Well, we started the year optimistically. We’ve been through fires, floods, hurricanes, blizzards, polar vortex, homelessness, unemployment, small business disasters, small business startups, long-term medical issues, foreclosure, bankruptcy, economic recession/depression you name it we thought we had conquered all of it and now had it covered in our emergency plans.
Guess what wasn’t on our emergency plan?
Did you guess? The Global Pandemic.
Then you were right. That was not on our plan. Nor was a lockdown. Nor was a global economic collapse (which we are watching unfold for the second time in my adult life).
We spend the winter preparing to do craft fairs this year. Making items and packaging them. Making signs. Planning table arrangements. Deciding what to take and how to display it. We did market research for our local areas to help shape what products we would make and what price range they needed to be in.
We figured due to my mobility issues we would start with indoor fairs and shows and work up to outdoor bigger affairs and maybe a comic con later in the year.
Just as our craft fair business season should have been starting, everything in Ohio locked down (mid-March), and has continued into Sep (now Level 2) ). Some things have opened back up but large gatherings even outdoors are still not allowed. Even the state and county fairs are canceled till next year. Some sports events are starting back up with very specific limitations. The pandemic may be over next year in July based on the current scientific predictions on the progress of vaccines. But the vaccines may be similar to the FLU where you have to get them every year, and not like chickenpox where you can get them once or twice in your life and your good. Indoor fairs, and craft events, even comic cons are all canceled. Given my chronic lung issues, we have opted to remain in quarantine until the last possible moment.
That being the case we have just spent most of June, July, and August, listing our products online on our site, and focusing on adding products to various marketplaces to try and get them in front of customers. While we have had our own e-commerce website since 2000 in one format or another, we usually focused on selling on marketplaces for easy traffic. We have not seen the same kind of traffic this year that we have in past years. We are taking marketing classes for online retailers to see if we can learn how to improve this. We invested quite a bit into getting the craft fair business up and running so the lack of places to sell in person is devastating.
We have also spent every waking moment available working on our game development projects. Unfortunately, game development is a long-haul business and project. Much longer than we initially thought. We have one game almost polished enough to publish, we need music and sound effects and a few more creature animations. The basic functionality of the game is in place. Then the game needs 3 months of work (minimum) to add the steam achievements, save game features, and educational features to it before we can publish it on Steam for a wider release. In the meantime, we are trying to get the word out that it exists and build up our wish lists.
We have also started working on a few Ice hockey games that are educational-themed. They are in various states of disarray as we learn a new game engine called Godot, instead of using Unreal. We’ve had some major computer hardware failures which has crippled development, we basically have one good machine working now, and the rest can’t run the engines. We are spending a chunk of Sept working on fixing that.
Not sure if the business will survive to 2021, but we are trying our best. While it’s not much of a comfort, we know we are not the only small family business in this struggle. So more to come later. This year! Check out our steam pages (links on the sidebars and at the bottom of the pages..)
So far we are all alive and crafting. We are working diligently on our games, we have 7 in the works right now, and will post more as we have information. We have restocked the online store. We have new planner sticker kits, currently being designed and tested. We have new types of soap coming out each month. We have new jewelry coming out each month, mostly classical styles with wire wrapping. (Jewelry studio is on hold, supplies are hard to find, and wood has tripled in price). We managed to get some wood back in March for building raised beds, and time permitting we will get them to build. Once one is done, we need to build 5 or 6 more.
Please be safe, and be healthy, and we hope to see you all on the other side of this pandemic.