By now you've received hundreds of other emails from retailers and businesses discussing COVID-19, so I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to open mine. Since I sent my last newsletter almost one week ago, a lot has changed. The news seems to be changing minute by minute, and it is becoming very overwhelming and exhausting to follow.
When news started to spread last week that the virus was going to wreak havoc here, in our nation and towns, I was still in the mindset of "this will be short lived... this panic will resolve soon." Large concerts and events were being cancelled, but it still seemed to me that the damage done would be relatively minimal. I knew my own small business would take a hit, but I didn't yet understand to what extent...
As many of you are by now aware, I left my full-time nursing career in December to focus on Mississippi Stitches. My shop grew significantly in 2019, and I just couldn't shake this feeling that I needed to change course and spend more time in my pillow shop.
Starting a small business is incredibly risky, and the large majority of small businesses do not turn a profit for the first few years (if ever!). Knowing this, and knowing I wanted to remain in my home and continue to feed Ruth and Gus, I took a part-time job as a school nurse. My plan was to use the income from my school nurse job to pay my bills, and then use a small portion from my pillow shop income to pay for food and other necessities. The remaining profits (if any) I planned to re-invest in my business to help it grow.
This past weekend the school where I work part-time decided to shut down for the next two weeks, through March 27th. Many other districts, as you are aware, did the same. Unfortunately for me, my job is not funded by the State. (Not intending to get into too many details here) I am actually hired by a privately owned hospital, so even though a "State of Emergency" has been issued, I will not receive any income from this position until the schools re-open and I return to work. Today I learned this period has been extended through April 17th, and if I'm honest with you, I believe it will be extended even further (this is only my opinion, so please don't think I know more than you do about the situation or have any more insight given my nursing role).
Luckily (and thankfully), I planned for a period of "no income" prior to leaving my full-time nursing career, and I have some reserves to keep me afloat for a while. I just assumed I would be able to wait until summer before I had to dip into my savings. As I was reviewing my bills last night and today, the grief and the reality of this event hit me again. I am incredibly grateful to have reserves because I know there are many that do not. But, I would be remiss if I didn't admit I am still a little fearful... the "what ifs" can be debilitating, and I'm praying and trying hard not to let them consume me.
I say all of these things not to receive pity and not out of desperation. I say them because I want you to know I have empathy for you and your situation too. I think it is incredibly important we show grace during this time. All of us are affected by this virus and panic, and on a daily basis, I am reminding myself that others are hurting too... many even more so than I.
Just yesterday, a friend of mine reached out that she had accidentally overstocked her toilet paper shelves and asked if I still needed any. My grocery store is still out of stock, so I quickly accepted her offer. She declined my money and instead told me to "pay it forward." Her request to "pay it forward" filled me with so many emotions...
Last night I specifically read Matthew 6:25-34 where God tells us we should not worry. "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?... But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
I have since "paid it forward" and will continue to "pay it forward" when I can. I am encouraging you to do the same if you are able. Especially during these times, it is so important to take care of others and show God's love to the world. I do believe God is in control, and He will use this time for good even though we may not see how any good can come of this. I am praying this time is brief and that God can use me and my business to continue to do good work... whatever that work may be.
So what's next?
I love sharing my pillows and helping you create pillow combinations, but I also know during these hard times, buying pillows for your home may not be a necessity. With so many unknowns, this is the time to focus on your own families and your own health. Of course my shop will remain open, and I will continue to respond to your messages and emails regarding my pillows.
If you would like to make a purchase, I will gladly fulfill your order. There are some materials I am now having trouble re-ordering, so please know there may be some delay in shipment. I will continue to update each listing in my shop with expected shipment dates as best I can, but because information is changing each day, these dates may vary. If you need your pillows urgently, you can certainly message me prior to ordering, and I will give you an estimated shipment date based on your customization.
Over the next several weeks, I will be working in my shop to have plenty of inventory ready for you when this uncertain time is over. I will continue to share in my stories shop updates and videos of my designs, so I hope you will follow and find a little bit of joy there each day.
The silver lining of this all? In the future, I had planned to begin offering pillows for sale directly from my website, so you no longer had to navigate my Etsy shop. Now that I have more time on my hands, I'll be focusing on this task sooner! I'll certainly keep you in the loop once this feature is available on my website. I also will be adding a few new listings to my Etsy shop. I had planned to add these this week, but I've decided to postpone these releases for a later date.
I had two Spring shows scheduled, one in just a few short weeks, the other May 1st. The show in May has been cancelled, and I anticipate I will hear any day now the show in April is cancelled as well. I had already begun purchasing inventory for these shows, so I will be working on ways to still provide these products to you once this uncertain time passes. If you'd like to stay up to date, please continue following my stories on Instagram. I'll also send periodic newsletters with all the latest happenings here in my shop.
In my last newsletter, I announced my campaign to help other small businesses local to Mississippi stay afloat. I wanted to help shed some light on other retailers and restaurants that needed to also feed their families (and buy toilet paper!). Each day through the end of March I promised to purchase from one of these retailers and share them in my stories and feed using #keepMSopen. I feel called to continue sharing these other businesses even though my own pockets are feeling the effects, and as I mentioned in my newsletter, I believe even a small purchase from these businesses can make a big difference.
If you are able, I hope you'll also consider purchasing from a "local to Mississippi (or your State)" retailer. These small businesses need our support, and many of them have an online presence which means you can still practice social distancing while shopping!
At the time I started the campaign, I assumed we would all only feel these effects for two weeks or some short period of time. But each day has made it more clear we will be at a standstill for potentially much longer. These small businesses desperately need our support! Please use the hashtag and feel free to tag me so that I can see what you share and tell others!
Remember to be kind, be gracious, and do good work (and wash your hands, cover your cough, and STAY HOME if you have been exposed or have a fever)
Mississippi [mis-uh-sip-ee], noun: rich in craft and culture, abounding in savory cuisine, and stitched together by the unyielding threads of Southern hospitality.