At the beginning of 2020, I had no idea that, in a few months time, I would be creating my own side-business. It’s something I’ve fallen into almost by accident, but so far, it seems to be going ok.
Seven years ago (at 38), I was in the shape of my life. I was running half marathons every Sunday and a couple of 10K runs in the week, gym three times a week, I felt great. I then suffered a serious back injury (triple lumbar disc herniation) that began a spiral into chronic pain, and has left me unable to exercise at all and hobbling around with a walking stick.
Coupled with a painful tragedy in my personal life in 2018, coping becoming a new dad in 2019, and dealing with a stressful day job, this took a toll on my mental health and I have now been battling depression for a while. At the same time as all these challenges arose in my life, my coping mechanism – running, which had allowed me to decompress whenever I needed – had been snatched away. I desperately needed a new focus and something to distract me from pain in the evenings (when it is generally at its worst).
A conversation with a counsellor got me thinking about ways I had successfully done this in the past, and my banner-making occurred to me. I had made my Deus Nobis Haec Otia Fecit banner last summer (my first for several years) and found that I could really get lost in the focus on the task – a little like how I used to be with running. Maybe this could be part of the answer?
But bannering is not a cheap hobby, with each one costing up to £135 in materials and sewing costs. It wasn’t a hobby I could afford unless I looked into ways of making it pay for itself – so I started putting myself out there a bit (on RedAndWhiteKop.com and on Instagram, where I had met the inspiring and supremely talented Emma Norbury) and seeing if there was a market for my work.
It turns out there was, and from my first commission, at the time of setting up this website, I had taken on a further 19 (11 completed), with a dozen more names on my waiting list (by summer 2022, this had become 80 completed banners and 50 on the waiting list!). The timing was perfect – when we had the best team for a generation, dominating the league – and lockdown had suddenly snatched football away. Lots of Reds wanted to get ready for when the football – and number 19 – came home to Anfield, and my old-fashioned, premium approach seemed to hit a gap in the market.
In the meantime, I have also built this website myself to showcase my work (learning some new skills in the process) and built a decent following on social media.
I have no idea how long this interest will last or where it may lead me, but I am certainly enjoying it at the moment – I treasure those couple of hours each evening when my school marking is all done and my baby daughter is in bed, and I can lose myself in my crafting.
So to all those who have commissioned a banner, and to those who have cheered me on from the sidelines and given me encouragement by commenting on my work, a big thank you. It means more to me than you will ever know.