Today, the 14th of March 2021 marks the anniversary of the last day of life as we knew it, before the reality of the first UK lockdown started on 23 March 2021. It was the weekend that I went out (on the advice of Boris) to see a group of friends, despite the eerie and imminent sense that life was about to change, we decided to meet up.
Of course a lot has happened since Lockdown 2.0 and Lockdown 3.0, but it just felt like a good time to actually think and reflect on what I have achieved (and what I haven’t – which is another blog…) over the last 12-months. I was a bit reluctant to publish this, as I wasn’t sure if I would sound like a show off. But you know what, I am so PROUD of what I have accomplished and I shouldn’t feel any shame for celebrating the outcomes, I put the work in and got things done.
And I would encourage you to own what you’ve done too.
I think this is going to be the big question once we are all allowed back out… friends will ask us, potential future partners and employers will want to know how we spent our time in isolation.
The BIG Question: “What did you do over lockdown?”
There will be a variety of answers spanning from: “I got into shape”, “I managed to work from home and homeschool the kids”, “I started a new business!”, “ I took up a hobby”,“ I completed an online course!”, or other accomplishments such as “I successfully watched every series on netflix and every movie!”, “we renovated the garden”, or even “I stopped shopping for clothes!”. Whatever the accomplishments are, they are all relative to our unique situations, and we should not compare!
THE UK LOCKDOWN
I felt an overwhelming sense of surrealism for the first few months, which I coped with by drinking a tad too much! I started sharing the first of my lockdown diaries during the first part of the year, before I threw myself into total work oblivion and distraction.
Let me clarify, that I am a workaholic, always have been. Always will. Now that I have found my calling and am working on a business aligned with my beliefs, it’s hard to switch off when work brings you so much joy. It’s also a risky coping strategy for someone like me. Instead of acknowledging how isolated I felt and dealing with it, I put on a brave face and threw myself headfirst into more work and decided to take on even more projects.
LOCKDOWN 1.0 ACHIEVEMENTS
I look back on things now and I am not sure how I managed to do everything…
I took up reading again, as I was sick of Netflix. I was given an Amazon Kindle last year for my birthday and I have been bingeing on books for £7.99 a month. Nope, they weren’t business or entrepreneurs books, nor fashion or sustainability related, just pure fiction and escapism – and I loved it. So far I have read over 22 books… considering I NEVER found time to read recreationally before lockdown (due to the pressures of running all my businesses), it’s not bad going if you ask me!
I gave back…
I volunteered in my community and helped a lady who reached out on Facebook, helping connect her to food banks, additional support – and getting neighbours to donate food which I delivered to her doorstep.
I decided to launch a Supporting Small Businesses Webinar Series in April, as so many businesses were struggling. I called in many favours and got a great lineup of speakers and trainers to join me. It felt great to be able to give back, although I definitely underestimated how much work was involved in organising it all and promoting it.
I supported and sponsored the Ethical Brand For Fashion Revolution event, and worked with the other 3 fabulous ladies: Jo (from Where Does it Come from) who led the charge, Claire (from Couchman Bespoke) and Tze-Ching (from Jake and Maya) and we somehow pulled off a 7-day event across Fashion Revolution Week 2020.
In July the EBD Team hosted our Ethical Brand Directory 3rd birthday party entirely online, and included brand pitches and an expert panel discussion. This was a massive undertaking just organising the event, let alone coordinating the brands pitching and the live judging. As always at every birthday there is a big reveal and last year was no different.
I thought it would be a great idea to re-brand both the Roberta Style Lee and Ethical Brand Directory businesses and launch two newly revamped websites, all in time for the EBD birthday party. Not only that, but we decided to build Ethical Brand Boutique and re-launch Ethical Brand Academy too. I look back and I think I must have lost my mind, as taking this much work was beyond bonkers.
I took a staycation…
By the time we got to August, I was in dire need of a break and that coincided with the lockdown restrictions being lifted and us all allowed to go out again (masks and social distancing of course!). My friend and I organised a UK staycation and enjoyed what we could of London and the heatwave, which included 30-mile bike rides around London, drive-in movies, meals in restaurants, trips to the seaside (hello Brighton!) and nights at home cooking. It was just what I needed! I think this really helped me see first hand how as a consumer, my choice to support local businesses, UK based businesses and UK tourism, made a difference.
I had also decided to take part in a local dance initiative, and I choreographed a piece for the stage inspired by a break-up with a friend and our very different lives with a focus on the two ways we can approach fashion, consciously and slowly or fast and frivolously. All choreography sessions were done over zoom, and the actual performance was in person in the local theatre in North London. It was really nice to do something fun for myself, related to my past career as a performance artist and dancer!
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BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
THE SECOND UK LOCKDOWN – ACHIEVEMENTS
And just as we were settling back into some semblance of life again, the second lockdown meant our plans to see family and friends for Christmas were cancelled.
This was the time that made me really think about how I was going to cope with even more isolation. I think the biggest thing to come out of the 2nd lockdown for me was acknowledging some bad habits that had formed and I started putting the wheels in motion to get some support to work through them.
I managed to hold it together…
Nobody is invincible, I may put on a strong demeanour but I have struggled with isolation a lot. Christmas was particularly tough for me.
I found time to take care of another…
Perhaps not an achievement, but it’s still something I am very proud of: I welcomed my little puppy Princess Penelope Lee to my home and had to get over the yucky idea of picking up poop and dealing with dog wee. I also started to think about how I could be a more ethical and sustainable dog owner (not as easy as you may think!).
LOCKDOWN 3.0 – ACHIEVEMENTS
Since the 4th January 2021, our third lockdown, I finally managed to get some energy back and some much needed momentum with some overdue projects!
I finally committed to launching my Roberta Style Lee Online Styling Course (3.0) with the help of my fabulous team at Roberta Style Lee, which I could not have done without my project assistant Dayna – an absolute gem!
I got investors…
I also secured our first set of investors for Ethical Brand Network (which is one of my 4 other businesses!) and started all the legal paperwork and started to re-strategise what we will do with the 4 businesses to make the biggest impact we can, not just to make money, but to make a real difference in the world. Let’s just say… it’s a very exciting time and there is a LOT of work ahead. But, if I have proven anything it’s that I am capable of achieving the impossible with the right team around me.
I supported my team…
Probably what I am most proud of, is that throughout the past 12-months I have been able to keep all my freelancers employed and earning a regular income. I am nothing without my team, and whilst it’s not been a financially lucrative time for RSL or EBD, I know my trusted team will have my back as we move through 2021.
Now, that’s the most I have ever achieved in 12-months… and it’s unlikely I will ever get that much done again. I don’t intend to stay at home all day and night once we can get back to life outside our 4-walls.
That said, there’s a lot of stuff I wanted to do for myself and I didn’t manage even a quarter of it… there’s something to be said about work-life balance – admittedly I am not very good at it (clearly) and why there’s another Lockdown 3.0 Diary coming out soon: What I didn’t achieve during isolation!
Previous Episodes in the Lockdown Diary Series