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The Year of Self-Love: A Moment of Honesty Concerning Spoonie Village as a Business

It's been another breathless week here at Spoonie Village! Between following a Parliamentary debate on the treatment of ME, getting our first greeting cards ready to put up on the store, and chatting with all of you lovely people on the forum, it's certainly been busy! Of course, it's our absolute pleasure to be able to work on serving and expanding this wonderful community, that's exactly why we've both committed ourselves to it totally this year, with Tom making managing the site his full-time job and Hayley putting all of her spare spoons and more into creating new art and products for you all.

It's important to remember though, there's only so much you can do before it's time to take a step back and take stock. Rest is so important but when slowing down it’s easy during this time to be critical of the things you've done; ruing missed opportunities, finding areas for improvement, beating yourself up over mistakes you’ve made. And it’s in exactly these situations that we often forget that we should be congratulating ourselves too. That is why this community is a two way thing. Thank you to everyone this week who has sent us a messages/comments about the new site, shared things on social media, signed up to the forum, read our previous blog, had a mooch around the new site and especially grateful if you placed an order. Your love and support for what we’re creating means the absolute world. On these days of self doubt and fear your messages/comments of support, love and feedback really do encourage us, keep us focused to keep trying new things and do our best for you and forr the future of Spoonie Village.

That being said, this blog post is a bit different to what we’d usually choose to write. Our aim for the blogs is to be platform for your stories and voices along with sharing our experiences of life and illnesses. In this case, we are discussing our experiences but this time it’s on the running of Spoonie Village and how it works, we care a great deal about being transparent and honest with all of you from the other side of what you usually see. So here goes…

Often, there’s an assumption about being online that means if you have a nice professional website everything must be a success straight away and it’s all taken off because it looks good. Thing is this really isn’t true (if you have Netflix and have seen “Fyre”, you’ll see how easily people can buy into this idea if it all looks glossy and perfect, even it’s being intended to dupe). In a world now caught up with the idea of influencers and people wanting show the best of everything on a social media snapshot. The majority of the time things like hard work, emotions and the time involved behind the scenes isn’t really visible and are getting lost. We know this and always aim to be as transparent as possible about the reality of what we do when living with illness. We want to always steer away from this type of “influencing” practice because it doesn’t fit with us. Not long ago Hayley wrote a post about this topic when hitting 20k followers and her concerns for being deemed a success for it.

We often get emails from people wanting sponsorship, asking if they can pay for us to promote them/their accounts or for us to promote their things because we have this community. As a rule we say no, the only time we would is if it were something we felt everyone would benefit from and would be of help, and in that case we would be absolutely transparent about it. Now, while we know and appreciate many people do it and like the idea, this blog is meant in no disrespect or nor do we aim to take issue with their choices, we just want to say we are not here to influence our followers, because to us you are all people living with illness and have chosen to be part of a community, not be targets for us to sell “a lifestyle” or brand. We do not want to be influencers. We are hosts for a community. Anything we share on social media is because we want to share it with you. If Hayley finds a post that helps her she shares it because it might help others too. More recently, if people are taking part in our blog series we will approach people who fit our themes and naturally share their pages and creations that week because they too are living with illness and trying their best to cope, like us all. Also, as part of our community we want everyone to find new people to connect with to feel less alone, that’s a big reason why we do it. Essentially if we were all at a party you would happily introduce other people to each other who you think might get along or have shared interests, and this is how we see the blog series.

So although we have a vision of what we are trying to create for everyone, this is still in the early stages. Even now we are still working on it, constantly tweaking things behind the scenes to improve the user experience. Hayley’s energy means sometimes things will have to slow down or her time on Instagram gets less, we know that you know about this and understand this because you all live with it too. At times it’s a struggle to do basic tasks never mind host a community. That said, it doesn’t take away that we really do love all of you and our website! But it isn’t just ours, we created it for everyone one of you, our neighbours in our village. If you like we are just the house hosts, it’s you guys that make it a community and a home. We wish it were possible to focus purely on raising awareness and chatting with everyone on the forum and give away everything we make but unfortunately that just doesn’t provide a salary, especially for Tom as maintaining a platform for all this to happen is a job.

This is where our shop comes in. We decided to make it part of the site to try and create a community hub where everything is one place and to attempt to make a living out of what we want to do. Due to our shared experiences of living with illness, we want to create and sell things that help people first and foremost so that we can reach our goal of realistically being able to live off our small business (we know this sounds quite straightforward but the reality is very different). If we can do this it means we can invest our time into building and growing the community and raising awareness even more. It all ties in together if that makes sense? It’s at this point we just want to say to you that, we know how tight money can be when living with illness, we really do. So massive thanks if you’ve placed an order with Spoonie Village, it really does mean heaps! We joke about Tom dancing to things like sign ups and orders but the reality is it happens because we are super grateful and it feels like you believe in us too. So if you’ve been on the fence about making a purchase and have the means to do so, we are asking you to please give it another thought, not because we are greedy profit hunters but because every penny you spend in our store gives us the means to reinvest in The Village, both financially and creatively. If you’re sitting here reading this wanting to support the shop but knowing right now it’s just impossible financially we hear you and totally understand. It’s not easy but we also want to take a second to say there are other ways of supporting us that don’t involve money! In fact, Hayley even created a handy little image to help explain how you can best help us out! If you can help us get the word out of what we create that equally means the world to us! (This was inspired by the work of the Just A Card campaign who encourage you to do whatever you can to support independent businesses, whether it's buying just a card or spreading the word. You can find them HERE)

All of these things can help a small business to be sustainable, Spoonie Village relies on them as much as any other indie

Talking of money, in our shop you’ll notice we often release pre-orders of items before they’re in stock. Before Christmas, you all went crazy for Hayley’s calendar which addressed the theme of more self love, this too was a pre order item and allowed Hayley to pay for them upfront as money is tight, being small still starting out. We don’t have investments or loans or crowdfunding, we are trying to make money from the items we already have to create new things and be able to live off which is why it’s a tricky balancing act and isn’t straight forward (this is typically an area not discussed much with Spoonie business/entrepreneurship). This is why at the moment, for us, pre-orders are so important for our shop. Pre-ordering allows us to order in the items for the box without having to worry about taking funds away from other projects we are working on. It is super helpful for us if you buy a pre-order the box instead of waiting till after release and, as a thank you in advance, we offer all our pre-order items with a discount over the release price so it gives you the opportunity to grab it a bargain too! (Our first box comes at a cheaper pre-order price and can be used with the 10% off code that was given to those who signed up to the mailing list before launch, so you really can get it a lot cheaper). We also have our pre-order policy which explains where you stand and our commitments when delivering on pre orders.

We are not ashamed to tell you we don’t have lots of money to front this right now because we don’t.

It is still majority run from Hayley’s bedroom but at the same time there’s a level of professionalism that we do want to give, and this is where the confusion can set in. Even when it comes to postage, we know internationally it can mount up, we do our utmost to keep it as low as we can but Royal Mail set the costs by size and weight for each area of the globe and we have to post it for that cost. We don’t make profit off postage and packaging, and we wish we could make it cheaper for you but it just isn’t an option open to us right now.

Anyway, back to pre orders, and you might have noticed that we’ve had our first bundle box up for pre-orders on the store, also focussing on the theme to love yourself more.

So, we thought we’d turn to a more exciting topic to end with because this is the side we really love, the creation of new items and resources unavailable anywhere else to help our community. Here’s a quick rundown of our reasons for putting this box together and we’ll talk you through exactly what’s in it for those of you who’ve already placed your orders, and for those of you who may still be on the fence.

So, why the box?

Well, to be honest there are plenty of reasons. Firstly, we don’t know about you, but we absolutely love receiving packages stuffed with goodies! There’s nothing better than opening a box full of brand new stuff to explore and enjoy, especially during times when you may not be feeling so great. That’s why, during one of our very first planning meetings for the expansion of the site, we both decided that we’d offer people boxes with the potential to brighten their days, be they good or bad. We also know many of you love to send our stuff as gifts to others and this box is pre-made and perfect to do just that! That’s exactly why this first box is just the start of it! We currently have plans to release a new box every three months, each with their own unique theme and packed with exclusive items, all designed in-house at Spoonie Village. How cool is that?! As with this first box, all of the other boxes will be available for pre-order for reasons discussed above. This particular one comes at a time when there’s so much focus on relationships, buying chocolates and flowers we wanted to create something which so much more meaning. The longest and most important relationship you have is one with yourself and so we honestly don’t care whether this valentine’s day you’re single, madly in love or just not interested in it all, we care about the relationship you have with yourself. Life with illness is tough and loving yourself when living with one is even tougher, we know it because we too struggle with it. So we wanted to brighten your day and bring the focus back to you, because you matter and we want to kickstart the year of self-love with something to help you all year round.

What are you going to get in this first one?

Well, we’ll start with probably the most useful part of it, the 20 page zine and activity book. This A6 booklet contains a variety quotes, journal prompts and activities designed to help you to think about all of the ways you love yourself more, and maybe point you in the direction of new ways in which you can love yourself. It’s a journey and it’s one that can sometimes feel difficult. These activities are intended to be dipped in and out of as you please, so if you want to race through all of them in a day or spread them over the year, the choice is yours!

What’s next? Ah yes, the bunting! We absolutely love this! After the calendar went off sale we had plenty of messages asking about whether you could still buy them. Unfortunately, once they were gone that was it, but this bunting pack allows for you to display 5 of your favourite calendar images at a time, instead of just looking at one for a whole month. So how does it work? Well, we give you a length of string and 5 pegs, you then get 5 14.8x14.8cm cards each with a different calendar page design printed on each side. This means that you put it up anywhere in your room, mixing and matching the images however you want depending on what you think you need reminding of most!

Now, this next bit is the part we’re most proud of… it’s our very first enamel pin with glitter on it! Measuring 40mm long (which makes it a seriously bumper sized pin!), this pin is designed to remind you that when you look in the mirror, there’s always something to love. So you can put it up by your own mirror to remind you, on your jacket to remind a stranger, or stash it away somewhere safe in the hope that it’ll be uber collectible someday!

And what of the rest of the box? Well, we didn’t want to leave the last two calendar pages out after only getting 10 on the bunting, so we’ve put together an actual mirror with a design on the back encouraging you not to be so hard on yourself, and a button badge with the frankly hilarious but relatable “PJs instead of DJs” design on it. Oh, and don’t forget the little bottle of bubbles! Guaranteed to bring a smile to even the lowest day!

Honestly, we’re so so proud of what we’ve managed to put together here and hope it will bring joy and help everyone on their self love journey. Sold individually, these things would be worth at least £25, and the pin alone would be £8, so not only is it a fantastic collection of stuff but amazing value too. The pre-order price is £16, and will increase to £18 after the pre-order period ends. We really hope it’ll help so many of you who took part in the ‘love yourself more insta challenge’ and said you wanted more, it has all being designed with that in mind. We hope you’ll love it just as much as we do and keep an eye out for sneak peeks in the stories for when things arrive.

We end this post with hearts full of gratitude, not just only getting to the end (we know it’s been a long one!). This hasn’t been a comfortable post to write for the most part, and talking about money is never easy, especially since we know so well about how money and chronic illness often don’t exist in the same places. But we felt it was important to be totally upfront with you all. When we post on Instagram or the forum or this blog about something on our store, it isn’t because we want to squeeze every penny from our members. It’s simply that we hope that the things that we sell can genuinely provide some sunshine to someone’s day, and because like everybody else we have bills to pay and tables that need food on them.

Once we’ve taken care of those things, we can commit absolutely everything we have to making this community into everything that we know it can be. And we promise that’s exactly what we’ll do. We hope you understand. So once again, from the bottoms of our hearts, thank you.


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