2020… what a year. A year of highs and lows, a year of learning and a year of successes for me personally and for my business. I learnt that I need to be able to adapt to the world and the demands of the market. But I am proud of where I am now compared to where I was at the start of the year. Here’s how my year went.
At the start of the year I was officially launching my graphic design business on the 5th of January, leading to several new clients.
Then between February and March I supported Soft Touch Arts with their Unlocked 2 exhibition, where I created a set of 3 animations using the artwork prisoners and ex-prisoners had done inside prison. These were shown to around 10,000 people during the opening weekend and with coverage on national and local news, including the BBC, ITV, The Guardian and The Leicester Mercury. The year seemed to be getting off to a good start, until the dreaded COVID-19 hit. The exhibition was shut down and the clients which I had managed to get at the start of the year all cancelled the work on the same day. And it happened to be my birthday. I was now back at the start, thinking what do I do now?
Mid April rolled around and I had been getting by with the support of various people, my mentor from the Princes Trust, who has been amazing this whole year, all the staff at Soft Touch Arts who had adapted and started running sessions online via Zoom, and my sister who runs her own community interest company; Visit From The Stork (VFTS), supporting young parents up in Salford. She had responded quickly, with a project called Stork Support, which provides essential baby items such as nappies and baby food to mums and families in need. As the graphic designer and social media manager for VFTS, I was busy with work from her which was keeping me going in the mean time.
It was during mid May when I was working part-time at a recycling centre to get by, and just before the lockdown in Leicester was extended that I decided it was time to get serious about selling art and things online. I had been experimenting with platforms such as Etsy, but had yet to properly make any sales and had made a half-hearted attempt at an online store back in 2018 to sell my book.
Adapting my business during a pandemic
I had been wanting to create an online store for years, but didn’t have the necessity or means to make it happen. After running a few ideas past my Roger, my mentor, we decided I should create a proper online store, invest in some stickers and things I think will sell such as (relevant for this year) masks and make a proper go of starting a products based business, alongside my graphic design business. I managed to sell over 40 items to 14 states in the USA, and to Germany, France, Australia, the UK and Greece through both Etsy and through my website. I received a grant from the Princes Trust to be able to spend money on Facebook and Google Ads, as well as buy a Cricut cutting machine so I could handmake stickers and make things to order.
On a personal level, I have completed a Level 2 award in youth work practice through the National Youth Agency, which I will use to look to further my career teaching arts to the youth of today, with a specialism in SEN young people.
I have also been doing 1:1 Adobe Illustrator tutorial sessions with a young person at Soft Touch, where I am a participant but also a volunteer.
I have been participating in a joint project from Soft Touch Arts, pedestrian and Music HQ called (working title) the youth voice group, which aims to take young volunteers and workers from each organisation and train them in youth work so that we can be a voice for the future for these organisations, and help empower young people through access to the arts.
There will be more about this in 2021 so stay tuned!
Heres to 2021!
2020 has been terrible for a majority of the world, millions (maybe billions) of people have been affected in some way by the pandemic, losing businesses, losing jobs, losing loved ones. The news seems like it is all doom and gloom, but let’s hope a vaccine is the torch that can light the way out of this dark hole we are currently in.
Have a safe and happy new year and here’s to 2021!