~ 22nd May 2021 ~
For some time I have wanted to express a more in-depth insight into my feelings about my business, where it’s come from and where it’s going. As well as being a little insight into what I am up to, I hope it also helps anyone in a similar position to me; running an independent business.
Just a small re-cap to explain where it all started. I have a background in design and studied a Degree and Masters in Jewellery. Following a 13 year career designing for various companies, I had my son in 2016 and never went back to working for other people. I felt that in the latter part of my career I sold my soul for far too long and worked for a company who didn’t care much about anything other making more money for themselves at the cost of staff happiness and the planet. This bad experience has stuck with me and been part of the drive to do something decent.
After my maternity leave I gathered my thoughts and ideas that had been in the back of my mind for years. I set up my business at the end of 2017 when my son Malachy was 18 months old. Although we were broke I was in a privileged position of having financial and moral support of my husband. We couldn’t afford childcare and I actually didn’t want to put Malachy into nursery, part of the reason for doing this was to be able to spend his pre-school years with him. So until he started school last year, I worked evenings, weekends and a half day during the week when Graham had time off to look after Malachy.
I often get e-mails to Mikaela Lyons Team, but it is just me and I think it always will be. I have thought about expanding and getting help. But I think there are bigger benefits in keeping it small and I am happy working on my own for the most part. A book that I read recently called ‘A Company of One’ by Paul Jarvis has been a great insight into this and something that has backed up every intuitive thought at resisting growth. I have turned down wholesale orders recently as I am almost at my capacity and happy to be there. At the moment I am fortunate to be making sufficient money and have a reasonable life / work balance and I don’t want to jeopardise that by taking on extra work.
It’s no secret that I have always been interested in eco practices from the start and I have taken care to ensure my materials and packaging are all as ethically sound as they can be, because it’s my duty to do so as a business owner and person who wants to live on a planet that isn’t dying. I won’t bore you with the details but if you want to know more you can read on here. As my business has grown it has enabled me to improve my practices. Eight months ago I partnered with Ecologi to donate monthly and offset my personal and business carbon emissions by planting trees. I also set up a link to my site to plant a tree for every sale and to date this has resulted in the planting of over 700 trees. This did not cost my business a lot of money and was incredibly easy to set up, and it goes some way to help to making it carbon neutral. There is so much more I can do and I will do as I progress and develop my business. It’s far from perfect and is ever changing and improving. It takes time, money, research and planning to run an ethical practice, so my advice to anyone who wants to do this, is to start somewhere and build on it. Improve and update constantly when you have the time and resources to do so.
I have been very much inspired by the work that Mary Portas has been doing through her Agency on ‘The Kindness Economy’. A manifesto on making business better, with importance being weighed as heavily on people and the planet as profit. I see this as an extremely important guide into how to run a business and is the way all businesses, big and small should aspire to be. I was particularly taken by one of her podcast episodes where she interviewed James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog who believes that businesses, not governments are the true drivers of change. The things that his company are doing to combat climate change are truly outstanding and incredibly inspirational, at a cost of his personal profit. He has enough, and the extra that he doesn’t need, he is giving back. It makes me realise that although I am doing something, I am not doing enough. There is so much more I can and should be doing and I’m working on it.
But it’s not just the planet, its people. It is everyone’s responsibility to do what you can to help the wider community around you. I’m fortunate in that I have a small platform on social media and that my business is currently making a profit. So when this happens the responsible thing is to give something back and highlight important issues. If you create a bubble for yourself and spend your money on yourself and not the community around you, then you ultimately lose out. If your community is struggling then it will come back to affect you. In my early 20’s I lived in the Philippines for 3 years, it was a huge culture shock to see such a great divide in wealth, I couldn’t get my head around how the richer community could drive to a fancy restaurant, past a slum with kids bare foot on the street and not be doing something about it. I’m sure some people did, but how can a society live in such a massive divide of wealth and power. It is very plain to see the divide in a country like the Philippines where extreme deprivation is right in front of you every day. Although it is more subtle here in the UK, it exists everywhere, but it’s not always as easy to see and it’s not fair. As I am currently earning sufficient money, it’s important to give back in the way of charity fundraisers. It’s the duty of every business to give back to the community.
During the past four years of running my business I have been extremely lucky to have had help to get me there, and just because I asked. Help from other business owners for guidance, from family and friends for support and from bloggers for exposure through Instagram. Alice Catherine (@alicecatherine) was the first blogger to share my work. I asked her to help me and she did. It was kind and literally saw the start of my first sales coming in. People have so kindly helped me along the way and I have never been afraid to ask. I am therefore never afraid to give back the kindness that they have shown to me to help me grow my business.
Since listening to the ‘Kindness Economy’ Podcast, that resonated so highly with me I just wanted to get these thoughts down on what business means to me and where I see the future of my business going. I always set out for this business to be a tool to enable me to be happy at work, being creative, allow me the maximum amount of family time / life work balance, to set an example to my son that you can be successful without damaging the planet and be kind to others. Hopefully at some point soon I can make some updates on what else I have been doing to improve my impact on the environment and community I live in through Mikaela Lyons Jewellery.
I hope this has helped anyone who is running a small business or wants to set one up. I would love to hear from you and what you are doing. I also wanted to say a huge thank you to you, my lovely and loyal customers. Without you I wouldn't even have a business. THANK YOU!
I have linked below all of the resources and useful things that have helped me.
Mary Portas Agency:
Work Like A Woman – A manifesto for change
Company of One: Why Staying Small Is The Next Big Thing for Business by Paul Jarvis
Thank you to Sarika for telling me about this book, and also for all of your help and support on this business journey, you can work with her too, she's amazing