Welcome to the first ‘358’ edition of this AboatTime blog!
If you’re a regular reader you’ll be used to my meandering writing going from living on a narrowboat, to struggles (and celebrations) with living with migraine, and more recently about starting up a small business as well.
I realised that perhaps this addition was one too many to hold in my poorly head. I also thought that it would be good to a) document the start of a business b) one especially that started in lockdown c) give some space to go into more detail than I might on the regular blogs and d) give more background to the narrowboat life and what it’s like to produce and sell products from there. My health may take an occasional supporting role in these blogs, but only in relation to the business. So, if you see a blog starting 358 – you know what to expect.
So why 358 in the blog title? Well, if you hadn’t seen before, the business is called 358 Walking Sticks. Why it is called so, and why we sell walking sticks (and other items) will have to go onto the backburner for now as I want to start this story in April 2020, when the business officially started up.
As I talk about in ‘The Big Coronavirus Boat Picture’, we moved in with Tom’s Mum when lockdown hit. As well as all the reasons I talk about in this blog, it also meant we had a postal address to get business supplies. These included enormous postal tubes to safely cart off our beautiful sticks.
We also had electricity on demand, without having to constantly check the batteries like we do on the boat, to use tools such as the electric sander.
Importantly, it also meant we could take the boat to a boatyard to have an extension. This would mean we could continue the business when we got back afloat once lockdown had eased. Crucially, one of the reasons we managed to get this work to happen at this time was because so many people had to cancel their work with the boatyard due to lockdown, so we were able to get in early!
We knew that selling online was something we would be doing regardless of lockdown so starting that way was a no brainer. We did some research and while initially considered ebay, settled with using Etsy to sell our wares, as well as using other social media to increase exposure (see end for links).
It’s hard to say how lockdown has affected sales as we weren’t trading beforehand. For me if it is a bit slower, it’s a positive thing as my health would have struggled with a rush of orders when I hadn’t got to grips with all the online systems and postage options. The post options we’ve also been able to figure out in a practical sense of getting to places or having companies come to us to pick up from a physical address. It means we understand now what can – and can’t easily – be sold by post from the boat.
We’re proud we started in lockdown. I wonder if there might be a badge of honour, a bit like olive oil from Italy or ‘grew up in ___, made in the Royal Navy’ kind of a slogan; ‘(idea) born on narrowboat, made real in lockdown’, perhaps?
We were going to start the business anyway, and had made an effort to collect more sticks than usual the previous winter (Tom has collected and made them for years but I started to insist we didn’t need 10 each!!). Lockdown has simply catapulted us into being operational.
We now have the challenge of finishing off the boat extension so it can host our fabulous workshop, and of course get back to living on it. There’s a lot to figure out, so keep reading to hear how we get on!
Support 358 Walking Sticks on social media:
Twitter – it’s my own account so topics will vary
Check out Etsy for our full listings and share this blog to help us spread the 358 word!