This morning, at 5.32 am, the sun reached its highest point and marked the start of our meteorological summer. Most European countries are opening up again, the long period of cold weather and rain is finally over and the sun has been out for days. It is official – summer has started. I do see excitement and hope around me – with the vaccine programmes moving ahead, Europeans are looking forward to the summer break. Most do not really want to know what will happen after. I am also trying to live in the now and not overthink the situation too much.
You may have read that I was on a digital detox recently. This was actually part of a bigger “programme” I set up for myself. I tried to take a step back and find out what I wanted for The Pink Lookbook and Pelagona in the near future but also in the long-run. When I have a task like this ahead, I usually need a break from everything. I took some days off, went on holidays and also took time to think about everything and assess potential strategies.
Last year in June, we thought we had made it. We thought that the pandemic was a thing of the past. The summer looked promising, and we did not expect the long stretch of lockdowns waiting for us until mid-2021. This year, I think it is a really strange feeling. On the one hand, there is excitement, on the other, I can see that people are still apprehensive. While Europe is opening up, Thailand went into a further round of restrictions. The situation in India is improving a bit, but only slowly. The UK is seeing a surge in numbers despite the fast successes with the vaccine programme. I still do not know what to think of everything. Have we finally made it this year? How will this affect us? And, of course, I am thinking about the implications for it for my business.
Business-wise it has been the same rollercoaster for over a year (an even crazier one than the usual founder rollercoaster in non-Covid times). With every order I place for Pelagona, I run the risk that there may be disruptions, that certain items will not make it in time. Similar to the fashion industry, home decor involves a lot of planning ahead. The summer collection is usually planned one year ahead. Even though summer has just started, I am already gearing up for the Christmas season.
I have been working on a new collaboration with an artisan collective in Kerala, India, for months and we planned to start the production of the products – beach towels – months ago. However, when the situation in India got worse and worse, we had to delay the collection. Only a month ago could the artisans start working on the products in rotation. You can imagine that we are all nervously working to accomplish this collection in time for summer – from a business perspective, I know that now is the time to sell, not in three months. If they do not make it in time, we have to delay the collection for a year. The pressure is on.
Being a business owner, solving problems and overcoming challenges is part of the deal. Every time, I work on a collection, I am excited but at the same time nervous. Will the customers like it? Will they buy it? Will they buy enough so that I make money from that particular collection? That is the daily life of an entrepreneur. Covid posed additional dimensions to it: Will we deliver in time? Are the artisans safe? Do their families have enough support? In countries like India, is there enough food and do they have access to healthcare?
I always set high standards and challenging goals for myself. With Pelagona, I think I went a step further because now it is not only about me, it is also about the many artisans who work on the products. I know their stories and I know about their daily struggles. Hence, I work even harder, because I know that they also depend on my performance.
I am currently working on some new features and products on Pelagona and am also quite excited about a design market where Pelagona will exhibit in two weeks. We did a small pop-up test run last year and it went really well. Hence, I decided to try out more of these events and see how they go and get some in direct and in-person feedback from customers. Running an online store has many advantages, but one of the drawbacks is that the main feedback for my products is if someone purchases an item. I do not see the reaction about a certain product. I cannot tell from their face or gestures if they are excited and want to know more. I do not see if they have additional questions, unless they decide to use the live chat or drop an email.
Despite all the hurdles, I am really happy and excited about the collaborations I have established so far. When I told my partners in India and Cambodia that Pelagona can exhibit at a market, they did everything they could to finish the products as soon as possible and even sent really sweet cards wishing us good luck. I will definitely let you all know how the pop-up goes and will share more on my social channels as well. If you are in Vienna, drop by and visit us. More details coming soon!
I wish you all a great summer ahead and let’s all get started with this new week!