After recent conversations with Angela Benjamin of Ange B Designs about our struggles and successes through the current pandemic, I invited her to share her time during lockdown.
Ask any small business owner and they will tell you the familiar tale of trying to keep lots of metaphorical plates spinning in order to balance the books. So the unexpected arrival of COVID-19 a few months ago brought with it an earthquake that sent all of those plates flying! Whether it was the closure of suppliers and premises (in my case, that meant the gym where I work as a physiotherapist), or the cancellation of orders due to events being postponed, like many of Natalie from Pretty Little Personalised wedding-related clients, these unplanned changes left many of us wondering whether our businesses would survive.
In addition to working as a physiotherapist in London, I design and make contemporary silver jewellery, which I sell via the online market place Etsy and I also have my own e-commerce website. Whilst pivoting my physiotherapy practice to Zoom consultations, I initially assumed that people would have more important purchases to consider rather than spending on ‘frivolous’ items like jewellery. I also didn’t want to add to the risks of transmitting (or catching) the virus by making regular post-office trips, so within a week or so of lockdown I made the decision to close my online shops.
I continued to make jewellery (luckily for me, my workshop is in my home) but it was more of a therapeutic outlet. However, it was after receiving a lovely email from a customer thanking me for “brightening up her day in these dark times”, that I began to think that maybe there was a place for my business in the current market. People buy jewellery for lots of reasons: birthdays, anniversaries or even just treats for themselves and those occasions still need to be acknowledged – even in the midst of a global pandemic!
In conversation with Natalie, it emerged that her customers also wanted to not only mark important events in their lives during lockdown, but they also wanted to share sentiments of comfort and love with family and friends who they may not be able to see in person for a while. Sending a card to someone who is living on their own or a funny personalised mug to a friend, may seem like a small purchase but in addition to what these purchases mean to small businesses, the emotional connections that they create should not be underestimated.
So whilst lockdown may not be the ideal environment for small businesses, it has been a time when we have had the opportunity to show that we can not only adapt but that we can also serve our communities needs, whoever they may be.