Surviving 2020: Our Story

December 28, 2020
Published by
Keyy Productions Team

There are many adjectives that we could use to describe this year - unexpected, terrifying!, innovative, exhausting - to name just a small few… Yep, it’s been a year, to say the least. We all know it. We all trudged on through it, in some way or another. And for those of us in Sydney, we are still trudging on through it! (Taking this opportunity to send love and positivity to all of those in Sydney who missed out on spending Christmas with their loved ones this year).

And as we put this year to rest and move forward to 2021 (but not before a lovely long Christmas break!), I thought it might be a nice opportunity to share a small personal insight into my experience of keeping a small business alive this year.

We all know that running a small business is no small feat. In fact, in any ordinary year, running a small business can be hugely challenging and enormously taxing. Add to the mix co-running it with your husband and juggling the demands of becoming a mum, and then a global pandemic and forced isolation which essentially removes the core service of the business and further restricts family members from crossing the QLD border to Sydney to offer their help and support… and there are some challenges, to say the least!

When the reality of Covid-19 hit, and then followed the reality of the ensuing “isolation”, Rhys (my husband and Keyy Productions Co-Founder and Co-Director) and I were in the throes of seeking out our first ever official office space for our growing business, raising a newborn, and moving house. There was definitely a very clear moment when it dawned on the two of us we could very probably - actually, that we would almost definitely - lose our entire business and livelihood.

For those who don’t know, Keyy Productions is an enormous project that Rhys and I have built from the ground up over the last 5 years. Putting our careers as professional actors to the side, our primary aim was to build a business that would be impactful and poignant, fulfilling our creative needs and driven by heart-centred storytelling - the one thing that had propelled us both into the acting industry in the first place. We wanted to create content to inspire change and to give people and organisations a voice; and to ultimately provide us with security and stability for ourselves and our growing family.

And so… while my wonderful parents unpacked our new Sydney home and entertained our 8 month old (in the remaining handful of days before the QLD borders closed for months), and with our staff working entirely remotely, we had no choice but to pick up the phones and make call after call after call… after call.

We knew that due to the pandemic and the forced working-from-home requirements, many organisations were grappling with effective in-house messaging and communications, and were struggling with ways to maintain a genuine connection with their online audience and to provide support to their staff. And we knew that we could provide an effective and efficient solution for these core communications problems. As an agile and growing video production company, it was clear that we had a role to play and enormous value to provide.

So we, like everyone else, turned to Zoom as a lifeline during this time. We adapted our video offering to provide Zoom-based “remote” interview-videos, meaning we could produce the same style of interview video content that has positioned us as leaders in video storytelling across Sydney, without anyone having to leave their home. Amazing!

After hours, days, weeks spent on the phones, we developed incredible relationships with some mental health organisations, and were able to provide them with packages of remote-style video content for their audiences. From producing Covid-19 “Isolation Support” videos to hearing personal stories of chronic pain sufferers around Australia, it was a pivotal period in what would become a complete turning point for our business trajectory in 2020, and it was so exciting to be innovating a new genre of content during such a restrictive and uncertain time. Our remote-style video offering also meant that we were able to produce a video for our friends at Tempus Novo in Leeds, UK, as part of our ongoing "giving back” campaign.

It is during times like these that the reality of having a baby and running a small business in tandem can seem completely overwhelming, and having the two “beings” co-exist can feel near impossible! As a small business owner, I have spent the past 16 months since our baby was born juggling my work and role within our business, with the responsibilities and energy of being a new mum. For the most-part, I’ve simply worked when our baby slept, putting him down for his daily naps and heading straight back to my laptop to pick up where I left off in the previous nap. To an extent, this is a wonderful way to work, as it’s given me a strong sense of purpose and a lovely “balance” to being a mum. It has exercised my (often foggy) brain and has even felt like a relaxing “break” from the energetic side of parenting. It does come with it’s challenges though - never being able to confidently schedule phone calls or meetings, and always feeling like there are a million balls in the air, and it’s only a matter of time before they all drop! There is also the added pressure of having a baby that sleeps, and sleeps consistently, in order to be able to rely on a set amount of work time each day. At times when work is busy and there is overflow, I will start my day at 5am, to squeeze a precious 1-2 hours of extra work time into my day before our son wakes, and as exhausting as this can be at times, I have remembered the importance of gratitude at having a flowing, growing business - especially this year.

However, just after we’d moved house, and amidst the juggling of keeping our business alive, our beautiful boy was enduring the dreaded “9 month sleep regression” - a common period of significant growth and development in babies that can result in broken sleep and can last weeks or even months. For us, it meant almost 8 weeks of just a handful of broken hours of sleep each night - there were many nights, in fact, when we were woken every hour until midnight, and were then awake from 1am to 4am, trying to settle and support our boy…and each other! With our families all in Queensland and unable to cross the border, Rhys and I had no choice but to simply endure as a team… and breathe our way through it, sometimes an hour at a time. At this point, it would be remiss to omit any comment on the impact this had to our physical and mental health during this time. It was an enormous challenge and an incredibly isolating and exhausting experience - but no doubt an experience shared by so many business owners and parents this year!

By the end of June things were looking up! Our boy was sleeping soundly again, and we had completed our best ever year of revenue growth. We have remained on our growth trajectory since then, having just completed our biggest ever video project, a digital event for NSW Health, promoting the incredible work of Nurses and Midwives in 2020. What a year to tell the stories of our health professionals! It has been an incredible project to produce, and one that we feel very proud of! Our team has grown and we’ve created new offerings and services that provide people and organisations in even the most remote areas of Australia (and the world!) with a chance to tell their story and promote change.

All in all, this year has taught us as business owners that diving in and thinking outside the box can completely shift the trajectory of business growth; most of all though, we have learnt that taking care of our mental and physical health is key in enduring hard times and facing even the most unprecedented business challenges… and doing it all with a wonderful, committed team is the cherry on top!

We feel incredibly grateful to have heard so many poignant stories this year, and to have transformed them into connective and impactful video content for our wonderful clients (check out our 2020 Year in Review video here). And now, here’s to 2021! May it be calmer, simpler and healthier than this one has been, and may we all move forward with an altered perspective and a deeper sense of human connection than ever before!

-Paige, Co-Founder of Keyy Productions

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