This New Year feels different. It feels like there’s hope. We can look back, learn lessons, and use them to build back better, and I’m no exception to that. So as the year turns and my voice slowly heals, it’s time to use it to tell my truth.
It’s been almost three years since Foundations Revealed exploded, trebling in size in six months. Honestly – and I’ve never said this in public before – it’s been both a blessing and an enormous challenge.
The truth is, my little sewing community was never built to scale that fast. Not by a country mile.
After the initial euphoria of doubling our membership in a single week in April 2020, it slowly dawned on me that one of the most common reasons that small businesses go under is when they grow too fast. As the reality of how unprepared we really were dawned on me, I collapsed in on myself in a deep and extended crisis of confidence. I sabotaged important relationships (yes, including that one) because I couldn’t articulate what I was going through, and basically checked out of my life because not only was my business not built to scale that fast; neither was I.
I had won a big business competition six months earlier, and I was now a celebrity in my business community. I was crossing the 100k threshold on YouTube. By September 2020 my business was exploding a second time. I wasn’t convinced that I deserved any of it, and I was having trouble coping with the attention, the adulation, and the overpowering workload.
After 13 years as a cute little historical costuming business making it up as we went along, Foundations Revealed had to grow up and be a Proper Profeshanal Business overnight, and I didn’t have a clue how to do that. I’m a Maths teacher and a dressmaker. I did not have the skills or the confidence to manage change in a business that needed to be rebuilt from the ground up, NOW.
In public I had to say, “Thank you very much, this is so awesome!”
In front of the team I had to say, “This is so amazing! We’ve got this!”
Behind closed doors, I was quietly falling apart.
Thank G*d one of my members saw through it. R has LOTS of experience in businesses way bigger than mine, and she stepped in to manage FR far better than I could. She did so for almost two years, but it wasn’t a perfect match. While she oversaw a smooth uplevelling of all the things and ensured the survival of the community like an actual boss (thank you R), some of her decisions were made from a more corporate mindset than was right for us, and I didn’t trust myself enough to question her. I didn’t have the language to give her any direction. I handed the whole shooting match over and let her take the weight of it, and that wasn’t right either.
It was in that environment that the Competition blew up to twelve times its previous size. As R handled it like a pro, my oh-my-god-amazing team scrambled to cope with the admin workload, and I panicked in the corner, one small error of wording in the Rules revealed huge implications for the inclusion and diversity of the event. Just when we thought we were over the worst the runaway train went off the rails again, and we spent the summer of 2021 in Diversity Panel negotiations over how the whole event ought to be rebuilt. I’m grateful; we needed that.
Right at the end of the Diversity Panel meetings, someone brought up the Peacock dress. While almost everyone agreed that my YouTube sewing project needed serious thought and significant change – and I accept that – not everyone in the panel agreed about exactly what that change should look like. And I mean, they passionately disagreed. On two occasions.
I attempted to chart a course that respected and valued all the people and all the opinions in the room, but that didn’t go down well with the person who had brought it up, who felt that hers was the correct answer. She went public to press her particular viewpoint out of context of the conversation, and that’s when it got ugly for all of us in the costuming community.
After sitting silently with this ethical dilemma for six weeks – respect and accept the panel’s advice as a whole, or bow to public pressure? – I finally ended it, purely to stop the conflict and harm that was going on in the community.
I haven’t been too “present” in the community for some time because I wanted to heal and get my business sh*t together in private. But I’ve also come to believe that transparency and authenticity are important, and while I’ve endeavoured to stay in a place of gratitude for my considerable blessings and not to complain or centre myself, that also leaves me holding back.
I’ve not been present because I’ve been trying to keep all the plates spinning in a business I’m only just growing into.
I’ve not been present because of the fear of putting myself out there again.
I’ve not been present because my journey of healing is everything to me right now, and it’s not exactly “on brand”.
What I do know is that this all has something to do with my voice. Believing in it. Using it. Trusting my instincts. Trusting my inner guidance. Articulating what I’m going through to those who matter to me.
My voice is slowly returning, as you may have noticed in my videos. I’m learning to speak, and to let myself be seen. Nowadays my voice is still strangled when we say “hello”, but it warms up over the first hour that we talk, and by the end of an extended conversation you can hear every word.
This whole journey, this last almost-three-years of personal and professional chaos, has been a blessing and a gift. Sometimes we need a kick in our well-tailored yet affordable pants, and I guess the Universe felt that I was ready for that.
So thank you. Thank you for your patience while I work through this.
Creative people are by their nature afraid of failure. We clam up. We freeze. We get writer’s block. We don’t show our work. We don’t take on that challenging project because it might be a waste of time.
When we do fail, we get gun shy afterwards because our identity is stitched into our work, along with our worth and our value. It’s natural to be scared to try again, but we must try.
We are living in rapidly evolving cultural times, and that’s good. A revolution is long overdue. But in every revolution there are casualties, and we are afraid to make a mistake – or to be on the receiving end of a mistake – because the stakes are so high. Trying to be authentic in such a world leaves us even more vulnerable. Being creative becomes a greater act of faith in our voice than ever – and yet it is needed more than ever, because it’s art that connects us, and connection that will heal us.
I illustrate this post with one of a whole slew of images you’ve never seen; this is what growth looks like for me. Outdoors, under the stars, away from technology, with hiking boots and no make-up, telling the truth beside the fire with a gifted teacher and guide who couldn’t care less who I am on the Internet.
Foundations Revealed 2.0 is still here, although there are occasional snafus as we learn to use all the new tech seamlessly. I travel for one month out of four to leadership training and coaching in the United States. I’m healing through as much alternative therapy and clinical psychologist support as I can afford. I’m healing through my business community (they get it.) And I’m healing through getting back to the sewing, although as you’ve seen, it’s slow going.
Thank you for your patience, individually and collectively, as I work through this. I needed the wake up call, and I am a different person because of it. I look forward to gradually doing better by you. All of you. Happy New Year.