On Monday 8th June 2020, Jin Designs Homeware and Gifts is 7 years old. It's time to reflect on the past, celebrate the present and visualise the future. I think I say every year that it's been a long old journey but this year has definitely been the toughest so far. I'll be honest with you. I did think this was the year I was going to give it all up.
Christmas 2019 was not great. I attended events, fairs and shows but found a new wave of caution amongst shoppers. I needed a good Christmas to prove that I could and should carry on. Online sales were up but I spent a lot on promotions and marketing and this meant by January, the picture was not looking good.
Could I go through another year of struggling with the business? Why was it so hard to make a living this way? Was I running out of ideas? I didn't know but one thing was certain, I was running out of energy.
I lost confidence with designing. With each design comes an investment in products. And I needed to be 100% sure that I would make the money back. I became more cautious. Not wanting to invest more time and not wanting to invest more money. And not knowing how the designs would sell. But people want to see new things. And I was beginning to feel the pressure.
I thought about other ways I could make a living. Perhaps doing something instead of Jin Designs - or even alongside it. Maybe there was an easier way. After nearly 7 years of really hard work, I still wasn't seeing the hard work pay off.
I started to study for my Level 2 and 3 Fitness qualifications. I thought there may be another road for me. Getting people out of the home and exercising. Ironically, perhaps this could be an easier way to make a living!
This did help for a while. Studying and learning something completely different actually made me take time away from Jin Designs, which made me appreciate it more when I went back to it. It gave me energy. It's amazing how consumed you can become in your own business. You live it and breathe it and you never rest from it. But focusing on something else seemed to help my focus on Jin Designs.
But I was still struggling with the designs. It was like a creative block. This went on for months. Could it be the end? The self-doubt crept in. I felt like a fake. I felt like I'd had my day and done my best designs. The day it hit me the most, I was cycling into Brighton. I suddenly felt this massive feeling of grief, that something had died. It was a real physical letting go. I cried a lot. I felt like I had failed and that the last 6.5 years had been wasted.
We all have our down moments and this was definitely one of mine. I have had a few during growing this business but this one felt big. I think with each time, although it's really hard to pick yourself up off the floor, you do eventually dust yourself down and come back stronger, more motivated and more determined.
Then the coronavirus came along.
It gave me time to sit and think instead of rushing everywhere. I have been lucky in some ways. People were finding my designs. They started to shop more online. They wanted to send gifts to loved ones, family and friends. And it was something I could help with. I felt a renewed enthusiasm and a connection with people during this time.
With more time at home, I started to design again. I felt creative for the first time in a long time. I also reflected on the things I wanted to change and what I could learn from the past. The ideas began. And I became excited about the future.
Things may be different going forward. There have to be changes.
There is so much uncertainty and if I want to keep going forward with Jin Designs, I will have to change. I know that money will be tight and I won't be able to invest in big collections with lots of products. It will need to be shorter runs, possibly limited editions and a whole lot of creativity and enthusiasm.
I may not be able to continue with the trade side of Jin Designs and selling wholesale into shops. I've been warned of price increases by my UK suppliers. If prices go up I know I can't offer my products to shops at the required wholesale margin.
So the dream of reaching the shelves of John Lewis may well be over. Dreams can change though and maybe it's time for some new ones.
The other change I may have to make is not to exhibit at any fairs or events this year. This is a difficult one as I love meeting customers face to face. And there are some lovely ones who I meet year after year that I really enjoy catching up with. But with the uncertainty of the next few months, this seems the right thing to do for this year.
I don't think any of us expected what has happened the last few months. I don't think I'm the only person going through a lot of changes. I thought with all this time at home, I may perhaps be forced to do something else with my time. But each time, I find myself coming back to Jin Designs. Some might say it's an unhealthy addiction, but let's be positive and call it determination! I've put 7 years of my life in this and I don't want to let it go. Not yet.
I don't have an office and staff. It's just me, Pebbles and an amazing warehouse team who look after my products and send out my orders. This means I can keep focusing on designing, creating and growing the business.
When you work on your own, you rely on social media and email connections and customer reviews to know where you are and how you're doing. Perhaps it's what they call 'validation' but I have to admit, I need that to keep going.
I'm so grateful to those who have connected with me. I know some of you have been here for a few years now and it's really wonderful. And others are just discovering my designs. When I think about the days I want to give up, it's usually a comment or a message from a loved one, friend or customer that keeps me going. So thank you to you and you and all of you. You know who you are. Hopefully, I will see you same time next year! And if not, I'll be dishing out exercises in the park!