Covid Rollercoaster - My Story

 

 

 

                

 

 

 

Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down. This last year has been a rollercoaster that never seemed to pull into the station.

 

I’m Freya, the owner of three small businesses, Story Imagin-ory, Baby Relax, and brand new venture Whistle Tot Lane.

 

Last March, I remember watching the news, convincing myself it was ‘Just the flu’. Everyone was over reacting, let’s just get on with it, why the panic? Then came the day I texted my staff mid-way through the day to tell them to stop what they were doing and close the doors. A team that had only been with me since January and had been training for the last several months. A team that had given up jobs to come and be with me. And only several weeks into a new career, it halted, and for several it ended.

 

The mixture of emotions, panic, fear, sickness. The overwhelming amount of emails from customers who were all feeling the same as me, and uncertain about the coming months. I remember sending out emails, thinking we would be back in 12 weeks, and begging people to hold their places and not leave us. Coupled with the guilt of what had happened with my team, although it was all out of my control.

 

The following 7 months were spent trying to push online content, watching the news daily to see if our sector could open, and try and work out if we could ever return safely. I was fortunate to have small grants from the government, but I mean small, not even cover your mortgage for a few months small, let alone food on the table, business overheads, and bills.

 

Our sector continually was left un acknowledged, politicians didn’t know who we were, or what we did. We were just lost.

 

We were allowed to open for a grand total of 7 week between October and Dec, with a lockdown in between. We had guidelines, not from the government, but from for profit bodies in our sector. No legislation at all. We genuinely had to find our own way through, with the fear of getting it wrong. Any income was immediately cancelled out by infection control measure costs, increased room hire cost (everyone was trying to claw back money) and sessions owing to customers from March. By Christmas, we were in exactly the same position we were in March. The January hit, and you know the story there.

 

I March, I decided to invest all my grants into a new venture – Whistle – Tot Lane. Parts of me think I am crazy, parts of me think I am brave. Maybe a bit of both. I feel sick most days, worrying if I have done the right thing, but only time will tell.

 

I honestly can say, I have never felt so emotionally and mentally battered by life. And I have had my fair share of ‘Life’. I felt worthless and struggled being a ‘kept woman’ by my husband (who by the way is amazing and worked himself into the ground supporting us) Home schooling sucked, and my long-term health conditions flared through stress. I would class my time between January and March as close to a mental breakdown as I have come.

 

We are now re open, and steady. Trying to keep our heads above water. But I have got to say, I just feel like I am getting ahead, when I get knocked down again. And I don’t know how much more I can take. My husband looks at me and says ‘is it all worth it’, and I cry nearly every day. But I know I will keep going, I have too, because I love what I do, even though the dark days.

 

I watch as other business owners make snide posts that are subtly trying to put us down or take business away from us (I see it, we all see it) and I wonder why people are so cruel in this current climate.

 

I honestly don’t know if I have any strength left, but I will keep going, because every time I see a child’s face light up, or see them joining in with a hello song, or a parent who is so appreciative of having a baby session to come to, so they can escape the four walls, it makes it all worthwhile.

 

Small business owners have had it tough, really tough. And it’s not a case of giving up and ‘finding another vocation’. We can’t, no matter how hard it gets, we can’t let go and admit defeat. We carry on, even though we are actually working for no income, as it’s cancelled out by low numbers, capped capacity, or closures because someone has had a contact with Covid, costing the company around £3000+ a time (seriously).

 

I don’t feel well at the moment, I think the mental health crisis that has come off the back of Covid is going to be catastrophic. But I am lucky to have an amazing team of Sam, Corinna, Sophie and Kitty who pick me up at every turn and make me want to keep going for you and for them.

 

So please consider your words, your actions and your support for all small businesses at this time. Lend them your patience, your heart and your business. I sit at my computer hour after hour watching to see if anyone is booking. Every time someone does it gives me a little glimmer of hope.

 

Freya x

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