As I start writing this blog post – the calendar reads 13 December 2017 – everybody is very busy making the last orders before Christmas break. And in the midst of this slight chaos and business, I want to concentrate and look back at the past year. A year in which so much happened, so many things changed, and which brought us mostly bliss and joy.
Meanwhile, Dominique is painting the last dozens of Nativity Set figures, Cecilia and Phumi are cutting products from wood, and Brigitta is painting already cut nursery goodies.
It is very busy. End of the year busy; when a small business is finishing the last orders for the year, before the workshop will be thoroughly cleaned and closed for a well-earned two-week break. We are very much enjoying these hectic and chaotic last days, but even more so the prospect of the upcoming holidays!
Back to the task at hand: a review of this year 2017. Dominique asked me, Edmund, to write this blog post, as I have come into the business pretty much at the beginning of this year and it would be fun to see what I had noticed, as a new-comer. The real reason for asking me is probably that she is too busy painting Nativity Sets, and I cannot do that in her place. So, here we go.
Everybody is back from Christmas break. Everybody? Well, Therese, one of Dominique’s sisters, has gone to Johannesburg and has started teaching at a primary school up there. The workshop must have felt quite different, for Therese had been working with Dominique for a good ten years! While she is thoroughly missed here, we can report that she is very happy in Johannesburg and absolutely loves her new job! And one of the things she teaches the kids is: woodworking!
Very Exciting Times! So much so, that the business closes for a couple of days, because… Dominique is getting married! On February 2nd Dominique and Edmund exchanged their vows and started a whole new life. But first, they went on honeymoon…
I start working with Dominique and it will take me some months to really find my feet. A new country, a new life, a new job. It is quite a bit to take in, but I love it all the way.
Now that Dominique and I run the business together (can you imagine the change for her?), we have to divide tasks, keeping in mind our strengths, weaknesses and interests. And those of the business. Meanwhile, I want and need to get to know the business better, and so the first thing I do is packing parcels. A good way to get to know the products, our people in the workshop, the workshop itself, and the way we do things.
The days are getting shorter and colder. Yet, work is exciting! Dominique and I are forging plans to re-brand the business, to re-emphasize our core values and express them better in the way we interact with you, our (potential) customers. And so, in the following months a new logo is designed, the website gets a complete make-over, lots of time is now spent on our Facebook page and Dominique’s Instagram account, the packaging is changed completely to make your parcel look like a present that you get to unwrap… and meanwhile the workshop is still running at full speed to deal with all the orders you are placing with us. Can we ever thank you enough? Let it be said once more: Thank you for your support – you make it all possible! ♥
The new website goes life, and so does our blog! This is what we have been working on for months, and now is the time to see if we went right, or wrong… We are not left in the dark about this for very long: website hits are peaking and orders are coming in at a very good pace!
One of the changes that we made is that we phased out the sewing department. Our heart and joy lie with woodworking and painting wood, and we want to stick with what we love most. We do keep the felt mobiles, though 🙂
We also said goodbye to two lovely ladies, and welcomed Phumi to our workshop. He is showing great talent for woodworking and seems to enjoy working here.
On a side-note: we intend to introduce all our workers on this blog over time!
Dominique tells me that she made a Nativity Set in the past and I immediately get very enthusiastic about the idea of making those again. And so, Dominique sets to the task to design a new Nativity Set that fits the current style. It really is rather quite late in the year to design and start making such a seasonal set. However, the design is amazing and the Nativity Sets are selling so well that they have become our best-selling product of 2017!
By now I mostly find myself in the office, where I take care of the running the business (together with Dominique, of course!), the administration, hrm, legal stuff, and part of the marketing.
And Dominique? She has set up a small design studio where she can do what she loves best: design new products! She also takes care of the Facebook and the bulk of our blog posts, and of course of her Instagram account. And, when things get really busy, we both help out in the workshop.
At the moment, though, all she does in her workshop is paint hundreds of Nativity Set figures that Phumi cut and sanded. This month our workshops are overrun by an army of Shepherds with sheep and donkeys, wise men, and multiple Joseph’s, Mary’s and baby Jesus’. It looks absolutely impressive, and meanwhile we are still making all the nursery goodies that we’ve been making for over twelve years.
That pretty much concludes the looking-back on 2017: a very positive year of growth for all of us, in our personal lives as well as in our professional lives.
Things I noticed
What did I notice as a new-comer? First of all, an amazing work environment, with great people and a great spirit. We love doing what we do, and that is very valuable, considering how much time one spends at work. There is a healthy and great atmosphere here every day, and I, for one, am proud of that!
Then, that both people and a business are so very flexible! In a relatively short time the business changed a lot, with a new management, a re-brand, a new direction and attitude, and with some new people. Was it busy? Hectic? Scary? Oh yes, at times it was! But it all turned out very well.
Looking back, I can only be grateful. Grateful to Dominique, for having married me this year and for the amazing first ten months. For having started this amazing business some twelve years ago, where we make such lovely nursery goodies to bring joy to your houses, and that allows us to give a good job and teach valuable skills to our workers. Grateful, also, to you, who make all this possible.
And on such a happy note I think it is time to wrap up this blog post and wish you all a very blessed and merry Christmas, and all the best for 2018! We hope to see you again next year 🙂