Almost two years ago, when the outcome of the Brexit referendum was announced, any thoughts I’d had previously on how a ‘leave’ vote might impact me and my family personally began to pale into insignificance compared to how it would affect my professional life.
After spending years ploughing every ounce of energy, time and money into establishing Calla Shoes – which depends hugely on relationships with European manufacturers – my main thought during that immediate period of uncertainty after the result became, ‘will my business still be able thrive – or even survive – during what is going to be a huge economic challenge?’
Calla’s products, while designed in the UK, are manufactured in Portugal, which has a long-standing history of quality shoemaking. Thanks to the incredible means of communication we have available to us today, working with the team in Portugal can sometimes feel like having them in the same room. But a significant strain will be placed on my choice of manufacturer should the threatened EU imports tax come into play when the Brexit process is complete.
Keeping down the costs of a product that is made of such high-quality materials (only the finest and the softest leathers are used in the production of our shoes) and by such a talented team is already a challenge, as it is for many small businesses. I don’t want to have to charge more for my shoes; paying an additional tax to be able to receive and sell our own products will have a huge impact on the bottom line for thousands of businesses, acting as a major blocker to success, and ultimately dampening growth opportunities.
It’s been two years and I still think we’re no closer to understanding exactly what the Brexit outcome will mean for businesses, and that’s a major part of the problem; none of us can plan to the same extent we were able to previously. If I anticipate a major spike in sales, I would usually have a bank of staffing resource to call upon. Because I’m unsure of the cost impact leaving the European Union will have on the business, I’m keeping any potential staff salary or wages within the company for as long as possible. I can’t take a risk on paying for extra labour when there could be unexpected payouts to make that I haven’t previously had to budget for, which is holding back the growth of Calla.
With such huge change in legislation will come more hurdles to jump, and I expect to see this in the form of more complicated paperwork. As a business owner, my role is to oversee every aspect of the business which requires a significant chunk of my time; more paperwork and admin will only see every other element of the business take a back seat, leading to delays in the usual turnaround time of products.
The true upshot is that really, I know no more than anyone else about how Brexit will impact Calla Shoes and other businesses until it happens. The lack of transparency from the Government in the run up to the vote, and the changes in direction that have come about since, mean we’re no better prepared today than we were on 23rd June 2016.
However, that’s not to say there are no potentially positive opportunities to emerge from leaving the EU. For example, we’ll be encouraged to look at alternative markets to partner with – such as the US or China – which may well open more doors and present a whole new customer base, meaning we see major international growth. This will challenge us to think differently, making us analyse all our current processes to see what can be streamlined or improved, meaning we come up with solutions we haven’t previously thought of.
However, with Germany and Ireland being just as important to my business as the US, positive thinking alone may not be enough to ensure that Calla does not suffer because of Brexit.
Only time will tell as to the outcome UK businesses will see from Brexit, but in the meantime, we’re left with little choice other than to continue plugging all our energy, time and money to making our businesses as successful as they can be and hoping for the best.
About the author
Jennifer Bailey is founder of Calla Shoes.
Calla is specifically for women suffering from bunions. No longer willing to compromise, long-term bunion sufferer, Jennifer, launched the online site to help millions of women who suffer from bunions.
Calla’s range of beautiful shoes, made with super soft luxury materials, can be found exclusively online at www.callashoes.co.uk