There is no easy way to say this. The world as we know it has completely unravelled.
It sounds cliched but never has it been more accurate to say that we took so much for granted until now. Simply going to the shops to buy groceries feels like an extreme privilege. Never before have we considered whether or not we'd be able to buy pasta at the supermarket or counted down our toilet rolls like they were days before Christmas.
We wanted to share how the Coronavirus has impacted us as a business because we know that there are millions of businesses out there dealing with the same challenges.
We are proud to manufacture in China, we love working with our factory and until this year it always felt like a relatively seamless process. Early in January all this changed when the virus spread across Wuhan and the city our factory is in was put into a full lock down. Production stopped completely. At that time we were so worried about the factory team and our right-hand-man whose wife had just given birth to twins who were still in hospital. We worried about the impact on the family run business and whether they'd pull through. We didn't worry about it spreading to our countries.
We had ordered lockers prior to the lock down which were made and ready to ship to the UK and the container left just before the Chinese New Year. The rest was bound for Australia but when the lock down kicked in the products were stuck in China. It's been a long wait and we just finally heard news on Friday that after yet more delays our container has made it onto a ship.
Not having products is critical for a product based business. It's really simple, if we have no products, we make no money.
We've done our best to communicate with customers throughout the delays and set realistic-to-low expectations knowing that everything can change any day. It has been stressful and confusing to know what move to make next.
We're thankful our UK container arrived and that there is stock on the way for Australia.
Now that the world has gone into crisis mode we are finding the logistics side of our business is the undervalued backbone we took for granted. Without our warehouses and without couriers Mustard grinds to a halt. We've always said couriers are like the grown up version of Santa and it's painfully true right now!
The logistics businesses that are operating are keeping the cogs of our economy turning and doing so at great personal risk. They are implementing procedures and regulations to protect the staff like temperature checks every day, staggering pick ups so couriers have less/no contact with each other and only providing contactless deliveries. The measures are crucial and as a consequence there are delays to delivery times.
In essence, we can make no promises about delivery time frames. We pride ourselves on having kind, helpful and fast customer service so it's a frustrating position to not be able to offer more information to our valued customers. We know that everyone understands and that hopefully no one is in too much of a rush right now to receive a locker!
We are thankful for the hardworking people who get our lockers to our patient customers under such difficult circumstances.
It's fair to say all our plans for 2020 are well and truly out the window. All of them.
We are recalibrating, slowing down, accepting the unknown and letting go.
Our main focus is that we are able to keep paying our staff and protect their jobs through this. We have kept our team really lean and we all juggle different roles day to day so it's a matter of making the most out of the ever changing situation and plenty of open communication.
We are thankful that we hadn't stretched ourselves too thinly and will be able to rebuild with our team.
We cancelled our trip to China for product development, the USA for preparing to launch there and our big family holiday to Italy. Our mum has cancelled her trip to Australia to visit Becca there. Seems in hindsight we couldn't have picked worse travel plans for the year!
We won't be likely to see each other for a very long time.
For the 8 years we've lived on opposite sides of the world we have put our trips to see each other on the top of our priority lists. We always made it happen. Right now the world feels unfathomably big and the space between us further than ever.
Knowing that if the worst case scenarios happened we couldn't hop on a plane to be together is quietly hurting all our family. Our Dad has been ill, most likely with Covid-19, which has been a huge scare for us all, thankfully he's recovering well but it brings what matters sharply into focus.
We are thankful for technology for keeping us in each others lives, morning and night. We are thankful for our health.
When we first launched we would literally jump with excitement at every cha-ching - the sound our phones make when we get an order. It was honestly the most rewarding feeling. Over the two years we became a little more used to getting orders and the cha-chings became comfortingly regular. Now, we are right back to the feelings we had in the early days. EVERY order feels like a reason to celebrate and let out a sigh of relief.
We've both found it a fine and delicate balance to know how to market our products while we are all in the midst of this crisis. Finding the right voice that doesn't sound tone-deaf or boastful or selfish or ignorant of peoples suffering is something we spend a lot of time thinking about. We know our products are genuinely practical in the circumstances people are now in. They really do make great additions to work spaces, they totally are perfect for kids rooms and storing all their (home) school stuff. So we hope that we have something to offer our customers that is valuable and will last way beyond the chaos we are in right now.
We know how much support means to small businesses means right now so we have both been making conscious choices to spend our money with brands that need our support too.
We are thankful for your ongoing support for Mustard and for each and every order that comes in.
With much love + socially distanced virtual hugs,
Becca + Jess x