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/entrepreneursh