A Statement to our Community•
Posted on May 04 2020
Friends, family, followers, customers, neighbors, you all are my community. And while the COVID crisis has kept us physically apart, I feel closer to all of you than ever. Your support of my business through what is an incredibly difficult time for many, both emotionally and financially, is overwhelming and humbling. I am so grateful for the way you have all shown up for me and for Burke, and I hope in some way, shape, or form I am able to show up for you too.
With different places around the country starting phases of re-opening our economy, it felt important to make a statement about the state of things for me, for Burke, my plans, and the outlook I have on the situation. I am currently a team and a business of one (aside from some occasional support from my lovely right hand woman Emma). I am the founder, owner, bookkeeper, social media and marketing manager, web designer, sales associate, buyer, and all things in between. I have felt lucky to be in this position during this as I have not had staff I had to lay off, but this also has created an immense workload for me.
You all have helped make the transition to 100% of business happening online relatively easy for me, but it has meant a lot more hours are being put in; from social media to show you all the products virtually that you can't see yourself in person, to many more hours spent wrapping, packing and shipping your orders. On top of the day to day operations and responsibilities of running a business, I feel that I have never worked longer and harder days in my life than I have now! I am extremely grateful to be doing so, but there has been a lot of transition required for this new normal way of operating. I know many small business owners are in this same boat.
The thought of re-opening almost as quickly as we were forced to close is an overwhelming one. Not only in terms of new safety protocols needing to be addressed to keep both myself and my customers safe, but also in terms of once again making major shifts to my day to day routines which I feel like I have just now settled in to under this current state. So I want everyone to know that regardless of what the city and state decides, I'll be transitioning the operations of Burke on my own timeline, both slowly and thoughtfully. It may not be as soon as the rest of the city, or it may not be in the same way. But I will always make decisions that feel best for the well being of myself and for you.
Please consider that any business that will be re-opening after this time is going to look different and operate differently in some capacity. Many will have new physical barriers put between you and the staff; many will be spending extra hours of their day every day cleaning and disinfecting their space and it will cost many that are already struggling a lot of money to do so. So please be patient with your local businesses, and be kind to them too. To re-open my store in any capacity, it will take me at least a few days just to restock inventory that had been taken home with me, to deep clean the store space, to prepare my software and systems for new ways of collecting and managing orders for pickup, etc., etc. Transitioning to our new normal as it changes with every phase will take time, so I thank you in advance for your understanding.
So here's a rough draft idea of my plans. Right now, it has been working well for me to hold inventory and ship most of your orders from home. It keeps me from having to be out and about in public every day, and allows me to fill your orders and work around other obligations and virtual meetings, emails, etc. I have finally gotten in a groove with this new way of working, so this will continue in some capacity. Once our city clears curbside pickup for our type of business, I will start to slowly transition inventory back into the store space and will likely only offer pickup one or two days a week, gradually working up to some more normalcy of hours or expanded available pickup days. After more clearance from the city, I will consider appointment only shopping. This will also likely start with limited days slowly working up to more. If the time comes that we are cleared to be open to the public again, it will be with greatly reduced max capacity of people in the store at once. Being a staff of one I will need space and time to keep the environment controlled and safe. If at any time it feels unsafe for myself or for you during any of these phases, the rules and situation may backtrack. I will continue to wear a mask when interacting with any customers, and I will require that any customers or patrons of my business do the same. I appreciate you all supporting and respecting my decisions as we navigate this new normal together, to keep each other safe!
With all of this, I think it is also really important to take time to reflect. It would be unwise to rush back into a way of life that was not working ideally for many of us before this situation unraveled. I want to make each transition and decision slowly so that I give myself time to reflect on what lessons I have learned and determine what is the best way to move forward. Before COVID, I was always terrified to have to close the store even for one business day. It felt like I was putting the entire health of the business at risk if I had to close for a doctors appointment, or for vacation, or even for my own mental health. Having my shop closed for 6+ weeks now and still surviving has taught me how silly that thought is. I also have learned that even with my shop closed, I am generally overworked. This is certainly by fault of my own to some degree. However, I have found in this time some small relief on Sundays as it is the one day that packages cannot be mailed, so it has been the one day I can take some time off. This is something I am going to consider keeping going forward, as it has proven important for me to have some time to myself for my own mental health and well being.
I talk often about the value of humans behind the factory walls and sewing machines, and cotton farms that make our clothes, and how important their livelihoods are. The lives of my community should be and are equally as important. And if some profit and revenue are sacrificed for the lives of my community, then I have done the right thing. That mental framework really gave me a whole new perspective. How incredible would it be if one day a week we all stayed home to spend time with our families, stayed off the roads to allow the earth a day free of pollution, cleaned up our homes, worked on a personal passion project, got some time outdoors, and allowed workers to do the same!? I will consider all the lessons I've learned as I make decisions both for me and for the business going forward, and I hope you all will take time to do the same to re-frame your new normal in a way that truly serves your well being.
Please know, Burke is in a healthy and stable position as a business as of now. I have been able to pay my bills and also pay all of my small and independent brands and designers for their goods, without cancelling any orders. Ensuring my brands are supported is essential to the ethics and the success of my business. That is ALL due to your overwhelming online support over the last two months. I don't know how I will ever thank you all for your incredible support other than to continue to show up for you, bring some kind of value to your life, and do what I can to give back. Every decision I make as a business owner and as a member of this community will be made with your health and well being as the top priority. I am always open to your feedback, and have loved communicating with many of you more closely (albeit digitally) over the last two months. Thank you for investing your time, your money, and your care in to me, my passion, and my business. I feel so blessed to share this space with you, and I know we will all get through this if we do it together, and with the care of one another in mind. So much love to you all! See you soon.