Handmade in the Time of COVID
What the insanity of the last two or so months during a pandemic have taught me about owning a small business….
This is not how I thought 2020 would be going. This is not how anyone thought 2020 would be going. In the matter of one week in March, I watched what I thought was all my sources of revenue stop pretty much immediately. Not only do I run Likewoah Handmade, I run an Airbnb out of my home, teach yoga (only once a week), and occasionally watch dogs for some extra money. I thought having four different revenues of income was being diverse enough. That week in March made me think otherwise. As strange as these last two months have been, they’ve also been wonderful in their own way.
Those of you that have followed my brand for a while are probably aware wholesale is a huge part of my business. When everything with Covid-19 started and stores had to close my wholesale orders came to a complete halt. In six weeks, I had seven wholesale orders averaging $40 each. Though thankful for those orders, that is not going to help pay my bills. I perpetually have about a 30 day lead time for wholesale orders as my products are handmade and I’ve only got two hands. I have not been caught up on wholesale orders for over a year, and with the slow down with orders coming in I finally had time to catch up. Let me tell you it felt incredible to be fully caught up!
In the last two weeks as shops and the country begin to reopen in stages, the orders have been flying back in. This makes me so incredibly thankful that people are shopping from small businesses, showing up and supporting their local economy. I am already back to a 30 day lead time on wholesale orders.
As soon as everything started to happen in March my website orders picked up. Friends, family, prior customers, social media followers supported my business in an incredible way. April was the best month of online sales I have ever had, which was incredible and still a bit wild for me to think about. Things have definitely slowed down for May, but the support I have received in the way of orders on my website has been incredible.
Oh boy do I have mixed feelings with Etsy. I closed my Etsy shop a year or so ago to drive traffic to my website and pay significantly fewer fees. Beginning of 2020 I decided I would reopen my Etsy shop to help grow my sales in hopes that customers could find me there and then switch to ordering on my website. Etsy customers are already on the platform searching for handmade goods and supplies, which seemed right up my alley.
As soon as everything started with COVID I spent two days adding all my products to my Etsy shop, figuring out keywords and tags. I am beyond thrilled I did this. I have made just over 400 Etsy sales in 9 weeks as of now. Holy shit.
In-person workshops are a key part of my business. I travel across the country teaching them and had to cancel/figure out what to do with about nine workshops I had already booked. I have a no refund policy with workshop tickets, which is very clearly stated with purchasing a ticket. I learned the hard way people like to come up with a million and one excuses day of or even hours before a workshop as to why they can’t attend. I put the no refund policy in place after getting a bit screwed while traveling to teach with multiple people claiming they couldn’t show up and demanded a refund. I lost a lot of money, and so did the venue hosting me. I also lose money any time I process a refund on my website due to transaction fees.
I had to come up with a game plan fast, and I am sure glad I did. About a year ago my husband mentioned I should try teaching some virtual workshops and I wasn’t sure it was something people would be interested in. This seemed to be the best time to try my hand at some virtual workshops. I switched all my in-person workshops to virtual ones, as well as added a lot of virtual workshops to my lineup. I would pre-cut all the rope needed for the workshop, and send that along with any materials and directions to the individual for the workshop.
I have taught sixteen virtual workshops in the last two and a half months. It took me a bit to figure out how to teach virtually, how to cap my workshop size for virtual teaching, but let me tell you, it has been amazing. I have had the chance to connect with people all over the country by teaching virtual macrame workshops. I have had birthday parties join, families that live in different states join, and some amazing dear friends of mine join. I’ve had a few lovely ladies take every workshop I offered, and so many people that had taken in-person workshops in the past join in on some more challenging workshops.
I miss teaching in person, but I now have a lot of experience teaching virtually and it's something I will continue to offer, even when life goes back to a more normal state.
*With my no refund policy on workshops, I not only offered customers to switch and take any virtual workshop they wanted but also offered them the option of a $45 credit to my website, to wait and take a workshop in person when it was allowed, as well as they could just get one of my DIY macrame kits sent to them instead. I found these four options to be completely reasonable and generous, yet there’s always a few angry customers out there, and I have had my fair share of emails screaming at me regarding these options.
I have been working on creating DIY Macrame Kits for a few of my items for a while now. It is something I started thinking about last summer but didn’t have the time and brainpower to make it happen. I had finally found a graphic designer to help me out with them right as everything with COVID had started. I am beyond thankful to her and to all my pattern testers for helping me make my DIY Kits and Macrame Patterns a reality. They have been a huge success so far, with both online and wholesale sales. I love teaching but I am aware I can only teach so many people at a time, and knew the DIY Kits and patterns would be a great addition to my lineup.
I don’t even know where to start with these. I have a pretty wild amount of yarn and different fibers I have collected over the years. Short version, we are planning to move out of state and I realized I really needed to offload some yarn to make the move easier. I love matching colors and textures, and I really think if I ever change careers I will go into interior design. I decided to give it a go with some fiber packs as a way to get rid of some of my yarn collection, as well as have some fun creating them. Never in my wildest dreams have any idea how popular these would become. I sell about five of them a day, and really seem to have tapped into something.
I knew during this time people were going to want to create, to use their hands, and make something. I am not surprised my fiber packs are selling so well, as I am almost not surprised I have been flying through macrame cord. It is definitely a shift from selling my handmade products, but I love supplying sustainable items needed to be creative at an affordable price for people.
Things are still strange. 2020 is not what any of us hoped for. Life has slowed down, and for that, I feel thankful to have had some time to create and play around with some new ideas. I have a beautiful series of macraweave wall hangings on my website, I finally have had some time to play around with weaving, and I realized I hate making a few of my products and dropped them from my lineup.
I don’t know how the rest of the year will play out for my business and that’s scary to think about. I hope there is a long-lasting change in how we buy and who we support with our hard-earned money. I can’t get your item to you in two days with free shipping, but I can assure you I appreciate your hard-earned money way more than Amazon does.
For now, I am still here, still creating, growing my business, and doing all I can to give back. I have and will continue to donate $1.90 from every order during these strange times to Feeding America, and as always 5% of all sales are donated to Planned Parenthood. I have a job, a roof over my head, I am healthy, and I don’t worry about how I will eat every day. I am lucky. Sometimes it feels overwhelming to think about how lucky I am with all of this. I remember my hard work to be where I am, and that I will do everything in my power to help out those that need it right now and aren’t as lucky.
Stay healthy, stay safe, stay empathetic, staying caring, stay kind,