I could not let this fail, I was doing it for Alfie...Part 2

What followed the signing of that lease for the factory was a year of growing success, forever increasing numbers, more employees... and the sacrifice of the family life I'd worked so hard to get. 

 

 

Something I never really took into consideration when establishing the Sarah's Creative Kitchen empire was the fact I'd end up using every hour of every day to make sure it was a success. A business once established to give me more flexibility, freedom and time, took every one of those things away from me. I was out of the door in the morning before anyone was awake to open up the factory, to turn on machines and get chocolate tempered... and I came home once everyone was already in bed, after working production all day, and having to do all the admin in the evenings. 

There was a difference in working for somebody else and working for myself on a business I'd set up and wanted to do well. It became my second baby and it fell solely on me as to whether it succeeded or became just another ceased business listed on Companies House for years to come. I didn't want it to fail, I was doing it for Alfie. 

In my eyes there was nobody who would be able to do it to the same level as me, and sharing the admin side of things just felt too scary - it would only take one mishap, one slip up, one mistake, for us to lose everything I'd worked to achieve. So I took it all on myself and kept it for myself, that way, if anything did go wrong the only person I could blame was me... 

In the moment I didn't realise what this was doing to me, it's only when I revisit it all in hindsight that I see the full impact. I felt tired, yes. I felt overwhelmed at times, I found it very stressful. I knew I was more irrational and my temper was a little shorter, but I didn't think that it was reason enough to do it differently or to give up at all. I'd come this far, no turning back now. Besides, we'd just signed a 5-year lease! I noticed I was spending less and less time at home, less time with Alfie, relying more on childcare for him. I was doing less bedtimes, less bath times, reading him fewer books. I had less time for Michael, I couldn't even remember the last time we'd had a date night. I felt family and friends slipping away as I did everything I could to make sure I hadn't given up a well-paid, consistent, successful career for nothing. Some didn't agree with decisions made along the way and chose to part ways, I felt the hurt at my core, but I chose to push through at all costs. I could not let this fail. I was doing it for Alfie. 

I clung to the success of the business and seeing how much people were enjoying what we had to offer, I shoved those thoughts and feelings to the back of my mind and continued pushing through - sitting on the thrill of that high of success I took a bigger risk and opened a second premises in July of 2019. This time it'd be person facing and would be a place of community, togetherness, face to face selling as well as production. It would be an eatery, a place for people to gather and share coffee, cake, an afternoon tea... the ultimate dream. 

 

That dream rapidly became something out of a nightmare when just a couple of months after opening, covid hit, and we were shut down to the public. 

We had to adjust. Our person facing community hub became another delivery service for people in the local area initially - when the country shut down and everyone was told to stay at home, stay indoors, don't go out unless absolutely necessary, we had to find a way to stay afloat or we would lose everything. We did door stop drops of afternoon teas and sweet treats, before eventually finding a way to take this online too. Our goodies were shipped nationwide and were a hit. The generosity of the community we had built along the way resulted in donations to put towards the continuation of the eatery. 

Over those months of shut down, small businesses were impacted beyond repair. I saw business after business close their doors for good, no longer able to afford costs to stay open. I saw the devastation it caused for business owners and their families, for some their only source of income, gone. 

The thought of that happening to us after everything we'd put in absolutely terrified me. 

5am starts, 18-hour days, 7 days a week. 

I kept going, and going, and going. Whatever the sacrifice. 

 

 

Six months passed and the clouds starting lifting; restrictions started easing. Somehow, against all odds, Sarah's Creative and Chocolate Kitchen had scraped through. The gamble paid off and I was back riding that high, albeit masked up and more cautiously. 

The way we worked though, and the original business plan, forever changed. I had to figure out how to move forward, adapting and adjusting, without losing sight of why I set up the eatery to begin with. I started hosting parties, set up chocolate making classes and opened the doors to local community groups, characters visit us and we hold breakfast, lunches, brunches, afternoon teas...adult only events with temporary drinks licenses in the evenings. 

All of that alone wasn't enough, we were making minimal profit, losing money in other places. 

Something had to give. 

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