The Maker’s Dilemma

There is really only one hot topic this week, and I suspect for weeks to come, and that is Coronavirus.  Having lived through other epidemics like SARS, swine flu and avian flu which were concerning (particularly when I was pregnant) but had minimum impact on my life or my family this one definitely feels different.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty relaxed in these situations and generally take the view in life that there’s not too much point dwelling on what might happen and missing out on life and the opportunities it brings.   Also, I happened to need toilet roll before the stock piling thing kicked off so had bought 16 rolls (economy in bulk right!) without anyone thinking I was crazy so no worries there.  On a side note, it’s weird that toilet roll is the thing we are most worried about if we should have to stay indoors for a fortnight.  However, this is having an impact on all of us right now and we don’t know how serious it might get.

From a business perspective, at the start of the year Sarah and I agreed that we needed to up our craft fair game.  We are grateful to the smaller local fairs that gave us a chance to practice our presentation, work out what stock was more popular, see who was buying from us etc. but if we want to make this a viable business we needed to gain more visibility.  We took a chance and applied for a few of the more high profile (and costly) fairs we thought might suit our work.  We were lucky enough to get accepted to some of them and have events scheduled in through the year starting at the end of March.

Kiln at capacity getting ready for fairs

Immediately we started working out how much stock we would need (lots potentially) and set ourselves a production target for February – April.  This is an exciting prospect for us so we have been merrily making lots of stock to be ready.  This week though we are wondering whether these events will go ahead, or even worse they go ahead but no one comes!  We need the sales from these events to at the very least cover the costs to allow us to continue out business as they have been quite an investment for us so this is a worrying time.  And our dilemma – do we keep making to be ready if fairs go ahead, or do we rein it in so that we don’t have piles of stock and no one to sell it to?  Tricky…

While we ponder this, and monitor the situation as it seems to change daily, I’m also looking at the positives.  Having a lot of stock ready, and potentially time on our hands if we have to minimise going out, means that we can really work on getting the website looking fab.   I have lots of ideas to try and increase visibility online that I haven’t had the time to commit to so this might be the time to do that.  Also, if people are looking for gifts and cards but are avoiding going to shops then maybe small independent business might be in a position to fill that gap.  This all sounds great unless they shut the schools and then I have two little people to educate and entertain without leaving the house – this might be the biggest challenge of all!!

We will not be the only small business that are worrying about this so if you don’t already, now is a great time to try and discover new makers and sellers.  Look on Etsy, search hashtags like #shophandmadeuk and #shopsmalluk to find exciting makers when you are looking for gifts for friends and family.  Take this opportunity to start shopping small and keep those businesses alive – I can promise you that every time you do there will be someone in their home doing a happy dance of gratitude.

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