Fundamentally I love running a small business. I don’t have a horrid boss; I am the boss. The holy grail of every working mother, flexible working is mine for the taking, I get to ALL the school events, even the ones I’d rather side step. Most importantly though, I LOVE what I do. Designing and making jewellery and teaching others to do so, is my dream job and I am grateful every day that I get to make a living this way. BUT there are challenges and currently those challenges are, well…challenging.
We’ve come through an incredible time in history, Brexit, COVID19, even the death of the longest standing monarch felt like a significant event that stopped the world for a time. We have been battered and bounced off one huge hurdle only to be battered and bounced again immediately afterwards, before we’ve even caught our breath, like a modern day ‘It’s a knockout’ but without the funny costumes.
After Brexit, when a huge hike in the price of precious metal and the loss of the free trade agreement essentially killed off the sales we used to make into Europe. We battled through lockdown and COVID19. As two business people my husband and I saw our income streams freeze, with the first lockdown announcement. My classes stopped dead and my photographer husband saw his diary empty before you could say ‘please don’t shut the schools’. When homeschooling began, my role as ‘jewellery teacher of enthusiastic adults’ transformed into ‘I-have-no-idea-what-a-fronted-adverbial-is, reluctant home school teacher of 3 bewildered children’. I hope you spotted the fronted adverbial there? I know what it is now, a small win from a tough time.
So here we are, a massive increase in the cost of living means that money is tight for everyone. Jewellery is a luxury in anyone’s book. For my small business though, it has been an odd and uncharacteristic 6 months, because of my success on the BBC2 competition/talent show TV series ‘All That Glitters’. I saw a huge response to my business in the last 3 months of 2022, at a level I had never experienced before, the power of the small screen is not to be sneezed at my friends.
I had a very strong Christmas, I have grown into a bigger studio space and now teach about 50 people a week to make jewellery (and they don’t care to learn about fronted adverbials, thank goodness). This surreal time has skewed my perspective of normal but as I emerge from this temporary bubble, I am not and never will be complacent. Our bills have shot up and the prices of our tools have increased, doubled even. All this at a time when customers are feeling the pinch and are ever more mindful of their spending. With my fancy new (expensive) studio, I am concerned.
I have to say though that as a mother, with three primary school aged children there is nothing that presents an larger obstacle to the success of my business, than the lack of affordable and flexible childcare. As someone who has been in business for 23 years and has had the need for childcare for almost half of those years, the limitations of my childcare arrangements has had me either working short and therefore unproductive days, or basically working to pay for childcare.
This is not a new problem, nor an uncommon one, but it is such a far reaching and important issue that affects so many parents in this country that I cannot possibly entertain writing this article without addressing it. So I sign the petitions and I attend the marches and I am fully behind Stella Creasy, Mutha Pukka and Pregnant then Screwed and their campaigns to have childcare labelled as an ‘infrastructure’ as important as roads, to our ability to work. To encourage governments to support childcare and employers to support flexible working. Until we have that in place we are not just climbing a mountain on the way to success, we are looking up at the mountain and starting the climb without the right footwear or even a decent parka. We are trying to get to the top and back down by 3 o’clock and praying that no one vomits in the classroom when we are halfway there. We are shouting in the wind at the summit asking for help and no one is listening.
We are lost opportunities and stunted development. We are not superheroes, mumpreneurs or wonder woman, we are bloody drowning and when you add that in to the current financial pressures it is an absolute miracle that we are still in business at all. As I look forward to the next few years I am concerned for the cost of living, I worry about my heating bills at home and at work, I have a shower, never a bath, but mostly I look forward to the time when my children don’t need childcare after school, I have about a decade to go.