Milliner Amanda Joyner openly discusses how her millinery store "Chef Bizzaro Millinery" survived 2020 and shares how she has fresh hope thanks to a surprise for the New Year, 2021.
When did you open your store?
My friend and I opened our shop in May of 2016 in Michigan City, Indianapolis, US.
In reflection, what was the highlight of your business in 2019?
I think the highlight for 2019/2020 was really pushing myself to learn something new. I finished the Hat Academy certification course and since then have been practicing and trying new things I never would have thought were my style. It broke down everything I knew then it challenged me to build back up again to see where I want to go with my hats. I like being all over the place with my designs and ideas not to go too much in one direction.
How has your Millinery Store survived COVID through out 2020?
Surviving in COVID has been horrible. At the start of 2020, it was the first time I was way ahead of schedule for Derby Day and I was booked solid with classes. It was looking to be a great summer 2020. When COVID stopped everyone in their tracks all my planning went out the window and only a few orders remained on the books. I tried moving hat classes online, made hat kits where people could make their own at home, and even started making masks.
Masks were really what paid the bills during the pandemic until October when everything just stopped. I think people got scared to spend money and plan events and started to take staying home seriously. I spent most of my time just in the shop because I was so overwhelmed with what to do. I eventually decided that it wasn't feasible to have a brick and mortar shop and decided it was best if I left. I made an announcement around Christmas and started packing up my hat supplies slowly in December to be out by the end of January. I even had listings ready to sell some of my blocks and supplies. Then around New Years' my business partner and friend sent me a message that someone believed in me and my hats and paid my rent through to April ‘21. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact someone so generously did that!!
How do you keep yourself focussed on designing new hats?
So the plan now is to unpack and work on some things I was planning to start on pre-covid. I'm trying to break out of sticking to my favorite greens and blue for hats and try to have a wider variety of colors as well as going back to some of my weirder ideas to work with cosplay and costuming. It seems like rent being paid was a blessing in disguise because I have a few projects that have been requested and I'm really excited about them… more so I have a place to do them that's not my house where my four kids rule the roost. They make it hard to stay focused so being able to leave the house to work is a big blessing.
Right now my big inspiration kick is I've ripped up some hats I've made previously and I plan to do something different with them. Not only is it cathartic but it really helps you get inspired to make it into something entirely new… especially when COVID has sucked a lot of my energy out. The 'out with the old in with the new' really helps me get a little pep in my step. I've also been playing with resin, water colours and even graphic design to take my mind out of the box and get inspired to create.
All that is happening in the world currently does take a toll on us mentally. What inspires you daily to keep creating new headwear?
What keeps me going is my kids. I think so many people are scared to do the thing they love most as a profession because while it's a labor of love, it can also be financially risky. I want my kids to take risks and be inspired by what they choose to do in life. When my shop first opened my oldest child wrote me a letter and it's been on my desk ever since. "To Mom, you inspire me to follow my dreams, no matter how budonky crazy it is." When I'm stuck I look at it and it just instantly makes me feel better.
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