ONE YEAR AND ONE PANDEMIC LATER
Ashli here. Full disclosure: there are really no words strong or appropriate enough for the past year or so, at least not to my ability. Plus, to go into extreme detail would likely require daily sessions with my therapist and who's got the time or money for that? Not me. In anycase, the team put this piece together in an effort to give you insight into how Sunday Forever, a small business made it through and where we are one year later. I took some time to scroll through all of the videos and photos I captured along the way and am including some of them here. A common theme I noticed in the content I captured is that we kept looking for silver linings along the way, and I think that's what got us through in the end and continues to do so. With that said, here we go...
Holiday 2019 was a whirlwind at the Sunday Forever HQ - sales exploded, the team expanded to handle them all, and by the start of 2020, there was a feeling of being on a rollercoaster that was only going up.Like most people during the second or third week of March, they couldn’t see the drop that was coming.Things in the office were still pretty normal at that point. Sure, small changes in the outside world were starting to happen - more people wearing masks on the trains and some travel restrictions to faraway places - but in the little oasis that Ashli had spent so long creating, the Sunday Forever team felt shielded from the world.
Then the drop came. It was slow at first. Ashli and Olivia, the only full-time employees at the time, thought they were giving themselves a short break. “Let’s take a couple weeks” was the sentiment they exchanged, expecting the “novel Coronavirus” that had taken over the news cycle would blow over in that amount of time and they would return to their beloved NYC studio along with the team of 10 people they accumulated over the last two years.
The situation during the first week of lockdown wasn’t really any different for Sunday Forever and the team that keep it running than any other business or individual anywhere else in the world, but when it became clear that things weren’t going to be reopening as easily as we thought, gears had to shift. Our Founder, Ashli, was in a unique position - as is often the case for the unique business she’s built - and in March 2020, she found herself running the entire operation alone (mostly. With the help of her husband coming in to help in between his work schedule and with Olivia making bracelets from home). It was like being back at Day 1 of the inception of the business.
Ashli felt lucky. The decision to set up the Sunday Forever space just a 10 minute walk from the apartment she shares with her husband (and heard of yorkies) was paying off like never before. She wasn’t going to set foot in an Uber with a stranger and the subways were reserved for the essential workers who were left to keep society functioning. She could walk (sometimes alone, sometimes with Ted, Wyatt, and Kevin) to the office through the now-desolate streets, feeling like the only living girl in New York or some type of apocalypse movie set in a city that had never been silent before.
She was keeping the business alive all on her own like she’d done once upon a time - with the occasional help of her husband Alex. Alex, with his own job in the entertainment industry, rolled up his sleeves to help her streamline the processes that had developed naturally over the course of the business. The two of them were back to the basics; packing and shipping orders was the only priority and whatever they could figure out to make it happen as efficiently as possible (while keeping the same magic, of course) was crucial.
Meanwhile, back in Hoboken, NJ, Olivia was in her apartment handling every jewelry order that was placed. The art of tying a knot became something that she mastered - while still helping to field any customer questions and concerns as best she could away from the office. Ashli sent her a label printer, shipping supplies and re-stocked her weekly with jewelry making essentials. Each package, always complete with a handwritten note, likely saying "meow, we got this" or "miss you, fck this pandy".
New challenges, besides what felt like the end of the world happening outside the office windows, kept popping up. When their candle manufacturer was forced to shut down, Ashli wasn’t expecting to have to hand pour the candles herself but after the last candle she had in inventory shipped, that’s what she buckled down and did (read more about that here). Our candle maker sent her supplies and walked her through the process. She was making up to 200 candles a week. The only way to get through it was to take it one day at a time, to handle each unique situation as it came, and keep her head above water while the business continued to grow. Plus, the incredible messages, kind words and the cheering on from our customers and community was key to help keep her going. She was healthy, able to keep her business going and providing joy to lovely people in a very unsettling time. That was enough.
As the pandemic continued on, new measures were taken to keep life going as much as could reasonably happen. When restrictions started to lift in June, Olivia donned her mask and braved the PATH to come back to the office. With lots of hand washing (bottles of hand sani on literally every available surface) and distancing in the two rooms that made up the office, things shifted again. It wasn’t “normal” - the old ways of doing things had changed sometime in March or April - but it was working. All of this combined with political chaos, social unrest, protests and what felt like an all around reckoning for humanity. Things at Sunday Forever were adjusting, and before long, a new normal would be established.
Alex (the intern, not the husband - now she's full-time and promoted to Office Manager + Blog Editor) came back to help a month later. Slowly, as more and more was learned about the Coronavirus, the Sunday Forever team was able to work out a system so that by Holiday 2020, they could handle the sheer volume of orders that had started pouring in.
With a few extra hands, strategically timed and placed in the office, orders were pulled, prepped, packed, and shipped in the Sunday Forever office as they had always been. Sales rose to the highest they had ever reached and while there was still a sense of uncertainty all over the world that touched everyone’s lives, the dream of an oasis that Ashli founded her business on was able to be achieved again.
One year later… so much has changed. The business has always been Ashli Stockton, at its core. It’s her heart and her soul - so when those things are affected by the world outside, the business feels it too. After a year of the most unexpected and wild rollercoaster ride, there was a moment of stillness. The team had to stop and look at each other and acknowledge what they had been through; Ashli especially. Sustaining the business through the craziest year of anyone’s life took a toll - she poured her all into it and needed a little bit of time to recharge her batteries. Once that was done, she could see the journey that she (and that Sunday Forever) had taken. And she could keep going.
Sunday Forever has grown by leaps and bounds since March 2020. One year later, the entire website has moved over to a new host (shout out Shopify) and the physical office moved into a new space too (but kinda old at the same time - the 6th floor office that used to house the business is home once again, plus the huge room next door that the team used to dream of taking over). There's been some growing pains along the way, but all those sore spots are just reminds of the lessons that have completely changed the business.
Plenty of mistakes and lessons will surely happen in the future, but the goal has never been perfection - just goodness. You can follow Ashli and the team's mission to keep putting good things into the world, through all of the ups and downs, at sundayforever on Instagram.