Amanda Winwood, co-director of Made for Life Organics, shares a personal account of how COVID-19 has affected her life and her business, writing from her home in Catalunya.
COVID-19 and the lockdown has taught me a great deal – personally and in business. In business terms we have been very lucky to have been able to ‘pivot’. I guess that is one of the advantages of being a smaller business; you can be extremely agile.
I have also learned that the new normal means I can work from anywhere and don’t need to travel so much. So, this is being written from Spain.
When lockdown was announced my husband, Geoff – who is a co-director of Made for Life Organics – and I were due to travel back to our home in Catalunya. We have an old 12th century farmhouse with 150 acres of woodland. At the same time that we were due to travel, Geoff’s lovely mum Joyce, aged 90, was becoming increasingly ill, having suffered long-term with cancer.
COVID-19 was in a way a gift, as we stayed with Joyce and looked after her up until the point that she died peacefully in her home, held in Geoff’s arms. From a personal point of view this was a big piece of learning about how time is the greatest gift. Geoff and I had lived apart for long periods of time whilst I was based in the UK growing Made for Life Organics and Geoff was in Spain working to transform our Spanish retreat.
COVID-19 meant that we lived and worked together from Joyce’s home in Somerset initially. We found that we really enjoyed the space that working remotely gave us and we enjoyed living together rather than apart! We made the decision, after Joyce’s funeral to return to Spain where a friend, Alejandra, had been ‘holding the fort’ and was stuck during Spanish lockdown in a large rambling farmhouse on her own. Well, not completely on her own – three small dogs and two peacocks, Henry and Henrietta, were also around!
Our journey to Spain involved one 14-hour solid driving day across France and Spain (shared between the two of us) and an interesting but successful negotiation with Spanish border police who were initially happy to let Geoff cross into Spain but not me.
An average day here involves an early start in the morning with a good walk with our dogs across the surrounding vineyards. Then we come back and feed the peacocks – now seven of them as Henrietta has five peacock chicks. After that we get breakfast and then start our working day.
We have had the space to really take an honest look at how we run the business. As a result, we are adjusting our strategy
What have we achieved so far? Well, we are launching a brand-new website and online sales have increased by 25% so far. We renegotiated terms with our suppliers who have been fantastically supportive. We had based purchasing on 2019’s substantial growth and when COVID-19 hit, lost 65% of our business through spas closing. Good communication has been a major part of our learning. We have changed our own T&Cs with stockists which reflect the financial uncertainty there is for all.
Above all we have used this time and space to do some good ‘blue sky thinking’ – plenty of that here. We have had the space to really take an honest look at how we run the business. As a result, we are adjusting our strategy and the existing team we have within Made for Life has been amazingly supportive. We negotiated support from our bank, have reduced costs and really reviewed what we do well as a business and what we can do better.
We have partnered with Tim Westwell in Cornwall who has started to grow some of the herbs and flowers we use on organic farmland he owns. Our first marigolds arrive in three weeks.
And we have found that we have been able to really effectively use Zoom for meetings and webinars. This week we launched our Cancer Touch Therapy training programme online.
So, while COVID-19 has been a devastating time and there is still a huge amount of uncertainty about what the future may hold, it has been transformative for Made for Life Organics as a business and for me as a company owner.
We don’t hold a crystal ball to predict the future but being focused on the present with a partner who is great in business and who you love to work and live with is fantastic. Working in a courtyard with the sound of cicadas and birdsong and the scent of lemon trees and lavender helps too!