Zooming Through COVID
How lockdown built my social life and I started a business
I know there are tons of stories about how people survived lockdown, how they got used to Zoom and so on but I’m going to share my story anyway, because it’s my story and will just be that little bit different to anyone else’s.
As most of you know I suffer from poor mental health so I have long periods where making craft items is often the only thing I can do. I’d attended a few craft workshops run by Rachel from Beads by Verchiel so when she offered weekly Zoom catch ups I jumped at the chance. The opportunity to regularly connect online with crafters gave me a fixed point in the week where I knew I was going to connect with people that understood my need for multiple projects on the go or buying supplies and just admiring them for a few months.
Making New Connections
Through a Facebook craft group I also met a young teenpreneur and decided well if she can run a craft business so can I. I was also lucky to come across MIB International – Mums in Business, an organisation for Mums and women running their own businesses. This gave me the opportunity to network in a safe space with a group of like minded women and also access some fabulous mindset and business training.
I started sharing some of my products via Facebook and narrowing down to a few specific items – arm knitted infinity scarves because they are quick and fun to do, dish cloths and cashmere brooches because they fit in with my belief that if we all take small actions towards being environmentally friendly then between us we can make a difference. My final items are my hand embroidered brooches, a craft I never dreamed I’d enjoy but there is just something so satisfying about almost painting with individual beads. I also felt I needed to provide items across a range of prices to offer gifts for all pockets and tastes.
Learning and Mindset Changes
Through the support and training I was receiving through MIB I was really starting to narrow down on my ideal customer and start to develop a business not just a hobby where I sell the odd bits and pieces. This was a huge mindset change for me and not one I’m sure I’d have achieved if meetings had been in person. Being online allowed me to try out different groups across the country and find the ones that I felt a real connection with.
Staying Sustainable and Mindful
Whilst I’m certainly not an eco warrior I do like to feel I’m doing my bit. I’m a great believer in lots of small things add up to make a big difference. I buy milk in glass bottles, use a china, takeaway coffee mug, buy from a local butcher and small, local business where I can. I’ve written more about this is my earlier posts Upcycled Crafts and Sustainable Crafting.
Whilst just perusing the Internet, when my anxiety was at its peak, I came across a company who take cashmere items past their best and upcycle them into a range of accessories. They also do craft boxes, containing the bits of cashmere too small to do much with so it really is very eco-friendly. I treated myself to one of their brooch packs and just started cutting and sewing quite randomly in a naive style. It really is a very mindful and tactile craft. The cashmere is lovely to hold and work with, allowing me to create something very organic and almost unplanned in that mindful moment.
There is a repeating theme throughout my crafting that links with my anxiety, that I need to have an end goal in mind. Time needs to be ‘usefully’ spent but knowing how to spend that time can be paralysing so I end up actually doing nothing. That little box of scrumptious fabric scraps gave me something to just be creative with. Some days I’d just make a flower centre, others I could make whole brooches so I always felt that I’d achieved something.
Making Deeper Connections
Imagine my excitement, after the first lockdown to meet someone who runs a little gift shop and sells crafts made by people with mental health connections. I packed up some of my brooches, took a deep breath, ignored all those thoughts about how much better everyone else’s products were and took the plunge. And they all sold. Find out more about the fabulous work she does at No Labels.
I’ve also been very lucky to become part of the Heartizan Madmin team. Set up by Chrissie Lowery, Heartizan developed a community of crafters with their own selling platform, now Shophandmade. I’ve taken some of Chrissie’s courses to further hone my skills and have joined the team to help look after their social media presence. As well as meeting some like minded crafters it’s also helped me further develop my skills and confidence with social media. Believe me it is so much easier going live on someone else’s page compared to your own.
I found Dani through MIB Leeds and am proud to be one of the founder members of her Crafts for Success membership. Again I’ve learned and shared so much with people that before lockdown I just wouldn’t have met because geography would have got in the way.
I’m also very active in the Facebook group for my local Swindon MIB, attending virtual meetings, networking and offering support and sharing ideas. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can meet in person!
Some Final Words
It has been a very steep learning curve in terms of promoting and selling my items via social media without being too salesy. I’ve been very lucky to meet some inspiring women along the way that have really helped with things like mindset, not taking it personally when someone says no, but also equipping me with the various tools and skills needed. When I look back at how I talked about my products just a couple of months ago the difference is incredible. But , it’s been down to sheer hard work, taking advice, support and learning available to me but also taking action with what I’ve learned.
While my final words weren’t final! Just a couple of days after drafting this I had the opportunity to carry out a Meet the Maker interview live on Facebook. That is something I really would have struggled with doing face to face. Also, chatting, via Teams, to a colleague this morning we both acknowledged how much less stressful it is to join a meeting or training virtually than it is having to get yourself to an unknown venue, have coffee with people you don’t know then go through the tortuous ice breakers. Online will never completely replace face to face but when used sensibly can actually enhance and make life easier.
Share your positive experience of virtual meet ups below.