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100% Perfect vs Good Enough?


100% Perfect vs Good Enough?

There’s a car advert on TV at the moment, which goes along the lines of ”you’re never done; when your balance is great, work on your strength, when your strength is great and so on…”

Running a small business feels a bit like this - you’re never done. When one task is ticked off, another 3 or 5 pop up on the to-do list. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, as you think why can’t I do it all? Why am I always working late to finish something? Why do I have loads of ideas and only some come to fruition? Why am I a starter, then a procrastinator, rather than a finisher. Recently I’ve been feeling guilty that it’s taken me ages to plan a staff lunch. Or kicking myself that the workshop list hasn‘t been emailed out, or that I spend so much time at the shop working on the business that my home renovation hasn’t even got started etc etc. Yep, a constant hamster wheel of telling myself off.

Angel over the Houses workshop

Sometimes little things make a difference to this treadmill of doubt. On Tuesday I finally repainted a door and some woodwork in the shop meaning one long-outstanding maintenance job is sorted. (You might not even spot the new paintwork, but I see it on a daily basis and know that it’s done and that feels great). On Friday evening, fortified by banana bread and Jack Savoretti playing at top volume, I was inspired to install a bright, summer display. The front window now looks fabulous for passing customers, who are hopefully intrigued enough to venture inside our emporium, or sign up for a workshop.

Summer window at Hometown 2019

And on Saturday, popping in to see the new Boot Camp shop (a new venture by Platoon Stores), fanned that tiny ignition spark of - yay - I’m also a retailer and I love it. It was a reminder that after 11 years in business, Hometown may still be a small independent, but it is still here. We’ve moved from one shop to a bigger one and we’re still inspiring new customers to start sewing. Other changes are I now have 3 part-time members of staff rather than just me. And these staff have got my back and support me and Hometown 100%. Yes, Retail may be Detail, but I need to remember that small details can also be reassurance.

Today, a strange thing made me stop, act, then relax. All week, I thought I could smell gas in my home from time to time. Whilst working at home on Thursday I heard an ominous crack in the ceiling. Oh god, not only is the house going to explode, the ceiling’s also going to fall down - just which is first? What did I say earlier about procrastination? Well today, after phoning the emergency gas hotline, I’ve been reassured by a lovely guy at SGN, after a thorough inspection, that all is fine in the house and there aren’t any gas leaks. So, I’m on a roll and I’ve just typed a long, long list to give to prospective builders for all the renovation tasks that need a quotation. OK, the ceiling plaster may still fall in before the builder has checked what the problem is, but Marion, give yourself a break. It’s nothing you’ve done to make it happen…. what will be, will be.

Looking for some pictures to attach to the building list, I came across some old photos from the renovation of Hometown’s first shop at number 74 (now The Cheese Room). Plus others from 2013 when Hometown moved into Platoon’s old shop at number 62 (the hamster wheel that is retailing in Rochester High Street!). I’d forgotten all the late nights when I went from the first shop after work, to assemble an endless supply of IKEA cupboards and work my way through many a 10L pot of paint. And then I found a photo of my Mum painting the door, that I just repainted this week. Full circle indeed, especially as Mum popped into Rochester yesterday and loved the new window display!

So, what’s the conclusion? Well, perhaps I need to regularly remind myself that I’m doing my best and have come a long way, even if it sometimes feels like I’m standing still. As the 1930s catch phrase said, “now you’re cooking with gas”*. So however they cook our food at at Mama Mia on Monday, I’m already looking forward to our girls’ lunch. And I promise to send out the workshop email in the afternoon, even if the website’s not completely 100% updated. Good enough indeed.

* ”Now you’re cooking with gas”, meaning “you’re on the right track,” was heard on popular radio shows at the behest of the natural gas industry, as part of a marketing push for new-fangled gas-powered stoves.

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The Fabric of Society

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The Fabric of Society

Do you have a vision?

I think all creative folk are visionary sorts. After all, we often have a spark of an idea, which needs working into a fully fledged project with a master plan. Sometimes the catalyst is a piece of fabric or a colourful postcard. Maybe it’s an idea on Pinterest which you think, hey, I can change this, improve the technique, alter the quantities and make something even better. Perhaps it’s an exhibition which fires you up to put your own spin on things. And what about simply crazy ideas, a flash of inspiration, one of those what-if thoughts?

This sort of blue-sky thinking shouldn’t just be kept for our sewing projects. What if you could tap into this pool of great ideas in order to improve where you live, work and shop? Well, now you can!

As owner of Hometown, I made a deliberate decision to set up shop in Rochester High Street ten years ago. I loved the fact that it was a small town, with lots of independent businesses, where history and present day sit side by side. Definitely not a clone town and hopefully a place which was supported as much by the local people, as well as being a destination for visitors. And so it is, and with your ideas, it could be even better. Quite frankly I want more people to use and enjoy our history, our town and support the local community and economy.

This month I went to a talk by our local MP, Kelly Tolhurst. In 2019 the Government are launching the ‘Future High Streets Fund’, designed to help reinvent high streets. There are millions of pounds of funding available for new and visionary ideas for our towns. There’s a special heritage category and Medway Council are putting in a bid for funding, but in my opinion, they need my help and your help. After all we’re the ones with a vision.

So the million dollar question. What would you do to improve the centre of Rochester? What would make it more vibrant, collaborative, more community-spirited? What follows, in no particular order, are some random threads in my brain.

* Could it be the availability of empty shop as venues for pop-up / start-up businesses?

* More community spaces for the young, the old, and all those in between?

* Ever considered a Rochester pound to encourage local spending?

* Maybe it’s a repair shop where we could all learn a bit more how to make-and-mend, rather than throw-away.

* What about an IT hub which runs workshops in social media or other modern day skills?

* Could it be a permanent space for a small cinema?

* Perhaps it’s regular small festivals for us, the locals - fibre festival anyone?

* What about changing an empty building into a town-centre nursery plus homes for the elderly (watch Channel 4’s ‘Old People’s Home for 4 year olds’ - it’s brilliant)

* More murals on walls, fairy lights in the trees, yarn bombing on the bollards?

* Maybe it’s having a good local website that’s the fount of all knowledge for local events?

* How about turning one of the surface car parks into a longer term 6-8 hours facility to help local staff and Hometown students who can’t park, because the multi story is full of commuters?

* What about insisting that landlords of empty shops make their shop windows available to local schools to display their art projects?

* Why not introduce town centre ’Boris bikes’ or more bike racks and dog tethering posts?

* Mobile bank, cookery school, packaging-free supermarket? Woah - OK, I need to breathe now! But seriously, what would you do to improve Rochester High Street?

Once you start to brain storm, the ideas simply flow. The filter can come later. You see, vision can be practical, inspirational, out of this world, simply common sense or a combination of all these. It could be something costing a few pounds or many thousands. So our town NEEDS YOU and your bright ideas! The funding will be awarded to those towns putting in the best plans and the Government wants ‘visionary ideas’. Initial interest has to be lodged by 22 March with final plans submitted by the summer.

If you have ideas, please jot them down on paper with your contact details. You can drop them into the shop, or pop them in a post box, or email me at . You can also add a comment to this post and be a pal, share this conversation with your friends. (Just as a PS I’m writing this to start the conversation. I’ve not been asked to canvass for ideas. My bright idea is to write this and ask you. After all as a team of visionaries, anything is and can be possible). Let’s DO IT!

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