Little did I know at the beginning of the year what was in store for my little business. Everything was in place for a busy 2020 when the lockdown came in March. I was not prepared for the mental anguish I was going to endure over the following months.
I had spent months preparing my giftware range ahead of the season only to find myself staring at piles of stock unable to breath. All my planning and focus flew out the window! I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think, my brain was full of noise. As my revenue streams dried up one by one I felt the walls close in.
In the end the news, the noise and social chatter grew too much, so I withdrew for a while to gather my thoughts. It was necessary in order to find the quiet I needed to move ahead and adjust to what I could do rather than what I couldn’t.
It was clear that the pandemic was altering all our lives.
Fortunately I had an ecommerce website set up, it had been largely ignored as I was focused on selling to retailers. Here was the first turning point. The fact that my stock was not perishable and wouldn’t go out of season was a big positive.
I could now see a way forward, but I could not do it alone.
Online social media was buzzing with movements and shifts in people buying local, but doing it online due to restrictions. When the Trading Online voucher was offered by the Local Enterprise Office I took advantage to update my website.
A product photographer, web designer and a digital marketing strategist helped me showcase my range of giftware to a new audience.
While the new website was under construction I was still creating art whenever I could and plotting how I could keep my little business afloat. The art kept my mind focused and quiet and I was producing new images for future use.
A few things happened and came together at the right time and I could finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. Some wonderful friends and connections emerged in a time of need and we helped each other along.
Connemara National Park celebrated their 40th Anniversary this year, even though it was in the middle of a global pandemic they were still going to celebrate with an exhibition of local artists to mark the occasion. Neither they nor I were too sure how this would all work out, but they didn’t need to ask me twice, I was delighted to take part.
The work was curated and hung in their onsite gallery, even though it was closed to the public. Siobhan had organised a photographer to come shoot the artworks and turn it into a video, the result was a beautiful collection of work related to Connemara being available to a much larger audience than would have seen it in the real life. Locals were able to share with families overseas who could no longer travel freely home.
The next little beacon of light came from much further away. The Contemporary Irish Arts Centre in LA put out a call to artist across the globe to feature in an online program designed to bring community together and create connections with new audiences.
I was selected as one of 124 contemporary artists to feature in the program and my original drawing of a humble Connemara donkey, M’asal Beag Dubh was recently shared globally across social media as part of that online exhibition.
Artists and galleries are harnessing the power of the online world to bring their work to broader, larger audiences and enrich the lives of those who would never have had the chance to see them otherwise.
With some resilience, creativity, a dash of stubbornness and some welcome support from the Local Enterprise channels, my small business continues not just to exist, but to thrive and grow.
The last months have brought huge challenges, hardships and change, touching all of us in some way or another. My journey into the digital world may have been accelerated somewhat by the events of 2020, but this uncertain way of living has opened doors for both my art and my business that I couldn’t have imagined a year ago. And for that I’ll always be grateful.
I really must thank all of you who have supported me along the way, family, friends, customers. To those very special people who have supported me through thick and thin, I love you all to pieces. https://www.facebook.com/RachelDubberGalway/