At the start of 2020, as the COVID 19 crisis was burgeoning across the world, we were busy in our little corner of Hertfordshire, securing and beginning to move into our new work home, just across the road from our old office. As the first lockdown began, it was as a hugely challenging time for everyone in Britain, and also for our little team. Whilst adjusting to working from home and to home-schooling our kids, we continued to support clients in navigating their way through the new schemes available to them, understanding the maze of new government information, and helping some to find ways to survive where no governmental support was accessible. They were difficult and exhausting times, but also incredibly rewarding, as we found that our unique service and ways of working could create a little bit of calm, a little bit of hope, for our clients, despite the massive challenges COVID threw up, particularly for the creative arts and associated industries.
Despite the difficulties all around us, the business continued to grow – we managed to keep running throughout lockdown, worked hard to remain connected as a team, and slowly but surely completed the move into our fabulous new premises. As soon as we could, the barefoot team came back together, reunited in a brand new shared space and feeling closer than ever from battling adversity as a team. And piece by piece, our new home took shape; grass back on the floor, art up on the walls and our resident gnomes finally settling in to their new surroundings. We, and our clients, breathed a sigh of relief.
And then the second lockdown was announced.
This time we knew we could cope as a business but I’d seen how local non-essential shops had been hit so hard by the first lockdown and realised the devastating effect this new lockdown could now have in the critical pre-Christmas period. I and the team love where we live and the range of great businesses that surround us, but I couldn’t think of how to help.
Cue Emma, one of our lovely clients who runs Cositas Gifts in St Albans who had developed an innovative method of window shopping with her brother at Fuse Innovation, which she was using at her shop whilst the business was closed. Each product displayed in her window has a corresponding QR code. Customers could scan the code and be taken directly to the product on Cositas’ online shop, where they could find out more, pay for the item and either click and collect or have it delivered locally for free.
We suddenly realised that every window could be a Cositas’ window. EVERY window could be ANY window.
We have high street premises with some pretty good footfall and some beautiful ever-changing window space that was filled with interesting bits and bobs that we loved (including a pretty awesome Hallowe’en display, if we do say so ourselves!). But we didn’t need this space to actually showcase products. But other people did. So we offered up our windows to Emma: she could display her amazing gifts, local passers by would be able to see something cool and new and people could keep on shopping locally through lockdown really easily.
So I put new shelving in the inside of our windows, and with saw and paint in hand created a usable window space for the display of other people’s products. This new initiative is proving very popular within the community and our local newspaper has even launched an “adopt a shop” initiative, inspired by our partnership with Emma, encouraging local accountants, solicitors and estate agents to offer up their shop windows as a promotional platform for local traders struggling through the lockdown. We’ve even had a mention on the Lauren Laverne show on Radio 6 Music (we love her!) and we’re so proud and happy to have kickstarted an initiative that we hope can spread across the country to bring businesses together and support those that are battling with the effects of COVID on their businesses and livelihoods.
And we at barefoot are very aware that life isn’t going to spring back to its pre-Covid position over night so we’re continuing to commit to supporting local artists and small creative businesses moving forward. We are currently offering our windows to creative businesses to display their products for the rest of the year and are already taking bookings for 2021, with no cost and no catch. We want the barefoot accountant to be known for what it is – an authentic, heart-felt business that genuinely cares about its clients and its community, and we’re very pleased to already have a range of local artists and businesses on board, and are always open to more. We’re looking forward to having beautiful things in our windows for months to come and to continuing to help our neighbours.