Business in Isolation

Wow, what a crazy world we’re currently living in. I think it’s fair to say that none of us could have seen this happening in any of our lifetimes. As I can’t do much in the way of catering and I’d rather not spend my days watching every minute of daytime TV, I figured I had no excuse to not right an update.

I hope you’re all coping okay; whether you’re working from home, temporarily out of work or trying to work out how to adapt your business to work within the rules of Covid-19. I can imagine that it can be hard in many cases to keep positive, but remember, this isn’t forever! It’s also a great time for us all to focus on what’s really important; our families, friends and health. Without these, life really is miserable.

In the past couple of weeks, I have spoken to my family more than I usually would in a couple of months; I have instructed virtual workouts with my friends and I have failed at numerous online pub quizzes. It has really made me sit back and realise how lucky we are. We all take for granted the choices we have – often I struggle to pick a restaurant for dinner so Tom and I tend to go to 3 or 4 in one evening, having a course at each. Now, I’d love for just one to be open!

Also, being such an indecisive person; I found choosing what to do at the weekend so hard, because the options were so vast! Now, there is no pressure on what we do; we enjoy each other’s company, we spend time at home and in the garden, doing the jobs that we’ve put off in favour of weekends away – weeding, strimming and leaf blowing to name a few. I'm also liking it as Tom is agreeing to cycle or run with me; usually I exercise alone, now he’s keen to do something! Life seems so much simpler, and less hectic. I’m sure I will be chomping at the bit in a couple of weeks time, but for now, I’m enjoying the calmness that this situation brings. I am obviously quite nervous about the financial ramifications of all of this but I'm desperately trying to focus on the positives, for this blog at least!

You’re probably wondering what I’m doing about work. All events have had to stop and nobody is getting the train, so my early mornings at Long Buckby Station have temporarily stopped. I thought I’d love not having to wake up super early and having to brave the dark cold mornings, but it didn’t take me long to miss the daily chats with my regulars. I had found it so fulfilling getting out of bed before the crack of dawn, and achieving something before most of the country wakes up. I’ve always been someone that needs a purpose, and I knew that without the ability to work, I’d struggle. I find myself feeling guilty very quickly if I’m not making the most of every hour of my day, and I really hate wasting time – so I was desperately trying to work out what I’d do with my days.

Last month I was offered the opportunity to run the tearoom at Kelmarsh Hall. I thought I was dreaming. I’ve had my heart set on a café for a few years now; however, I was wary of losing all the money I had spent six years working so hard to save. Owning a unit comes with so much pressure and added costs; from business rates, bills, staff costs and problems to constant building issues and there’s always the potential of unknown costs arising. I felt a bit stuck. I knew I needed more, but I couldn’t justify stopping such a successful mobile catering model to potentially work 24/7 and losing money.

So, Kelmarsh came along at a great time. Not only is the tearoom all intact, complete with all appliances and furnishings, but it also has a guaranteed trade as people will be visiting the beautiful stately home anyway. Oh, and it gets better! It’s only open four days a week, with Friday and Saturday being closed for weddings. So I could still do the odd MYO event. I quickly got to work setting up social media accounts (please follow us on @victoriasatkelmarsh), an email account, got the accountants on board and found staff. I also started trialling out my baking, as following a recipe has never been my forte! I enjoyed challenging myself, preparing all the different types of pastries, gluten free scones and tarts. It turned out, I actually could bake!! See, the things you can do when you set your mind to it ;)

BUT, then Corona came and ruined all my exciting plans. BIG sad face. Admittedly, I was quite worried that I had a) made someone quit their job for me, and there being no work for her, b) bought hundreds of pounds of equipment and c) invested a lot of energy into the opportunity. However, I’ve been given the guarantee from Kelmarsh that I can run the tearoom in 2021 so hopefully we will have a really prosperous year once we’re all out the other side of Covid-19.

I had hoped to keep our social media going; posting lots of recipes and creations and expanding our followers, so that when we open, we’d potentially have more trade. Unfortunately, I can’t do a great deal of baking as the shops don’t have flour, so the social media posts aren’t quite so frequent. I got so desperate that I asked Tom to bring home a bag of ground wheat (the step before flour) so that I could experiment with it and see whether I could make anything. He laughed initially; saying it would be gross as it is so coarse. This made me even more determined! After a couple of attempts, I ended up baking a really lovely loaf of bread. It’s very different to what you’d get in the shops as the flour isn’t refined at all, so it’s quite nutty, wholesome and full of texture. I’d go as far to say that it’s pretty damn good! Tom wants me to make loads and sell it, but in all honesty, it’s quite hard to work with and I don’t feel like taking on that challenge yet!

So, Kelmarsh is on hold. Long Buckby Station Trailer is on hold. MYO is on hold; my bookings have largely been cancelled or have tried to re-book for later in the summer; but I’m now wondering whether that’s wishful thinking. We were told yesterday that the restrictions could last up to six months!!!! Fingers massively crossed that this isn’t the case, but if it is, I’m going to need something to keep me going.

Tom is still busy at work, thank goodness! Being in the food industry, he’s one of the few that can carry on working. They’re abiding by government rules and legislation, operating mainly from home, with barely anyone in office. However, due to a lot of his staff having to be at home to look after their children, this has created its own problems.

I’ve offered my help for years, but finally Tom has allowed me over the threshold and I’m really enjoying helping where I can, whether it’s delivering work to those working from home or preparing documents for the team. I do whatever is asked of me and I am loving feeling part of a team. It’s something I’ve really missed since having my own business; so I’m hoping I might still have a job by the end of Covid-19!

In terms of my personal life…. We were meant to be on honeymoon; in Hong Kong, of all places! Yes, it’s frustrating, but probably not as frustrating as people who were meant to be getting married, buying houses or celebrating big milestones. I guess we have something to look forward to at the end of this. I just hope the airlines and tourism trade can get going quickly again. I feel so sorry for all those companies and people out there that are being affected by all the lockdowns happening across the world.

I’m going to stop it here before I waffle anymore. I’m going to aim to write weekly updates. If you enjoy these blogs, please let me know – otherwise I’ll continue writing to give me something to look back on in the future ;)

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