Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

It’s not all ha ha hee hee*

Today has been a really tough day. A day where I threw my phone** across the room in sheer frustration and only then realised how angry I was. A day where not one thing worked easily, where everything I wanted to do needed five things to be done before I could do it. A friend of mine kindly got in touch and asked what was wrong – he may have regretted doing so. But after I offloaded he suggested maybe I share it in a blog post – I normally try to be cheery but really, it’s not all smiles and roses. I hope you don’t mind and I really hope I don’t come across as hugely self pitying – I’m not. I’m just tired, lonely, and in need of someone stroking my head and telling me it will all be ok. I can’t have that but I can write my thoughts and feelings down so here we go. Feel free to leave now!

Today I was working at home and trying to manage updating HR files and contracts to make sure we’re legal, trying to find a way to make updating our website easier and faster so we can get new products listed quickly, trying to prepare financial information for a mentor so we can make sure we’re not selling at a loss, trying to work out a way for me to access our server from my house/out and about so we don’t wend up with a whole bunch of documents that are different, trying to get new and much needed volunteer posts advertised to help us in all kinds of ways, trying to work out how to deal with today’s various random requests and offers and opportunities (even offers of help take time to deal with – nothing is straightforward), trying to get us entered into a couple of awards thingys, trying to set up partnerships with people we can make gorgeous gift sets with… plus of course my ‘proper’ work of trying to make sales, follow up sales leads, buzz up the PR, get attendance at events sorted. All that kind of thing.

Della’s been in the office juggling the hundred and one things she does and doing it brilliantly. Everything relating to managing all the people who come on site, all our supplies and suppliers, all our products, quality issues, waste, security, where everything is, who has access to what – plus Della will have been dealing with a whole bunch of the same stuff as me as we do stuff between us.

When I said we were drowning a few weeks ago I meant it. We are, I am, really struggling. I honestly don’t know how we are going to manage. There just aren’t the hours in the day. We *need* an office manager, someone who can pick up all the admin, all the HR, the legal stuff and we need that person to be someone good. We can’t afford to pay anyone though and we struggle to get that role filled for more than a few weeks by a volunteer which is, to be honest, more trouble than it’s worth as we lose so much time training only to have to start over. My time is best spent getting out there selling, being enthusiastic about pants and our amazing operation, Della’s time is best spent managing people, and instead I’m having to learn about content management systems, file managers, the ins and outs of job descriptions while Della struggles womanfully to learn how machines are threaded and how to stretch test lace. I hate feeling I *have* to do things, especially when I feel they are things I’m not good at – I haven’t the first clue about HR stuff or web development and I really haven’t the time to learn – if I were to understand in depth all the areas of the business, my brain would explode. Finance, payroll, HR, legal, reporting, sourcing, production, waste, postage, returns, events, marketing, sales, funding, funding reports, admin, work scheduling, website, customer database, finance database, crm – it’s too much. This is why people specialise.

I am not for one minute ungrateful for the amazing people who support me, and us, in everything but for once I think it’s reasonable and fair to share with you all how bloody hard this is at times. It is very bloody hard. I’ve been working on this for three years, all but four months of that full time. And it’s still gut wrenchingly, feel like I’ve climbed one sod of a hill only to be faced with a bigger one, hard. UnLtd talk about how social entrepreneurs need to have loads of resilience. I feel like I’ve run out. I’m not sure how many more kicks I can take at the moment. For the first time ever, I had a fleeting thought of, ‘maybe I should just give this up’ today. I’ve been utterly broke for almost all that time, and I am tired of not being able to mend my heating, or even buy a book on a whim. I’m tired of weighing up the guilt of another night out on my friends generosity as opposed to another night in craving understanding, company and affection. I’m tired of having to cycle in the wind and rain because I can’t afford a bus. I’m tired of us having to weigh up every penny at pants and suffer for it – sometimes we need a solution NOW and NOW tends to mean paying and we just can’t, not even a few hundred pounds. I’m tired of having to lean on our volunteers and not be able to pay them anything for the amazing work they do out of generosity and kindness. I’m tired of everything feeling like a battle. And then to have the women we’ve employed asking for more hours, knowing they need them, and wanting to provide them but not being able to explain to my own satisfaction that we can’t until we sell the pants but we can’t sell them until we have the right PR and we can’t do the right PR until we have photos and we can’t do photos until we get a camera and barcodes and decent coat hangers and we can’t do that stuff until we have some money.. it’s crushing. Or at least today it is.

It’s true to say whomadeyourpants? is a brilliant thing. I know that and for once I can say it without feeling I’m bigging myself up. It is not me and I am not it, it is its own thing now and I am proud of it. But I’m scared and tired and tired of being tired. I’m not sure what the solution to this is, but I hope I find one. I know I won’t give up – I just want some time of if being not so hard as this. That’s all.

And if I may be allowed a very personal this in no way represents the view of wmyp comment – Big Society running on volunteers? Really? Where are all these rich people with so much money they can afford to not work but are so public spirited they’ll step in – they’re sure as hell pretty invisible round here and we are *good* at attracting folks. Hmm.

Night all

Becky

*By Meera Syal. Great book.
** Phone is safe. Thank god, That would have been another mess to sort out.

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5 Responses

  1. sarah filmer says:

    dear becky – i think it is only right that you said all of this. the notion of resilience is one that oftentimes obscures the reality of such an endeavour – the reason wmyp even exists is your humanity and striving, but this does not mean you are superhuman (although that is the word on the street…….) i will be away from unit11studios for the next couple of weeks but once i am back, i will come and find you and see what we can do to help – photos, video, etc – a small offer, but it may be useful. also, we always have tea and sometimes even biscuits so please come and find us at some point soon x sarah

  2. Alan Tracey says:

    As I have always said, if there is anything I can do, please let me know. Sounds like you are going through a hell of a time. I won’t say chin up, just hope theres a light shining in there somewhere.

  3. Jo says:

    Sending you solidarity! If I was local to you I would try to find a way
    to volunteer regularly, I think what you are doing is amazing. I recently got involved with Lancaster Cohousing, which is a totally different kind
    of endeavour, but also pretty radical (so everything is difficult) and ambitious (so everything is difficult). There are phases of being dispirited and exhausted and wondering if it will ever be ok. I hope you find a good office manager soon. Also, spring is coming, I am sure that will help! X

  4. sarahsfleeces says:

    Becky I SO feel for you and SO wish I could do something to help but I can’t think of anything other than words of wisdom.

    I’m not sure I’ve got any myself to offer as that sound big headed, but my Dad was a very wise man of God and I learnt tonnes from him. I was trying to think of what he would say to me in such a circumstance. He’d think long and hard before he answered and then speak out of love, compassion and painful experience.

    He may have said something like this “Becky if you know in your ‘knower’ that this is what you’re meant to be doing with your life right now then God will give you the strength and resources to do it. It may not happen how you want it to happen or in the way that you’ve planned, but if it’s His plan too then it will happen in His time”.

    I’ve often felt similar over my two little years that I’ve been doing something on about a 20th of the scale that you’re doing, especially having got that quote in that I told you about the other day, I’ve wondered if I am crazy to even contemplate such action, whether I should lay it all down and go get a boring 9-2 job where there’s no risk, fun, challenge and nothing at the end of it except a pay cheque and then I realise that it’s late in the evening, that I need sleep and ‘know’ that it’ll feel different tomorrow, even if only a little, and that yes those things that we’re ‘fighting’ for are SO worth fighting for.

    So work out where and how to get the emotional support that you need, go and get it and don’t feel guilty about it {HUGS} and you’ve got my phone number if you want to rant some more, I’m a good listener and it doesn’t burden me to halve yours just by listening 🙂 Imagine yourself as a shaken up Coke bottle, the air’s got to come out somewhere, just find a healthy way of doing it 🙂

  5. Laura says:

    Becky

    So feel your pain. Do you feel like you have places to go to talk to others running social enterprises? There’s a great London scene but I know Hampshire is quite another thing. I’ll let you know if anything specific comes up that you could maybe make the trip to London for, but one thing you might be interested in is the RSA’s Social Enterprise network: http://rsafellowship.com/group/socialentrepreneursnetwork

    Might be a good place to connect with others facing the same challenges you are and get pro bono support, over the Internet. Meantime ping me on Twitter (@laurawhudson) if you just fancy a moan over the phone!

    Keep your chin up, you’re doing something absolutely amazing that only you could have done.

    Solidarity,

    Laura

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