Running a Business during Lockdown

Oh wow! The last few months as a small business owner have been brutal. We all knew it was coming. We watched events unfold in Italy and other countries in February. I chatted lots with my fellow business owners and vaguely entertained ideas of business Plan Bs. But I’m not sure I ever really stopped to think about what was about to happen.

I taught a lovely Baby Yoga class on the Monday, waved everyone off and was confident that I’d see many of them the next day and most likely next week. Well that didn’t happen and by the end of the government address that evening, my metaphorical business doors had closed. I’m not saying it caught me by surprise but…actually it caught me by surprise.

I cried so much for the whole of that week. I watched the news and I sobbed. I emailed all the lovely mums who had booked with me and wept. I couldn’t sleep. I was so unbelievably sad. Of course, like us all, I was terrified about what havoc this virus was going to wreak on my family and friends, but the enormity of closing my business was crushing. I had worked so very hard for almost 3 years, gradually building my business and I was finally feeling like I was winning. Was it all wasted? Would I ever recover? What would I do now? How badly had I let everyone down?

I didn’t know what to do. So, like a proper grown up, I decided to do nothing! I watched in awe as some of my peers effortless set up online classes and other amazing things for their families. I couldn’t do that, I thought. I flirted with the idea of teaching online classes but quickly decided that it clashed with all my values as a parent-and-baby class facilitator. And anyway, that was too hard for me, I didn’t have those skills. Instead, I tried to embrace my new role as a sort of home educator. We’d just wait this out and everything will go back to normal and be lovely again.

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Well, we all now know that ‘normal’ is still a long while away.  I don’t know when my classes will resume in person again and in what format they will take. The not knowing is pretty hard going for someone who is a little bit of a control freak (yep, me!). Maybe online classes aren’t so terrible afterall? Gradually I have accepted that going online is the way to forward. I belong to three incredible organisations – the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), the Massage in Schools Association (MISA) and Birthlight (for Baby Yoga). The support I’ve had from the organisations and my fellow instructors has been amazing. The support I’ve had from the UK Government has not been quite so amazing, but since it’s not terribly British to talk about money, I’ll leave that there.

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First, MISA developed the gorgeous story massage routine for children – The Rainbow Massage. I think that massage for children is an underused tool by parents and I knew I had an important role in helping parents learn new skills to help both themselves and their children navigate the emotional challenges of lockdown. And I could practise with my own children – win win! Teaching these short courses of 3 classes to small groups of families via Zoom has been so lovely and really, really worthwhile for us all.

This gave me the confidence to look again at baby classes and address my concerns about baby classes online – perhaps there was a way to teach online without compromising my ethos. The main thing for me was that I do not want babies looking at computer screens; I want babies to look at their parents. Also, I do not want parents looking at computer screens; I want them to look at their babies. The IAIM has created a slightly slimmed down baby massage routine, which means the pace of the massage is much slower and there is plenty of time for parents to watch the screen and then take their full attention to their baby. And the babies don’t even give the screen a second glance. I have been so happy to be proved wrong on this one and I hope no one minds that I did a 180 on that decision – a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, right?

And finally, Baby Yoga… I’m still relatively new to teaching Baby Yoga so I was least confident about teaching these classes online. However, once again, I am realising that there are solutions and with some careful planning (and a bit of tidying up here to create a teaching space!), I can give it a go too. Spurred into action again by one of my baby yoga teacher friends in Dublin, I took the plunge and decided not to postpone my plans to complete the training for baby yoga level 2 (mobile babies), to stop looking for excuses and to go for it.

In summary, I am womaning up! I am accepting my business will not be the same, but I can take on the challenges, learn new skills and stop being frightened to try. I have never once let fear of failure stop me do anything before – it’s just delayed me a little this time!

I have been consistently blown away by the incredible thoughtfulness of all my current and previous parents. I have received some totally lovely messages and emails, often reducing me to tears. I never knew how important my classes had been to so many. Thank you for your thoughts, your time, your concern, your ideas and your belief. My business is what it is because of all of you – thank you.  See you in online classes soon!

 

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