A letter from Mari: The challenges of Covid-19 on my small business
We are all very much in uncharted territory right now. Covid-19 has spread worldwide and the UK is in its second week of lockdown. Us as individuals and the government are both adapting to the situation and we are adapting the way we live for the foreseeable future until we can return to our normal again (or a new normal at least).
In the interest of transparency, I wanted to let you know how things have affected my own small business and my re-stocking plan. Which, as I so enthusiastically see, so many of you are eagerly monitoring.
MAAREE is a small one-woman business that has been trading for 16 months now, run by just me, Mari. I have developed the first sports bras with Overband Technology®, reducing upward motion of breasts. My first year has been absolutely amazing and I've loved Every. Single. Second. I knew there'd be challenges along the way, I've been expecting them and prepared for them. However, I have now encountered my first BIG challenge.
No-one saw this coming (well unless you were the author of 'The Eyes of Darkness' apparently) and it's affecting everything. From the way we shop, how we work, how we live and it's even affecting most businesses worldwide.
My sports bras have flown off the shelf this past year, much faster than I anticipated. I am so grateful for this, and so happy to see it helping so many of you, not just me. (Otherwise I would have had a life-time supply of sports bras for myself 😂)
In late autumn 2019, many sizes started to sell-out, and I placed a new order with my suppliers to make more sports bras and leggings. I'd have more stock in by the New Year and things could go on as normal.
No problem... right?
News started to come in about the virus in China. I don't think anyone knew the eventual impact of this news. However, I had found a new supplier in China who I was now in development with and look to go into production with by the time New Year hit. In January they had their usual 3 week Chinese New Year Holiday with no-one working. Oh yeah, forgot about that (still clearly a little new to this) but no problem, speak to you again in three weeks where we can push 'GO' on the sports bra production.
After CNY I was informed that they wouldn't be returning to work for a few weeks and that things will be further delayed due the spreading of the virus. Okay, totally understand. This seems to be growing into a big problem right now, and the last thing they should worry about is my sports bras. Fingers crossed that everything is okay in a few weeks time. As you know, that time didn't really come. Until now, mid-March. China's number of new cases have drastically declined and my supplier is back to work.
However. In the meantime, the virus has spread overseas and is now threatening most countries.
My team is all healthy, well and ready(ish) to push ahead and they now need to order the fabric, which comes from Italy.
Italy is now the Epicentre of this virus and most of the country are on lockdown. So, unfortunately, it looks like there won't be any progress on my production until things recover in Italy.
More stock will come in time, I promise.
I am continuing to work very closely with all of my suppliers to bring you more sports bras as soon as I can, but there will be a delay until this happens.
As a consequence, MAAREE enters a very difficult time right now; having run very low on sports bras, with no new stock on its way to me yet. I've been caught at the very worst timing with this pandemic. Therefore, there will be very little money coming in to sustain MAAREE right now. I do not qualify for any of the business support that the government is offering, so I will be thinking of every possible opportunity I can to keep MAAREE going strong.
Nonetheless, my spirits are not dampened. This has never been about money for me, but about supporting women. We will overcome this together and we will be stronger on the other side. I'm sure of it.
In the mean time...
Here are some things you can do.
- Signing-up to my newsletter to keep up to date with the latest updates regarding when the re-stocking finally drops.
- Know what size you're after? Registering for the the Back-in-Stock notifications on the individual product pages. Sometimes when a rogue bra in the stock room or when one gets returned or exchanged they go back on the website immediately. Everyone who is signed up for this alert will be notified when one becomes available to buy again.
- Follow my silly thoughts, news and posts on Instagram. Keep talking to me, keep telling me what you want as I am always listening (even if I forget to respond sometimes).
- Most importantly. Shout to the hills when you get your new gear in a few months time! I will be! Post about it on social media, tell you friends, tell your neighbour! It will hopefully not only be a celebration of the continuation of MAAREE, but our triumph over this virus.
Here are some things I can do.
- Keep working hard and patiently with my suppliers to produce more bras when it is safe to do so.
- Never compromising on quality. I have considered getting different fabric for the bras for a temporary solution. However, I am fully aware that this could compromise the performance of the bra. I wouldn't want to change something you've come to adore so much, just to get it to you that little bit faster, but a little worse-off.
- Continue to bring you amazing content and news on social media. Because... MAAREE isn't in the business of selling sports bras, but in the business of supporting women. We have an abundance of knowledge in this area and so I want to continue providing you with our best advice, stories and engaging content to support you in your every day life.
Lastly, Thank you.
It might take some time but I have taken steps to make this trying time as easy as possible. Reducing overheads where possible to weather the storm and listening to government advice & support. I've been so busy trying to resolve the re-stocking issue that I haven't taken as much time as I'd ideally have liked to to answer all of your questions and to keep you all up-to-date with the progress. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime if you have any more questions which I haven't answered in this letter.
I'm determined to find opportunities in the problems we have at the moment. There are many, I'm sure of it. I promise to keep finding them.
You've all been incredibly patient and understanding. Please keep supporting the local and small businesses. This is a very difficult time for us all but it's so great to see us all coming together, helping each other and keeping positive. I will lead by your example and do the same.
Stay Safe. Stay at Home. Stay Positive.
P.S. A massive thank you to everyone working for and supporting the NHS. The heroes of 2020.
Keep at it Mari, you were always one of the hardest working and most positive people at uni, this will pass and you will come out the other side I am sure of it and continue to be a massive success.