Wearing all the Hats

Cherish Reardon, mum, wife, business owner, overnight teacher. The trials and tribulations of life during a pandemic.

To say 2020 has been a crazy year would be an absolute understatement wouldn’t it?

I’m a Tamworth girl and we have a family-run clothing brand, Popsy Clothing, where we design, manufacture and sell ladies’ and children’s clothing. We have a community of nearly 80,000 women, even having a big meet-up where 140 women from across the country met up in our little town for a day of confidence classes, food and a good old giggle!

I am sure you can relate when I say those first few days of lockdown felt like we were living in a film. The supermarket shelves were empty, the atmosphere was alien and if you had a 12-pack of toilet rolls you felt like a king! We were worried about our family, our friends and about our business. With nowhere to go, who would want to buy a dress? Our Facebook group, Popsy Clothing – Frocks & Friends, has always been a safe space: sharing outfits, thoughts, meeting new friends and just somewhere we can all feel part of something special. Our usually lighthearted and fun group changed almost overnight. Outfit ideas and smiling faces were replaced with worry and anxiety.

Like most mommies in the country we had also become school teacher overnight too. No interview, no previous experience, we didn’t apply but the job was ours and suddenly we were responsible for educating our children. I’m laughing thinking back now. That first day I was like Miss Honey! I set out a strict timetable complete with break times starting each morning with Joe Wicks’ PE class. Hey, the girls could even wear their school uniform to keep them in as much of a routine as possible. Deluded. That whole thing lasted all of a day and I quickly realised that I wasn’t cut out to be teacher while working from home too.

Having the girls home and also trying to work from home was definitely…interesting. We are used to working late but it meant even later nights due to us not being as productive in the day. Emails being sent early hours of the morning and the girls singing at the top of their voices while I was on a work call were a regular occurrence. Production completely stopped for the safety of our staff and we put all our attention into our community and how we could try and make lockdown just a little bit easier. It was no longer about the dresses. We set up a timetable for our customers (which by the way was a lot more successful than my children’s school one!) and had activities throughout the day to keep us entertained. Sign language, fitness classes, jewellery-making, magic tricks, live singers and quiz nights to name a few. Even though we were all apart – it made us feel like we weren’t alone. I feel like this horrendous time has brought our customers even closer together and created a really special bond.

As I reflect on the last four months and life starts to slowly go back to some sort of normality, I think about what I have learnt during this time.

Don’t be afraid to adapt

So many businesses have had to adapt during this pandemic and it has forced business owners to make changes that they may not have previously made. We were fortunate enough to already be selling online but we had to think outside the box and think how we could be there for our customers. We could no longer make them dresses…but we could be there as a support. We were constantly thinking of ways to be present even though production had stopped. We are a clothing company and at the start of the year I never imagined we would have a doctor going live in the group, for a Q&A to help answer any questions and ease anxiety, or that we would be offering baking classes! We donated fabric and elastic to the Tamworth Sewing Volunteers to help and we sent dresses to key workers to let them know we were thankful for their work. When production opened back up again customers were asking for face covers and we introduced these to the website, donating a percentage to a charity close to our hearts, Quinn’s Retreat, which we are proud to be able to support. I have realised even more that our brand is so much more than the dresses.

Balancing teaching your children whilst working from home

This was a big one for me – I was so worried that my girls would fall behind with their education. Like I said, I had all great intentions but it just didn’t work out how I had planned it in my head. Put it this way, if Ofsted had turned up at our homeschool we would have been shut down instantly as the kids didn’t listen, the students ruled the school and the teacher had no clue what she was doing. I have spent a lot of time feeling guilty because of the hours I work and trying to balance Popsy and family life. I actually feel like the girls have learnt so much more than they ever could in a classroom. Our eldest has been learning to use a sewing machine and has made herself a little bag from our scrap fabric, they’ve taken a huge interest in wildlife and have learnt about different types of birds in the garden, our youngest learnt to ride her bike with no stabilisers, they’ve learnt to fish, they make the best dens, and my girls are absolute whizz-kids with technology, teaching us how to get YouTube on the TV! I’ve realised that learning and education are so much more than being at school, that I didn’t need to have them sat at a table with a strict timetable for them to learn. As parents I think we can put so much pressure on ourselves and, speaking with my friends who have children, it seems that so many of us feel guilty and worry that we didn’t do enough schoolwork. If we had them sat at the table learning for six hours a day we would feel guilty for not playing with them enough; if we let them play all day we would feel guilty for not doing enough learning. Guilt just seems to follow us as parents. We are living through a global pandemic, if your child is safe, fed and loved then you are doing amazing. One thing’s for sure – I have a whole new level of appreciation for teachers!

Shop with small businesses

I have made a real effort to support small businesses and I have found some absolute little gems that I would never have discovered. There’s something special about family businesses and I know from being one that every order is so appreciated. I have loved buying from small local businesses and will definitely continue to do that. One benefit for me was I have been networking with local businesses for over two years and have a real support system of local business owners. I feel the community really pulled together, I was able to recommend a lot of small businesses, everybody offered advice to each other and my usual photographer, Ruminate Productions, stopped shooting but was still working from home and recommending us. I have realised how important our local businesses are; when I shop now I think, could I buy this from a small local business?

Social media has been so important for businesses during this pandemic and it has been so inspiring seeing so many local businesses adapting and the community supporting each other during this difficult time. I am proud to be a small Tamworth business!

Cherish x

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