It is coming up to one year since my world turned upside down and inside out. I have taken the time to sit down and reflect on what has happened this past year and you know what, I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved.
The Beginning of the End?
Tuesday 18th February 2020. This is the day that started a chain of events that changed my entire life.
Only months earlier I had made a huge life decision to give up everything I knew back in Darlington, County Durham and move to Preston, Lancashire to work full time in the Entertainment and Live Events Industry. It was my dream for as long as I could remember. As a child I wanted to own a little stationery shop and then a little Smunkee shop but I never thought it would come to fruition so I changed my dreams.
On the 18th Feb 2020 I lost my job working full time in the events industry. It was sudden and out of the blue and in hindsight I think I was in shock for weeks afterwards. I was utterly heartbroken, my world had fallen apart.
There were lots of tears and even a phone call to the Samaritans who were incredibly helpful in my time of need. I am more than happy to admit I turned to them for help and I encourage anyone who needs to chat to someone impartial to just pick up the phone and ring them. You’ll be glad you did.
The Next Chapter
I took a week to compose myself and work out what on earth was next in my life plan. I didn’t want this to be the end of my dream.
I was then presented with an opportunity to go self employed and work full time in the same industry but perhaps with better pay and the ability to work all over the country. I gratefully grabbed the opportunity with both hands and made a bloody good go of it. It took a couple of weeks to get it out there that I was ready and available for work.
I remember sitting working on some lighting for a school production when my phone BLEW UP with multiple requests for my services and I remember feeling incredibly overwhelmed but over the moon!
I made a HUGE A1 wall calendar and put down all of the events that Dave and I were due to work on.
As I’d spent years using tools from the theatres I had worked for, I didn’t have a good selection of my own or any way of carrying them around the country, so I invested in a kit and prepared myself for travelling round the UK for most of March.
I was incredibly excited and even got to the mindset where losing my job in February was maybe a good thing and the push I needed to really do what I wanted.
By the second week in March, events were starting to get cancelled due to the fears around COVID and my diary was starting to empty.
I travelled 100 miles on Monday 16th March ready for an event on the Tuesday morning. I stayed with a friend and we sat on the sofa and had a good catch up. I then got a notification on my phone that the Prime Minister would be addressing the nation at 6pm so we ordered a takeaway and tuned into BBC One.
Amongst other stuff, the following statement from the Prime Minister started a chain reaction in the Entertainment and Events Industry that we are still feeling the affects of one year later;
Within half an hour I received an email from the Theatre I was due to work at the next day showing a statement from the UK Theatre Association:
“Following official government advice issued today (Monday 16 March), which stipulates that people should avoid public buildings including theatres, we regret to announce that SOLT and UK Theatre member venues will be closed from tonight, to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
The theatres will remain closed until further notice and will re-open as soon as possible, following government recommendations.
And that was that. Within days EVERYTHING that I was booked in to work was cancelled and there was no way to work and earn money. There was no way of knowing how long this would go on for and when we would be able to return to the industry.
I am not going to lie. I was distraught. I felt lost and the uncertainty of the future was terrifying. Dave also found out that same week that his employer had to close and he would be furloughed until an unknown time.
What the hell were we supposed to do now?
Finding our Sanctuary
We thought “bugger it, we are going to go find a place in the middle of nowhere to camp for a few days as we have nothing else to do.”
That is exactly what we did. We packed up the Camper, drove to the Lake District and stayed on an isolated campsite [we were the ONLY ones there] for a few days. We took the time to actually take it all in and process what had happened and how this would affect our lives.
I cannot express how valuable these few days were to my mental health and mindset.
The First Lockdown
We kept up to date with the government guidance and when the First Lockdown was announced we packed up and headed home. [If I was writing this at the time, I would have just said “Lockdown” as we had no idea that a year on we’d be referring to the THIRD Lockdown].
We basked in the weirdness of having nothing to do and nowhere to go. We made ourselves busy working in the garden, working on the camper and making things.
2 months on, we were starting to get to the point of losing the plot. We had only actually lived together (whilst working full time jobs) for about 2 months before all of this happened and suddenly we were thrown into being in each other’s company 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I am proud to say that we made it through and it strengthened our relationship!
It got to the time where I needed to do something to keep my mind and hands busy. So I started making handmade stationery. I really enjoyed coming up with new ideas and making pretty things. It wasn’t much of a challenge though and I wanted to completely learn something brand new.
I chose Leathercraft. I’ve always loved leather items and I am crafty, so figured this wouldn’t be an impossible task.
It was an absolute life saver. I loved making and learning all the traditional techniques and just really working with my hands.
And DD Practical was born.
I spent all day making and learning and creating new things and started putting them online to see if anyone else was interested in my makes. They were. FANTASTIC! Let’s set up a little online shop and Social Media and see if we can’t make a little business of this.
It suddenly occurred to me, you can have more than one dream. I wasn’t quitting my dream of working in the events industry, I was just putting it on pause until I COULD work in the industry. In the meantime, a new dream popped into my mind about owning a little shop. Suddenly that childhood dream of having my very own little shop wasn’t so far fetched.
I tried a couple of craft fairs and in August finally found myself at Preston Market where they had a teeny tiny 30 square foot box container available to lease as a shopfront.
We spent a lot of time researching and working out the financials and decided we couldn’t really pass up this opportunity to have an ACTUAL shop [no matter how little it is].
We started the ball rolling and submitted our application to lease the shop and waited.
On Thursday 5th November 2020 – I opened DD Practical Shopfront for click and collect only under government restrictions.
ONE MONTH LATER on 5th December 2020 we had a Grand Opening where the Mayor of Preston cut the ribbon to make it official.
Who can say what the future holds?
We have had to close the shop through this third lockdown and move what we could home. I have set up my workstation in the middle of the lounge. As expected, sales are down.
Rather than wallow in self pity and fear of the future, I decided I was going to be fierce and strong and get through this year no matter what. I have signed up to a fantastic group for people in the events industry who have pivoted and created a side hustle: Performer-Preneur. I am active in the in it and joined the business mentor programme to get support, advice and accountability.
I have delved into the world of Social Media for Business and every single day I learn something new. Whilst I have the time, I am concentrating on making DD Practical more visible in the digitial world. As someone who usually works behind the scenes on events, I got over my fears of being on camera and decided to start a Business Youtube Channel to help with visibility. I currently spend all day everyday creating; whether it be physical products or online content.
I am overwhelmed, exhausted and terrified of the future but I think I have finally found my place in the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I still dream of working on shows and events and when that opportunity becomes a reality I will definitely do what I can to split my time between BOTH OF MY DREAMS.
There were many times last year when I felt lost and couldn’t see any way forward. I was anxious and depressed and couldn’t find motivation to do anything. There was a chance that I wouldn’t be able to pull my self out of that funk.
I am a doer at heart. I always have been. I had to surround myself with inspiration and creativity to actually turn that doer ‘switch’ on and actually start doing things. I am also a planner and organisation and control are key to me being the best version of myself.
I had no control over most of my life in 2020 and it nearly tore me apart. The incredible support from my loved ones helped me change my mindset around control and organisation so that I learned what I could and couldn’t control. Don’t get me wrong it still bothers and frustrates me, but I am gradually getting there and I have found ways to manage it. Now I can organise what I can control.
I don’t ever want to experience 2020-21 again but I have learned a lot about myself and re-discovered who Dani really is. My life is still shroud in uncertainty, anxiety and fear but I have learned to manage it and still move forward.
There is a possibility that this could have all been for nothing and DD Practical may not make it through 2021 but I am damn sure going to give it my everything.
As far as I am concerned, I’m already successful. Not financially, but in strength, happiness and hope.