April 15, 2020
Well, I don't think any of my wildest scenarios could have envisaged me writing this blog post! But here we all are.
How are you all doing? It's such a weird time isn't it, and I think we've all struggled to find a new normal for the foreseeable future. So, this is just a quick update from the team at Betsy Benn to let you know what our new normal is.
We thought for a long time about whether to have a break, how that would look, what kind of business we would come back to if we did and what our impact is on the other businesses we work with and our customers. For now, we are staying open, and here's why:
1. We have space and capacity to do so safely.
We're blessed with a really big space to work in! Above is a picture of the glorious Kyleigh Orlebar leading a papercutting workshop last year for nine people, and that's just one-quarter of the space we have to work in every day. Our core team of three could socially distance at a space of 10 feet every day without any problem at all!
We've tweaked a few practical aspects like propping doors open during the day to minimise contact with door handles; having a good wipe down of surfaces at the start of each day in the studio; washing hands more frequently of course, and we are actually only present in the studio on two non-consecutive days of the week.
This means that we don't post every day of the week now, but always on a Monday and then again on a Wednesday or Thursday depending on orders. To ensure this doesn't hold up your gifts for any longer, we've upgraded all post from second to first class.
2. We need to keep working.
Like many out there, we're a small independent company. Betsy is the founder and director and Catherine and Rachel are the only two permanent employees. Our income is totally dependent on Betsy Benn the company, not just now - we could probably survive one month of a temporary freeze - but in the future as well. Typically for retail, our biggest trading period is Christmas so we absolutely have to ensure that we are fully functioning and raring to go for Christmas 2020, which we are all already expecting to be quite different. Shutting up shop now would really damage our prospects for the rest of this year and the long term future too.
There's an argument to be made that the economy needs small businesses like ours to keep going too. Bleak economic news hit the headlines today about the UK (and the rest of the world) facing the worst financial crisis since the great depression of the 1930s and the UK debt forecast to hit 100% of GDP. That news didn't exactly have me dancing in my PJs over breakfast. But if the millions of small businesses like ours can keep going, keep earning money, keep paying our corporation tax and VAT bills, keep paying our suppliers and our staff - that's got to help keep the bigger machine running, right?
3. Birthdays and important life stuff - are still important.
Okay, we might not be sending out medicines and staple food items, but there's more to life than simply staying alive. Birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, news babies and all sorts of other important life events are still happening. Every day. Now, more than ever, we are reconnecting with who and what really matter to us. I've had more Zoom calls with far-flung friends and family in the last four weeks than the last four years! We're connecting more than ever in this new way, but we still want to connect in the old ways too - with gifts and expressions of love around the birthdays and anniversaries and life events that would have normally been celebrated in person. We've seen a peak in travel memories prints - isn't that ironic, but also sweet! No-one can go anywhere, but we're remembering when we could and seeing it with new - very appreciative - eyes.
While we're on the topic of gifts, we've also seen a big rise in the number of items being purchased as a gift and sent directly to the recipient. To make that whole process easier and a bit more special, we've added a question to check if your order is a gift order. If it is, we'll gift wrap it free of charge, except for framed prints and cushions, they are just too big and awkward to gift wrap properly!
4. We can actually help.
We have a pretty impressive laser cutter in the studio. It definitely doesn't run at capacity outside of Christmas - and we had been using the quiet time to make Christmas decorations. Then we saw that Cheltenham Hackspace were using their laser cutter to make PPE face shields for donation to the local hospitals, care homes and self-employed carers. The local schools were even 3D printing some - but we know how slowly 3D printers operate. So the Thursday before Good Friday, Betsy got in touch with James at Hackspace, on Friday we tested the materials on our laser and by the end of the day on Tuesday had made over 300 face shields.
This is the joy of small.
We can pivot (are you thinking of that scene with Ross and the sofa - you are aren't you?). And we can do it really bloody quickly. No drawn-out process of getting approval from a board of directors. No cost or risk analysis necessary to placate investors. We saw a need, we knew we could fill it, so we just did it. Thousands and thousands of businesses and individuals are doing the same everywhere you look. From volunteers shopping, to dog walking, to fundraising, to scrubs sewing, to mask making. It's beautiful, actually.
So, yes. We're still open. And we really REALLY value your continued support right now. Thank you.
Betsy and Team xx
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