Updated: Mar 12
I was 4 months pregnant when I was made redundant from my supposedly stable job.
I had no notice - I was literally told that morning that the company was pretty much game over, and I was not to come back on Monday. Brilliant! Cue sad music and small violins.
I had a couple of little businesses that I was running at home, alongside working, but they were most certainly not making enough for me to survive. One was just about turning over enough money to keep itself going, and the other....well the other one was a good intention that I never really did anything with. A bit like when you go to the supermarket and you buy all that fancy veg, so that other shoppers think you cook amazing meals at home. Then it goes into the bottom of the fridge to rot, and be thrown out two weeks later. But the intention was there when you started. I actually bought a fennel once doing this. A fennel, the only fennel I was aware of before that day, was on CBBC's Mr Blooms Nursery and it was called Joan.
Anyway, I seriously needed to find a way to increase my income. I am one of those unfortunate women who immediately look 8 months pregnant the second that little blue line appears on the stick. So finding a job was nigh-on-impossible, as it’s not like I could hide the fact I was pregnant, and then have a little "surprise" once I had got the job. Employers are not allowed to discriminate against pregnant woman, but they certainly do.
I started having little stalls at car boots and events, just selling my eldest daughters old things, and my old clothes and household items etc. Some days I would make quite a bit of money, some days I would make nothing at all. I needed something more secure, more reliable. I loved doing the stalls, as I got chatting to people, and could make money whilst having a bit of fun. It seemed like the best way to guarantee an income doing the markets, is to be the person who hosts the events, the organisers. I started looking into ways I could get involved with possibly holding my own car boot. But unless you own your own field, the red tape you hit doing that is enough to lasso an entire herd of horses, whilst tangling yourself up in the process. So I continued with my pointless job search.
And then I saw it. It was like a beacon of light striking through my kitchen ceiling and beaming down onto my laptop, with a chorus of angels humming in the background. Cheeki Monkeys. I found it listed on the jobcentre plus website, and it felt like it had been put there just for me. Exactly what I had been looking to do, with all the red tape covered. I did not hesitate to send an email requesting some more information.
Craig got back to me very quickly. He had answered all my questions and concerns, and sent me the information to buy in to Cheeki Monkeys.
Don't stop reading now. Because I used the words "buy in", do not roll your eyes and think "here we go". I am about to tell you about an experience I have embarked on that is like no other.
My first event (May 2015) at Cheeki Monkeys was an amazing success. It was the hardest event I have held, as no one had heard of me, and so I had to make my mark. But with all the effort, and networking, and late nights online, my event went ahead. I'm super cool, so had no nerves. Had everything under control the night before, no sweat and all going smoothly until the morning of the event... I woke up an absolute jibbering wreck! But that soon settled once the event opened, and the customers poured in. And the best thing was I ended up in profit! (Pretty good for a first event. I might be a little smug ha-ha).
Do not make the mistake of thinking you will be making the sort of money exampled in the manual from your first event. If this was a get rich quick scheme, everyone would be doing it. But that money is achievable. It can be done; it is not an "out of reach" amount to be making. Be approachable, and friendly. Be fun, yet professional. Watch each event grow.
But everyone has to have a first event, to take that first step. Everyone is either about to take it, or can remember taking it. We are a family at Cheeki Monkeys, and the forum is available 24 hours a day for those sudden issues or questions we all face along the way. But you couldn’t be sharing them with a friendlier group of people, all wanting each other to succeed and the desire for each other to succeed is genuine. We are not earning financially off each other. The support is real.
My children love attending the events. Meeting the mascots, getting faces painted, playing on bouncy castles - my daughter thinks it’s her birthday party every month! And of course, she is the child at school who has the coolest mum, as I know Elsa, Anna, and all the other loved characters at the moment! Ha-ha!
Here I am, October 2015 and approximately 5 events in, and my next event is fully booked one month in advance, I have events booked for the whole of next year, and stall bookings over 14 months in advance of the event. People are approaching me for stalls, instead of the other way around. I have been listed in several local directories, mentioned on the local radio station and had an article about my events in the local community magazine. All after just 5 events! What you put in, is what you get out, and if I can come this far with a 3 year old and a newborn, just think how far you could take it.
Cheeki Monkeys does not rely upon you selling the Cheeki Monkeys brand to someone else. Your success does not depend upon what sales targets you have hit, and how many new customers you have gained that month. Your success does not stem from varying videos of you demonstrating products, or how many pictures you can upload of yourself in the garden with your laptop and a cuppa, with "I love working from home, so free, I'm my own boss, look how amazing my life is" captioned underneath it.
Your success comes from your hard work to build your markets. Not what your "recruits" have sold. Your own work! And there is nothing more satisfying that seeing all your work come together at event day, where all your stallholders are making money, all your shoppers are smiling and have grabbed some fantastic bargains, and all the kids have had a fun time. You did that. No one but you. This is your business. Your successful business. And what a great job you have done. Have fun, love your work, and make money. It really is as simple as that.
Victoria Pyke (aka Pykey)
Cheeki Monkeys Event Organiser (West Midlands based)