Mental health as a small business owner

This week is Mental Health Week and my thoughts and feelings this week have been very apt.

mental health awareness and small businesses, the crochet craft co

I have previously touched briefly on some of the anxiety and struggles I can feel with balancing the full plates of so many areas in my life and the impact this can have on my well-being.

I have two teenage children and see very much first hand the challenges on their mental health, growing up in a world where so much pressure is placed upon them to ‘comply’ with what is expected.  There is so much information available to them on a 24/7 basis that there is no getting away from these expectations.  What you should look like, how you should dress, what your exam results should be and how all of these compare to their peers.

I remember when they were preteens, that there used to be quite high anxiety about replying to friends on social media immediately after seeing/opening their message. ‘Mum they have seen I’ve opened it so I have to respond now!’   The constant goading/bullying over social media and if a reaction wasn’t being given on one channel, they would try to create a reaction from a second or third.  We had it so much easier; once you were home from school, you were safe and didn’t have to see anyone until school the next day – you could never use the phone, just think of the bill!)

Technology and social media has changed our lives beyond anything we could have imagined.  It is fantastic; we can stay in touch with friends and families who live far away and share photos for them to see.   We can find the answer to any questions, however random.    The change in my life time has been huge.

How ever great social media is, we all also know the negatives that it can bring.  When reflecting on this, I was thinking about the pressures that social media brings on small businesses.

I am always keen to build my little crochet world as much as I can in the parameters I have.  I am always learning and taking part in education to help me do this.

Did you know that it is recommended that businesses;

  • post on their Facebook accounts once a day
  • post on Instagram twice a day with different content to Facebook
  • to keep a constant flow of Instagram stories going, posting valuable content on their business, information for customers as well as witty and honest personal posts.
  • after you have posted, you also need to engage, not only with those who engage with your posts but also find and engage with others to increase your exposure.
  • Pinterest is supposed to be great for my type of creative business and you need to pin 40 images daily to have a chance of being seen and hoping that people will be directed to your website
  • oh you must have your own website, as well as a mailing list where you must send out at least monthly emails with equally engaging but different content.
  • I can’t even begin think about tweets.

Keeping up with social media expectations is such a massive task and this is alongside all the other hundreds of tasks you need to keep up with that are vital for your business.  Some business friends seem to be on fire with their social media and I am always amazed how they can keep their input so consistent.

This last couple of weeks I have had a bit of a social media blackout.  Sometimes the pressure to keep up with thinking about content is too much for me.  I am a huge introvert anyway so putting myself out there is always a bit of a challenge but sometimes I just really can’t face it.  I almost become afraid to log on to my social media accounts as the guilt of not engaging rears its head.  I struggle to think of something ‘Instagram worthy’ to add or even just to think of anything at all and the more I stay off it, the harder it is to log back on.

It seems to me the social media pressure I feel for my business is very similar to those pressures felt by my children.  Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and my little crochet world wouldn’t be what it is today without it.  To be able to reach so many people, for free is such a fantastic business tool and is so vital for small business owners.  However what I have concluded this week is that I can no longer feel guilty for not being present on social media 24/7.  I need to take time out from it but I am not going to put myself on the naughty step for doing so.

 

 

Stepping away from the constantly active world is healthy for me to ensure I look after my own well-being and mental health.  I will get back to thinking about posting hopefully interesting and engaging stories, I will get back to engaging with customers and colleagues to try and be someone who they might think about in the crochet business world.  I might well lose some followers because I am not active or consistent in my approach but I can’t worry about this, as that will just heighten these anxious feelings.  It took me a long, hard lesson to stop looking at my day job emails out of hours because of the impact it was having on me, and this is another light-bulb moment that I have only just accepted is right for me, and therefore right for my business.

I will certainly be encouraging my children and anyone else to take social media holidays.  To be mindful in the current and enjoy what you are experiencing that day.

It’s supposed to be fun

Running your own business doing something you love is supposed to be fun…. right?

It is, but its bloody hard.

What starts as something small, dipping your toes in the water, really not believing that someone will pay for your wares but enjoying designing logos and practising product design becomes something much more serious and hard work.

I started this business because I love crochet.  I love it when my finished design comes out looking the same as the one in my head.  I am still overwhelmed and surprised when someone purchases one of my designs (especially someone I don’t know) and I absolutely adore teaching other people to crochet and watching their reaction when they are able to create beautiful projects.

However, running a business, even as small as mine, is really hard.

I am doing this, as well as many others, alongside my mortgage paying and very challenging day job.  I always dream that the crochet could take over the day job completely but this really isn’t a reality at the moment so I spend my time balancing the two.

 

I’ve come to realise that my little crochet business isn’t just about the crocheting and the teaching.   I am starting to spend less time crocheting and more time running a business, whether that is trying to keep up to date with tax records, ensuring that I am prepared and organised for numerous crochet lessons each week or tackling the monstrous black hole that is social media in a bid to try to get my tiny fish seen in such a big pond.

I feel resentful of the time and energy that my day job currently drains from me, whilst trying to be respectful that this is the job that actually pays the bills and given my position, I need to ensure that I give it my full and undivided attention and professional knowledge.

I feel cross that I cannot spend more time on my business, developing it with all the ideas that are in my head and frustrated that it takes me so much longer than I think to get where I want to be.

I feel worried that I never give enough time and attention to my two teenage children who are both going through some difficult and challenging experiences and that I am not supporting and guiding them as much as I should be.

I feel guilty that I don’t spend enough time with my brilliant hubby, who just spends his whole time worrying about me and looking after me.

I feel like a fraud, that I am not actually doing anything well, just stumbling from one thing to another.  I feel like I am failing as a manager, mum, wife, daughter, sister, friend and business person.

I feel absolutely physically and mentally knackered with all the demands I am experiencing and am just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other.

and don’t even get me started on the fact that I eat for England when I am stressed… I mean, come on, give me a break – give me something!!!

I’ve had thoughts about stopping the crochet lessons and just concentrating on my patterns and kits to free up some of my time and take the pressure off, however I have really found ‘my thing’ with the lessons.  I can feel myself glow when I teach crochet and would be so sad to stop this.

I’ve had thoughts about pausing/stopping the crochet business altogether and just crocheting for my own pleasure – but that would also make me very sad, and I think I would always wonder ‘what if – could I have made it?’

Then I think about the people in my life; friends, family and colleagues, who have/are going experiences that are so much more challenging, awful and heartbreaking than me and they do this in such an incredible, positive and inspiring way.  How they do this without complaining and whilst also finding the time to be there for others – I truly am inspired by them.   I think about where I work in the day job and how precious life is.  Whilst I have so many demands hitting me at the moment, it is nothing compared to what others are facing in their world.  Who am I to complain.

So yes, I do feel resentful, cross, worried, guilty and sad.  I am absolutely truly knackered……… however, I am also loved, happy, blessed and grateful with the friends and family in my life and my new business tribe I have found.

Running a business, even if it is one you are absolutely passionate about, is bloody hard but I will keep doing it.  I may not get all aspects of my life right all the time but  I will survive, I will keep doing my best, I will be there for my colleagues, family and friends whenever they need me as much as I can and I will be successful in moving my business in the direction that I can see in my dreams – it may take me a lot longer than I hope, but I will get there.

As someone very wise and special once said to me;

How it all started

I love Christmas Time.  It is a special time of year for our family and gives us a real ‘Hygge’ feeling.  If you haven’t come across ‘hygge’ yet, I will explain more about this in another post.

Christmas and crochet works perfectly together and goes hand in hand like a beautiful crochet glove (see what I did there!).

Over the last week or so I have been conscious of the state of my crochet room.  It has been spectacularly messy lately due to the deadlines I have been trying to keep; there has been yarn and safety eyes thrown everywhere (it has actually looked a lot like the inside of my head!)

When tidying it up (Mr Crochet Craft Co had nagged me a few times, but I think he was just looking for somewhere to store the Christmas drink), I came across one of my first ever makes for my business.

crochet christmas card, the crochet craft co

 

This crochet Christmas card represents the start of my business.

Now, for those that know me well will realise that I am notoriously bad at sending out card on special occasions.  It is not because I do not think of people at those times, I do; but just that I seem to have some inbuilt inability to organise myself enough to send cards on time.

Back in the Christmas of 2014, I made a special effort and created some crochet designs to place on cards for family and friends.  They were really well received and my hubby and some friends mentioned that I could try to start selling some.  After giving it some thought, I created some valentine and Easter cards and this Facebook page was created, as was ‘The Crochet Card Co’.

 

crochet card, the crochet craft cocrochet card, the crochet craft cocrochet card, the crochet craft cocrochet card, the crochet craft co

(Please excuse my terrible photos – I am hoping they have greatly improved over the last few years!)

A few months after, I was brave, stepped out of my comfort zone and rented a shelf at a local craft warehouse and as I started to develop my product range, I decided that a small tweak to my business name was needed, hence The Crochet Craft Co. (genius eh!)

 

My business has continued to grow since then and I now no longer create cards, but I keep this one safe as it holds a special place in my heart, without it, I am not sure my business would be where it is today.

Ironically I am still terrible at sending cards but the thought is always there!

The Crochet Craft Co

Crochet Lessons – 1st Birthday Celebrations

Today I realised that it is a year to date since I started teaching crochet.  Where has that year gone?!

When I started to think about teaching crochet, I came up with all sorts of different doubts and anxieties;

  • Who am I to teach crochet?  I am self taught.  What gives me the right to teach others?
  • Can I actually teach people to crochet?  What happens if I can’t explain the techniques properly?
  • Is there anyone out there who would actually like to learn?  Do people still perceive it as a granny skill?

To test the waters, I put a couple of posts on some local community pages.  The response was overwhelming with over 100 replies of interest for each post.  I absolutely knew that not all of those would transfer into students but the demand certainly seemed to be there, so I went for it, despite the above anxieties!

 

     crochet lessons, the crochet craft co

So 12 months on and lessons are still going strong.  I sat down and worked out a few stats this afternoon;

Over the last 12 months, I have run 85 lessons, totally 9960 minutes of crochet teaching.  During this time I have taught over 110 students in  different locations, (with a large selection of different motivational snacks!).  When I actually stop to look at these stats, I am actually pretty amazed and proud of what I have achieved.  Most of my amazing students have never picked up a crochet hook before and have all come away being official crocheters!  For the couple that have come to me already knowing how to crochet, they have picked up additional skills and tips to increase their repertoire.

It has, and continues to be a learning for me too over the last 12 months.  I have tweaked the format, days and locations.  I have reluctantly realised that trying to run too many lessons, alongside working the day job is not manageable, and whilst the dream is to increase these and lessen the day job (shhh, don’t tell the day job), at the moment this is not realistic and I cannot do it all.

Crochet lessons, the Crochet Craft Co

 

The one thing that I am most proud of is the amazing little crochet community that has emerged from the lessons.  Each of the sessions in the different areas has its own personality and it is so lovely to see each group coming together, friendships forming and people supporting each other, not only with any day to day frustrations or issues but with crochet projects and techniques.    I have many regulars who come each fortnight, not only to build on their skills but to use it as their social and their little space to relax and chill from their busy lives.    It is so lovely for me to sit and observe not only friendships developing but also crochet confidence increasing.  Some of my ladies are teaching others how to crochet, some are starting to alter patterns to their own preference.  I have even converted a few knitters from the dark side (there is a swear box for the dark side discussions!).

I would like to say a huge thank you to all my wonderful ladies (they are all ladies but men are more than welcome to join us too!).  Thank you for your faith in my skills and for your commitment and thank you for your support for me personally and my little crochet corner.

 

lessons, the crochet craft co

I can’t wait to see how the next 12 month develop and see the lessons go from strength to strength and support even more people in finding their crojo!

 

The Crochet Craft Co

My Crochet Health

Aptly it is Word Mental Health Day today, on the day I decided to tell my story about how I came to become a crochet addict.

I have a fairly stressful day job, lots of difficult challenges and problems to solve, which if I don’t get right, could have serious consequences for my employer.  I took up my current position around 8 years ago.  For a long time, with no confidence in my own abilities, I felt I had to work 24/7 to prove myself worthy of the title.  I worked all hours and was often known to ping emails off late at night and weekends (even on holidays).

It took me a good few years (about 3 years ago) to realise that this wasn’t helpful for me or the organisation.  I was never able to switch off, always thinking and worrying about work and it was having an impact on my family life.  Also, what sort of message was I sending to colleagues by sending emails late at night.  Was I rising their expectations that I would deal with things immediately, or was I adding unknown pressure on them to respond to me?

This is when I taught myself to crochet (thank you Lucy from Attic 24!).  I could knit (just about but badly) but I wanted to learn to crochet when someone asked me to make a knitted character from the Harry Hill programme and it turned out the pattern is actually crochet (who knew!).  I also was fascinated how you could create toys from just this little hook?

 

crochet bunny - The Crochet Craft Co

Crocheting really helped me put work to one side when I was at home and actually relax.  I couldn’t wait to sit down with my hook and yarn and lose myself in whatever I was creating at the time.  I still can’t and secretly resent those ‘I could be crocheting moments!’.

Since that time, I have opened my own crochet business, designed my own patterns and now teach and pass on the fantastic skills of crochet so others can discover the benefits.  It is quite amazing how many people come through my crochet doors with similar stories to me of burn out, stress and wanting to find something to help.

 

I will talk more about the recent studies that have been conducted into recognised benefits of crochet and the impact it has not only on mental but also physical health, in another post.  I will whisper this however – sometimes my crocheting can be the actual source of my stress but that is a story for another day  (shh, don’t tell my hooks!).

Thanks for getting this far.  I would love to know what you do to look after yourself and to help yourself relax and switch off.

Look after yourself and if someone looks like they may not be OK, ask the question and give them a bit of a squeeze (obviously with permission!!!).  It may be just what they need! #itsoknottobeok

My very first post – eeekk!!

Hello!

So I’ve finally got myself in gear and set up a new website,  woop! woop!  It’s been a challenge understanding it all (coding?! plugins?! widgets?!) and I thought I was tech savvy!  Being a creative person, I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to decide on the look and colour of the site (well it’s important stuff and it has to be the perfect shade of purple!).  My aim is to create a modern, clean space which reflects the modern and clean look of my work and show it off the best I can.  I hope I’ve achieved this.

This site will hopefully have lots of great crochet related information including information on how to crochet and build your skills, as well as how this craft can help you switch off and relax from the busy, hectic world we live in and focus the mind, all whilst making something brilliant!

I hope you enjoy it, bear with me whilst I continue to build more content.  All I need is another 6 hours in a day and we’ll be cooking on gas!