Katie Bowman, Made By Bowie

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30th April, 2020

Surviving under lockdown as a sole trader with Made by Bowie

Potter and founder of Made by Bowie Katie Bowman shares her business, wellbeing and financial tips on how to stay afloat during COVID-19.

Life as a sole trader can be exciting, but it also has its challenges.

No one knows that better than ceramicist Katie Bowman of Made by Bowie.

As a full-time potter and ceramics teacher, her way of meeting new customers — prior to COVID-19 — was at markets and through workshops she ran. Since lockdown, she’s felt the impact of not being able to win new business via her usual methods.

But Bowman has been creative and nimble in her approach to business, including engaging in partnerships and changing the direction of Made by Bowie.

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Pivot and collaborate: Staying afloat during COVID-19


Katie Bowman
Katie has been knocked back a step by the COVID-19 lockdown, but that hasn’t stopped her developing her business, Made by Bowie.

Businesses all over the world are attempting to survive in the midst of this pandemic. Many have taken the opportunity to slow down and plan for the future, while others are endeavouring to pivot and re-align. Some, like Made by Bowie, are doing both.

Bowman is constantly pushing herself to come up with new ideas and directions to take her business and, most recently, has embraced collaborations with other businesses who might also be doing it tough. She has recently partnered with indoor plant company The Plantrunner and is about to run a virtual studio tour with No Vacancy Gallery.

“I’m also working with a group of Melbourne-based ceramicists for Mother’s Day to bring back Three Day Clay: a pop-up shop we launched last year on Smith Street, Collingwood.

“It’s fun working out how to bring these events into an online space.

“I’ve loved seeing artists, musicians and makers from all over the world open the ‘virtual’ door to their studios and homes to share their processes and inspiration.”

As a sole trader, staying connected to the small business community is important, particularly during these unprecedented and often isolating time. In fact, most sole traders say that being part of a wider community and seeking advice from mentors is one of their top tips for enduring difficult periods.

“I’m grateful to be connected to a large group of small business owners, most who’ve been doing it a lot longer than me and who are generous with their advice and guidance when it comes to running your own gig.”

While many businesses are working hard to stay afloat, there are some silver linings when it comes to being an online store. Made by Bowie has recently seen a surge in online sales, which Bowman attributes to people searching for relief in retail therapy.


Making sense of stimulus for sole traders


The Federal Government has announced several stimulus initiatives to support sole traders, including the Coronavirus Supplement, the JobSeeker payment, the JobKeeper payment, and the Instant Asset Write-Off purchase incentive. With so much new information available, it can be difficult navigating how to how to take advantage of each package.

Many sole traders are finding comfort in reaching out to expert accountants or bookkeepers to help them make sense of what they can and can’t apply for.

“There’s nothing transparent about the new legislation. I had to reach out to my accountant for clarity on what assistance I can access. It turns out all I can take advantage of is the Instant Asset Write Off, which I intend to do with new equipment for the studio.”

READ: Frequently asked questions about JobKeeper for sole traders

Many sole traders have also found solace in using an accounting software to help them stay on top of, and forecast, their finances during this difficult time, and to set up Single Touch Payroll, which is essential for businesses wanting to access the JobKeeper wage subsidy.

“With MYOB, I can get on with creating knowing the back-end is all under control.”


Get in touch with nature: De-stressing during a pandemic


Sole traders can feel especially isolated during times of crisis without a support team to lean on. It’s important to check in on your business owner friends and, if you’re a sole trader, to focus on your own mental health.

Bowman checks in on her own headspace every morning before she sits down to work, which guides her level of productivity and focus for the day.

She also attempts to get into nature every morning.

“Even a 20-minute walk with my dog, Hank, works wonders for my mind.

“I’m also looking after my diet a little more than usual during lockdown and find that it’s having a huge impact on my mental wellbeing.”

Katie Bowman is the founder of handmade ceramic studio Made by Bowie and teaches ceramics at Northcote Pottery Supplies and Bisque Studios.