sunny autumn

The rhythm of running a seasonal business

sunny autumn

Running an outdoor events business has a rhythm defined not by quarters or tax years, but by nature’s seasons. The summer is my peak trading time and I’m a busy bee producing events, seeing the fruits of my time spent at my desk. When Autumn comes around its time for me to retreat indoors. Many of our Eats Boutique street food traders carry on right up until Christmas, battling wind and rain and the cold to cook up their delicious menus. Gawd, I have so much sympathy for those who continue with outside events in the recent weather we’ve been experiencing.

Over the years we have tried iterations of Christmas and Festive Eats Boutiques but find its altogether a different beast. While successful ones have been beautiful with twinkly lights and warming mulled cider they have also been rare, and rely almost entirely on luck. And we all know that Lady Luck likes to share her good will around. It doesn’t pay to push her for more. 

So then people start to ask me, well what do you do when you’re not running markets? Here’s the answer: everything else. 

I catch up with my house jobs, I invest time in volunteering, I spend time with my family, I re-discover my social life, I sleep. I clean, I organise, I file, I plan. Running a business as a sole trader means there isn’t a stop, there’s just a change. I’m gravel that the pace can slow down but there’s still plenty to do. 

Right now I’m looking at my systems – I’m beyond excited to be meeting with a book keeper next week to help me untangle what for me is a tricky job. I’m considering event templates for new ventures. I’m really hoping to create a proper home office to replace my corner in a family room. That’s going to involve moving a lot of furniture around, getting rid of a broken sofa and re-wiring the telly. My computer needs attention. I’ve got new tech to learn to make things run more professionally next year and some new working partnerships  to explore.

The 2024 Eats Boutique street food markets start now. Planning is an essential part of putting on events and the event itself is the culmination of months of work. In order for the events to start in May my work begins now. I’m thinking about the contracts I’ll make with my cohort of 2024 street food traders. I’m building relationships and contracts with the landowners of our venues. Deadlines for print marketing come around quickly after the new year so disseminating information for glossy magazines and tourist guides is a priority winter job. Its important that these press releases and adverts contain the right information, so all that needs to be confirmed.

mobile bar hire flexible bespoke packages for indoor and outdoor use
Bonny Anne can sail into private events

A new area of business I’m exploring is getting The Salty Arms out there as a bespoke mobile bar for hire. Are you having a party? Do you need a mobile bar? I can do it staffed or unstaffed – we can work out a package that suits you. We can generally get anywhere because The Salty Arms doesn’t require power (though its nice) and we can carry every single bit of kit into the corner you want because we’re not set up in a vehicle. There’s my sales pitch – contact me to talk more about your party and how I can help take the load of hosting off your shoulders so you can go out there and enjoy your event.

In the OFF season its time to re-imagine, re-use, re-purpose and re-pair our bar set up. I’m re-designing some of the pop up pub’s menu boards and Bonny Anne (The Salty Arms’ mermaid figurehead) needs a lick of paint to tidy her up. A mobile bar take some battering during the ON season and I’ve made a list of screws that need replacing, wood that needs repairing, coats of paint that need applying, kit I can create from re-purposing, and kit thats just beyond repair.

Running a business on your own is a tough game. Wearing lots of hats requires agility. You have to be able to zoom in focus with one skill set, then switch to a whole other thought process and skill set. From accounting to marketing, contracts to content to networking, goal setting to reflecting and strategising, there are  a lot fo hats. I love most of it but its easy to get overwhelmed. So this time, the autumn, the withdrawing is exceptionally valuable to me as a way to manage this overwhelm. By tidying up from the activity of the summer, and lining up the ducks for the 2024 season I’m able to stand back and reflect on my business, to get an overview of weaknesses and successes. Getting personal stuff in order too is about re-centering and re-balancing. Working intensely for 6 months of the year is draining because I don’t have the time to do the things that fill my cup. What do you do to maintain your pace?

Keeping that cup of emotional energy at a level that sustains me through intense output is really important to keep me energised. It’s the difference between walking up a hill and trying to run up a mountain. Mental wellness is something we all need to aware of, starting with our own. It’s also important to be aware of the mental health of those around us, and I’m proud to be a trustee of a charity that seeks to help organisations improve their culture around mental health provision in the workplace. Its called The Mental Health Community and you can do a short questionnaire to discover where your workplace stands here. Whether you’re a sole trader or a business leader we can all create a better, more open and more accepting culture around mental health.

Before the 2024 season of Eats Boutique pop up street food markets gets underway I’m off to replenish my cup with a 6 week family holiday to Australia. Its been 16 years since I was last there and its high time I went back, the time with my family in tow. We’ve got a packed itinerary of exciting outdoorsy things to do and some of my favourite people to catch up with. The Aussies really Do Food so I’m excited to get inspired on our travels. Our Eats Boutique events were prompted by a trip to France – read that story here. Who knows what I might come back with this time. See you all in 2024.