The past few weeks have been an exhausting rollercoaster for our precious freelance, startup and SME community.
Many of us have experienced some really stressful moments, and we all know there are challenges still to come.
Together with our community, we’ve been doing our utmost to cut through the noise and bring you what you need to know, compiling lists of go-to resources, filming rapid-fire video Q&As, putting together new guides designed to contextualise government guidance and the available reliefs, and putting as many of you as possible together with all the free offers of expertise pledged by our expert community and our business peers under the #3hrPledge campaign. Our community experts’ and founders’ fingers are on fire keeping these coming out!
All of this content is accessible to all on the Farillio blog.
And in between all of this, like beacons of inspiration, we’re hearing some incredible stories of how small businesses are finding creative ways to adapt and keep going.
It takes guts and grit to go out there and start your own business, to build your entrepreneurial dream and then to weather successfully all the hard times that inevitably come with it.
It’s why we chose Farillio for our own business name. ‘Farill’ means brave and it seemed so fitting because small business courage sits at the heart of everything we do. It’s this fire and passion (aka stubborn determination!) to thrive that fuels so many of the UK's small businesses who, like the heroes they are, are rapidly changing to serve customers and continue doing what they love.
We wanted to shine a light on some of our small business heroes over the coming weeks to share the hope and inspiration that we draw from them, and to share their, and our, resolution that we'll come through this, as best as we can, together.
For the first in our Covid-19 Small Biz Heroes series, we spoke with Richard Lacy, the managing director of Memory Makers at Home, who like most of us, is now ‘grounded’ at home.
Farillio: Richard, tell us about Memory Makers at Home – this is a business that all the parents on our team love, and I think almost all of us have been customers of yours at least once! What does your business do and why did you set it up?
Richard: Well, in 1998, we were creating and selling craft pottery at local craft markets. It wasn’t until the day our 5-year-old nephew came to our tiny workshop and played with some clay that our casting and print service really began.
We wiggled his fingers in the clay and counted to five and put it to one side. We found it, glazed it, framed it and gave it to his dad, who was thrilled. And it became a key moment in our history: Memory Makers at Home was born.
We continued to improve and perfect the technique and we’ve been creating premium handprints, footprints and 3d casts for families ever since.
Farillio: A true family-inspired, and of course, family-run business. I hope you made your nephew a shareholder. Tell us what your business was doing before Covid-19? What plans did you have for the future?
Richard: There have been many significant highs and lows to our business over the years. Most recently, we had to completely change the way our business operated due to the closures of Mothercare UK, one of our biggest customers. Our business had to quickly pivot from being a medium-sized business that operated in 80 Mothercare stores, employed over 60 staff and worked in a 6000 sq ft workshop, to a more nimble, streamlined home-visit model with a smaller team, on smaller premises.
That was an extremely tough time, for so many reasons, but we held on to our passion and commitment to creating special priceless keepsakes. We knew it mattered to the families who we ultimately serve. And it was the notion of family, really, that served as our guide here. We changed the model so that our customers could create the memories from the comfort of their own family home, rather than experience it within a retail store.
Farillio: So, you’re a business that’s not new to big challenges and you’ve got a great track record in being adaptable. With Covid-19, at what point did you realise there was a need to start adapting and changing?
Richard: It became obvious to us quite fast, to be honest. As the virus started to spread in the UK, we realised quickly that we needed to reassure our customers that we had procedures in place to protect both them and our print-taking staff.
Ours is a product that’s all about family and love, and we take that very seriously. So, following the government’s guidance, in the very early days of concerns about the virus, we asked our Print Takers to take and record their temperatures and report them in before they went to any appointments, and we asked our customer families to confirm they were symptom-free prior to the appointment.
Our Print Takers continued to ensure good hand hygiene and handwashing at the appointment.
However, as the advice changed so too did our approach - rapidly. We contacted customers to explain that due to social distancing we could no longer carry out the appointments to ensure that everyone stayed safe.
Farillio: That must have been really tough. What obstacles did you face initially? How have you been overcoming them?
Richard: It was tough. Many customers who had booked weeks in advance were understandably disappointed. Many wanted prints and casts on certain baby milestone dates, often to have their keepsakes made at the same age as older siblings had theirs made. It’s not something you can simply postpone… it’s a moment in time you cannot get back. By the time we can offer home appointments again these babies will be months older.
In addition, we had to reduce our workshop staff down to just family members to protect our employees, slowing down our production and further delaying existing customer orders going out.
Now our plan is three-fold.
Firstly, we will continue with one person only in the workshop to protect our team and to provide continuity and ensure orders go out. We have reassured our customers that we are working on their orders but with the situation around us we cannot give individual order updates as it takes us away from making and despatching their keepsakes.
Secondly, we have set up a priority booking list. Customers can still request one now and will be first in line to get one when bookings re-open. They will get these appointments at a reduced fee to thank them for their upfront commitment to us.
Finally, and this is the real pivot, we have started to create home kits.
This is something we have never done before, as we pride ourselves on our professionally trained Print Takers taking high-quality casts and prints. These kits are a hybrid that will maintain our focus on high standards, allowing families to take their own handprints, footprints and casts, then send back to us to expertly hand finish their keepsake in our dedicated workshop.
These will provide a different result and are priced differently to our main range. We are still working through it – materials, despatch, online tutorials, new workshop procedures and pricing, but know we can do it.
It goes without saying the new process will be subject to stringent health and safety precautions to protect our customers and our staff.
But it means we can carry on. And we can enable our customers to still capture those precious milestone moments.
Farillio: How is this now playing out? Has this approach worked for your customers? Has your customer base changed?
Richard: We are still getting booking requests for the future, which is great. We are due to launch the kits on the online shop shortly, but already we have had significant interest from families who do not want to wait. We know we can’t let these families down. We can’t let them miss capturing their baby prints and casts because of this situation.
Farillio: What advice do you have to other small businesses who are looking to pivot right now and possibly feeling a sense of overwhelm and exhaustion?
Richard: Be confident you can do it. Make it a scalable model. Cover your downside, but don’t shy away from tough decisions. We are not offering the whole range in kit version…..but if it goes well, who knows?
Farillio: Any words of wisdom/hope/support for the small business community to ensure we #LeaveNoSMEBehind?
Richard: Focus very carefully on what you do and why, not how you currently operate.
Operations can and will have to change and adapt. What you do and why can remain consistent. How you do it will have to change, and you never know, the new “how” might just lead you in an unexpected direction to future success.
Farillio: Thank you so much Richard, for taking the time to speak with us and tell us about your wonderful business. Keeping and cherishing memories is so important and we love that you have continued to find a way of #BuildingBrave for families across the UK during this time.
We wish you tonnes of success with your new home kits!
Having a family themselves, Richard and Stella know how special the very first moments with a newborn are. Unable to offer home visits at the moment, they don’t want families in isolation to miss out on the chance to capture their newborn's handprints or footprints. Alongside their new home print and casting kits, they are giving FREE Memory Makers At Home Inkprint Kit to new parents in isolation. The kits contain inkless wipes, specialist paper, expert instructions and a card frame to mount hand or foot inkprint in. The link to their FREE inkless wipe kit is below:
A wonderful way of giving back to families during these challenging times. We love this gesture.
Richard is also part of Farillio’s #3hrPledge movement and we'll shortly be matching him to one of our business mentors who have generously pledged their time to support small businesses looking for help and support right now.
If you’re a small business and would like guidance on any aspect of your business from sales and marketing to funding and finance, drop us a line today and we can connect you with one of our pledgees who are donating their skills and experience for free to ensure we #LeaveNoSMEBehind.
Find out in our dedicated blog, why this campaign is so important and why we, like many in our community, believe it's vital that we come together to ensure that no small business gets left behind because of the terrific pressure and extraordinary challenges that Covid-19 has caused.