As small business owners, we often find ourselves apologising a lot. "I'm sorry, I'm fully booked." "I'm sorry that you think my prices are too high." "I'm sorry, but I don't do novelty cakes/fondant cakes/Minecraft cakes."
"I'm sorry it took so long to get back to you because this is my side hustle/my children were ill/my tech failed/I was just too darned tired to reply to you at 11pm." "I'm sorry but I can't give you a product in return for promotion." "I'm sorry I'm writing another blog that sounds really self-pitying - but I am actually reaching out to share some love with my fellow entrepreneurs" And this is all the name of customer service because most of us get into a side hustle for validation of our skills as much as making a profit. Well at least I did. Every time I get a little bit of love from my wonderful clients because they love what I do, it makes me glow. I don't get that satisfaction from my day job. But that's the one that pays the bills.
The impending festive season is the hardest. From October onwards, there is the inevitable slew of requests from PTAs from schools your kids have never been to (and there are lots who get these request that don't even have kids). We get it. We really do. Your school is underfunded and needs a new roof. You want to build a forest school for the kids. They don't have enough pencils. Some of them don't have a hot meal in their bellies before the school day starts. And we want to help, we really do.
We feel conflicted as we wearily craft yet another reply, apologising that this is the umpteenth approach we've turned down and we're really sorry, but we can't support your event. Wishing you warmest wishes for the festive season and hoping that you'll find someone else to support your cause. If you're like me, you'll feel a pang of guilt and scour the diary and cupboards to see if there is something you can do to help. But we can't help everyone. Most are understanding. They are jaded parents in the sandwich generation desperate to provide for their schools to fill the mismatch between central funding and an adequate education. But when the response comes back wheedling that surely you can find something because if your business doesn't support this worthy cause it will make you look uncharitable, it makes me want to cry. I feel for you, I really do. You're giving up your time for your cause and that's wonderful. But I can't help you all. Or if I did, I wouldn't have a business. I support numerous charities from my personal income through monthly and one off donations. I pop money in collection boxes. I support a couple of charities of my choosing through my business each year - but I don't seek to capitalise on it from a marketing perspective. I choose to donate quietly and tactically to causes I care about - or to causes people I care about care about.
Please don't judge me - or my fellow solopreneurs. Yes, we're trying to make a profit like the large, faceless corporates. But for us that profit is often about making life a little easier. My original plan was to give up my day job to do something I love - but now it's building a nest egg to pay for my daughter's medical equipment when NHS funding ceases long before she is old enough to be earning a salary. Of course, you didn't likely know that when you sent your email reply. And I'm one of the lucky ones because I've had opportunities in the past and have worked hard to get what I have today. But please, do think when you're asking a little favour of a small business, that the product could be the difference between food on the table and charity for some. Sorry if that sounds a bit preachy but the faceless corporates are probably a better bet.
Again, thank you for understanding. But I'm actually not sorry to be writing this. Good luck in your charitable endeavours - and especially the two charities I've committed to donate to this Christmas. And the biggest irony is, when I have offered up something for guess the weight of the cake they couldn't sell tickets for love nor money despite it being for one of the biggest local charities; and when I've donated vouchers for people to use at a time of their choosing on something they'd like, I've had several not cashed in anyway. Therefore, I could take the approach of giving away scores of vouchers and hoping that most aren't cashed in. But goodness help me if they were! So please don't be offended when I or others say no. It genuinely isn't personal or because we don't care. There's just only so much of us to go round.
Now if I could just find time to do some housework in between doing my admin, creating beautiful cakes and writing blogs whilst being an awesome wife, mother and daughter that'd be fab. Much love, Becca xo