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From Zoom classes to a haberdashery takeaway: Ensuring the survival of one Brentwood craft studio

PUBLISHED: 20:40 07 September 2020 | UPDATED: 22:09 07 September 2020

"BT HQ Al Fresco" - group crochet and sewing at two metres apart. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

Ricci Fothergill

“I haven’t made any money since March,” says owner of sewing and craft studio, Beautiful Things, “I’ve kept a roof over my head and kept paying the rent but that’s it.”.

Claire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci FothergillClaire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

From Zoom classes to a haberdashery takeaway, Claire Mackaness assured the survival of her Brentwood studio by constantly adapting and rejigging, juggling to keep clients engaged and finding novel ways of making money which also meet the ever-changing government guidelines.

Claire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci FothergillClaire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

Making it to through to the other end of the pandemic has been a struggle for many small businesses, who had catastrophic financial losses since Boris Johnson announced the closure of all non-essential shops at the end of March. Claire had more than 200 people booked for classes from March to August, all which were cancelled, postponed or given credit for use in the haberdashery shop. The business has had no income coming in other than fabric sales, as clients were still only just receiving pre-booked classes from March.

Claire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci FothergillClaire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

Thankfully, she only had to give out a couple of refunds: “If I had to refund everybody, I don’t know where I would be financially, in a pretty bad state - everyone’s been wonderful and very patient,” she said. When non-essential shops closed, Claire began with Zoom classes.

Claire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci FothergillClaire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

“It had its benefits - It opened up the venue to people who didn’t live nearby. It didn’t really make us any real money because the sessions were low-cost sessions as I was aware that many didn’t have much disposable income, but it very much kept morale high and kept clients happy during those first very stressful months.”

Claire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci FothergillClaire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

Finding the Zoom classes very mentally exhausting, and struggling with child care due to shielding family members and still schools and nurseries closed, using some of her government grant Claire set up a pop-up shop.

Claire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci FothergillClaire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

And when groups of six were finally allowed to gather outside at two metres a part, Claire introduced “BT HQ Al Fresco,” - where clients could come and bring their knitting or crochet and socialise on the studio premises.

Claire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci FothergillClaire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

As restaurants and pubs finally opened, this meant a creative new plan to continue the crochet with a few more permissions.

Claire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci FothergillClaire Mackaness adapted her craft studio from a haberdashery takeaway to a socially distancing crochet club to stay afloat during the pandemic. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

Moving all the furniture around in her front room again, Claire created five individual pods, with their own equipment and tools.

“It’s proven really popular, I’m very fortunate to have regular clients and I’m really enjoying working with the smaller class sizes,” she said.

Thankfully, Claire hasn’t had to rely solely on the shop for income but says “there are many shops and studios like myself that are not reopening and that’s incredibly sad for the industry. I’m confident that I’ll be there on the side of this because of the support that I’ve had from my clients.Business owners in Brentwood have all been incredibly supportive, we’ve work a lot in collaboration, sharing social media posts - it’s brought everyone together.”n

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