I didn’t get anything done this weekend. The original plan was to create a landing page for the new digital course, Sewing your own Jeans, edit videos, and send out two newsletters, one in English, one in Hungarian. But I was taken over by some crippling inability to act. Ever since I opened the studio two years ago, I have felt similarly twice: in early March and late August. I was staring at my to-do list and my scheduled calendar, but I was unable to post new courses. It was clear that any plans previously made would lose their point, since the circumstances were rapidly changing overnight. In reality, what seemed to be not doing anything was in fact starting to focus inward, tuning in, so I could make the right decision regarding the future of the studio.
The possibility to close has been lurking around since March. In the spring, I still had some overwhelming desire to prove myself, I wanted to fight, to endure, to be resilient, to persevere, not to give up. It was not easy. I was constantly bargaining over the costs, negotiating with time, struggling with home-schooling my child. You should know that this “courses and workshops” business is very seasonal, even during normal circumstances. There are seven good months and five rather weak months in a year. Of those seven good months, three were devoured by the virus in the spring. The surreal thing was that when I extended the lease of the studio last year, I tried to bargain to extend it only until May, as there is almost no revenue in the summer, since everyone is on holiday. The owner didn’t want any of this and insisted on a full year, hence the end of September deadline remained. I gave myself a deadline of May, so if I didn’t manage to stabilize revenues by then, I planned to close.
In comparison, I stood there in May, with the promise of lifting restrictions, with the optimism of “we’re over it soon.” Then I would have felt thoughtless to give up in the “finish line.” And then came summer with new courses, with the junior sewing courses, I was propelled forward by carrying out new tasks, keeping busy, seeing better-than-expected results. And then two things happened in August: I was faced with an unexpected expense, which threw my uncertain budget out of ballance, and they passed a new adult education law, which took a lot of energy, because it was vague, and its interpretation was unclear. I had to spend a lot of time getting info from various sources, find out what applies to us, what doesn’t, how to comply with the new regulations. I registered in mid-August, and my application still has not been processed. Supposedly there are about 10 administrators processing the submissions of thousands of applicants. Only approx. a week after the new regulations came into force in early September, they released a statement that until the applications were processed, everyone could safely continue to teach as before. And school started, and rising numbers of new cases were published daily. Almost all my students cancelled courses they registered for. In the meantime, I was making videos for new online courses, trying to process a relentless amount of new info vigorously, learning new tools, switching to something completely different than what I had done so far. I felt like driving while reading the instructions on the highway.
My revenues fell to zero again from one day to the next. I started the Stitch Budapest Sewing Club, which several people joined, but I am having some technical problems setting up the membership site. It isn’t as easy to create as it seemed at first glance. (I’m working on it and it will be up and running shortly!)
And in the meantime, I sit here in the studio, with winter fast approaching, we have a rapidly-spreading epidemic around us. I’ve been sewing masks again, (made to order, at the same price as the Chinese shop on the corner). Sometimes a customer comes in, with a garment repair or alteration job, and it became quite clear that this is not the business I want to be in. Anyone who wants to get a garment fixed ends up to be rude, impolite and impatient, so this is not a direction I would like grow in. I don’t have time to create, to design, to sew new projects. The shop window needs an insulation before winter comes, otherwise the heating bill will go through the roof, so to speak .
And on top of it all, They released statement over the weekend: “Epidemiologists believe the second wave will reach its peak sometime around December-January.” That is it. There is nothing to add to this. This sentence wiped out any remaining twinkling optimism.
And then suddenly something tipped over and I realized that there is no point to go on like this any more. If I am about to switch to a new business model, it will have an entirely different cost structure, and the money I put into the empty and unused space every month could be spent on something much more useful. When (and if) I transform into a digital company, I no longer need a need a physical space, but instead I will need a whole slew of online tools without which I cannot create an experience for you.
At the same time, I love this place, along with all its flaws and shortcomings. Never, nowhere have I liked to be as much as here. A lot of energy went into creating it, and I might never have the strength to starts something similar: physical, concrete, tangible. I was very happy to be here and it will be terribly missed. But what I will miss even more is that you can’t come to live classes. Producing virtual content alone is not the same thing as teaching live classes.
I made a decision that I agonized over since
early August, May, mid-March, last September:
At the end of September, Stitch Budapest will close at 18 Somogyi Béla Street.
At the end of the week I will hold a clearance sale, listing some of the furniture for sale on FB Marketplace. I will be keeping the sewing machines and the tools needed for sewing, because maybe, someday, in the not-so-distant future, there will once again be a place somewhere where you can attend live sewing courses, but that’s will be another story.
In the meantime, Join the Stitch Budapest Sewing Club! It will be fun!