Running a Small Business During Covid - An Open Letter to my Customers

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Dear Friends,

 

I haven't posted a blog in some time, mostly because I have been rather busy in the studio, but also because this has been an unexpected time for family to reconnect, to have dinners together again, to go back to all of those things that I have genuinely missed. It has also been a time to battle hardship together.

It seems that some businesses, like some families, have flourished during this trying time of Covid, but some have suffered irreparable damage. I have felt for and supported all of those businesses that I can, like many of you have. I am also grateful to be one of the lucky ones, who have managed to stay afloat.

When March took a sudden turn, creating lock-down and eliminating events, school attendance, shopping and socializing amid the onset of Covid here in the United States, I was in the same state of disbelief and self-imposed limbo that we all were. 

My first priority was to get my family home and safe, of course, with business taking a second seat, though I kept in touch with my customers and kept going.  I am also a teacher (20 years now), but I had made a switch to online classes already, so this was a natural continuation for me. As far as my family, my husband and youngest son and I, along with our German Shepherd, had been happily living our routine of work, friends and soccer--until March hit.

My oldest son was in the Peace Corps when Covid struck and had to be evacuated from Kosovo, which was not an easy feat with airlines not running, but they got him home to us. My middle son is still in college and had to leave his apartment and friends to come home and complete his work online, though rent had to be paid in full for his apartment. My youngest is twelve and lives for soccer, which came to a screeching halt, had to adjust - as we all did.

So, we were all home, once again having dinners together, laughing and enjoying time we had missed and I realized this was what it was all about...that this was actually enough.

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”
― Walt Whitman

And then it happened. Two things happened actually.

First, the bad news: my mother, with whom I am very, very close, and who has been healthy her entire life, got lung cancer. And, while there is never a good time to get cancer, this was particularly terrifying.

It turns out,  you can still get lung cancer when you never even smoked and that it is more common than we think.

It was probably one of the scariest moments of my life, because here we were, in lockdown with a deadly virus circulating, and she needed immediate surgery. We also needed to keep her safe and unexposed.

Leaving her in the city to have surgery and recover alone -- without even being allowed to step foot in the hospital, was awful, to say the least. There were weeks of fear and anger and...prayers.  And in the end, she pulled through. She was lucky, but so were we. 

My oldest son stayed with her for two weeks since he was least likely to expose her to Covid and they had a wonderful time together, even through a difficult recovery. My kids adore my mom and would do anything for her. Even while he made her meals, managed her meds and made sure she followed protocol and walked a little each day, they laughed and made more memories for them both to carry on with -- the dinners,  the movies, the endless runs of House Hunters International. My mom is grateful for the time together with him, and I'm grateful that they had it, too. You really just never know....

“In the family, there is strength that all the power in the world cannot undo.”

To make matters worse (and better at the same time), the business suddenly went crazy. I have never seen so many orders. It was an absolute frenzy, and it lasted for months.

I sell a lot of gift boxes, which is admittedly my favorite part of running Second Spring Naturals, and people started sending them across the country. Lots of them. I could barely keep up, but I did it. I shipped and added personal messages to each box, loving the heartfelt notes and sentiments people were sharing with one another. I found it lifted me up, made my own spirits rise after the emotional roller coaster ride we had all just taken. I began to feel a connection and I was suddenly not so alone in all of this.

I made sure to take the same care with each box that I do when orders are slower, and it wasn't easy, but that's part of what makes handmade special, and it's what my customers expect. I managed to keep up.

Then the hospitals and universities starting contact me to send boxes to nurses and staff--hundreds at a time. It was a whirlwind, and it was nothing short of amazing, though overwhelm often set in and I was left feeling exhausted, but also exhilarated at the same time. 

I took a note from my customers then and I started to pay it forward myself, delivering surprise boxes to nurse friends who were away from family in hotels and surprising friends with small gifts.

Among the chaos that was the last few months, I also relished in the joy of having all of my sons home, because I knew it was temporary. I wanted to soak up the time, enjoy the dinner conversation, watch them playing board games with their dad -- like the old days. I wanted to remember it all -- because my oldest will leave soon for Poland to take a new job and the middle guy will head back to his apartment in the city to live with his roommates while he takes classes online, the youngest will start soccer again...and my husband will go back to work. It all changes, it always does, and I don't want to regret missing the time, so I won't. It's simple really.

What else did I take away from all of this? Well, it wasn't the overwhelm and panic... because that, too, was temporary. I won't let it be a part of my memories. Rather, I choose to take away and remember the humanity I witnessed. That's what I will remember when I reflect upon all of this: the coming together of people across the nation to wish others well, express hope, and, mainly, to express gratitude. I felt that, too -- did I ever. I still feel it. It is a gift, this gratitude, a  tremendous sense of of thanks for the business that helped keep my family going during a troublesome time, and the gratitude of knowing that people were -- and ultimately are -- good at heart; that they care for on another. That, in itself is just monumental in nature. These days, in this political climate, this means something. 

“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” Dietrich Boenhoffer

 

So, despite the suffering in our world right now, despite the panic that still ensues and the fear that envelops us all; despite the closures of various businesses, and schools and the job losses, all of it ----- people still love one another. I'm going to take a page from my customers books, and I'm going to learn from them. I'm going to keep on sharing, and loving and caring and paying the love forward. I hope you do, too because I promise it helps.

And so, to my valued customers, I wanted to say that I hope you stay well, and I hope you feel loved -- and that today you know someone is thinking good thoughts for you and about you, hoping you prosper during these difficult days, that you stay well.

With gratitude,

Carrie

 


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