Jocelynn Brown The Detroit News
- WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The pandemic has forced many entrepreneurs to pivot from their original business plans. In some cases, the willingness to accept change and come up with creative out -of -the box solutions has kept businesses afloat.
Linette Ramos de Soto, owner of Breads & Threads Handmade and author of "Ramblings of a Chicken Lady" (Ingram Publishing Covenant Books), is a perfect example of turning life's lemons into lemonade — even during a pandemic.
In search of ideas that might help keep her "all handmade (and) home grown business" thriving, she reached out to a friend. "The simplest of comments she made was 'Sometimes you have to let go of a dream and go with reality.' She told me to focus on my skills, so I gave up my dream of having a bridal boutique and went back to crocheting and farming," said Ramos de Soto, who lives on a farm in Grand Blanc where she and her husband, Ramon Soto, raise chickens and turkeys. They also have two pot belly pigs and three therapy goats that are "currently unemployed," due to COVID-19. They're no longer able to visit spinal cord injury patients at the nearby long-term rehabilitation facility.
They also grow peanuts, peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and potatoes, a lot of which they can for the family, and sell any extras to the community, along with poultry.
"We thought the farm would explode, but it didn't go like we expected. We thought the store would tank because we didn't believe people would consider handmade items a necessity in the middle of a pandemic, but handmade was selling great!"
Around the end of February as COVID was fast spreading across the world, Ramos de Soto, 44, moved her shop from Courtland Mall in Burton, where it had been the past two years. "It hadn't closed yet, but we knew it was starting to lose momentum when COVID hit, so we decided not to go back. I had to figure out a way to be a business owner and home school. It just made sense to stay home.
"I invested time in taking classes online about social media and how to grow and have your business survive during a pandemic. They taught me a lot of things I hadn't focused on previously. I had to learn how to manage social media so I took a lot of webinars, some were free, others I paid for.
We've done a ton of changing. We (now) process everything through Square, but if I didn't have the mind set I probably would have been sitting around wondering what I should do now."
Ramos de Soto prides herself on being the product of parents who instilled in her strong work ethics during her childhood. She said, "I grew up with parents who taught me how to work from a young age and you had to figure out how to make a dollar. When COVID hit, I wasn't stuck in a business plan. I see myself as an out-of-the-box thinking kind of person. It's basically 'fly by the seat of your pants.'"
Choosing to make the most of her fiber art skills meant teaching crocheting classes live on Facebook. "If I teach, I thought maybe I can teach a younger crowd, but no it was the parents who were interested in learning" And, with so many people searching for ways to fill extra time at home, the classes have been well-received. They're usually two hours, and they're anywhere between 10-20 participants, "depending on the season." The fee is around $25 and they're held either bi-weekly or monthly. Ramos de Soto promotes the classes on Facebook, Instagram and "mostly by word of mouth."
In the midst of rethinking the direction of her business, Ramos de Soto purchased an item she'd always wanted — a she shed. It measures 10 by 20 feet and she uses itas extra space to store yarn and other craft supplies, do consultations for custom orders, as a store by appointment, and as the setting for her online classes.
"It came completely built and the outside was completely painted. It's super cute and the perfect addition to the farm," she enthused.
Ramous de Soto makes and sells a range of items she crochets as part of her busy schedule. In May, she started selling what she calls the "Glamour Shawl" and it's been "selling like hotcakes." She said, "I've sold like 60since May!" Priced at $59.99 each, they're offered in a range of colors, and are available on her website (breadsnthreads.shop) along with her other items.
A collection of items from Breads & Threads Handmade will be included in Co.Starters' 2020 Gift Guide (https://costarters.co/listings/breads-threads-handmade/). Also, Breads & Threads was recently nominated for Idea Cafe's Entrepreneur of the Year 2020.
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