My story written on 29th January 2022 (part two)
When I honestly think about it - I was going through the worst time of my life since trauma many years ago. I was experiencing the trauma again but with an experienced counsellor to guide me and ensure I used my grounding techniques. I was frightened. But she did know how to keep me safe and had measures in place to advise my GP if necessary.
I cannot believe I started my business from that place. That was 2020.
I have a lump in my throat and that stinging feeling in my eyes. Hell, if a mate told me this, I would be bursting with pride/admiration, etc.
It is none of that because it is normal for me. I feel like I am pooping on my joy here at what I have achieved. But for example, in my day job, with a lovely manager, I felt like I was having to use all my strength to fight, to work from home. I am sure it was not fun for my bosses too, attending return-to-work meetings. It felt like some of the meetings were like police investigations.
I was repeating myself often as I was requesting to work from home and change my hours. I had to remember legislation, to help me, like the Equality Act. I had to keep explaining about trauma, depression, and anxiety, which made me feel worse. I was told I could take a break at any point during formal and informal meetings.
I felt like there must be a substantial change in policy for supporting staff recovering from mental health illnesses. When I was well enough, I would contact ACAS and Macmillan for work support. My lovely workmate Nic accompanied me to work meetings too. That made it less scary.
I remember being scared to get out of my car and walk to the building at work. I think Tasha, my boss, must have known this. She offered to meet me at my car. I will always remember her intelligence, empathy, and kindness. She was a special kind of manager - a good one. It ***** me off sometimes that I gradually hated my job, got depressed, and wanted to leave because it was not the worst job in the world. However, it made me unhappy.
Back to now - I am the happiest I have ever been. I wrote that last year or the year before. Right now, I am stressed about my housing situation. I am renting and I totally get why my dad's face dropped when I said I was starting my business and leaving my job.
However, in November 2020, I was worried that I would lose my job anyway because my job relied on pubs and restaurants being opened, and hospitality had shutdown, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Redundancies were being made. I was told my department should be okay in December 2020, but they did not know about January 2021. I took voluntary redundancy. That was the hardest decision ever. I weighed up all the options and still could not decide so I tossed a coin. Heads, I stay, and tails I leave. It landed on tails, so I left my job.
Skip back to August 2020, I built my website and then launched it on the 21st of August 2020. My sister suggested having a Zoom launch party. I was so nervous. I did not want to. It seems like an awkward thing to do at the same time as making my website live.
I am so glad that I did have a launch party. My friends and family joined me, and I celebrated with a big glass of gin and tonic. This was still in the middle of lockdowns in the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If I remember correctly, it was not possible to meet in person because of the risk of catching or spreading the virus.
My First Instagram Post
I posted my first feed post to Instagram for Pink Lime Mango. It took me three hours. It was a carousel post. I carefully checked that I had credited the photo. I had spent ages trying to find the original photographer of the image and failed.
It is important for me to credit photographers. My son and sister are photographers. I was just trying to do what I thought was correct.
The post had an image of my first slab based on the colourful houses in Bo Kaap South Africa. Plus, the caption introduced me, my brand, and informed people of the date my website opened.
I remember this felt like an important first post. I wanted it to be perfect. It was important for me to write down how long it took for me to post to Instagram because I wanted to see improvement there. Well hurray, it takes me less than three hours to post now. I have even managed to schedule a month's worth of content at once on Facebook and Instagram. That was to publicise the Status Collection. Since then, I have learned it is boring to only post product photos!
My first ever jewellery sale as a grownup (I am not counting my very first business as a 14-year-old selling goth brooches to her school mates)
I was nervous, I had put in all this effort into making jewellery, building a website, and branding, and what if no one bought anything?
Thankfully, I had my first sale from my sister. I loved packaging up her order. Plus, I hand-delivered it to her because she was visiting family in Bristol at the time. It was lush to see her face as she opened her order. Gradually my friends and family began ordering from me. I was so happy. Then I got my first stranger order. I was buzzing.
A hell of a lot of learning
I have been working on my business, branding, posting regularly to social media, updating my website, learning new polymer clay techniques, improving the quality of my earrings, prototyping, testing new resin earrings, and attending workshops. I have done a hell of a lot of learning, and I continued to do so. For example, product launches, learning how to build hype, learning Photoshop (again) for product photos this time, learning about stop motion, time lapses, and reels on Instagram. There is so much. I will list it when it does not risk overwhelming me. Finance, pricing calculations, costing…
The experience of trading at my first market stall
In 2021, I set myself the goal of having a market stall. I was anxious about being around people generally because of the COVID-19 virus so I achieved my goal of having my first market stall. It was nerve-wracking but also rewarding because of the direct feedback from people. I remember my son helped me set up my first market stall which I was grateful for because I was so anxious.
Visitors loved my jewellery. They thought it was beautiful, unlike anything they had seen before, joyful. They said their friends would love this or this is right up so and so’s street. I loved hearing the comments. When I made my first sales at my first market, I could not believe it. People were willing to spend their cash on something I had made! They loved it enough to spend their hard-earned cash on it. I felt panicky and tearful after one of the big sales of my favourite pair of earrings. I also felt sad to lose them but glad they went to a lovely home. Like a pet. I was so emotionally attached to certain pieces back then.
Selling to a shop
I have sold to a shop too. It took me a long time to be confident enough to approach shop owners. My gut feeling was it was too soon. I thought I was not at the right standard yet. However, my friends and family kept pushing me. The first shop I approached said no they could not stock me as they already had a polymer clay jewellery supplier. The second shop I approached bought 8 pairs of earrings from me straight out. Thanks, Angel, for pushing me out of my comfort zone, to go into a shop again and just ask if they would like to stock my jewellery.
I appreciate those gems that give people like me a chance. I am happy the shop that accepted my jewellery was ethical and sustainable and not a big chain.
Why I run my own business, my parents, racism, and values
I am running my business for selfish reasons to help me and my family. I want to be able to afford quality healthcare for myself and my family. That is my goal. I come from a background of my parents teaching me to give when I have little because of the poverty they experienced and have seen in the Philippines and Mauritius. The happiest people are not necessarily the financially rich. I am sure there is a better way of saying that. I looked at the shop owner blankly when she said she usually stocks small businesses that support charities.
In the beginning, I used Coke cans as cutters because I could not afford the proper tools.
I want to be able to give back some of what my parents gave to me. They both came here to work as nurses in the 1970s. They worked hard and experienced racism. At one point they had nowhere to live, with two small children. They were being turned away from B&Bs even though there were vacancy signs in the windows. When the landlord saw their faces, they said no. Racism. They had to deal with that. So yes, I am determined to give back to them. They have cared for me their entire lives, selflessly, and unconditionally (of course I do that for my son too) They do not need to continue doing that now, but they still do.
I felt angry at a shop owner telling me she only normally stocks companies that are charitable, sustainable, and ethical. I do not understand why I am angry. She does not know me or my story. I can see she was being kind - taking a few of my pieces as a one off. She did not need to take my products to sell. She liked them and thought she would sell them. She did tell me she would not make much profit as she must pay VAT.
I cannot budge on my pricing. It is already low as ****, to be honest. I calculated what I should be charging, but it was too high, compared to what other polymer clay jewellery makers are charging, so I had to knock 40 pounds off. So yeah, no discounts. I am not even paying myself a wage yet.
I do not want to make multiples. I want to produce one-off statement pieces. I want a high-end brand. So yeah, selling to shops is not that clear-cut to me. I want to sell directly for now.
I want to choose which shops I sell with in terms of their ethics, fun-ness, and values. I look at great companies like, Innocent who are now owned by Coca-Cola. There is some hope there though because Innocent still maintain their values and morals. So, my morals are misplaced in business. It is about making money. I am not going to pretend otherwise. I need to pay the rent and bills.
Thoughts on charity and future plans
A few months prior to starting my business I sought help with budgeting. The woman who looked at my income and expenses noticed one of my monthly expenses was a donation to charity. She informed me that I should not be giving to charity when I could not afford to. My expenses were more than my income. I no longer received sick pay and had no income until my benefits came in. I was given food bank vouchers. My belief of sharing what little you have was being tested here.
Fast forward 10 to 20 years. I am earning enough so I can afford to pay the bills and then I can give to charity. Yes, I could give to charity now, but do I need to tell anyone? I could just do it quietly and not use that as a lever to push my business forward. Ethics and morals? Is this the wrong place for them? It is good to have values and standards to work from.
Anyway, where was I? Made some sales, sold to shops, and did markets. I am here now. After a floaty few months of bliss trying out craft fairs and selling in a high street shop. I did not sell as many as I thought. I am reassessing what I need to focus on next.
I plan to focus on driving traffic to my website, but I also know I am selling better at craft fairs right now. My initial thoughts about only focusing on one thing “website sales” are being questioned. That does not make sense. Focus on what is giving me revenue.
I have so many plans to implement, it is crazy, email marketing, Pinterest, and blog writing that is the start.