OPEN LETTER TO GMPF #1

This is an open letter to GMPF, our business landlord.  It is highly probable that it will be the first of many such letters over the next 18 months.

Dear GMPF,

Ten years ago this month I moved to Chorlton as a bit of a stop gap whilst I figured out what to do with my life.  And, as life has panned out in the unexpected way that it does, I never left and I am now happily settled, raising two children and running a successful business in this strange but loveable suburb.

A heatwave was just kicking in on the day I came here back in 2006 which made the whole exciting move even more full of promise.  We were in a whole new world of beer gardens, open mic nights and roof top BBQs!  I remember going off to explore my new surroundings and stumbling upon the precinct and wondering if I had stepped into a 70’s verion of the Twilight Zone.  And I don’t mean that as a negative – for me it felt special and was somewhere full of untapped potential.  I always knew that it would inevitably be updated at some point, but I could very clearly picture a way to do it and still retain some of its nostalgic charm.

In the time I have lived here, Chorlton precinct has had at least 3 owners to my knowledge.  And over the years, rumours of redevelopment have been ever present.  I remember public consultations and architectural plans aplenty, but then the recession hit and all these plans were, I guess, put on the back burner. 

For me, the timing was perfect.  In 2011 I had my first child which gave me the opportunity to see those shop units in the precinct sitting empty and I began to formulate a long term plan – I knew by then that I wanted a business in Chorlton precinct and I was going to find a way to make it happen, no matter what.

Fast forward to the present day and that goal has been achieved…for now.  I understood when I signed my lease that it expired in 2018 but I didn’t worry because I don’t think I fully appreciated the potential that my business had back then.  I guess I thought I’d be just content to have a shop for a few years and I didn’t really consider too far ahead.  But time is ticking fast and battle mode is setting in.

I now have 3 children – a girl one, a boy one and a shop one.  I unashamedly admit to loving the non-human one just as much as the human ones.  The roots of all 3 are connected to the precinct to some degree and I can’t accept that in less than 2 years it could all be over if all the spaces are allocated to large corporations.  We have all worked hard to create something special in a part of Chorlton which we truly love.  The Chorlton Art Market belongs in the precinct.

My fear is that the redevelopment will see the precinct turned into a soulless identikit plastic mall when I know that it has the potential to be something truly special and something which could be a real gem for Chorlton.  As anyone who has ever lived here will tell you, Chorlton is a beautifully weird place, filled with people with a great sense of social pride and I believe that you, the landlords, have an amazing opportunity to create something that will sit pride of place in your property portfolio.

When the time comes, please consider the fate of my family business – a business which supports over 60 other local people and a business which is loved by an ever-growing customer base.  In a place like Chorlton, with a bit of imagination something ‘different’ has the potential to thrive…but only if the opportunities are there. Please don’t forget about us when you make your plans.

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We got through it!

These last few months have been wonderfully manic.  It is only now that I am able to reflect on all that has happened and take stock of the present.IMG_20160202_175835360

Running a shop is a lot of work.  Running a shop that involves over 60 other people requires a lot of time and effort.  Running any shop at Christmas is hard work.  Having a baby at the end of November made being able to cope with all this seem virtually impossible.  I admit to having one 5 minute breakdown the day after I had my baby, sobbing uncontrollably in my hospital bed as I wondered how on earth I was going to cope with a new baby right at the beginning of the busiest 4 weeks of the year.  I knew I had traders takings to pay a few days after and I knew how much some people relied on that money.  I couldn’t let my standards slip, despite the agony I was in during that first week.  I am not proud of the fact, but I had to actually shout at a doctor to discharge me.

We got through it, Jay and I, with a lot of help from some of our fantastic traders.  We managed to keep the shop pretty much open as normal and I was able to start working in the shop a bit after a couple of weeks.  I’m proud that we got through it, despite how hard it felt at times.  It seems we are lucky enough to have a chilled baby who just likes to drink and sleep so we’ve been able to get on with things as normal, just with a small and very cute companion.

I felt utterly shite the entire time I was pregnant.  I made this very clear to anyone I came across during those 9 months.  As with my first child, I felt awful every single day.  What made it so much worse this time was the fact that, no matter how rough I felt, I had so much I always had to do and it did, at times, feel utterly insurmountable.  This was when it was truly hard running the shop.  But despite all this, I still believed completely in my vision and I knew that no matter how hard things were, we would always find a way to work through it.  I have never believed in anything as much as I believe in the CAMhub.

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Like I said, running a shop is a lot of hard graft.  In no way did I ever expect it to be easy, but it is certainly harder than I really imagined.  There are certainly a lot more costs and factors that I didn’t take into account initially, and many new things have cropped up along the way.  It is a never ending job – I know this is the case for all self employed people, certainly in the first couple of years at least.  The business is on my mind 24/7 and I feel that horrible guilt when I’m playing with my kids because a nagging part of me is telling me I should be working, but then when I’m working I feel guilty that I’m not with the kids.

Despite all this, I understand that this is what it takes.  I have always believed that nothing good ever comes easy so I am prepared for the pitfalls and we will always march on.   2016 will be a very exciting time for the CAMhub as I will be able to dedicate more time to working, rather than being sick and crying.  The shop is going to get better and better all the time.

So, after all that ramble, all I really should of said is ‘come and check out our amazing shop’ – we have loads of awesome new traders joining us next month, including a stained glass artist and new vintage clothes traders.  We’re also going to have a bit of a play around with the layout of the shop to create a fresh new look for the spring.  And I can’t wait to give that floor a proper good clean cos I’m a weirdo like that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trials and Tribulations of Business Rates

Having a shop is lots of fun, and every day is exciting. I think about the shop just about every second of every day, and most nights I dream about it in some form. I even had a biblical vision about the shop. I bloody love it so much.
But…it is also quite frustrating! Due to the nature of our business, and the fact that we are still in the very early stages, there are so many issues that constantly need to be fought or sorted out. Every day brings a new obstacle or mini battle. So for your enjoyment pleasure, here is a list of some of our current woes:

1 – The main frustration of all is bloody business rates – a frustration I imagine most business owners will relate to. Of course its not that I resent paying the rates at all, its just that a) I resent the amount we supposedly have to pay and b) I resent the fact that I have been trying to get my business rates sorted out since October 2014 and it has still not happened. There are weird issues with our unit as it was temporarily doubled in size by some furniture selling cowboys (who didn’t even pay their business rates or utility bills). When we moved in, the entrance to the other unit was blocked off and the one unit became 2 again. This is a fact that it seems the MCC business rates team just can’t seem to handle. To make the situation even more frustrating is that, due to all the cuts to MCC’s budget I would imagine, you can’t actually phone someone in the business rates team – you have to send an email and wait 14 working days for a reponse. I look forward to that court summons so that I can show them the list of unreplied to emails that I have sent.

2 – There are currently 72 traders selling their wares in the CAMhub which is a lot of people to deal with and a lot of characters to keep happy! This not easy at times. My primary goal with the shop is for it to benefit everyone, but I know that these things don’t happen instantly. As I have had to point out to people recently, if it was really easy to put your work in a shop and make a grand overnight, then everyone in the world would be doing it. Nothing good ever comes easy and patience and perserverence does pay off. In my recent experience, it does seem that a lot of people are very quick to give up on things without giving it a proper chance (my Luddite soul attributes this to the rapid pace of social media etc which makes everyone think that everything should happen instantly).

3 – Money is an issue. A very big issue. Sometimes it worries me a lot. And sometimes I feel just about ok about it. I guess this makes me exactly the same as everyone else. But to make this shop work, we need to generate a HUGE amount of money just to cover the essentials, before we can even think about money for ourselves. And there are so many things to think of! The sleepless nights are exacerbated by the fact that the business rates still aren’t sorted and I just want, as I have done for the past 5 months, to get it all straight. All I have ever wanted to do is to just get everything sorted and ‘proper’ but it is made very hard for you to do things the right way.

Anyway…despite my little rant here and my variying levels of daily stress, I am truly happy to have a shop. If I’m being totally honest, I’m beyond happy about it for it is my biggest dream come true. It is a pleasure to go to the CAMhub every day and be surrounded by such beautiful things. And I don’t want it to be easy and straightforward, because, as I have said, nothing worth having ever comes without the hard work. I want to make the inevitable mistakes so that I know not to repeat them and I want to continue learning new things every day to make the shop the very best it can be. And, as I have always said, I know this shop will work out long term and will benefit a huge amount of local people – it will just take a lot more work, which I am very excited about. So many exciting plans on the horizon for the CAMhub!