What a year we have all just been through. No one could have begun to imagine what 2020 would have in store for us - without doubt one of the most challenging years for us in so many ways both personally and professionally, but with glimmers of hope and things to be thankful peppered along the way.
We will be honest with you, we were struggling with Gather&See in the first months of 2020. Things were slow, we felt after 6 years of hard work on the site, we weren't really getting the traction we needed, Instagram's inconsistent algorithms were not working in our favour and juggling our young families and the needs of a small business was a constant pressure (if only we knew how much that pressure would grow in lockdown!). As has always been the case we decided to grit our teeth and knuckle down to see if we could some how turn the boat around. If not we might seriously have to consider the heartbreaking option of walking away.
Just as we were starting to see some beautiful new arrivals come in for spring lockdown hit us all like a tonne of bricks. In that first week or so as we all started to come to terms with the gravity of the situation, we saw our visitor numbers plummet and sales nearly ground to a halt. It struck us that this really could be it as we frantically searched small business emergency funding and relief whilst trying to keep toddlers and pre-schoolers entertained. Then something miraculous happened. Whether it was people being at home with less to do, customers taking a greater interest in more carefully produced, sustainably made fashion or the genuine desire of people to support small businesses, we started to see a steady increase in traffic and sales. We were featured in some brilliant press pieces on how to support small and sustainable businesses and our summer collection was the strongest it has ever been.
We could not believe the turnaround and as each month things got better and better we started to truly believe that maybe this really was our time and that finally, sustainable fashion was getting the recognition it deserved. That's not to say those months were easy. As all parents of young children will recount - lockdown was emotionally and mentally draining. There was a constant feeling of guilt either for focussing too much on work and letting the kids do more or less as they wanted (too much TV) or for spending time with the kids when the business needed our attention more than ever. This period truly made me question my ability as a Mother, it felt like I was failing on all fronts.
Stephanie saw a different side to the pandemic based in Kenya, where the knock on effects of restrictions on the country were perhaps more dangerous than the virus itself. She made the difficult decision to stay out there despite many other expats returning and knowing that she would not be able to come home for some time. The fact that we were finally reunited in September was a true highlight of the year and having the kids who had met only a handful of times before, play together so beautifully was a moment of real joy.
As we come to the end of the year now entering a new lockdown and with a sense that things have still to get worse before they get better, we feel genuinely exhausted by it all but also grateful for so many things. We feel so fortunate that the business is so far still here - we are lucky being online only that we don't have to worry about rent of a store and that we have been able to keep shipping throughout the lockdowns. We have our hard-working delivery partners to thank for that. Our brands, who are already so inspirational in what they do, have all stepped up to the mark, producing exceptional collections and managing to keep things going despite issues with supply chains, fabric manufacture and managing their own small businesses. We simply couldn't do what we do without them.
Finally we have to thank you, our customers and followers. You have put your belief in us and supported us when the world is a scary place and when your hard earned money is precious. For that we are truly grateful. We wouldn't be here at the end of this year without you. We have seen more interest in sustainable fashion than ever before and we can't help but feel hopeful that, in a year that has forced us look inward and demanded we address such huge issues as injustice, discrimination and exploitation, we will go into 2021 a little more wiser and with an increased determination to do things better. Our planet and our people deserve it.
Happy New Year, stay safe and above all THANK YOU.
Steph & Alicia