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Small Businesses Truths

by Mel @troubleon8wheels

We received two more boxes today - one with skates and helmets, one with Sunlite and Avanti plates. Yesterday we received a shipment of Better Bearings and our stock of the Chaya Karma Pro skates. Last Friday, our order of t-shirts and vests arrived (and they are lush!) That's a lot of money invested into stock, that needs to be recouped as soon as possible, so that the money can be used to help other parts of the business grow. But how?

Marketing emails?

I do not like receiving daily emails from companies you've purchased from reminding you that they are there, giving you yet another irresistible offer. It feels like enabling folks to buy things they don't actually need. I feel conflicted, as I clearly need customers in order to stay in business. I want to run my business as ethically as I can - there is a lot of work to do, with a very small and dedicated part-time staff team. Daily marketing emails are not for RGG.

Discount Sales?

We do this as often as possible. It will often be a combination offer, but once a year there will be a stockroom clearout.

Social Media Adverts?

Not keen. I tend to press ignore on these! I also trust my friends' recommendations far more than an advert.

Well if you don't like any of these solutions, what's the issue?

Our cost of living has gone up. For folks wanting to try roller skating for the first time, hard choices are being made. Do we prioritise our mental health and wellbeing with this hobby or do we buy essentials? There is more choice than ever before for consumers wanting goods to arrive at their door, quickly. We call this the Amazon effect.

We are not trying to compete with big businesses. We will never be able to buy in the quantities they purchase in (we are talking container loads of goods, not just a few boxes that fit in the back of a delivery van). It is this buying in bulk that helps them sell cheaply. For those companies 'jumping on the bandwagon' and seeing a surge in roller skate popularity, using cheaply made product is something that I am uncomfortable with selling, so we don't offer these skates. I prefer to focus on what I can control, which is customer service. Folks coming for a skate fitting are not pressured into buying anything. Many of our shop visitors have never been into a roller skate shop before, although one day I hope they will be as plentiful as bike shops.


Being that the issue is multilayered, with my own ethics getting in the way of selling products, where I start to feel my anxiety creep higher due to rising bills, I look at the wall of Instax photos and remember to breathe. These people, and many others have chosen our shop.

Remaining true to my core values of authenticity and joy is often challenging and tested regularly.

This is how I remain grateful

At the moment, our little Corn Exchange shop is stacked full of an assortment of incredible goods. I am so proud of the curated collection we have, as every product is chosen with care and is the result of building relationships with our suppliers.

We have stock that is widely available from a number of skate shops in the UK, but also a good amount of stock that we seem to be the only stockist. My decision around buying in skates to have in stock still stems from the trauma of 2020 when I had so many back orders, and suddenly the wait turned from weeks into months. Now, I choose to purchase quantities and sizes of these products to try and make folks with different sizes feel included. It's worth it, when we have someone come into the shop who is surprised we stock skates in their size. We may be called Roller Girl Gang, but we are here to support all genders and identities who want to skate. That means stocking as many sizes as I can afford.

It's also been amazing to develop relationships with newer micro businesses / side hustles and watch them develop. Honey roller skates toe stops, Prague Roller Girls dance plugs and Jammerz toe plugs, Von Merlin, Grindstone and Wildbones, and the ever amazing Discoblox and Better Bearings. One day I will meet them all in person!

I am grateful to the skate community for continuing to support Roller Girl Gang and all we stand for. I'm here to empower those around me to take up space (apologise less!) and move forward with confidence in their lives. And achieve this through roller skating.

All the growth journeys!

At the start of our roller skate journey, we apologise for getting in people's way, for feeling 'not good enough' to be in this space. We watch those more experienced skaters around us move and flow in a way that appears effortless. Over time we learn that everything takes time, a lot more time than we think, and that taking up the space you need is important. We develop an awareness of the people who skate around us, we make new friends and learn to control our wheels. We find a community we didn't know existed and a support network of amazing humans who understand our need to move and flow without explanation. Our confidence grows, slowly, without realising, as we first start to wear clothes we would never have considered, but 'it's okay to wear these on roller skates'. You feel a shift within yourself and begin to shed the weight of others' judgement. You are stepping into your true power, your authentic self. You are 'doing you' as they say and it feels wonderful. Our confidence grows more quickly, as we realise that we have already overcome the greatest hurdle - showing up for the very first time in a space we don't know anyone, to participate in an activity we thought was impossible. We find our niche, the type of skating that makes us feel most alive. Who knew when they started that there was so much more than just rolling about a bit? Roller derby, skate park, street, roller disco, roller dance, roller hockey... wow. It's like a secret superpower. And we always forgive folks who tell us they love our roller blades.

We prepare ourselves for the difficult moments. For the times we fall, bump, bruise, sprain or break. We take time to nourish, we heal without rushing, we get back up, we carry on.

Running a small business is like learning to roller skate. It's often difficult, takes a lot more time than you initially think it will. Even within skate shops, we have our niche. Roller Girl Gang is focussed primarily with roller dance, with some skate park, general recreation and a little derby thrown in for good measure. Roller Girl Gang is a Community Interest Company. That means any profit made must, legally, be reinvested into the community. We fund roll outs, our wheel library, maintenance of our hire skates and building connections with other women-owned and female-empowering businesses and spaces.

You can support us by shopping with us, sharing our social media posts, recommending us or just dropping us an email or message to let us know how we can help you.

I wrote notes on the affirmation cards that went out in orders today. It's a small moment, but a lovely one. I feel a connection with our community when packing orders. If you choose to support Roller Girl Gang, I appreciate you.

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If there’s a glitch on your website, shipping delays, or an outage in your system/software, updating your contacts via email is the best way to maintain communication.

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davenport kim
davenport kim

Thank you for sharing the story of your business. I have learned many things from the information you shared. flappy bird

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