Nadia, founder of Penelope Hope, explains the highs and lows of running a small business and what to watch out for along the way.
Well would you believe it… not only was it was my birthday last Saturday but Penelope Hope also turned 5. I don’t know about you, but 5 years, that seems a long time. There have been highs and lows, peaks and troughs but hand-on-heart, I am bl!&dy proud to still be in business 5 years down the line. Especially after what 2020 has thrown at us!
(If truth be told PH is much older than 5 years, I started designing and doing online courses in textile design back in 2013 not long after the birth of my youngest. I registered the business in early 2014 but only officially launched in Sept 2015. So yeah, even before I launched there were several years of planning, scheming and plotting beforehand.)
People often ask me what does it take to run your own business and that is such a hard question to answer. From my experience I feel that you have to go into it brimming with enthusiasm and optimism. Being confident and ambitious is a good thing. (Often we run people down for these attributes but we shouldn’t.)
You have to believe the impossible is possible because without that belief and drive you won’t have what it takes to see it through. It is tough but it can be good tough.
Whether your business is thriving or drowning if your head isn’t in the right place and you don’t have the coping strategies to support you then it will be you that crumbles.
You have to believe the impossible is possible because without that belief and drive you won’t have what it takes to see it through.by Nadia Newton
Rewind two years, I wasn’t sure if Penelope Hope would survive. That was a tough year for me. The realisation that my ‘baby’ was not really working and that I would have to make the heart-breaking decision to close down. Quitting does not come easy for me.
I managed to cling on. I spent time reviewing all the bad decisions I had made (sob) but also looked at the opportunities. I made better decisions on what to spend money on and what not to spend money on. I held less stock which improved cash flow. I stopped doing expensive trade shows that showed little return on investment. I diversified my product range.
In 2019 there were two decisions that I made that really were game changers… one was the introduction of the in-person workshops and children’s parties. This brought a new audience to the PH Studio and reawakened my passion for creativity and teaching people. More people in the studio making things meant more product sales too!
The other game changer was jumping on board the animal print trend in our own colourful way…. Our funky leopard & zebra prints have become signature prints for Penelope Hope and continue to be as popular as ever. (Long Live Leopard Print) With phone cases, notebooks, wash bags, beach bags, cushions, noticeboards and now swimsuits, leggings, yoga mats & tableware you can’t get far in Guernsey without spotting someone with a PH leopard print product.
After a very successful 2019 (170% up on the previous year) I went into 2020 scared rather than relieved.
I was obviously very pleased that I had turned things around and wouldn’t have to close down the business but I felt worried that maybe I had reached my cap. (anyone else have self-limiting beliefs about their upper ceiling?) I had worked unbelievably hard to get to that point and didn’t know how I could possibly work any harder to make sure 2020 experienced growth, let along that kind of growth! I felt trapped and alone.
That was when I really struggled mentally. I had pretty much burnt myself out. I had taken on too much and not looked after my mental wellbeing enough. (I was also organising two charity balls alongside the business and being a hands on Mum to our 3 kids!)
My health & mindset was suffering as a result. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. Did I even want this anymore. Could I really do this business thing or was I just ‘playing’ shop all along.
I had lunch with a good friend first week of March and told her I was thinking of closing the business temporarily over the summer to give myself time to reconnect to what was important to me. Time to be carefree and time to chill with my kids and husband and not feel that sense of pressure and guilt that I felt every day.
I wanted to explore my creativity in other ways. I wanted to get fitter, healthier and sleep more. But I was worried what people would think. What you would think? Could I really close down for a few months and still have a business and customers to come back to?
Then Covid happened. We went into lockdown.
Well, blow me! Not only could I, if I wanted to, take some time away from the business but I could spend more time at home with my kids and husband. I could have 2 hours of exercise and fresh air every day. I could watch Joe Wicks every bl%$dy morning!!
No school runs, no activities, no socialising. Suddenly we had all the time in the world and we were all levelled. It wasn’t just me having to put my hand up and saying ‘hold on guys, I’m struggling here and I need time out’. We were all thrown into the same boat.
The funny thing is, having the decision taking away from me and being enforced onto me, changed things. I went into crisis mode. Suddenly I was full of ideas. My creativity and innovativeness was awakened. Within days of learning about an imminent lockdown I had launched a whole range of Craft Kits that could be made at home using video instructions. I set up a new Facebook group called Creative Crusade and throughout lockdown did weekly live tutorials on sewing and craft. I got my passion back.
There were only about 2 weeks during the start of lockdown when I chilled and allowed myself time to unwind and settle into the new normal but after that I was on fire. Bunting kits, lockdown survival kits, ‘Miss your Face’ pouches, swimwear, leggings, yoga mats, beach mats, tableware…. and thank god you guys loved it all. I can’t thank you enough for supporting me. It has really blown me away.
I have so many exciting new products to launch (pet range and leather bag range coming up!) and I feel really energised and passionate about the future. I don’t beat myself up about all the things I am not doing and think I should be doing but instead I remind myself that I am only one person and I am always making steps in the right direction. I have a whole line-up of workshops scheduled for Autumn/ Winter and 3 new part-time members of staff (as well as Claire, who has been with PH from almost the beginning) to help me to juggle it all without burning out.
When I launched Penelope Hope 5 years ago I had such big ambitions. I have goals that are still on my list from 2015 (and every year since) that I have not yet achieved. I was unrealistically over ambitious back then. But I think you have to be.
One day I will tick off all those far-fetched goals and a load more too but just think what I have learnt in the process. I hope you will continue to come along on the journey with me.
Help us Celebrate our 5th Birthday
Join us at the Penelope Hope Studio on Sat 3rd October 10am- 1pm
for cakes and a glass of fizz and a chance to see our new Autumn collections.
You can also try your hand at making a mini noticeboard and chat to us about our line up of
Autumn/ Winter Workshops.
See you there!