Updated: Jan 7, 2022
by Mel @troubleon8wheels
This follows on from my reflecting yesterday...
The Subscription Box
I want Roller Girl Gang to be able to support folks with their roller skate journey, to the best of our ability. To provide a rounded set of fundamental roller skate skills and etiquette that can be taken on and applied in any setting. We also donated 10% every month (from the total boxes sold) to a charity that somehow linked to the theme. Over the year, we donated to food banks, homeless charities, skate projects both here and abroad, relief work, mental health charities, end of life care, dementia and more. I appreciate the group trusting that I would treat their donations with respect.
I was expecting to support the folks who undertook this journey with me with roller skate skills. I wanted to ensure that skaters learning in the Great Lockdown of 2020 felt supported by a group and wanted to continue, so in 5 years time they say "Roller skating is something I started in lockdown on 2020", not "Roller skating is something I tried in lockdown 2020."
What was in the box?
We created a journal, brought to life by Irene Dose, founder of Coven Skates, Italy. Merit Patches, reminiscent of the badges you earned for skills as a brownie or guide. We don't often pat ourselves on the back as adults and say well done for our hard work, so this is a way to reward ourselves and recognise how far we've come. Zoom calls happened a couple of times each month so we could check in and discuss our progress as well as be practical in support. How does your body need to move with this skill? What are the barriers to completing this skill? We learned many barriers were our own mental blocks and did our best to balance self-kindness and growth.
A little bonus gift - something useful for skaters. This was a challenge as it couldn't be too specific to a roller skate brand, for example a toe stop, or it wouldn't fit everyone's gear. It needed to be suitable for everyone to appreciate or be useful. Somehow I managed to find and order different items, from hair pins (which were designed and manufactured to our design), towels to keep you cool, t shirts and more, that (mostly) arrived in time for each box. I feel quietly proud of this, as the supply chain this year has been an almighty mess.
There is also a What's App group and everyone who has been part of the journey this year has been mostly positive about their progress. Of course there are those moments when folks are not feeling their best, but to my surprise, they have been entirely open and vulnerable about sharing that experience, managing to turn it into something everyone can identify with and support. Not only that, they are practical with suggestions, and listen empathetically when needed. Having completed my Mental Health First Aid qualification earlier this year, this group are exactly what the world needs right now and our community is lucky to have them.
From the August 2021 Roller Skate Party at Leeds Corn Exchange, when some of the group met for the first time.
What I expected vs what I experienced
I expected to share my journey, my history in roller skating, how arduous a particular movement or trick may be to learn, to perform or execute a specific movement. I was NOT expecting to have the 2021 emotional rollercoaster of a year we have actually had, and at times I've struggled with professionalism vs being human. Human won out most times and sharing the intensely challenging moments running Roller Girl Gang has been a relief. The support given to me is something I'm truly grateful for, and continues to give me the energy I need! More than once this year, when in the dark low moments of pandemic panic and tears, I have seriously considered closing the doors and just going back to my old life, but I take a deep breath each day and find the courage to continue. I know I can make more of a difference doing what I'm doing now, it's just hard living your values. In fact, I found the What's App group to be such an amazing support and positive space, that mid-year, I stopped allowing new folks to sign up. The subscription was closed! People could choose to leave, but no-one new could join us. It became more important to continue to protect the dynamic space and trust we had created. Obviously in doing so, I somewhat snookered myself financially. Lesson learned, but totally worth it.
We even have a secret signal, developed out of necessity when some MRSJ members were due to meet for the first time in real life. We had those moments of "what if it's not really you." The secret signal was agreed upon and members could identify each other easily. By the way, I'm not sharing that here!
Things I've learned The monthly subscription box has now come to an end, as it simply isn't viable at the moment. The supply chain continues to be a mess and I need to be able to plan the boxes a couple of months in advance so it's not rushed at the end, as that's when mistakes are made. The number of times we rushed though, I'm surprised more mistakes weren't made. The connections have been wonderful though and I will definitely do this again in the future, so stay tuned for a re-launch!
I'm incredibly proud of the project, having seen it through from an idea, to writing the material, working with a designer and finding a printer. Sourcing someone to make the patches and every single product that went into the box. Then scheduling the packing and posting of the boxes. There were plenty of mistakes, but we got there in the end.
With the beauty of hindsight, running a subscription box would have been enough work during this year. (Especially when it's been on top of running a shop, classes and events - during a pandemic). At times it has definitely felt like work, but mostly it has brought immense joy. The feedback and positive energy from the group is palpable, and if this is a cross section of the wider skate community, then it's no wonder we are often upheld as being such a welcoming space. Beautiful, beautiful humans. With awesome fur babies, many of whom I consider to be friends now. It's a grey area of customer vs friend doing what we do, but everyone is so respectful, they make it easy.
We are changing how we structure our members area, and it will include closing some of the forum areas. The membership area was launched at the very start of lockdown 2020, and frankly, some areas are simply not useful now.
Instead, we will provide a FaceBook group which will provide space to connect for RGG classes, events and meet ups. We will also have areas for My Roller Skate Journey folks, and a few other bits and pieces. Tutorials will remain on the website as exclusives for website members only. As we won't be spending time sourcing items, packing boxes and more in 2022, there will be more time for tutorials (hurray!) The FaceBook group will be more open and free to join, but you'll need to answer a couple of questions to be approved. We will have our usual respect policies in place to keep the space safe for everyone. For the OG MRSJ folks, the What's App group will remain (they already know this - it would suck to be reading this here first.)
If you feel like you missed out, erm, you did. But you can grab a copy of your mini binder here ! We only have a very few left. There will be a section in the FaceBook group dedicated to MRSJ and from January 2022 we will work through the binder again in order. You can choose to do it in any order of course, because it's your journey! If you just want to earn your patches, you can grab these separately here. Merit patches.
I hope we get to share part of your roller skate journey!