Making Lemonade from Lemons
It’s a crazy time all over the world right now as we finish up week 6 of social distancing due to the global pandemic Covid-19. For many people anxiety and emotions are running high. Kids are home from daycare and schools and struggling to understand what’s going on; parents are trying to work from home, parent, homeschool, cook and clean; others are having to work on the front lines; people are worried about their businesses, employment and livelihood in general; some are sick and dying and loved ones are unable to come together to support each other and grieve. We are all experiencing Covid-19 differently but regardless of how it’s impacting you I’m sure you will remember this experience for the rest of your life.
Seems like a crazy time to be starting a new business, right? I agree, but here’s the thing. I’ve been soul searching for some time now trying to figure out what I want to do long-term, what my goals are personally and professionally, how I want to live my life and what I want to teach my kids about work and life in general. After considerable soul searching and research I decided to start a card & gift basket company. I looked into brick and mortar; I got pretty close to buying a Canada Post franchise and I looked into purchasing an existing gift basket website too. I ended up deciding I wanted to create my own company from scratch that way I can do the branding and sourcing the way I want -> different than what’s out there.
I called my company Caribou Gifts (a nod to Canada and I love the tag line “I Caribou You”) and the goal is to focus on sourcing as much as possible from Canadian companies, women-owned companies, minority-owned companies and companies/products that are putting thought towards protecting our environment. If you have any favourite companies please send them along as I’m currently building my partner list.
My intention is to consolidate my “side hustle” businesses of selling Usborne Books and making greeting cards into this new company.
I incorporated less than a week before we got locked down… really terrible timing!
I spent the first few weeks with both my kids at home a bit paralyzed and uncertain as to how to proceed not knowing how long the social distancing would go on. As I processed the “new normal” and helped my toddler work through her big feelings about the changes I realized that I needed to pivot and adjust my plans if only for my own sanity to continue moving forward. It really has been amazing for my mental health to work on building this business in the small amount of time I have every day rather than collapsing and watching Netflix. I am energized and excited about this business.
For the month of April I decided to focus on selling Usborne Books since parents really need resources to keep their kids busy as they try to do the impossible – work, homeschool, parent, clean, cook, etc. I also decided to donate the proceeds to MumNet from my book sales in April. As President of the Board of Directors for this organization I want to do my part to help keep our core staff employed, ensure that the organization can pivot to provide online content to our members during this challenging time and make improvements to our programming so that when it’s safe to resume in person gatherings we are ready. I also offered a stock sale of my books to local customers to help out my community when they need it most and to help me clear some space for new products; not losing sight of the end goal of focusing on gift baskets.
To sell my stock inventory I needed to create a website and after researching and testing a few providers I decided to use WooCommerce which is an open source design and therefore a super affordable option but it came with a steep learning curve initially. I’m still working on improving the site and will be for a while I’m sure.
To date, I’ve received some great support from friends, family, fellow entrepreneurs and the community for which I’m extremely grateful. My family has settled into the new normal and we’ve got a pretty good routine going on. We are extremely lucky that I am currently home with our kids and my husband is able to work at home.
I just launched my first giftable box for pre-order: “Busy Boxes” for kids. These boxes are amazing value packed with Usborne activity and reading books, art supplies and toys. I know these boxes will make the recipients very happy and I’m so excited to be moving forward with my first giftable box. These boxes are Rev1. I wanted to get things ready for the community quickly as I know resources are needed but I’m working on collaborating with some of my favourite Canadian Companies so I can provide more variety and new options in the near future. Make sure you’re on my mailing list or following me on Instagram to learn about all the upcoming products to be launched.
Pre-Covid I did not envision this as my first product or promoting a website still largely under construction without a full assortment of products but having both my kids at home while I work on this business in the evenings has reinforced a few things for me including the fact that done is better than perfect – for now.
That doesn’t mean the boxes are not FABULOUS, it just means that the back end of things isn’t as perfected as I would like and the products for Rev1 of these boxes are not from Canadian companies.I am donating 15% of the sales of Busy Boxes in May (including the current pre-order) to Woodgreen Community Services as part of my #covidcommitment because during this time I want to keep giving back to deserving organizations. Woodgreen works with sick, elderly, homeless and other extremely vulnerable residents of Toronto and is very deserving of support, especially right now.
At the end of the day I’m doing my best to pivot, help the community and make lemonade from lemons.
Thank you for your support this far and for joining me on this journey as I grow and adapt. Keep well.