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What is it that makes you happy?

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I’m a fairly stubborn person. Actually, that’s not quite true. I’m a very stubborn person. I’m not un-happy about it mind, it’s served me well over the years!

It’s no secret that running a small independent business is hard, so when I started to see my fellow entrepreneurs close their doors, whilst I was sad for them and understood completely why they had done so, it made me more determined to ‘hang on in there’ and keep going. 

I am so sure that the tough times will end and I want to be part of the group that could be labelled as the  ‘last businesses standing’. So hang on I have done.

But – it’s getting so soul crushingly hard now that I am starting to wonder if I really can stick it out. You see, my business costs me money whether I make sales or not. I have website costs, insurance, bank charges and probably other things I haven’t even thought of. That is before I even book an event (yes we pay to be at events in the hope that we can sell you our products – some people still don’t realise that, venues cost money to hire, plus advertising etc so the organisers rightly charge us to be there, often £60 plus)

I have done fewer and fewer events in the last few months, partly because my back issue makes it painful (I’m working on that!) and partly because they are so very unpredictable in terms of sales. Most of the time, I make a loss or just about break even. And I am not alone – talk to any of my fellow stallholders and they are all in similar positions to varying degrees.

So, what to do? I have a part time job that I really enjoy, so some of the financial pressure is off in terms of HAVING to make money from Bergamot and Flow. But why would I put all the effort into a business if it didn’t make money? Well, that’s the question – why would I? Would you go to work in your spare time for nothing, or heaven forbid, go to work and leave some of the cash you already had behind? 

I have seen a lot of business owners talk recently about how people they know in real life, from their ‘pre-business’ days, simply don’t acknowledge their venture or support it in any way. Even though I have the exact same experience, I still find this incredulous. I know my product is a bit niche and absolutely do not expect people to purchase from me just because it’s me and they know me. Purchasing is NEVER expected – it would do neither of us any good at all to waste their money or my product if they didn’t like or use it and left it in a drawer somewhere. That’s no way to build repeat customers!

But to tell someone else about our businesses, to share us on social media, to comment on posts to show support, to tag us in other peoples content if it could help them – there are so many ways to help other than financially, but it just doesn’t seem to happen very often.

We have all had a secret Santa to buy, for that person that we don’t know very well, or donated a raffle prize for the kids summer fair – please, I beg of you to consider your friends small business when you have to make purchases like this. I wish I had the words to express the difference this could make.

I have had friends promise to come and see me at events, run up to my stall and chat to me and then, without a single look at my table, declare they are off for a mooch around. I have then watched them walk round purchasing from other stalls without a single glance at my offerings. And it really, really stings.

I have had people ask me about my new ‘day’ job a lot, but those same friends NEVER ask about my business, even when it was my sole source of income.

So – what am I going to do about it? The truth is, I haven’t decided yet. I have an upcoming event at Norwich Yoga Festival in a few weeks time, one of my favourites of the year. I am taking my new product launch there and will see how it goes. 

So where is the happy part Sam?

In the meantime I have been trying to lift my spirits with things that make me happy. I’ve seen a lot of my kids recently and will make sure (for as long as they want to!) that I keep that up. I have been swimming with my husband, good for my back and something fun that we share. I am meal planning again too (I LOVE a good recipe book and read them like novels!!) and it’s no secret that I am making paper flowers too. Meg from Floragami Paperflower has become a firm friend and we have spent many an hour making flowers together and it brings me so much joy!

A paper fuchsia flower, making these makes me happyThe reality is I could fill my days easily with things that make me happy – and at this very moment my business isn’t one of them. It makes me anxious, worried and makes me question every single decision I have made. Would you keep something in your life that made you feel that way? Genuine question!

I’m not sure I will even post this blog – it’s all a bit negative isn’t it? But it’s real and what you see is what you get. If this was a social media post (which it still may well end up as!) I know I would get wonderfully supportive comments from people I know from different times and places in my life, all who follow me, which is great and it makes me happy knowing they are encouraging me, but I also know from experience that those very same people would be extremely unlikely to comment on a post that promotes a product of mine. Sad but true.  

To end on a positive note – I am so fortunate to have things in my life that make me happy. Lots of them. I’m just deciding if I should bring B&F back into the fold or thank her for what she has given me over the years and let her go. In a positive way as it would be my choice. In the meantime I will be making delicious food, swimming in a pool or the sea, making flower after flower with a big grin on my face and maybe popping up at an event or two. Maybe…

Love and light,

Sam xxx

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Sam Thornton

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