The Year That Changed Us

As 2020 draws to a close we all breathe a collective sigh; partly because of the year we have all endured, but also because the turn of the calendar doesn’t bring as much change as we had perhaps hoped for. Here at Mummy & Me, we started 2020 with a notebook full of plans and ideas for how to take this wonderful community to the next level. We were buzzing with excitement for our Spring Market at Titanic Hotel Belfast and for our newly launched Collective which was, in many ways, a school for business. Our plans were in place, we just needed to get our heads down and make them happen!

As March rolled around, it suddenly became very clear that the plan in our notebooks wasn’t going to be quite how we imagined. It was a very hard decision to cancel our Spring Market as the situation became ever more uncertain. We were all fired up for our biggest event yet, with even more small businesses and loads for our little guests to do too. Shortly after our announcement, we all went into lockdown and that reinforced our actions. A couple of months later and things were the same, so another tough decision was made to cancel the Collective and plans for anything else venue based for us in 2020.

We quickly realised that we needed to change and adapt in order for our own young business to survive, we also realised that most of the small businesses we work with were in the same situation. We wanted to support them, even though we weren’t sure how it would be possible. Looking back, it has been such a challenge, but we are so proud of what we have created and now know, moving forward that we can continue to serve other small businesses, even in the craziest of times. If you run your own business, you’ll know how it takes a village to create, support and function. The loss of the Markets this year has been huge, each Market would be attended by over at least 40 hand selected small businesses and visitors into the thousands. The Winter Market has become the annual high point with beautiful businesses and queues of guests. Our Markets support so many small businesses, which made it even more important for us to adapt for them as well as us.

Back in March, like so many business owners, we were unsure if Mummy & Me would be able to operate at all. We are both self employed, Laura’s husband was furloughed and Catherine’s is also self employed; both families spent a lot of time in discussion about surviving financially and plans for the future. Discussions would change daily as a response to what was happening in the world and the unpredictability of our “new normal”. We made the decision to support our sellers in a way that meant they could plan and prepare for the changes ahead. We scrambled together some local marketing agencies and provided free online courses and digital marketing consultations as we realised most of our businesses would need to adapt and an online presence was crucial. Not long after, we made the decision to move the Market online after chatting through all the options and deciding that it was the best option for us and would provide a platform for local small business.

This wasn’t our first online Market; when Catherine’s youngest was just 3 weeks old we held an online market which was definitely a huge learning curve. However, this market was our only shot this year, not just a filler event, and so the pressure was on. How do you create a Market atmosphere? We needed the shop to be pristine, the user experience to be easy and enjoyable and we needed to showcase each business as best as possible. Above all the challenges, we were grateful to have an exciting focus and were especially grateful for Catherine’s IT expert husband who was on hand to help with the challenge of plug ins, coding and website functionality! There were many, many late nights and more work than we have ever put into an event, it was stressful for sure!

We selected our businesses, started to spread the word online and meticulously planned our online workshops. On 7 November at 9am our Winter Market Online went live. Shortly after, the server crashed due to the huge volume of traffic, once we got that sorted we were able to join in the buzz of market day. There were thousands of people browsing and multiple orders coming in on the minute, every minute. We passed every milestone we had set and had a huge celebration at the end. There were tears of joy and relief on face time as we virtually high fived each other. We had created something special and we were proud! Most importantly, we are proud to have been able to offer something for the small businesses who would normally be with us at a venue. The beauty of going online has meant that our events can now be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere! There were sales from right across the UK and even Spain and Denmark! A big thank you to each and every person who logged on and if you made a purchase with a small business, then I’m sending an extra special thank you.

Nothing will ever replace an actual event, the build up, meeting the faces behind the brands, mingling with guests and enjoying a glass of prosecco and wood fired pizza. Online has boomed this year, it has really has been incredible and a life saver for so many. I know there are a lot of small business owners giving a large sigh of relief that this year has been challenging, but not all has been lost. Online is fantastic, but I know that as soon as we all can safely gather together again, we will, and the atmosphere will be amazing. We have plans for 2021 and have some exciting new things up our sleeve. Our focus is firmly on providing ways to Shop, Meet & Play, even if we are in our own homes.

The future of Mummy & Me looks a little like this; a greater platform for small business, a greater celebration of creativity and some much needed human connection even when we are isolated. We’re now at the end of 2020 with Christmas in sight… we are ready to down tools and enjoy some relaxation and family time. Our plans and all the possibilities of next year tucked safely in notebooks ready for the new year.

We would like to wish you a wonderful Christmas and are sending you all the positive thoughts for 2021. We really do hope to be able to welcome you in person to one of our events in 2021, and if not, we look forward to the day when we can.

Thank you again for supporting the online Markets and Workshops this year!

See you again soon!

Laura & Catherine x

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