Today’s blog is a story from the pandemic. And we are delighted to feature that of one of our very own community members! We are incredibly proud of Karen Stevens from Bags It’s Mine, and we hope that you find her story of working hard and giving back as inspiring as we do!

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Karen Stevens, Bags It’s Mine

Hi!

I’m Karen and I run a small business making beautiful and useful products which I hope clients will cherish. I started my business as a fund-raiser for a charity cycle ride in India back in 2012. Having been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, I wasn’t sure if I’d survive. So during my chemotherapy, I decided to enrol for the ride. Put it down to post-chemo delirium, but I decided to start on my bucket list.

I hadn’t sewn more than a trouser hem since I’d been at school. But a chance visit to a women’s group while visiting my parents in Scotland gave me the idea of making bags to sell to raise funds for the ride. Armed with some donated fabrics, I unearthed my sewing machine and as they say, the rest is history! Luckily I’m still here, and I’ve since done a further two overseas charity rides and a few more here in the UK.

Last year, I retired from the NHS after 42 years as a nurse (!!). My story from the pandemic starts with my volunteering to go back in to the NHS. But due to the volume of returnees, I think the system struggled a bit to place us all. While waiting for ‘the call’, I heard through the sewing grapevine that the local NHS were desperate for scrubs and was working with a seamstress in Ascot to make some. This amazing lady put out a call to anyone with a machine who could help, and Scrubs Glorious Scrubs was born.

Initially, people were using their own fabrics so the range that appeared was dazzling and guaranteed to cheer both staff and patients. Then, Chris Evan’s son Noah camped out in their garden over lockdown. He raised a phenomenal amount which was donated to the charity. They bought fabric that was then distributed around the country to the hundreds of hubs making Scrubs. I was one of a small army who took to their machines to help out.

I also offered to make mask adapters for staff having to wear masks all day and developing sore ears. I put a call out for buttons on local internet sites when I ran out of my own and was very moved by the number of responses. These adapters have been sent off to various sites around the country.

At the same time, a friend wanted help to raise funds for two local charities. She set up a Just Giving page called the Green Bird Project and I was tasked to make some green bird badges on my trusty embroidery machine. That evolved into my making crocheted NHS Hero Teddy Bears. They were extremely popular and we raised £1.000 which was split between the two local charities.

Once we hit our target (and I ran out of wool) I wanted to continue to raise funds for our local Foodshare. They were not only struggling with fewer donations but a huge increase in demand. Around that time, the instruction on use of face coverings changed. So I again put out a call through local internet sites and my Facebook page to see if anyone needed face coverings. The demand exceeded my expectations and to date I’ve made just under 900 face coverings. £1 from each one sold goes to Foodshare. It looks like we are going to be in this situation for a while so I’ll keep sewing as long as there is a need!

Karen x

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Thank you so much Karen, for allowing us to share your story!

But what about you? If you have a small business story to share from the pandemic, why not get in touch? We’d love to hear from you.