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Learning through lockdown: working from home, going back to basics and hanging on in there

What a time to be a small business! Just when you think you’ve seen it all and planned for your next five years, BAM! The rug is well and truly pulled out from under your feet. But that’s the reality for so many right now all across the nation. We’ve been blessed so far in that everyone’s health has been good, which is always the priority no matter what, but let’s get real…it’s kinda hard, isn’t it? As a parent, you want nothing but the best for your family, but what if you feel like no matter what you do, it’s not enough? Most parents are feeling a huge amount of guilt at the moment in their efforts to balance work and home life. Running your own business can add another dimension to this.

We first felt the impact of Coronavirus to the business back in January as it affected some of our production, so normality feels like a long time ago. We were devastated when we realised the full extent of it on the country and for the business. It might sound very strange, but anyone who owns a business will tell you, it’s like having another baby – minus the morning sickness and labour pains! J – but certainly something that you feel very protective of, to the point where you will fight to the death to keep it going.

Cheeky Chompers has always relied on traditional routes to market – selling through stores here in the UK and abroad. We are so lucky to supply to big retailers like John Lewis, The White Company and Lloyds Pharmacy, as well as through many smaller independent gift stores, which our products are a natural fit for. We’ve always had a website for selling direct to consumers and sold a small portion of our business through Amazon, but we’ve had to respond quickly to Coronavirus in stepping up in these areas. However, it’s an incredibly fine balance as spending this capital leaves less in the business to pay for the basics. Every day is a battle of hearts and minds weighing up priorities, forecasting, re-forecasting(!), and realigning expectations.

In a bizarre twist of fate it feels like we have also been transported back in time to when we first started… to keep our team safe at home, we’ve been sorting out orders, packing them, arranging delivery. All adhering to social distancing guidelines of course, so very lonely and surreal. Think Tom Hanks and ‘Wilson’ in the movie ‘Castaway’ (for example, our new best friend is our franking machine, uninspiringly named ‘Frank’)! One of our favourite things has been the chance to reconnect with our customers. The joy of taking so many phone call orders from parents who tell us how much their products have helped their little ones, or hearing the excitement in a soon-to-be grandparent’s voice is just the best!! It’s what reminds us every day why we do this.

Remote working is also something that as a company we have never really had to use either, so getting the hang of ‘hanging out’ on Google as a team and with suppliers has been interesting to say the least, but crucial to staying connected. Getting support through other small businesses and sharing these experiences has also helped us to keep our sanity, and been super useful for ideas (thank you Bella & Duke and Candle Shack  to name but two!). But the phone calls…OMG…it can be all day back-to-back calls. Some days, lunch time sometimes doesn’t get remembered until 3pm when the kids finally realise no one has fed them!

And that brings us to our families. This is THE hardest thing about being where we are with lockdown. From not seeing our wider family who we love so dearly and have always supported us through the highs and the lows, to our kids who we feel have paid the biggest price for us ‘choosing’ to keep our business alive. The guilt is immense. Home schooling just isn’t feasible in the way we would want and many days end up with TV dinners and bickering. But do you know what, it is so comforting to know that we are not the only ones going through this. We wouldn’t be good parents if we didn’t care so much…but we also need to stop and realise when we need to give ourselves a break too. That’s why we think it’s so important to keep it real and use the power of our social media to keep connecting with parents, give them some light relief, and give them the platform to support each other. We remember all too well what it’s like to be in the midst of newborn and toddler parenting. Add into that all the restrictions we currently have in place, and for many, throw in working from home too! We hope that for every parent finding it hard there is someone in the same boat they can turn to, to know that it’s okay not be okay.

We also need to be blunt about our reality too. Now is the time we need people to support our wee business, our baby.  We just need people to talk about Cheeky Chompers and support us through the hardest time we have ever faced in our 7 years. If you are expecting or have a child anywhere between newborn to 3 years old, we are confident that you will LOVE our products and that they will help in a little way every day that adds up to a lot in the lifetime of a new parent (check out our Trustpilot for actual real life reviews!). And then, please, please, please can you tell your friends and family about us too? If we can get our message out there, we know we can get through this! It’s harder for us smaller businesses to survive tough times as we have less in reserve to lean on.

We hope you all take care, be kind to yourselves and don’t sweat the smaller stuff. Hmmm, maybe we should listen to our own advice #easiersaidthandone!  We know many of you will be juggling similar challenges and we salute you! Stay strong and keep smiling…

‘When it rains look for rainbows, when it’s dark look for stars’ -Oscar Wilde.

Big hugs

Amy & Julie xx

 Quick fire round:

  • Top tip to keep kids entertained during lockdown? 

    We went old school – Amy’s family have started a family skipping challenge and Julie’s have been playing a lot of hopscotch in the back garden! Remember to visit our blog for lots of easy play at home ideas for babies and toddlers if you need some inspiration.

  • Biggest lock down fail?

    Ohhhhh, feels like so many! Apart from just not being around enough… losing temper for things that on reflection just don’t matter; losing keys and searching for an hour only to find them still in the outside of the door from the night before (including the car key – that would have been a nice present for someone(!); cutting short a work call and literally throwing the kids in the car to get to Sainsburys  with one minute to spare before our collection slot closed only to realise we had come on the wrong day; the list goes on J

  • Top tip for sanity in tough times? Even though it feels impossible, take some time out for yourself, even a 10 minute walk on your own if it’s possible, a soak in a bath or a dance to loud music in the kitchen!  Oh and gin…did we mention gin..?!

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