MOST ORDERS PLACED FROM NOW WILL BE POSTED FROM FRIDAY 2nd DECEMBER ONWARDS TO AVOID NEXT WEEKS POSTAL STRIKES. THANK YOU, Leah (P&O) xx

MY 2020

I have been meaning to sum up my 2020 in a blog for a while now, so I’ve dedicated some time yesterday and this morning to type my feelings for you all here. I wanted to talk about it from the perspective of an owner of a small business along with how it’s been for me personally- good and bad and everything I’ve done in between!
 
So, here goes…
 
In the middle of March, I remember hearing about the virus and chatting to my parents (and everyone else) about it. I work from ‘home’ but not from my home at all, from my parents house in the studio, so immediately didn’t want the virus to affect me being able to actually GO to work. The worry really kicked in when it became very realistic that I wouldn’t be able to go to work, people would lose their jobs and/or stop spending. I live in a pretty small house, bringing the studio home with me was going be a nightmare to say the least-if not potentially impossible. We also didn’t know how Piers would have to work or if he’d be furloughed, if my business would crash and fall overnight etc. At the beginning of the year, we also had big plans to move house at some point this year, which we basically wrote off because of all this. At first glance, it was basically all a disaster for everyone, and definitely in my world.
 
On the 23rdMarch, we saw the lockdown announcement and basically decided pretty soon that I wasn’t going to go to the studio anymore. I brought the basics home with me and set up in the dining room. I brought my envelopes to be able to pack orders, and a shelf unit worth of stock, pretty much one of everything. It wasn’t ideal and I had NO mojo at all to begin with. I wasn’t getting the orders like normal, I didn’t know whether to even go to the post office to take the orders I did have. I basically had no idea really what to do. Should I still do a summer launch? Will markets be on anymore this year? What’s gonna happen? Surprisingly, even though there was NO summer launch, and NO markets (still), little did I know how well I’d actually be able to adapt and what changes and fun was to come over the next months…
 
Thankfully for us, Piers wasn’t furloughed and was one of the seemingly few people who remained in pretty much the same position- going to work still every day. As much as we saw furlough and the positions other people were in and all the time they had, we were thankful every day for our slice of normality.
 
Throughout this time, we had our fair share of zoom chats, long daily walks, CONSTANT baking and a very bored barky dog out of his routine. I’m sure everyone did the classic lockdown things as much as us. I was also due to go away to Marrakech with my Mum, which was a trip we’d been planning for years (and here’s hoping we can do it in the not too distant future, eh). We tried new recipes and watched Netflix and I started reading a lot more, which I really enjoyed (and need to pick back up), but I still had to figure out how to help my business survive. I think I was probably a lotmore worried inside than I thought. I didn’t think I was stressed at all, but it was all so bizarre and new, I certainly had LOADS of worry under the surface about what was to come. I’m generally pretty good at staying positive, though, and that was a lifesaver.
 
I also soon decided I’d go back to the studio after a few weeks, it wasn’t working at home…
 
Here’s a timeline of what I did and how I adapted, and why it was better than I could have ever imagined:
 
  • The first thing to happen business wise was that the fabulous places market I take part in 3 times a year was cancelled. It went online and I set up a market in the studio. It went equally as well as I would have expected a real life market to go, if not better, and so that really boosted my positivity. People are still supporting small!
  • I decided to spend a week doing originals sketches and set a date for an originals sale, which again went amazingly well. I had to shut my website down to only what I had in stock so wanted to create more while I didn’t have my printer open!
  • Then, with the help of some friends with Photoshop skills, I decided to doodle some colouring sheets to release as downloads. Kids were home and adults were desperate for new ideas for activities. I produced 13 colouring sheets and sold them in sets, which I sold HUNDREDS of. It was incredible.
  • On the back of the colouring sheets success, I then decided to release some baking and colouring sheets It was recipes for kids or adults to bake and also colour with illustrations and bubble writing. Remember all the baking the UK did in lockdown?! Flour and egg shortages! Gosh, those days seem so long ago…
  • I then decided in any free time I had, to sell bouquet of flowers originals. I could do them fairly quickly and thought they’d be a fabulous idea for people to buy and send to a friend as nobody could meet up… They also went down a storm and I drew hundreds of flowers that week.
  • DOODLE ALONGS!Every day during lockdown, I did a live doodle along. It was really successful too, and so many people joined in. I absolutely loved that time.
  • As factories and suppliers started slowly opening up, I managed to release a few new productssuch as my water bottles and tote bags. My printer also started printing once a week for me so I could start opening my website up a little more too. This felt amazing.
  • Weekly window! Remember this?! I painted one of my designs on my lounge window once a week and you all loved it.
  • Paper doll downloads then came. These were even more popular than the previous download sheets, again showing the support for small businesses and how it’s so possible to adapt as a small business!
  • Then came the key worker print… I wanted to acknowledge the key workers and create an illustration to celebrate lockdown and everyone involved in all areas! This was the single most popular item I’d ever released. I pledged to donate half the price to NHS charities together and donated well into the thousands. You bought these prints on mass and it was one of the most proud moments of the year for me. I couldn’t believe it.
 
(At this point, me and Piers put our house on the market, the dream was very much BACK ON)
 
  • Bespoke slots were opened and snapped up
  • I released a nurse design for international nurses day, which blew up again.
  • I released positivity postcard packs. Something I knew would be popular in lockdown. It was compilations of the doodles I create for instagram complete with envelopes and great for positivity, sending to friends or pinning up as reminders. My printer worked hard that week!
  • Then came the big boys, the 2020 memories magazines. Something I dreamed up and created overnight. I was so SO passionate about having a little memory book to fill in, enjoy and look back on. I love creating magazines so this made so much sense for me to offer. I loved it and released it, not knowing it would take over as the most popular item I’d ever sold. Hundreds turned into thousands. The adult version came too. They are possibly my favourite ever product and still stand as that to this day. The thought of you all keeping and treasuring these for years to come really touches my heart.
  • A samples and seconds sale cleared my studio of stock
  • Another fabulous places market was super successful. And with my markets all being cancelled well in advance, I decided to start the ball rolling for a new website. It was something I’d wanted for a while and knew this year was the perfect opportunity as Christmas NEEDED a new website if it was all going to be online.
  • Lucky dips returned! Always a success, I wanted to make room for new stock that I’d been working on for a big Christmas launch.
  • Then FACE MASKS. I’d been putting this off for a month or so at this point, but decided to bite the bullet again and put some of my designs onto masks. I couldn’t believe the reaction to these and, again, sold hundreds.
 
After this point, some level of normality resumed slightly and we managed to go away for a weeks holiday, sold the house and bought a house, saw my Dad for his 60thBirthday, worked on oodles of Christmas stock and designs and cracked on. With all the support from the year I knew I could go big this Christmas
 
Then came my new launch, new website and here we are today! I’m so thankful for this year and how it’s helped my business to grow, helped my learn to adapt and enjoy the ride and trust the process… I honestly couldn’t have done it without the huge support from all of you. Anything is possible.
 
You are super. You are honestly super.
 
I hope you’ve enjoyed re-living my year, how much of it do you remember?! If you remember all of it, thanks for sticking around and keeping me so busy.
 
There are still lots of worries, lots of hurdles still to face and the very real worry of how this Christmas will shape up compared to a market filled busy season, but I have no doubt now that the support small business mindset is strong and will come first for so many people.
 
I hope 2020 has some positives for you too. And if you don’t think there have been any positives, dig deeper and there will be absolutely be reasons to smile.
 
Take care and enjoy the last couple of months of this mad year.
 
Leah x