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Running a Small Business During a Global Pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak has been a huge learning curve for me personally and as business owner

Wow, what a few weeks it has been... With the temporary closure of baby sensory classes, I have sent more sensory bags, sensory items and wooden toys out than ever from my tiny, little office/garage in sleepy Shropshire - but it hasn't come without its challenges. Although I expected this period of uncertainty to be one filled with lessons to be learned and hurdles to overcome, I could never have anticipated the fastest and biggest lesson in business coming my way!

These past few weeks have certainly been overwhelming at times but I am so, so grateful for all the lovely support and messages from customers/followers and it has been a hugely rewarding experience. Below I will list my top 5 lessons and what I've learnt from them...

1. Remembering why I am here, maintaining a work/mum-life balance

This has possibly been the biggest challenge for me and has made my days go from a normal working day, to a 12-14 hour day, consistently. With little Oscar like a tirade around the house and garden, a typical boy, and Daisy needing to be home schooled as well keeping her stimulated, has been challenging to say the least. The reason I started RSG was to enable me to spend valuable time with my kids while bringing in enough income to treat them to nice things; being around during their early years is the decision I made as a mother and I've had to continue to remind myself of that. Luckily for me, my husband has been on standby with the RAF for the past couple of weeks so has been able to offer childcare when I've needed to just shut myself in my office and get on with some orders. However, I make sure that while they are up and about, I am spending as much time with them as possible - creating activities for them, home schooling Daisy etc. I cook them their dinner, put them to bed and shut myself away in my office. For sure, this has made my days longer but I always wanted to be around for my kids as much as possible and it's important I continue to do that. 

2. "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail" - Benjamin Franklin

For someone who normally relies on suppliers to operate business as usual and postal services to run smoothly, this saying has never been more true. The announcement of the lockdown brought with it a tsunami of e-mails from suppliers saying that they were going to temporarily stop taking orders and stop dispatching them too. The coming few days would be a scramble to find alternative suppliers and I would need to place larger orders to act as a buffer incase of delivery delays. For me, it was very much a feeling of if and when my suppliers fully closed to the point where I would stop being able to offer my products. Luckily it hasn't come to this and I don't think it will *touch wood*... 

3. "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give" - Winston Churchill

The NHS is an organisation that I will forever be thankful for. Without the amazing work of the brilliant nurses, doctors and other NHS staff in my local hospital, my beautiful Daisy would almost certainly not be here today. Because of this, I have always held our National Health Service close to my heart but the COVID-19 outbreak has only made my love grow more, together with the rest of the nation. After reading some harrowing stories of front line workers, what they've seen, the hours they're working, the conditions they are having to work under and the families they are unable to see, I needed to give back in whatever small way I could. As a small attempt to give back I offered out 20 random gifts free of charge to NHS workers which were warmly received and I received so many heartwarming photos of little ones playing with the gifts I sent to them. Further to this, £1 from every May story sack will be going to helping the NHS in some way and thanks to incredible support from everyone, £100 will be donated which I hope will go a tiny way to helping the unbelievably selfless people we have keeping us safe during this terrible time. 

4. "The only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks" - Mark Zuckerberg

For those of you lovelies who have followed my RSG journey over the past couple of years will hopefully have seen a change in the business over that time, but no more than in the past few weeks. I would probably describe myself as a risk averse person and with suppliers shutting down around me, I was ready to wind it down and restart when normality resumed (whenever that may be!). However, in very un-Katie-ish style, I decided to bulk buy and go for it. Not only did I bulk buy and go for it, but I also decided to try and source new ranges and products to offer to the people who have stuck with me and supported me the whole journey, you, my customers and followers. So much of the decision making was done by you, polls and suggestions helped me decide what I would try to offer and as a result of that, I stumbled across one of RSG's biggest success stories, Little Dutch. I have already written a blog post on Little Dutch so I won't go into it too much but as soon as I saw it, I just had to stock it. Their pastel colours, FSC certified wooden toys with their educational play value aplenty, it was a no brainer and you guys went mad for it. I guess what I'm trying to say is that without this leap and without your help, I wouldn't have been able to offer the huge expansion in products and ranges that RSG has seen recently, so for that I am massively thankful to you all. 

5. "Difficult times often bring out the best in people" - Bernie Sanders

There is no other way of putting it, I have been overwhelmed by the support and kind messages from customers and followers. In fact, I still find it a bit uncomfortable referring to RSG customers as just that because customers rely on a business to operate and it is simply a stale transaction. I am very aware that for me, it is the other way around. I feel I know so many of you so well and see you as more of a friend than a customer. Often, when I am pulling my hair out at Royal Mail not delivering quickly or a supplier taking a while to dispatch stock, I get amazing support and strength from you all. Without you guys, this journey would not be worth it and I absolutely adore seeing your photos and receiving your messages. I could not be more thankful to you all for your understanding and encouraging support.

Katie x 

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