Newcastle Photographer and Content Creator, Mandy Charlton, Always on a quest for adventure, often seen on buses, trains and planes. On a quest to be happier and healthier. Lives in Newcastle with her 3 cats, Iris, Maggie and Arthur. Loves good vibes, musicals and cakes. Full time professional wedding photographer in the north east of england alongside content creator on Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook

Monday, June 15, 2020

How to start a business in the middle of a pandemic

You might think that starting a new business in the middle of a pandemic is impossible, ridiculous and crazy but actually, times of crisis are very good times to start a business as you'll quickly find out if it's going to work!

I've started several businesses in the last decade, made lots of mistakes, had some really great success and learnt so many lessons.  Philomena's Boutique is probably the one I'm most confident about because of the number of transferable skills I've amassed over the years.

Philomenas Boutique Office, mandy charlton, newcastle upon tyne, how to start a business in the middle of a pandemic
The office we cobbled together at incredibly short notice, there's still a way to go but we're limited by a broken arm and several giant bears!

Some lessons from the first week - 

*Philomena's Boutique launched with only 27 lines and lots of them sold out in less than 2 days, by the middle of this week I should go over 100.

*Due to the number of giant boxes, you can only come to my house to make huge fort villages (may break lockdown rules so best not to).

*You can do anything with enough resilience and determination.

*It turns out that the things I like, lots of other people do too.

*I am dreadful at one-handed gift wrapping.

*I am also awful at judging what sizes packing boxes are, 3rd order of them arriving today.

*it's weird but wonderful to be working several hours a day again.

*Trying to make the world a better, lovelier place is at the heart of all of my business ideas.

*I do actually do a happy dance every time I get an order but I try to be restrained because I"ve already got one broken arm and I'm quite honestly a liability.

*You can't start a retail business with no money and it will take years for it to make a profit because it takes constant reinvestment and restocking but I was ready for that and thanks to Starling's bounceback loan and their belief in me, it's enabled me to do this, something I've wanted to do for years.

*The time for bricks and mortar retail is over, no matter how tempting it would be to have a real-life boutique.

*The way we shop has without a doubt changed due to Coronavirus and part of that change is that we are shopping more online and more locally which for me is a definite positive.

My theory about starting Philomena's Boutique is that no matter how bad life gets, we will always want small treats to make us, our families and our friends feel better, it's one of the reasons that Hershey's were successful when they launched in the great depression and it's a business lesson that has always been in my mind.  Photography is a luxury product and I still don't know what's going to happen with Mandy Charlton Photography but I do know that I'm not reopening until September.  That is, of course, more to do with breaking my arm than anything else.  It will give me the next 3 months to establish the boutique, spend some time with my girls over the summer and decide what happens in the future, I'm not giving up photography but I also can't return to living in the constant state of anxiety I felt for years, I was so anxious that I didn't even notice it until I wasn't anxious anymore if that makes sense?!

One of the biggest lessons to learn from lockdown is how much I lived my whole life just working, not going out, not being social and turning down all kinds of fun and dates with friends because I had to be so hyperfocused on my work.  Hopefully, that won't happen with the boutique as I have an office now, I can literally shut the door and walk away, there's a definite lesson in there about separating spaces in your home and if you can't do that, get some kind of space, even if it's only a co-working space.

If you have started a business during the lockdown, I want to wish you all of the love and luck in the world, it may feel like you've just got on a rollercoaster and believe me when I say, that's self employment all wrapped up in an allegory, so hang on tight, take care in the dips and raise your arms in the air, screaming if you want to go faster.

To support my writing I'd be thankful for a virtual cuppa

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