Today, my friend Lily and I said hello to each other, with smiles on our faces, but I knew that deep down we were both feeling the same... Tired, anxious and worried... We were both at an event, both unable to open our stalls to sell our goods, because of the terrible weather.
Having spent weeks preparing, working late into the night while we tried to fit everything else in (me, a 4 month old baby, a neglected husband, and an even more neglected pussy cat, and Lily, working SO hard on her degree), having spent our very limited funds on all our stock and marketing materials, and putting (for real) blood, sweat and tears into our businesses, we could do nothing other than smile, say hello, and pretend it didn't really matter.
Meanwhile, my husband was on his own at another event, giving up his day to represent the company - out in the rain. So I spent the day worrying about two expensive, missed opportunities.
I've been running my business for almost two years now, and it has been HARD work! I love every minute of it (maybe not at the time, when I'm having a meltdown trying to do something like link my website host to my email provider) but that doesn't stop me from sometimes doubting myself. You see, as a small business owner, you don't get an annual review with your Line Manager to steer you in the right direction, and you don't have a marketing team, or a sales department. You don't have an IT Manager, and you certainly don't work 9-5.
Yet it wasn't until today, looking at Lily, with the contents of my stall still in the car, that it really occurred to me just how much small business owners put into their product or service. And it's not just us - it's the unsung heroes too... our patient partners who watch us struggle while we learn new things, who load the car for us, and who don't mind having breaded c**p and chips for dinner, yet again ;-) and our supportive parents who listen to our struggles, or lend us money to make ends meet as we pour everything we have into our businesses.
I am guilty of using Amazon (because I'm frustrated at trawling around shop after shop to try and find something I can probably get cheaper online) and I am guilty of going to Costa (because they are everywhere, and it's easy) and although I do try hard to buy handmade gifts (or make them myself, if I'm not up until midnight working on a quote, or baking cakes for a booking the next day so they are as fresh as possible) I really could do a better job of supporting small and local businesses.
I have a little group of people that I've met through my business - all other small business owners. You'd think there would be competition, and secrecy, yet they are the most supportive, caring bunch of people.
So, as I cross my fingers and hope for the best with the weather tomorrow, I ask you all to try and just buy one thing from a small business - or even just compliment them on what they're doing (we love a bit of feedback!). I hope that Lily manages to sell every single hand-printed cushion she has made, and I hope that everyone at the show is REALLY in the mood for cake! otherwise, we have 34 cakes to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner...