I’m Back!

Hello, and welcome back to my blog. It has taken quite a bit longer to write my second post than I had originally planned (over a year in fact) but I have finally scraped together the time to put fingers to keypad and here it is.

The reason it has taken so long is that almost a year ago we spontaneously leapt into a new project, one which has shaken up our lives and taken all our spare attention and energy up until now – we took over a business! Allow me to explain…

There was once a very lovely sewing shop called Herringbone in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. It had beautiful fabrics, sewing patterns and haberdashery, and just the right colour blue paint on the windows and doors. I haven’t done much fabric buying or pattern following since my children were born, but I used to go in from time to time with one or both of them in tow to swoon over the beautiful fabrics and buy a bit of ribbon or something. Earlier last year I saw that the business was up for sale, and for about half a second I thought that in an alternate life perhaps that might be fun. At this point my nearly 2-year-old wasn’t sleeping through the night, life with two small children was pretty crazy and there was no chance of me even considering the idea of running a business.

Fast forward to 6 months later, and the right buyer still hadn’t come forward. An advert was placed on our local Facebook selling page (oh, the power of Facebook!) and my husband saw it. He emailed me immediately to tell me the news, with lots of capital letters and exclamation points, to which I said something along the lines of “Yeah, I already knew the business was for sale”. His reply was “Well, you could do that!”. Oh…could I? Instead of feeling excited about the idea, my initial reaction was one of absolute terror, alongside a large dose of not feeling good enough. I had a small freak-out, but decided it probably wouldn’t hurt to get in touch with the owner and find out a bit more, and we scheduled a meeting for the next day. I expected to spend a while weighing up the pros and cons, but as soon as we walked out of the meeting I looked at him and said “I think we should go for it!”. At some point in those 24 hours something had shifted, and I had somehow found my way from feeling scared to feeling excited. A lot of it is down to my husband Luke. Besides being very handsome and clever (he didn’t even pay me to write that!) he is practical, good at fixing things, thinks about things logically and generally has sound judgement. I trust him, and usually if he has faith in something, it ends up turning out ok. This time, what he had faith in was me, and it finally dawned on me that if he believed in me, perhaps I should believe in me too. Once I thought about it that way it was like a switch had been flipped, and I was being proactive, making important phone calls that I would normally be too scared to make, and starting to sort out childcare logistics. It was a whilrwind two weeks between deciding to take on the shop and opening the doors to customers as the new owners, and I still can’t quite believe it actually happened!

Here we are nearly a full year on from making that exciting and life-changing decision, and I’m sad to say that we are going through the final motions of closing the business down. We took it on knowing that it wasn’t making huge piles of money, but had great potential for growth. I was all-in with the ideas and the enthusiasm, and got stuck into the challenge of helping the business grow and evolve. Unfortunately the reality of juggling running a business with parenting two young children was a far greater challenge than we ever could have imagined, and we eventually came to the realisation that something had to shift. We didn’t have the time or energy to make the business do anything other than break even, and in the end we decided it just wasn’t worth breaking our family over. It was such a hard decision to make, even though it felt like the right thing to do. I felt so at home in the shop, surrounded by beautiful fabrics, inspiring patterns and all kinds of trimmings and equipment, and it really was like a dream come true.

At other times though, it did feel like a complete nightmare. We didn’t have the budget for our youngest to go to childcare every day of the week, nor did I want to give up looking after him myself all the time, so I brought him to the shop with me. I was determined to have it all and to do it all. We had some great times there together, my little boy and I, and in the mornings as we would park the car and walk hand in hand to open up the shop I would think to myself “How lucky am I, to be able to do all of this?”. We happened to have a bakery two doors down, and it became traditional to pop in and buy an iced bun as a treat/bribe to keep the peace for as long as possible, and I would watch him happily munching and think “I can do this!”. Towards the end of the day however, after meltdowns and tantrums and feeling like I wasn’t able to run a shop or be a good mother all at the same time, my thoughts would change to “Why am I trying to do all of this at once?” and ”I CAN’T DO THIS!”…

I think the ultimate truth is that before taking on the shop I never fully appreciated the role I already had. I was the primary caregiver to two small children; I was full-time, full-on mothering, and I really had more than enough to be getting on with. I think the reason the idea of running a fabric shop seemed so attractive at the time was because it offered me some variety, and time to focus on my own interests again. I jumped at the chance! It seems like quite a dramatic way to come to this realisation, but on reflection I think a regular day off or working one or two days a week somewhere where I wasn’t in charge of the whole show would have done the trick. What I needed was a break, not a second full-time job!

“What will you do now?” is a question I have been asked more times than I can count over the past few weeks, and the truthful answer is “I don’t know”. I am kind of enjoying this ‘not knowing’ though, and feel confident that I’ll soon figure it out. Right now I’m busy closing down a business, getting my children settled at school/playgroup and tying up loose ends. I am on a mission to finish off abandoned sewing projects and clear out stuff I no longer need, to give myself a clean slate and some available headspace. I do know that once I’m no longer pulled in so many different directions and trying to do so many things at once, I’ll be able to focus again and think clearly. I do know that I’m looking forward to working on my own projects again, and I do know that I’m really excited to be able to pick my children up from school/playgroup again. I also know that regardless of the debt, the stress and everything else that went with it, I’m still glad I took on Herringbone. I have met so many creative and lovely people, learned so much and challenged and surprised myself along the way. Before we jumped onto the rollercoaster this past year has been, I wasn’t completely convinced I could actually do it. Now I know that I can do it – I just can’t do it right now.

So to all of you who have supported Herringbone over the years, and to all of you who have supported our family and made this crazy juggling act work for as long as it did, thank you. We absolutely could not have done it without your help!

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