5 years on…

1827 days ago, on Friday 17th July 2015, I walked out of the office for the final time with excitement and trepidation of what my ‘new’ life would hold.

Fast forward those five years and there have been ups and downs and I’ve reflected a few times 2016, 2017 and 2018.

It’s safe to say that the last few months of the past year have been the hardest so far…

Running a small business is extremely rewarding, but also very hard work. There’s nothing quite like the added challenges of a pandemic to test how adaptable your business model is, and how flexible and open to change you are as an individual.

If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be. Quote from Maya Angelou

One of the advantages of being a small business owner is if something isn’t working, or needs amending, you can make changes or try something new fairly quickly. But, you need to be open-minded enough to do it and work out the financial costs too.

This path I chose for myself means I don’t get sick pay or paid holidays. In the current landscape, I also don’t qualify for the furlough scheme, can’t claim Universal Credit, and certainly don’t want to be saddled with the burden of paying back a Government grant. This is why being adaptable is key.

I know that I’ve been one of the lucky ones by being able to keep some things running. This is just one viewpoint, the one from my perspective.

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I’ve gone from teaching multiple face-to-face classes each week, supporting a fellow small business owner by holding the majority of them in a local independent cafe, to running online classes with postal project kits.

Thankfully, we were lucky enough to already have everything I needed to quickly set up a makeshift home ‘studio’ and start running classes again within a week. Lots of things were (and still are) being tweaked and refined, and planning has been ‘interesting’. Rather than sorting multiple class bags and heading off to teach, I now prepare individual craft packs, take walks to the postbox and look at people on a screen. I also have a love/hate relationship with ZOOM!

On the other hand (pun intended), my mobile nail technician business is not going anywhere at the moment. After taking a few months off nails, I had planned to relaunch around Easter. And we all know what we was happening then!

To fill this ‘gap’, I launched ‘Stitched, by Karen’, making items other people need, starting with face coverings. This new strand to HIPPOFROG Designs is something I can do on my own, without having direct contact with others.

 

Just because it's handmade, doesn't mean it's cheap

 

When looking for a skill or product to meet a need, most people will go with the cheapest option. Often, this rules out small businesses as what is offered isn’t normally comparable. We can’t offer huge discounts like the chains, don’t have the buying power of larger companies, and aren’t able to offer regular free incentives or special offers.

We are, however, offering handmade, unique and bespoke items that take time and effort to produce, using skills that have taken years to build. Or we’re providing services that require a lot of initial and continual training. Don’t forget that you also receive a more personalised level of customer service too as you’re not just a number.

We, like all businesses have overheads, from base materials, tools and equipment, training, public liability insurance, etc. We also need to be able to work for an hourly rate that is at least the minimum wage.

Please don’t say that something is ‘too expensive’. It’s a fair price that has been calculated for what is being offered. It’s just more than YOU are willing to pay for it.

I’d love to be able to offer things for free during these uncertain times, but I can’t pay the bills with ‘free’.

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Even with the uncertainties and challenges during these 5 years, I still don’t regret my decision to leave and am happy running a small business doing things I love.

Some things are still constant, such as not liking doing my tax return and always ending up putting it off until January each year. Even with spending more time at home, it’s not been top of my list of things to sort out!

The Boss is still a bit demanding, but I manage to keep her happy with regular gifts of chocolate!

On a more serious note, without the support of a lot of fabulous people, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

So a huge THANK YOU to YOU – family, friends, customers, clients, class attendees, team members, the lurkers (yes, you!), and everyone else who has supported my various ventures during these 5 amazing years.

I look forward to the next (hopefully slightly less eventful) 5 years!

If you’ve made it to the end of this rather long post, thank you for taking the time to read it!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading back to my craft room to create some pretty things…

Happy crafting

Karen Young HIPPOFROG Designs

Play, Pause or Stop

This is a rather lengthy post, but I wanted to share what has been happening in the world of HIPPOFROG Designs since social distancing began, and also some news on my future plans.

Since the Government restrictions for the pandemic started, I, like many small business owners, have been looking at ways to keep things running where possible, and/or how to re-start after abruptly having to push pause. It’s been a case of PLAY, PAUSE or STOP.

As you know, HIPPOFROG Designs has a few strands, with my 10 years in business as an Independent Stampin’ Up! Demonstrator, and more recently the Mobile Nail Technician side.

For the Stampin’ Up! side of the business, I’ve been lucky enough to keep things going by moving classes from face-to-face to online.

There has been a lot of hard work behind the scenes to put everything together so quickly, and it’s safe to say I’m on a VERY steep learning curve. However, I’m taking these learnings and making little adjustments all the time.

It’s been strange having to be so organised so far in advance. As I’m posting out class packs, I can’t all of a sudden decide that I’m going to change a project an hour before class begins, or quickly dash home for an item I’ve forgotten!


For my nail business, things aren’t quite so good. Everything is rightly at PAUSE.

It’s physically impossible for me and clients to socially distance during a manicure or pedicure treatment. Throw in the added complexity of being a mobile technician going into multiple homes a day, and you can start to imagine the ‘after the lockdown’ scenarios I’ve been thinking about.

Whilst there isn’t any information yet on what the rules for beauty will be, there is likely to be a need for additional PPE for everyone, along with extra time at appointments, and new processes to follow between clients.

Realistically, it’s going to be a long time before my nail business is open again, and I need to prepare myself for the possibility that it may not re-open at all, with the pause turning into a hard STOP.

This would be a shame, as it’s something I enjoy, especially after wanting to do it for so long, but I need to do what is right for the health of me and my clients, both physically and mentally.

It is, after all, a business, and although safety is obviously always the prime concern, it also needs to be financially viable.

So, with this current gap, I’ve been looking to the future for something I can do from the comfort of my own home, by myself.


Coming soon…

I’m pressing PLAY on a new venture and ‘Stitched, by Karen’ is joining the HIPPOFROG Designs portfolio.

I dusted off my clunky sewing machine, researched LOTS of different patterns and styles, made several prototypes, finalised my design and started making face coverings, to comply with current Government advice.

A nice new shiny sewing machine with lots of complicated bells and whistles has arrived at HIPPOFROG Designs HQ to make creating items more efficient. This means I’ll be offering my handmade face coverings for sale very soon. I mentioned in conversation that I had been making face coverings and was asked if I was going to be selling them… and here we are!

To avoid wasting fabric, these face coverings will be made to order. You’ll be able to pick your own colours/fabrics from the choices I have available.

I’m sew excited (sorry!) and can’t wait to share my creations with you. More handmade items (such as tote bags etc) will follow. Watch this space.

So, instead of Papercraft & Pampering, it’s Stamping and Stitching for the time being.

Thank you for being part of my journey so far.

Karen Young HIPPOFROG Designs