Politics & Small Business: Is it personal?

For most of my life, I’ve never paid much attention to politics.  Until 2008, I could have told you who the Prime Minister was, but not much else.  These days, sadly, I do pay attention.  It’s hardly headline news that the current political landscape is divisive in a way my generation has never seen before.

But does your politics affect where you spend you money?  And for business owners, do you ever express personal opinions which may be controversial, and would you consider the effect on your business of doing so?

I wandered down this path of thought after seeing Tilly’s (of Tilly & the Buttons fame) Instagram post supporting the women’s marches.  Under a T&TB graphic saying ‘Women for women’, she wrote ‘..and men for women too, for that matter.  Sending peace, love & solidarity to you all, whether you can make it to a march today or are standing up for kindness and respect to all humans in other ways in your daily lives.’

Pretty uncontroversial, no?  She didn’t criticise anyone.  It actually wasn’t political.  But several commenters didn’t like it.  Some objected to the sentiments expressed (difficult, really, to see how ‘peace, love & solidarity’ are objectionable, but there we are), but the main issue seemed to be that she had something to say which wasn’t sewing-related.  The theme of the unhappy comments on this and similar posts is ‘I come here for sewing, and don’t want more politics-talk’ – which means, ‘I want to see pretty pictures of ribbon, but hate it when you talk like you have a brain with thoughts in it.’

It seems many people (I’ve seen plenty comments on other posts, not only this one), believe that if you mainly post about sewing, then you shouldn’t post about anything else.  And that if you have a business, you shouldn’t have opinions on anything, because you could lose custom from people who disagree with you.  Kind of interesting, since it’s your business, not theirs.

A big part of the reason we buy indie is because small brands usually have a relatable personality at the forefront.  We invest emotionally in the person behind the brand, with their weekly posts on what they’re wearing, how they’re feeling and what they’re sewing.  We like to buy from a person.  What shouldn’t really surprise us is that, actually, we like to buy from a person like us.  Because we’re the best kind of people…

On the other hand, some business owners are pretty picky about who they’ll sell to.  The owner of The Joy of Knitting’s now infamous rant (I’m not going to repeat it here, because my opinions are unprintable, and if you get me going on religion we’ll all regret it), showed that she felt secure in potentially alienating plenty of her customers.   What’s more, she did it in a particularly rude manner.  She got a lot of publicity for it, so good for her.

Not that any of this is new.  Customers have always used their spending power to support business in their community, and boycott those whose views opposed their own.  But it is interesting to see it demonstrated so starkly in the cuddly world of crafting, where perhaps we’ve all been pretending that a shared love of perfect topstitching is enough to keep us together.

Would your political and social beliefs dictate who you buy from, or even whose creative output you follow?  I’ve never before given a moments thought to whether people whose quilts I admire might have voted for the wall.  But after reading some of the discussion in the comments, now I sort of do wonder (and in some cases, know).  Which is a bit sad really.

To answer my own question, I would never ask anyone to disclose their personal beliefs on behalf of their business.  Business owners who choose to do so un-asked clearly believe that the benefits of being outspoken outweigh those of pleasing everyone.  And it would affect my opinion of them – I’m only human.  The era of political difference being a subject to be debated with friends and acquaintances, perhaps with a bit of enlightenment of either side, is rapidly slipping away as battle lines are drawn up.  As long as we can respect another’s right to their opinion, and express our own respectfully, we’ll win the last skirmish.

Good night, and good luck.

X

 

 

 

Follow:

4 Comments

  1. PsychicSewerKathleen
    February 17, 2017 / 11:00 am

    I run a small independent business and post to my heart’s content on fb or wherever I’m moved to do so. Rather unabashedly soap-boxy on occasion.

    I think all or at least most of my clients, students and colleagues are pretty aware of where I stand on political and spiritual issues. I don’t know that I can honestly separate all that out from WHO I am which includes a vast array of things including sewing, writing, some form of exercise (or abhorrence to) or whatever else I get up to.

    For example if I favour indie this means something – likely politically and perhaps even spiritually. If I didn’t care about indie and only bought from the big 4 when they’re on sale I think this means something politically too. For example I’ve read blogs written by women who say they never buy indie – it’s just so expensive and really just the same as the big 4, just pricier. I think they might be missing the point. Just sayin’ 🙂

    If my opinions and stances on issues means that some won’t patronize my business that’s okay – we can’t please everyone all the time. Honestly I’m not keen to work with those that are in a completely different camp from me in these key areas. I believe in business you need to know who your customer base is and speak to them directly because it will all out in the end anyway. Your clients will find out about you regardless of how middle of the road you try to be (if you prevail long enough and I’m 62 and have been in business for more than 30 years) … so unless I was to lead a completely dual existence people would eventually discover that I stand pretty strong on some things. There are just things going on right now that make it really HARD to be closed mouth about. And I don’t think we should. I think whatever your sphere of influence it might be, to take a stand will shout out to some who need to read it.

    And I think when someone is as gifted as you in the written expression, you do need to give a voice to things that have heart and meaning along with your experience of craft. It will resonate with many who follow your work I’m sure of it.

    • Lucy
      February 18, 2017 / 4:58 pm

      Aaw, thank you! I follow a lot of indie sewing businesses, and I find it really interesting how different they are when it comes to expressing personal opinion online. I don’t tend to be very vocal myself about political issues, although never say never! I find it very upsetting when people I know post or share stuff on Facebook that I find offensive, so I think I’m often mindful that I would never want to upset or offend people that way. I’m just too non-confrontational! Definitely changing the older I get though ;).

      I agree that the main reason I buy indie (and I do so pretty much exclusively these days) is that even though you can probably find a similar design from the Big 4, I love to support people who’ve put the work in and struck out for themselves. It’s sad that politics now is so divisive, but I do believe that everyone has the right to speak their mind and in fact it makes us more aware of the human aspect to political events – it is somewhat (a little bit…) reassuring to know that other people are feeling the same way we do! And I will always want to support the individual craftsperson – opinions make us human, right?!

      Thank you for reading and commenting!!
      X

  2. February 7, 2017 / 8:57 am

    Thanks for bringing this up- it’s been something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last weeks. I don’t particularly like it when people share political views in the sewing realm. It’s nothing for or against the politics itself, I just like having a space where I can go and enjoy crafting and sewing and fabric and have a break from politics.I think its important, especially as politics gets more heated to remember that there’s life beyond and not everything needs to be bogged down in political discussion. There’s a time and a place for those discussions, and I don’t really think a craft blog is the best place for them.

    • Lucy
      February 7, 2017 / 8:26 pm

      Hi Kaitlyn! Thanks for commenting – I certainly agree that we’re currently reading loads more ‘world affairs’ discussion than would be usual on craft blogs. I think a lot of people are finding it quite hard to stay positive and focus on sewing at the moment. Personally, I find it quite interesting to read what other people are thinking about, as long as it doesn’t stray into soapbox territory.

      I can completely understand why you would want to keep the two separate – for most of us sewing is how we relax and escape from everything else that’s going on! Catching up on blogs is part of this, so I guess it can feel quite intrusive when other topics start to take over that space.

      Hopefully everyone’s worlds will return to a more even keel soon!

      Take care, X

Thank you for your comments - I'd love to hear from you!