Had you asked me six years ago where I pictured myself in the middle of 2018, the answer definitely would not have been writing a blog post about leaving the business I had been a part of for the last five years. You probably would have received an answer something along the lines of continuing my science studies and ending up in that field, or quite probably I’d have done my Masters of Teaching and would now be teaching somewhere. Little did I know that as soon as I’d finished my science degree I’d jump headlong into the world of small business ownership with my wonderful mother, together bringing you the remarkable Polish and Irish pottery that as a reader of this blog, you no doubt love too.
I have always loved working with my hands; building, creating, fixing (breaking on occasion too, though not necessarily intentionally!) A pivotal moment in my thinking about how I might spend the rest of my working life came when Mum gave me a copy of Matthew Crawford's book "The Case for Working with your Hands or Why Office Work is Bad for us and Fixing Things feels Good" (attempting the world's longest title?).
I’ve been thinking for some time about a career change, something more hands on. I started looking for apprenticeships with no real urgency, being quite picky about what roles I was applying for, knowing that I had plenty to do at the shop until I found the right job for my career change. I’d only looked for a couple of weeks before that role was almost handed to me on a silver platter so to speak. And so, I’ll no longer be at the shop full time as I have been for the past (nearly) five years. Don’t worry though, it will still be business as usual at The Cup and Mug. Heather will still be here, albeit with revised opening hours, and I’ll occasionally lend a hand on the weekends.
It has been a very interesting experience running the shop with Mum. There certainly have been hard times, notably, when we went to Ikea together and the whole thing nearly fell in a heap before even getting started. But lots and lots of good times too. I have learnt an incredible amount; about business, about myself, and about people. I’ll be off on my next adventure, but you may well see me at The Cup and Mug on certain weekends, and at special events.
When Tim and I started on this venture more than 5 years ago, people warned me that working with a family member was not always the best choice and I’m sure that in many cases it does ruin an otherwise good relationship. However, I can now say that working with Tim has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. He became not only my son but my business partner and close friend.
It has been a privilege to see my adult son at work - to feel astonished at how quickly and easily a ‘young thing’ develops new skills when they’re needed, adapts to less than ideal situations, deals with tricky customers, turns his hand to everything from manual labour, practical skills and cooking, to helping customers make aesthetically pleasing choices, photographing and writing for social media and rescuing his business partner when she has no idea about the technology she’s trying to use.
That’s not to say that we haven’t had our trying moments - the worst of which was our Ikea experience before we even got started, but in some ways it has probably been easier to sort things out with a family member because of the pre-existing strength of the relationship. The whole trying to teach an unwilling old dog new tricks on the digital technology front was also the catalyst for the exchange of some harsh words on numerous occasions.
I’m very sad to see him go but working together was probably never going to be forever. I’m thrilled that he’ll be working with his hands because this has long been his passion and area of natural skill. He’s always been happiest when making and repairing - fixing bikes, kayaks, cars and household fittings and objects, working with wood and most recently, turning his hand to clay throwing.
As well as all his practical skills and sound advice in the shop, I’ll sorely miss our daily word puzzles and philosophical discussions.
My former boss, Trish, was very fond of aphorisms, and used to say, “Don’t be sorry it’s over but be glad that it happened.” I often silently thank her for her wise words.
The Cup and Mug
The adventures of a small business (more interesting than we would have ever guessed!)