Covid-19 has left many of us with tough financial decisions to make. Whether you’ve been furloughed, need a business grant, or perhaps you don’t qualify for any of the government’s support at all, we’ve all needed to react in one way or another.
It's a daunting prospect, especially if it isn’t just yourself you have to think about. That’s the case for Melissa Dawkins, one of the founders of Made in Ashford, a Craftship and social enterprise which supports and nurtures small independent craft businesses.
At the outbreak of Covid-19, however, the shop had to be closed. Melissa was faced with the loss of her own revenue, but also the loss of revenue of all her members. It could have led to panic; instead Melissa found a solution to keeping the creative community enthused.
Melissa said: “Obviously we had to shut our doors, so there’s a huge impact on our members' revenue streams. It's not only our shop, it's all of the shops that those craft people, those creatives, those artists were in, so one of the things that we have tried to do is to work out ways that we can support them financially.
“One of the things we decided to do is to begin creating content. We're paying our guys to create content that we're then distributing for free, so they have a really massive involvement in our success. They are our success.”
Success should be a word Melissa is used to, certainly locally, but this has reached a much wider scale.
“We’ve been working to try and get some of our creative packs out to people who don't have access to printers or are from poorer backgrounds," she said. "We are at heart, very local. But I was looking at one of our photo's reach and it's reached 60,000 people, which is phenomenal.
"To think there's that amount of people seeing something that we've created, an activity pack and joining in with something, all collectively, all over the place. To be able to have that impact, to the world, does blow your mind. It's a wonderful feeling. It's completely changed how we view our little shop and our little world.”
You may expect the blog to end here. A lovely tale of how one individual, one business is helping to keep the creative community entertained with a wide range of free content. Melissa’s story though, is far from over.
As well as co-ordinating the content, running her business, and being a full-time mum, she also got involved with another community group; the Ashford, Folkestone and Dover Scrubbers; a sub-group of the Kent Scrubbers, who are a collective of sowers, volunteering their time to make scrubs and PPE clothing for the local NHS.
Unsurprisingly, Melissa has played a key role in the success of the sub-group, ordering and distributing fabrics before helping it to reach a variety of different medical locations. Oh, and she also started a fundraiser too. Spoiler alert, that’s been an overwhelming triumph too.
“We initially started to try and raise £200, because we wanted to help people that didn't necessarily have enough money to buy the fabric themselves, so we wanted people to not to have to spend their own money, especially if they couldn't afford it," she said.
“That fundraiser has just exploded, we surpassed £200 pretty quickly, we're on £7,500 [at the time of interview] and that just blows my mind that so many people want to contribute to something like that.
“Now we're getting that money in and buying fabric from my suppliers and we're helping distribute it. We've helped to distribute fabric to over 300 sowers, we've actually bought and distributed six km of fabric to date, and that is so much fabric, I've never had so much fabric delivered to my house before!
“I think it's just a wonderful thing, it's totally heart-warming that people have been able to find that money at this time as well and when it's so uncertain of how things are going to go and people have lost their jobs, or been furloughed. It's obviously something that people are obviously passionate about to give to this cause right now.
“I think to be involved in something so massive, it's just a great thing. I'm sure my children will remember this time and I'll be so proud to tell them how I could be involved in it.”
If you would like to find out more details about Made in Ashford or the Kent Scrubbers, you can do so by visiting the Made in Ashford website; www.madeinashford.com. If you would like to make a donation to the fundraiser, that can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/f/making-scrubs-to-support-NHS-staff-in-kent
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