Trigger warning: miscarriage
Dearest friends, followers and loyal customers,
Only two months in, and already 2023 has kicked my butt from here to Uranus and back again. I’ve officially let go of the reins that steer the flow of my life and am instead committed to accepting whatever comes my way with grace and curiosity. At this point, all I can guess is that the moldavite my husband and I bought in December on our honeymoon is clearly working fast… The reins were only ever an illusion anyway ;)
Allow me to set the scene:
2022 was a mixed bag full of life’s extremes - I fell in love in January and got married eight months later; I signed a dream book deal and stretched myself thinner than ever before, managing the workload of writing a book, running a business and planning a wedding (more about the book soon!); our sales suffered the scary fate of the ongoing financial crisis with our turnover plummeting to what it was pre-pandemic -while our significantly higher post-pandemic outgoings increased; I took three blissful weeks off life in December to honeymoon in Japan, at the end of which, in the toilet of a Tokyo 7-11, we found out I was pregnant, something we had been hoping for for most of the year.
In a bid to lower our business costs and reorganise the way we run BHL so that it could continue to be a sustainable and viable business, 2022 also saw us discontinuing paper patterns (the upfront costs and minimums had become wildly unaffordable). We also had no choice but to move out of our beautiful -also unaffordable- studio and into a smaller, humbler and much cheaper space in a local church community building, the very same building where my acupuncturist husband had also moved his practice to in September.
We moved in on January 3rd of this year and for the first few weeks we were loving our cosy room, the community vibe and the comforting smell of moxa burning from the acupuncturists’ rooms across the corridor. Things felt pretty good - we had made a sensible move to cut unnecessary overheads, we were formulating an exciting and manageable plan for BHL 2023, and I was so excited to have a baby on the way.
Then, on the evening of Sunday 29th Jan, a week after our car was stolen from outside our home (anyone out there with a contactless car key, for the love of God get yourself a Faraday box!), we were informed that due to emergency fire safety assessments needing to be carried out in our building in the wake of a recent and devastating fire at a local church (no one was hurt thankfully, but the church burnt right down), we would not be allowed to come into work the following day. We’ve not been allowed back in since. Communication was incredibly thin, and we were given no indication as to when the assessments/works would be complete or when we’d be let back into the building. In the weeks that followed, we had to pause all physical orders and do our best to crack on working from home. Our efforts to keep up momentum and morale, and stick to a production schedule with regards to ongoing projects and patterns-in-progress, have been somewhat erratic and disjointed to say the least.
During this time, when I was 11 weeks pregnant, I had a miscarriage. In a way, not being able to go into our place of work meant that my husband and I had the time and space to process the loss in a way that we might not have had otherwise. I don’t really feel like going into details here, but I do just want to acknowledge everyone who has been through, and/or is currently experiencing pregnancy loss. I send you all my love and solidarity. While I now feel okay underneath it all, accepting of what has happened and learning and growing from the heartbreaking beauty of the whole experience, it’s an ongoing multi-layered process that has tested me emotionally, physically and spiritually. I want to publicly thank all my friends, family and colleagues who have supported me and my husband through this. Never have I ever felt so loved and held by my community, and that in itself has been such a precious thing.
Last week, fresh from an appointment at the same hospital where we found out two weeks prior that our baby had stopped growing, to check that the entire contents of my womb had been expelled (it hadn’t, just a little more to go :/) we finally met with Father Luke and the parish committee who manage our studio building to get an update as to the assessments and works that have been done over the last four+ weeks. In a nutshell, the building is not fit or safe for commercial use -nor has it been for the last 17 years- and they have no intention of investing the £15k-ish needed to make it so. So, we’ve all been evicted, immediately and permanently, and with no clear understanding as to whether or not they plan to offer us any kind of compensation for the loss of earnings incurred over the last month, or reimbursement for our imminent moving costs.
It’s been a shit storm, to put it elegantly.
But, as I mentioned at the start of this essay, I am committed to facing said shit storm from a place of serene acceptance and curiosity 😂. What is all of this teaching me about where I am and how I want to live my life moving forward? What does a sustainable, viable business look like to me, and not through the lens of capitalism? What changes do I need to make in order to complement the flow of everything that’s shifting out of my control?
On a business level, we’ve had a good hard look at the reality of our situation and the current climate, and I’ve had to (once again) reframe what a ‘successful business’ means to me, and reshuffle everything in order to survive. Growth is no longer the current goal. I have no plans to get tied into an impossible loan and break my back just for the sake of ‘growth’. Honestly, I just want to make products that inspire and educate in a way that doesn’t feel crazy and stressful, and I want to be able to pay myself and the people I work with a reliable and realistic wage. Over the last year, I’ve only been able to pay myself five out of 12 months. Even if we hadn’t been kicked out of our studio, we probably would have had to let it go sooner rather than later. Right now we barely have enough in the bank to pay our wonderful team, let alone think about putting any new products into production. We currently have five new patterns, as well as many back-catalogue size updates in the works - all stalled mid-production because we can’t afford to pay for the next steps needed to get them ready for sale.
The pandemic years were very kind to us, as they were to so many small hobbyist businesses. The sudden and prolonged increase in sales throughout 2020 and 2021 enabled us to grow, expand and respond to the needs of our community. We moved into a shiny new studio, we grew our little team, and we invested everything we had into developing our extended size range, and relaunching our paper patterns. The sad reality is that in the long term, not only has this growth and expansion not paid off, it has left us strangled financially and unable to carry on in this way*.
On a personal level, I want to work less. I’ve never been a workaholic, and although I’ve been lucky enough to have a job that I love (most of the time!), I've never found it difficult to prioritise my personal life. Maybe that has contributed to the erratic growth of my business over the last decade! Working weekends, holidays and into the night is unfortunately synonymous with being a business owner, but it’s not a lifestyle that I will ever choose for myself. Being a Projector**, I do my best and deepest work in the first four hours of the day, and when I can keep to a routine of working in the morning and having my afternoons free to focus on all the other equally important areas of my life - looking after my home and my family, self-development and creativity, time spent with people I love - that’s when I feel truly balanced and satisfied.
While the last six weeks have been incredibly challenging, I can already see a bigger picture forming: one that is begging me to simplify and slow down. One that is calling for me to bring my day to day life in alignment with my core goals and values.
I don’t want to overwhelm you (or me) anymore with a lengthy explanation as to what this all means for BHL moving forward. I will get that all down clearly and concisely in a Part 2 blog post to come very soon. Spoiler: it’s not the end! If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you’ll know that the evolution of BHL has already been one of many ebbs and flows, and this moment in time is just another twist in our tale. I hope you’ll continue to stick around…
All my love,
*Please don’t get me wrong here - I still honour the need for sewing to be size inclusive, we just haven’t been able to manage our size expansion in a way that works out financially. We do, however, have what we believe to be an exciting solution - and we’ll be explaining all about that, and what didn’t work, in the next post.
**If you’re wondering what on Earth I’m talking about here, I urge you to look into Human Design and find out your own energy type. I’ve found it to be an incredibly useful tool for understanding how I can maximise my own productivity, and how best to direct my limited energy in a way that genuinely supports my overall wellbeing and future “success”.