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How 7 Business Owners Bucked the COVID Failure Fallacy

Sep 21, 2020

A few afternoons per week, I sit with a phone and a cup of tea and do coaching calls with folks across the country. And with each new person that comes on the line, there is a dramatically different experience. Some of the people I talk to are struggling financially, emotionally, and spiritually. Other makers are bright with their excitement and can’t believe how much they are thriving right now. The contrast is striking.

We’ve talked pretty extensively about the deep challenges the creative small business community is facing (our COVID page is here.) Today, though, I’m sharing spotlights on the folks who are thriving. The purpose of this post is not “looking on the bright side” but rather standing with you to shout across an overgrown forest, “How did you get over there? Can we come through too?” And I hope that by sharing these experiences of people who have found ways through the brambles and the boulders, you might notice some openings as well. 


  • If you are struggling in your life or business, you’re not doing anything wrong. We’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that has destabilized almost every area of our lives. This, on top of the myriad challenges people face due to other circumstances in their lives (and which vary a lot, person to person.)

  • You don’t need to grow your business right now. You can shrink your business. Or reinvent your business from a dark and protected place in your own heart. Or ignore your business while you care for children, march in protests, or deliver free meals to neighbors. 

For those of you who are looking for those openings in the thick forest… here are some glimmers that might lead your way forward. They’re not prescriptions and we don’t know all the steps and reasons for these successes, but taken together, I think they can be helpful.



The Paper + Craft Pantry shifted from near-zero online sales to a predominantly online model -- plus launched kits -- and is busy fulfilling orders.


Pottery By Osa had her fastest, most successful sale ever this summer (not to mention had the MAYOR visit her studio!). 


Amy and Chuck from Earth & Hide have tripled their sales since last year. 

Amy said, “We hold our money with an open hand. We’re grateful for every single sale. We go bit by bit and we have no debt -- which makes a huge difference with our attitude and the options available to us. One thing that has been great for us is having a variety of things we do. We’ve been selling to markets, pursuing wholesale, hosting workshops, and working on our website. That way, we can see what takes off while not feeling dependent on any one approach.” One of the things they’ve been able to do with this approach is save up for this trailer they plan to use for markets, on-the-road making, and other uses that make them flexible and mobile.


Occasionette is opening another store in Philadelphia and hiring multiple people.


Alexa of Grace and Cherish has been making the transition from focusing on her prints to expanding into a home goods store.


Julie of Spako Clay is having one of the busiest years of her business, with upticks in both wholesale and custom orders. 


Zoe from Junebug & Darlin is broadening into supplies that complement her work, kits, and patterns and seeing a great response. 


Ultimately, this is the purpose of what we’re doing at One Mill School. We want to be realistic about your challenges. But we also want to help you see what is possible, hold your vision of success, explore tangible options and examples, and remove obstacles to your best path forward. So whether you’re joining us there (applications close TOMORROW 9/22), or going it alone -- I wish for you to see the paths forward. And I’m here to help you walk them however I can.

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