosted my own online market. It was a little chaotic but with the help of friends and family sharing the event and some targeted Facebook advertising using a meagre £15 budget, it was a success and a weeks worth of work came in by the end of that day alone.

Virtual Sunday market
Markets in a Virtual World

Orders but no materials

Now I had orders to fill. I introduced social distancing measures around work to protect both my clients and myself. I was up and running but a worry loomed, one that is still present even today. – Sourcing materials. 

After calculating my wood stocks, my prediction was that I had enough materials to keep me going for just 4 weeks, and that was a liberal estimate. I finally found a supplier that would deliver the materials I needed, however the next day my relief was replaced with worry as I was informed the the supplier was out of stock. With no advance warning, 5 days later a pallet arrived with 120 litres on it! Phew! As most others did, to guarantee my timber supply I ended up buying twice the amount that I normally would. Fortunately arriving promptly, since I had ordered in advance of distribution centres reopening (albeit on skeleton staff). Some stock is still hard to come by but I ensure that my customers are informed of any delays and progress in sourcing stock.

So how do I feel about the future?
Short term, I have joinery work ahead of myself and I’m doing my best for all my customers, who are being wonderful by sharing my work, recommending my services and being supportive in these difficult times. In the long term, business reach has expanded through the use of Facebook, Instagram and my new website, but there is still much to do with networking on Zoom, as well as other small businesses supporting each other, offering advice and an insight which someone from outside their work bubble can see.

Be kind, be supportive and shop with small and family businesses. 

-Ben

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