During the last two months, we’ve heard many stories of businesses diversifying so that they can continue trading during the coronavirus pandemic. Luckily, diversification isn’t a new concept for Jules Fallon, owner of Sew Me Something in Stratford Upon Avon. What originally started as a haberdashery store, Sew Me Something has evolved over the years and now offers workshops to teach sewers of all abilities, develops dressmaking patterns and sells fabrics for people to make their own clothes at home.
We spoke to Jules to discuss how the business has adapted during the coronavirus crisis to provide much-needed help to the NHS.
How have you adapted your business over the past month?
We’ve completely pivoted, like a lot of businesses have, moving from face to face workshops to a completely online operation. We’ve made sure that we are visible for our target audience, and for us, that’s mainly on social media and Youtube. We didn’t use Youtube very often before the lockdown, however, all our videos are going on there now. We’ve really upped the number of videos we are producing and also running Facebook Lives. We’ve always had a fairly strong social media presence but we’ve worked to increase that to ensure we were connected to as many people as possible online.
How are you finding it operating solely online?
While it’s been a slight shift in how we operate, we’ve been given the flexibility and freedom to focus on projects that have often taken a back seat in our roadmap for the business. We’ve always wanted to set up a subscription service and now we’ve got the opportunity to focus on setting that up. We’re still moving the business forward, just along a different route than we’d originally planned!
Have you found that more and more businesses are collaborating together?
Without a doubt, yes! We’ve seen businesses coming together with the common goal of helping those in need right now. Inspired by The Love of Scrubs (a Facebook group set up by a nurse with a plea for more scrubs for healthcare professionals), The Warwickshire Scrubbers, a local group, contacted us asking for help. Rather than just sewing scrubs ourselves, we wanted to do something that would help others to help the NHS too. We decided to create a free downloadable pattern template for scrubs and created a tutorial to teach people how to make them themselves.
Social media can often be portrayed in a negative light but it’s been such a positive tool to help communities connect for a specific cause, like the one we are involved in. The success of this project has been a national effort and without social media, the reach would have been much lower. It has enabled people to connect to others in various different parts of the supply chain. Aston Martin has used an adapted version of our pattern to cut multiple layers of fabric on their large cutting flatbeds for others to sew up into scrubs!
What is the most important tip you would like to share with other business owners to help them to survive this time?
It’s really important to think about the bigger picture. Of course, it’s easy to get deflated and everyone will have their difficult days but there is a positive side to everything, it might just be a little bit harder to find! Think about what skills you have and how you can use them to make a difference. It would have been easy for us to churn out scrubs at our workshop, but by thinking laterally, we have been able to encourage and facilitate others to be involved in the project too!
HB&O has witnessed this community spirit and online connectivity first hand, with two of their staff members also involved in the scrubs project. Anne Wyman (pictured above) and Jane Loudon, who both work in our finance team, have been putting their sewing skills to the test and producing scrubs to fulfill local NHS requirements and are doing so partly down to seeing the project on social media.
Anne said: “Sitting at home you feel fairly useless and also guilty doing nothing. When I saw others making scrubs, bags, and headbands I knew instantly that I could use my sewing skills to help. It feels great to be a small part of the online community doing something positive. I can’t wait to meet my fellow local hub members when we can, as they are all so supportive and encouraging.�?