To be honest I didn't want to start writing this 2020 recap blog until the year was officially over. I mean, God only knows what was going to happen in the last few days of the year that was already terrible for so many. I was literally holding my breath as those seconds ticked down to the big ball drop, hoping to ring in a new year on a good note. Thankfully, the year ended quietly as I sat in my favorite watering hole, missing Elizabeth and Philip because we haven't spent a New Year's apart in five years.
It was hard not to reminisce on the past twelve months as I was toasting and hugging those close to me, but I decided that 12:01 on January 1, 2021 should start with nothing but good intentions and a positive mindset.
With that said, we want to wish everyone a healthy, happy and safe start to 2021, knowing its only job is to be better than 2020.
This blog is different from all the rest, and it was extremely hard to capture the highs and lows that the Walkers faced, professionally and personally. This past year, we not only faced a pandemic, nation wide recession, and the list goes on, but two very special souls were also lost.
We want to pay homage to Elizabeth's grandmother, Shirley Kozie. Surrounded by loved ones, she passed away on March 8, 2020. Her vibrant, witty, and caring presence is dearly missed by the whole family and everyone that knew her. Elizabeth looked up to her as a powerful female role model, savvy in business, style and life. She is one of the reasons Elizabeth Sarah Collections exists, and was a believer in Elizabeth's passion since day one. Shirley's fine jewelry collection that Elizabeth played dress up with as a little girl is what made her fall in love with precious gems and metals from far away, exotic lands. The chic designs that Elizabeth’s socialite grandmother wore inspired the Cosmopolitan Collection, the first and most notable style of the Elizabeth Sarah Collections line.
Puggy Sue, Elizabeth and Philips beloved pug, passed away at 15 this June as well. She was so much more than a pet, as she was our shop dog, mascot, and everyone's best friend. The loss of Sue was truly felt when her food-covered face and big smile wasn't there to greet us in the shop every morning, and her snoring wasn't heard throughout the day as she slept at our feet under our desk. Her memory lives on in Sue's Garden, which Elizabeth and Philip planted in their backyard in her honor.
As I watched her fumble through the long days it was hard to see my best friend hit her lowest point. The pain she felt hurt so bad because there was suddenly so much love lost. This was a year that forever changed Elizabeth, as she dealt with putting on a brave face day after day and living through what she thought she couldn't.
As the couple depended upon each other more than ever, they were able to walk away from 2020 with a sense of gratitude and all the lessons learned from their pain and grief. Taking life for granted will never again cross their minds, as this year reminded them to take care of themselves and those around them, and hug them all a little tighter.
But we don’t want you to think of this blog as a sob story, as there were some silver linings that helped us see the light at the end of the tunnel - so keep on reading to catch up with the year we’ve had!
2020 as a whole didn't start off as a "normal" year and as the world was trying to figure out this mystery virus, life was also changing rapidly for Elizabeth and Philip. After Shirleys passing, Florida officially shut down near the end of March and the Walker's had to change gears and seriously reconsider how to keep running their businesses. As the world went into panic mode - we had to adapt fast in order to keep both Elizabeth Sarah Collections and Philip Bennett Walker afloat.
Most of our business/sales are done in person at pop up events, home shows and personal shopping appointments, and with these in the can we were solely operating as online businesses. All of our major monthly outlets that we depend on were cancelled as well as any others we had scheduled in between.
With some creative and critical thinking, we pushed social media harder than ever to increase our brand awareness and drive web sales.
Since their companies have always had an online presence through their websites and social media, it was more a matter of focusing our time on that aspect rather than sharing the workload with in person sales.
This was a time where no one was sure how long they would be out of work for, and if they had a job to even go back to.
We all know that Amazon hit it bigger than ever with their easy online ordering and safe delivery services, and as a small business we are thankful that we are able to hold the same standards (even on a smaller scale) to be as reliable and trustworthy to our clients.
We are extremely thankful for each and every order that had been placed, safely picked up or delivered, and for those who shared their support digitally by sharing, liking and commenting.
The change sure was different but as a team we accepted that it was better to stay ahead by adapting to the “new normal” than by fighting it.
While facing new challenges that came along with a pandemic, there must've been a guardian angel somewhere looking out, as Philip got a job he had been dreaming about for years. This summer, he was chosen to create a collection and outfit a new commercial building, here in our beautiful city of Jacksonville, Florida.
His largest cohesive collection to date, the 35 pieces feature all the tropical vibes, and prints are for sale in limited collections of 12. You can read more about his work and the power of friendship that made this all happen in the Collaboration Station Part 1 + 2 Blogs.
Another opportunity presented itself in the form of a digital upgrade, when our team worked to redo Philip's website. This took several months of hard work and headaches that resulted in eye exams and finally buying blue light glasses for the whole team.
But it paid off big time, and those who shop can see all the various sizes for each print, as well as visualize the art in the different types of rooms featured with each product.
While we were still creating and shipping online orders for Elizabeth Sarah Collections, the boss lady was able to channel her creativity in a different way, by helping Philip with the 35 piece collection as well as the new ones to follow.
She truly has an eye for color and picked out each pallette herself. Most people don’t know this, but Elizabeth is also a talented painter and picked it up again 20 years later to collaborate with Philip.
This brought about a new sense of passion as the husband and wife team were challenged creatively working on these new collections, while also fulfilling custom commissions.
Speaking of new passions - we’ve added another member to our team who’s been helping behind the scenes with marketing, web development, and creating our newsletters!
Allison has been a friend of mine for years now, and has been working since September on back end development, posts, and gaining those email sign ups alongside us to keep everyone in the know!
Having her and her people on our team has been a blessing as we continue to improve and adapt to technological, economical and consumer based changes.
The latest feature installed on both Elizabeth Sarah Collections and Philip Bennett Walker’s websites is the addition of AfterPay.
For those who don’t know, Afterpay allows retailers to offer instalment plans for online shoppers, allowing a purchase to be paid for in four installments, due every 2 weeks.
A.K.A - Buy now pay later!
Our teams goal is to get you that necklace or piece of art you’ve been saving for, and by allowing multiple automatic payments it saves you time - while still getting your order ASAP.
We know times are tough and money is tight - my online shopping cart even knows it - but it always feels good to treat yourself and those you love. This is how we have adapted to help our trusted clients feel good about their purchases of our hand crafted products.
With the addition of AfterPay we have also started rolling out newsletters. Sign up with your email address to hear about new products, events, sales and more from both Elizabeth Sarah Collections and Philip Bennett Walker!
What about the new studio, you may be wondering? Well I was getting to that as it is a whole blog in itself, but I’ll stick to the facts and you can check out the full story, linked below😉
The addition of The Aquilla Studio (formerly Philips old painting shed) has been the next best thing to having our own storefront, and gave us the space to separate our production area from our shopping gallery.
The jump start from having roof and water damage (yet another curve ball thrown by 2020) gave the Walkers the push to research other options for their home studios while the renovations were taking place.
After looking into real estate around town and even considering a mobile tiny house, they decided on rebuilding Philip's studio and expanding it to house both of our production offices.
The old in-home office is still in tact, but has been transformed into a gallery space to shop by appointment for both the Elizabeth Sarah Collections line and Philips original art.
Besides having a beautiful and nature-centered backyard, Elizabeth and Philip also designed a larger deck space to hold outside meetings and consultations.
And not to brag...but I get to enjoy and appreciate all of this even more, as I am now a full-time employee for the Walker team! Since 2016 I have also worked part time as Events Coordinator at local fine dining restaurant Eleven South Bistro. Now you can find me in the studio Monday-Friday and on weekends as needed.
This is a goal not only set by myself but also by Elizabeth and Philip in order to grow their businesses. I can personally say they've done a damn good job while faced with the ups and downs of the year that will go down in history. Through the good and bad times we know we have to remain true to ourselves and our craft, and persevere in the name of art.