As I write this blog post, I feel a sense of both relief and responsibility. I feel relieved because Little Yellow Bird is in a much better place financially than we were a week ago – thanks to your extraordinary support and response to our call out for help. I feel a sense of responsibility because I’m acutely aware of how every decision we make and action we take during the lockdown period will impact on how well we do as a nation – and how well those we support overseas will do as well.
We are working closely with our Indian suppliers who are also in lockdown for at least 21 days and currently creating strategies to minimise any negative impact on them. We are so proud to be working with quality factories who are continuing to pay their staff despite being unable to work. This sadly will not be the case for many garment workers. We can only continue to support them because you choose to support us and we are incredibly grateful.
If you read my previous post on the impact COVID-19 will have on our business, you will certainly recognise that the predicament we face is one shared by many small businesses. We won’t be the hardest hit from this, but like many others, without swift action we also wouldn’t be coming out the other side.
Since I shared my email and blog post late last week, we have been completely overwhelmed by the level of support we have received from the community. We received over 500 orders in a few days before the lockdown announcement! We dispatched as many as we could in the limited time that we had – and really appreciate the patience of those of you who won’t be getting your orders until after lockdown.
What your support means
Your support is so important in helping us to continue doing the work we’re doing and to create the difference we’re trying to make. This cash injection means we can continue paying our staff and suppliers for at least the next three months. Beyond the financials, the offers and kindness has also kept us all going in what we can all agree are trying times. We have received countless messages of support which keep our spirits high in what could easily be an overwhelming time. Please know that we share each message amongst the team when we receive them, as the wellbeing and happiness of our crew is one of our core measurables and your input as customers is vital to upholding it.
‘Thanks for your pioneering and generous spirit, your clear call to contribute to a better world. Nga mihi nui’
‘I love it! Thank you! I hope your business gets through these times ok x’
‘Hope all is well and you are staying safe. Obviously no rush and if things are looking better, feel free to cancel my order so I can buy them at full price in (fingers crossed) 4 weeks time. If things aren't looking good, equally please feel free to consider it a donation and don't worry about sending anything ever.’
‘I received my order today. I love them and love your ethos. Stay safe! :) Aroha nui’
We’re prioritising wellbeing as much as we can
Prior to the lockdown, we worked in line with the government’s recommendations around safety and social distancing. As a team, we made all efforts we could to create a safe workplace – including marked out workstations, social distancing and provision of PPE. While these measures helped, they also made me notice that we were all deeply stressed and worried by the situation. I realised that it simply wasn’t worth us pushing on to send out a few more t-shirts – it wasn’t worth the risk to our collective wellbeing and mental health.
So, we made the decision to close the warehouse and head home at the end of the day a few hours before the government moved the country to Level 3. We managed to dispatch around half of our orders before we closed up. We have loved seeing all the photos and tags of where these orders have ended up. The government’s decision came at the right time for us – it felt like it needed to happen, both for our individual and collective wellbeing. We’re so appreciative of the leadership shown by our Prime Minister.
We are also feeling incredibly fortunate that thanks to your support and the government subsidies we are able to continue paying all of our staff. So - our next immediate focus is on maintaining wellbeing. We have implemented the following policies to support our immediate and wider team and welcome suggestions and advice as we all navigate this next time period:
- Offered voluntary reduction in hours and increased flexibility for all - especially those now also facing the new, additional requirements as home school teachers
- We have ensured that any outstanding bills have been paid in full and urge our suppliers and customers to do the same - this is in line with economic advice around the importance for money to continue flowing through the economy
- We have been in contact with all of our contractors to ensure any changes we make do not have a negative impact on them - for example, we will continue to pay our cleaner even though this work is physically not possible at this time
- We are doing daily calls starting with a morning check-in and encouraging a focus on positivity - what can we do vs what can’t we do
- We're ready and willing for staff to take mental health days when and as they need it during this time
We are here, ready to support our community
While this outpouring of support has helped us enormously, we, like the rest of our community, are predicting we will need to trade through at least 12 months of difficulty. Businesses are going to have to innovate extremely quickly to ensure their survival.
We want to offer our support as much as we can and would love to share and collaborate with as many of our other sustainable, ethical and small businesses friends through these hard times. We are all stronger together and we will get through this. Please reach out directly if we can support you in any way.
Samantha JonesSamantha is the CEO and Founder of Little Yellow Bird and is an advocate for sustainable and ethical fashion.