About a year ago, I shared what it is like to run a business in times of a pandemic. 38 Monday Postcards later, and we are still in the middle of it. When I shared Postcard #139 I was hopeful that by now we would have overcome it. Unfortunately, we have not. But if I have learned anything from these challenging times, it is that complaining and anxiety not only are useless but also make the situation even worse, because they just put us on a negative downward spiral.
This past year confirmed one of my most important business decisions, namely running it mostly online. Already before the pandemic, I knew that e-commerce was the way forward. Even though my decision raised a lot of eyebrows, I stuck to it. When the lockdowns started in March 2020 (and basically have been in place up until now in many countries), I was fortunate that I did not have to worry about rent. Furthermore, as people have been stuck at home, online shopping increased as well.
In Postcard #139 I mentioned the challenges of shipping products. Unfortunately, with the majority of passenger flights remaining suspended, we still have to rely on private shipping providers, which are significantly more expensive. Nevertheless, I made the decision to work that way because the alternative is to simply sit around and hope for the situation to change. After months of dealing with the pandemic, this is simply no option.
This brings me to my next point: throughout the past year, I reached many points where it would have been much easier to give up. Last week, I launched a new collection on Pelagona. This collection is very close to my heart – not only because these children’s products are super cute and made by mothers in India, but also because the artisan partners and I have managed to overcome big hurdles along the way.
Let me give you a summary here: I went to India at the end of 2019 and met a group of mothers who crochet at a school in a slum of Bangalore. Most of them do not have any jobs and urgently need additional income to support their families. Chitra, one of the women who teaches crochet to the group, and I started talking and exploring potential products for Pelagona. I quickly knew that children’s products were the best fit because the women of the crochet group are all mothers.
Already in “normal” times, projects like this one are a challenge: as most of the women cannot read or even count, it is necessary that they meet in person and that the teachers and peers can help each other out when they get stuck with the pattern. On some days, the group focuses more on helping a member out with their family issues. On other days, some of the women cannot attend because of family emergencies. This way of “production” is much slower than in a regular factory setting, because it also takes into account the situation and challenges of each woman. They cannot just take their work home, there is simply no time or they need support crocheting.
The pandemic made this challenging situation even more difficult. At times it seemed impossible to go through with our plans. But I knew that the women depend on the income from the crochet products – in times like these even more. Hence, I just did not want to give up. We made the impossible possible – from finding local suppliers coming up to our high quality standards, to making the products via video calls (and making sure the women had access to not only the tools but also a good internet connection) to sending them. This is a very long story short, you cou can read the details about the whole rollercoaster journey on Pelagona.
Here, I would like to focus on two things: persistence and flexibility. If we had not applied these two, we would have not made it. Sometimes, it took us days or even weeks to overcome a certain hurdle, but we kept trying. If our Plan A did not work out, we worked on Plan B, only to realise that Plan C or even Plan J was the one which worked.
When I started my journey as an entrepreneur, I always heard that we have to be receptive to feedback and willing to change the product or service if required. Along the way of this crochet project, we realized that some of the designs were just too complicated to make them via video calls. Hence, we had to change the designs or even the product line. We also had to deal with significant delays and decided on smaller quantities. We prioritised getting the first products on the store and take one step at a time.
But after everything we had to go through, I am happy and excited that we did it and that we can now present you our Kids Collection on Pelagona. I hope you like it as much as I do. And don’t forget: these gifts come with an impact. An impact which is even higher and more urgently needed in challenging times like these. Thank you to all who have supported this collaboration!