What has happened to Susan Rose China during lockdown?

Like so many small businesses we found ourselves at the edge of a precipice looking into the unknown.

As Charles is an NHS Doctor we were acutely aware, a week before the lockdown, there was going to be a huge problem with social distancing and keeping the workshop open.

Viv took her computer and decided to work from home which left the Mill office space unused.

We managed to bring our boys, their partners, computers & their work out of London to work from the newly emptied office workspace we had created at home.Computers installed, Wi-Fi working, 2 girls’ downstairs & one son upstairs in splendid isolation, everyone happy, job done, family safe and so it began.

sourdough

One son in charge of food and cooking, one son in charge of chores (quite a lot of those in this house), future daughter-in-law in charge of granny, who lives next door & is self-isolating in her house and one almost daughter-in-law, in charge of baking.

It was agreed that the workshop would keep functioning until a lockdown was announced. Andy, his daughter Emily, Allen the printer & Liz the lithographer make up team “Stoke” which is all kept running under the watchful eye of Andy.

Everyone felt they were able to continue with social distancing but as our suppliers started to shut and our orders started to be postponed or delayed the decision was taken to shut the workshop.

So, with great sadness, Charles drove to Stoke for one last time and collected the final order of several hundred tiles for a local client.

We were able to leave these outside the Mill for ‘click and collect’, leaving Andy to lock up the workshop and head for home.

Longton

Suddenly we had little money coming in and outstanding bills, no one could pay us as we were all in the same position.

It was a sad day to know all 7 of us had worked so hard for this little business and we had become so much more than a team, we were in fact a little china family! It was agreed we would have a zoom meeting once a week between Northamptonshire and Stoke. Charles (when he wasn’t being an NHS doctor) and I would be left to run the business with the help of our accountant to sort out the financial side and we would keep everyone up to date with what was happening.  So it began, a new life & a new way of working.

I knew my life work balance was very bad. Like many small business owners our business had grown bottom up from a successful hobby business. Charles and I spent every waking hour of every day working hard to make it viable. Almost everything else had fallen into second place even my design work. So, I looked at this as an opportunity to sort my life and the business out. We started with our social media because this was to all intents and purposes our only form of marketing. I have always been in charge of this, but it was a bit hit and miss depending on how much help I could afford with the wonderful Green Umbrella and how much time I was prepared to spend developing the marketing side, but to the cost of something else. We had a good look on the internet and found the social media tool SmarterQueue. It took me a week to sort out the platforms and the planning, but it was probably the best and most productive time I had spent in a long-time planning and improving traffic to our website. I also felt back in control. Success number one!

What next, what do people want from Susan Rose China? We offer an English product personalised manufactured in the UK and yet I had been too busy to update and deliver new design work and new ideas. This was my core strength and where I think I can deliver my skill to the business.

So, I started work re-designing & developing new ranges of English bone china for the children’s section which was virtually non-existent on our new website. Several zoom and WhatsApp calls with Andy and listening to his suggestions when he wasn’t doing home-schooling were much appreciated and eventually we felt we had come up with some good designs & made progress. Of course, none of these designs will be anything other than the paper they are printed on until we re-open the workshop. Like everything

nothing in this life is straightforward.children's china

The next step is to fire a colour sample and then when Andy is satisfied, he will start the process of making samples. These will then be photographed for the website and lifestyle pictures made for social media posts. Finally, when all this is done, we have to “launch on the web-site”. This will mean 3 of us writing copy, sorting SKU codes & social media content.

For me, this is the second success, to have achieved the finished designs in this range is a massive personal achievement.

Our next hurdle was our printer, just before lockdown we had secured a very large corporate order. On the back of this we ordered and invested in a “posie printer” to help our larger silk screen printing for many of our corporate clients. Normally we send images of our designs to another highly specialised print maker who then makes an individual colour film for each layer of colour from my design work. This is highly skilled, as each separate film sheet produced makes a different layer of colour for the screens Allen produces. However, we had decided we could learn this process of ourselves. There’s nothing like a lockdown to make us determined and to learn a new skill. Success number two for Charles as the technician in the team.

What would be my goals, apart from the design work? What would be my new skill? Yes I have set myself the task of walking to the next village and back every day (round trip 3 1/2 miles) but I also needed to learn a new skill so this precious time at home with no disturbance, would enable me to add a new value to the business after lockdown. Then I saw it on Instagram, an online video course. I’d been talking about it for so long, thinking about it for years, never having the time to make it happen. So, with the help and encouragement from some very inspirational & creative women in Yorkshire, I did it. I signed up for Zanthe Berkeley online video course. This is my third personal success.

I do have a 4th aim but that is work in progress and will wait for another day & another blog, but lastly I strongly recommend anyone who has a creative business take time to look at The Enterprise Collective , which is run by some amazing, inspirational women. They are very active on Instagram particularly Drs Wife. Take a look at what you can achieve with a little determination. To quote my lovely almost daughter-in-law, to be remembered you need to be different. So at Susan Rose China we have every aspiration to achieve this.