Our Covid-19 Business Experience

Our Covid-19 Business Experience

On Tuesday 12th May 2020, we joined the Ely Cathedral Business Group Talk. Kim had been selected to speak about the unique changes in business as a consequence to the coronavirus pandemic. Here is what Kim had to say:

"Good evening, Kim Oakhill from Sigma Embroidery and Printing, thank you Michael for inviting me to speak this evening.


Sigma is an award-winning company that provide embroidered and printed clothing solutions for local businesses and clubs. We take pride in guiding our customers through the process of choosing the right product and correct decoration technique to meet their needs. This is with the sole aim of ensuring that every customer walks away with high quality decorated clothing that is functional, representative of their business and their staff want to wear.


We started to see the impact of Coronavirus in mid-March, when the number of new enquires and subsequent jobs significantly dropped along with several customers cancelling orders they had placed, quite rightly as they were concerned for the future of their businesses and were unsure of their future cashflow.


So as soon as the furlough scheme and lock down was announced I placed my 4 members of staff onto furlough. Since then I have remained working on my own, completing the orders that were pre-booked in, which were mostly school leaver hoodies. I have also been working on reviewing and streamlining all our processes and looking into ways to move the business forward when things slowly return to pre - Coronavirus times.


Personally, I have been very fortunate as my immediate family have been healthy. My husband who works in a school has supervised our 3 children with home schooling and the days he needs to work I have stayed at home and done the home schooling. Initially I was concerned for my eldest son who was due to take his GCSE’s this year, however he has found a job and has been productive. My main issue now is for my daughter who is due to take GCSE’s next year, who even though she is working hard, the year group will have missed around a quarter of their teaching towards their GCSE’s, which will no doubt have a huge effect on this year group.


I have been impressed with the help I have received, as mentioned earlier I have made use of the Furlough scheme for all 4 members of staff, I have found the online portal to be easy to access and use and the money received into my account quickly.  I was also grateful to receive the £10,000 grant from the council, which again was very easy to access, this has helped to pay for ongoing overheads during the lockdown. I have also just applied for the bounce back loan to ensure as a company we can move forward and have enough funds for cash flow, I am still currently waiting for to hear back regarding this.


Over the last week I have been working hard to get the business premises set up ready for staff and customers to come in.  This has included carrying out a risk assessment and then rearranging the unit so we can maintain social distancing, and ensuring it is safe for customers to come into the unit.  To maintain social distancing, the staff will need training to understand the changes to our processes and I am also considering having to change working hours so there are fewer staff in the building at any one time. This is far from ideal but we can work with it.


The main issues I have in getting the business back on track, is I need other businesses and regular customers to start re-ordering workwear, as until I have the work booked in I can’t take my staff off furlough. To enable those businesses to start purchasing they need to have the confidence that their businesses are back on track. Another issue is one member of staff is a single parent and until her son is back at school she will be unable to come back to work, however with the announcement of the extended furlough this will hopefully help me out in this instance.


My biggest fear is that the there will be a second spike in cases and that the country is forced into lockdown for a second time.


However, I am optimistic that as more businesses are allowed back to work, consumer confidence will increase, and this will help kick start the economy. Thank you."

Watch the entire group talk here: https://www.facebook.com/SpottedInEly/videos/2939585122744901/