When dreams don’t work out
It took me AGES to think of a title for this post, and it has been sitting in my drafts for even longer! It was a hard post to write, but the process has actually been therapeutic. We don’t always talk about what happens when dreams don’t work out. And my dream didn’t work out…but do you know what? It’s okay. I’m okay!
This week marked a whole year since I shut my physical shop, and it feels like the right time to finally get this post finished and published. The last 12 months have brought a lot of stress and anxiety, and I think it was actually harder to close than it was to open. But this period has also been a period of huge growth, and I’ve really had to dig deep to be resilient time and again. All that CBT work and everything I’ve been doing to work on myself over the past few years has been a hugely positive outcome of a really difficult time. I’m here 12 months later, and things look brighter than they did last August. For that, I’m truly thankful.
This post is a mix of thoughts from just before I closed, and during the past 12 months too. You might want to make yourself a cuppa, it’s gonna be a long one…
In April 2021, I got the keys to my new studio which was about 10 minutes from my home. I had thought about the possibility of having my own space for workshops for so long, perhaps with a little haberdashery shop alongside it too. So this felt like a real dream come true! But on Saturday, 13th August 2022, my little shop closed its doors for the last time. I’m so proud of everything that I’ve achieved, grateful for the new connections I’ve made here but also ready for the next chapter.
When dreams become reality
I honestly couldn’t believe it when I picked up the keys to my studio (as you can see from this photo!). It had been a real journey to get there, but basically my business had completely outgrown our home and it made sense to try to find somewhere to lease. The perfect place had come up; really close to home (within walking distance), and space to do ALL the things I dreamed of. I wanted to be able to host workshops in the light and airy room, use the small room for a little shop, and have an office and stock room upstairs. At this point, I was sending over 100 orders out a week and it gave me the space to do that. Perfect!
I worked super hard to get it all set up with the help of Tom, and my friends Louise and Daria. The studio needed a bit of work to get it looking how I wanted it to. Some things really needed updating, but I didn’t have the capital to do that so it was mainly cosmetic to make it Instagram-worthy! Tom was furloughed at the time, so I worked extra during th
Isn’t it amazing what a good lick of paint can do?! I was particularly chuffed with the workshop room, as the light is so lovely in there and brightening it up made it feel like a reality. It meant I could set up my thread wall too, which was extremely pleasing!
My Kickstarter campaign and opening the shop
Last summer (summer 2021), I worked on my first Kickstarter campaign to raise money to open the shop. I was so nervous about it, but it was incredible! You can read more about that here. Having the support of people around the world was overwhelming, and smashing the target meant that I could open up. Louise helped me so much with this and I am so grateful to her – I couldn’t have done it without her! Lots of tea was drunk, and there were so many IKEA trips it was unreal 😂
I remember just feeling completely overwhelmed that people wanted to support me in backing the Kickstarter. It was such an emotional time and it felt really exciting to be doing it! In just a couple of months the shop was kitted out, and we painted the amazing Studio Dariolina mural (more on that to come in a separate post). I managed to fall up the stairs and give myself a black eye about 5 days before opening (no lie!), but we did open on 23rd October 2021. It was the best day and I could have just burst at how proud I felt. It was a big moment for me and for my family, as it felt so far out of my comfort zone but also the right thing to do.
When things started to go downhill
Despite a really successful opening day and first couple of weeks, things started to go downhill from there. My UK online sales dropped off a cliff, and this was really unexpected. It had been pretty steady through the year with the usual quieter summer period, and I just wasn’t prepared for this at all. Brexit had put an end to my international sales already, but the UK sales had always been growing. It was a huge blow, and I was trying to do what I could to promote my kits and my shop, but nothing seemed to be working. I had to put an end to running ads at this point because I couldn’t afford to pay for them alongside the rent and bills. This was closely followed by the worst Christmas period I had ever experienced.
At this point I was trying to keep positive, because you don’t want to think about when dreams don’t work out. But in all honesty, I think I knew back in Christmas 2021 that I wasn’t going to be able to keep things afloat long term. I didn’t want to admit it; it felt like I was giving up on things before they had even begun. But I was genuinely really worried and I had no idea what to do about it.
We had Covid over Christmas that year, so it was pretty grim all round. But I tried to come into January 2022 with a positive energy, and a determination to keep going with things. I had workshops scheduled and decided to focus on those, as well as a couple of new kit designs. I worked on a new book pitch and that was accepted, which was amazing! Things were going okay (ish) in January sales-wise really, but the boiler at the studio started playing up a little and that bothered me because my lease terms meant that I was responsible for repairs. There wasn’t a lot coming in and I was worried that I’d end up having to replace it.
It did end up holding out a little longer, but in April I tried to get it repaired and the brilliant plumber I had basically had to condemn it. I was in floods of tears on the phone to the landlord, telling him I had no money to replace it. This is the thing with a lot of commercial leases that most people don’t realise, which is that when you sign you have to take on the responsibility of the repairs. Thankfully, he did eventually agree to replacing it but it was massively stressful. I think this was the tipping point for me really, and a couple of weeks later I chatted with Tom about closing. We agreed it was the right thing to do.
Closing my lovely shop
Closing the shop wasn’t as easy as it sounds. When I took on the lease I took it on for 5 years, and the landlord wouldn’t allow a break clause so I didn’t have an option to get out half way. It sounds so simple with hindsight doesn’t it? Why didn’t I just get a break clause? Why did I even sign in the first place? I’ve asked myself these things so many times, but ultimately my business was in a completely different place when I signed on the dotted line. I have beaten myself up a lot about this over the past 12 months, but healing is beginning and there’s no point in just berating myself for the ‘what ifs’. Anyway, my solicitor advised that I speak to the landlord to see if I would be allowed out. The answer was a resounding no. I needed to find another tenant to take it on.
I don’t want say too much about the ins and outs of this because I’m technically still tied in, except to say that it was a hugely stressful time (although I didn’t realise at the time that it would get worse). I was under the impression that I was about to find someone else to take it on, and that they would do just that – take on all the responsibility. But what that actually meant was me subletting to someone, therefore not getting out of the lease. I would effectively need to act as guarantor for the new tenant, which is far from ideal. The search for a new tenant began, and I was responsible for rent and bills in the meantime.
I was so sad on the day we closed, but also so relieved too. It was wonderful to have Caroline from Little Cherub Design run her embroidery workshop on the last day, and my friend Heather from The Peacock and the Printmaker came to use the workshop room so we could work on some product photography. Then Zoe from Postpartum Matters ran one for mums on the Sunday as I packed everything down. The workshop room in particular was everything I’d dreamed of and it was amazing to have it being booked out on the final weekend. Zoe even has her own space after being so inspired by my workshop room, and it’s so brilliant to see her making her dreams come true!
After the shop closed
The day after I packed my shop down, I started a new part-time job to help with our cash flow. It was really hard taking it on because I was still trying to keep Hello! Hooray! going online, working a few hours a week with Make & Mend Co., trying to work on my second book and home educating too, so it was a real squeeze on the mental load. I found it really hard juggling everything, but I knew that I needed that little bit of guaranteed money coming in every month so that we could cover everything at the shop and at home. It was a lot and I struggled. Not just with the 3 jobs and home ed, but with processing everything that had happened. I felt like I had failed, wasted all our money and got us into debt. It was not a happy time.
Finding a new tenant was ongoing and also really hard! I’d had a few viewings but nothing concrete. Because it was close to my home, I was doing all the viewings but it was driving me mad – people not turning up, people clearly just coming round for a quick nosey…so frustrating. And then one day after showing someone round, I was shutting up and a lady shouted out of her car to ask if it was up for rent. To cut a very long story short, Tina decided to take it on! She is honestly a reminder that good humans exists, and I’m forever grateful to her.
But even that wasn’t as easy as it sounds, as it took months for solicitors to work through things. Literally months, with me covering costs the whole time. I thought we were there and ready to sign, then there were issues with electrics and then a lack of an asbestos report right before Christmas 2022. If you ever consider signing a commercial lease then you must check this – unfortunately I wasn’t given good advice about this before I did and it cost me a lot of money for the survey (I won’t go into how I feel about this as you can probably guess anyway…). Ugh. It was horrendous.
Eventually we did hand over, and Tina took it on with her fabulous salon, Totally Polished Nails & Beauty. I had my nails done there for my second book shoot, and going back there it feels completely different to when I was there. It’s helped massively to see it looking like someone else’s space, and I’m so happy that she’s thriving – her team are amazing and they’ve been a fabulous addition to our community!
I think the main reason it has taken me so long to be able to write this post is that it’s taken a long time to be able to begin processing it all. The grief and the stress of it all has been completely overwhelming a lot of the time. However, reaching the milestones of 1 year since closing has helped a lot. Maybe time was always going to be the key to that, and I just need to continue to be patient with myself. I’ll probably continue to go round in circles in my head for a while longer as I’m tied into the lease subletting it until April 2026, and that is still a bit terrifying if I’m honest. I think I’ll have a party when it’s finally over.
One of the questions I keep asking myself is ‘do I regret it?’ and it’s such a mixed answer. In financial terms, absolutely. This was a huge leap out of my comfort zone and I feel like I wasted all our money, and then had to bust a gut working 3 jobs to keep paying the rent to millionaires during a cost of living crisis. I don’t think I have the words to say quite how rubbish that makes me feel. But then I remember that I also had a dream and I went for it. Not many people get to say that, I suppose. Tom supported me in that dream, and even now he says that it’s a good thing that I tried. It’s hard to comprehend that really but I’m so grateful to him. Also hugely grateful to my family and friends for getting me through in more ways than one, and everyone who supported me on this journey! I’ve had so many wonderful messages from people I know and people I don’t, who followed and supported the Kickstarter or who have only recently discovered my embroidery work or blog. Please know that I’m grateful for every single message. Thank you.
Thank you if you got this far! I’m not sure what’s next for me, but I’m enjoying designing and writing. I’m desperate to get back into blogging more often, so hopefully there will be more posts soon. It’s definitely not the end for Hello! Hooray! as I’m just refocussing and deciding which direction to go in. My online shop is still open! Although I am only posting to UK addresses now (sorry!). My next book will be out in March 2024, so that’s something hugely positive – I’m currently working through the second proof now. I don’t think I want to make any concrete decisions about what’s next at the moment, so I’m just trying to enjoy the freelance work that I’ve got coming in and go from project to project. Perhaps I just need a break from the big stuff, and that’s okay. It’s okay when dreams don’t work out.
Find all of the blog posts from The Happy Stitch Project here! 👇🏻
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