From little acorns, mighty oak trees grow
Ross Art and Craft is 25 years old this year and this anniversary has me looking back over the last quarter of a century to where I started from, the growth, the changes, the adaptions made to survive and where I am now.
Twenty five years ago, I was a young woman trying to work out exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Where was I going? What was it I wanted to achieve with my life? What did I want to do?
I had a degree in Art and Educational Studies. I was working as a Conference and Wedding Co-ordinator and had just been given the option to move to a different site (adding a good hour onto my commute) or be made redundant. What should I do? Was I really happy with what I was doing with my life? - The simple answer to that was ‘NO’ but what else was I going to do?
I decided I was going to look into becoming my own boss and opening an art shop with the idea to use the shop as a base for my artwork and teaching of art - six months later and Ross Art and Craft opened its doors and my art shop became a reality.
I had so little stock that it was very artfully spread out on the shelves to make it look more full and slowly but surely the customers started to find us and within a few months I had a regular customer base and with the money starting to come in the shelves started to fill up as I invested all the takings back into the business so I could buy more stock. Reinvesting back into the business did mean that I had to work nights in a call centre so that I had a wage coming in. It was a long hard slog but was going to be so worth while.
The first few months I spent just trying to get used to working in the shop all day and then heading to another job of the evenings. My working day was opening the shop at 9am, closing at 5pm and then working at the call centre from 5.30pm - 9.30pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Wednesday was half day closing and no call centre, Saturday the shop was open 9am - 5pm and Sunday was a well earned day off for a 65 hour working week. I must have been mad, but I was loving every second doing what I really wanted to do and I hadn’t even got the classes up and running yet!
Four months after opening and the workshop was ready to take its first class and although watercolour was not and has never been a favourite medium of mine, it was at the time very popular in part due to a to programme called ‘Watercolour Challenge’ and just because people have a misconception that it is a lovely medium and is going to be easy and so I started a class teaching watercolour basics. This grew over the next twelve months into four watercolour classes and a Saturday morning kids art club and I could finally stop working at the call centre - Yay.
I would like to say that it was all plain sailing from there but alas not!
2008 Ross Art and Craft was hit by the effects of a recession and although the sale of art and craft materials never really climbed back up to pre-recession levels, fortunately the classes where not too badly effected. At that time I was teaching six classes a week and two kids art clubs and the recession caused me to have to drop three classes and a kids art club and I also had to find a part time job once again, but Ross Art and Craft survived when many independent retailers did not.
Slowly but surely the business picked itself back up and I knew that surviving was dependant on my ability to move the shop into the digital age and onto the ‘World Wide Web’. One very steep learning curb later and rossartandcraft.com was born and we were little by little starting to sell country wide. It took me 10 years to master the skills of running a successful website which ended up being our saving grace when in 2019 the pandemic hit and we were in lockdown. The modern age of ‘Click and Collect’ for local sales and the development of shopping online meant that Ross Art and Craft would survive yet another financial disaster that yet again many small independent businesses did not.
Although the long term effects of covid 19 are still being felt, not only on our health and lifestyles but also on our finances and the way we shop, we are starting to recover. The biggest impact on Ross Art and Craft was the loss of all the classes. I did manage to do a class online via ‘zoom’ but this was not the same as the in person classes and has taken years to get back to a position where I could resume teaching in person, but get there we have and this year is set to be a whole new beginning again for us.
This year - Ross Art and Craft’s 25th year - sees us move from teaching lots of small classes of 4 to 6 people in the back of the shop, to teaching a large class of up to 20 in a lovely local hall and weekend workshops focussed on specific art skills and crafts. This is something I would never have done if it hadn’t have been for the pandemic and the way we as a society have changed our habits and interests. Again Ross Art and Craft has survived, changed and adapted and will hopefully be able to weather then next storm that life throws at it and perhaps with the next transformation it will have a legacy that will even outlive me.
‘From little acorns, mighty oak trees grow’
I am a firm believer that all small things have the potential within them to become something great and I aim to do just that with Ross Art and Craft, it may take me another 25 years but I believe I can do it.