Artwork by Immy Perryman
Lockdown has been a period of time that we’ve all chosen to approach in different ways. Some of us have taken to resting and focusing on navigating these turbulent times, whilst others have plunged themselves into various creative pursuits. There is a vast spectrum of what individuals are choosing to do in lockdown especially as many have found themselves on furlough and with no clear idea of when they’ll be able to return to work or how to make ends meet.
For some people, lockdown has presented itself as the perfect opportunity to start a new business. Interested to learn more about lockdown business pursuits, I reached out to some people who took this opportunity and have created new businesses in lockdown, to find out what prompted them to take this step and what the future holds for their new ventures.
I own a black female run small business called The Tote Revolution. I set up my business to make beautiful hand painted tote bags that spread the message of our generation. We are revolutionaries!
I started my business in July 2020 during the pandemic as something to keep myself busy and my creative juices flowing. I showed my family and friends what I had made from just some paint and cotton totes and they loved them! So I began selling them and from there my business really took off! I was so surprised at the amount of love and feedback I was getting! The Tote Revolution was born and started to rapidly grow. It was amazing! During this time I was made redundant from my job and my business was quite literally helping me put food on the table, I focused all my efforts into my totes and it was the best decision I ever made!
All of my totes are hand painted and hand dyed. They are made of sustainably sourced cotton so you can wear your new tote with pride while also helping the environment! My business is very important to me as I aim to be 100% inclusive, educated and well informed with every bag I make. It is important to me that everyone can feel a part of my brand much like a family! My bags range from £8-£20 so they are very affordable and all come with a free gift! You can go for a predesigned collection piece or make a completely unique custom bag with me helping you through every step.
I hold seasonal raffles for a limited edition bag where 100% of the profits goes to a BLM or LGBTQIA+ organisation across the UK. Our last raffle raised £145 for Southall Black Sisters. Where our donations went to an amazing organisation that tackles issues surrounding gender based violence towards women of colour such as domestic violence, access to justice, challenging immigration laws, violence against women in transnational spaces, forced marriage and honour based violence. All terrifying notions that disproportionately affect women of colour in the UK.
By supporting my business you are making direct change to underrepresented communities and supporting a growing black female business! I can’t wait for my little business to keep reaching more amazing people. The Tote Revolution is like a family and I would be honoured if you would like to be a part of it!
AMBER- OWNER OF AMBERSWICK CANDLES
I have always enjoyed making things and I love candles, so I just put that enjoyment into something I liked already and took the leap to start selling them. I also loved discovering what I could do with this and add my own twist to the candles - being tattooed myself I’ve always loved body art, so being able to make candles in the body form and the idea of adding tattoos to them hoping others will like what I come up with, proved to be something that did work.
As I started up during the start of the pandemic I've not known any different. It has definitely kept me busy during the months I wasn’t working - I think it would be interesting to see where it goes once the pandemic is over.
As for the future with Amberswick Candles, it involves lots more shapes and art work - I hope to improve my painting skills and create more in depth tattoos/art on the candles.
ROSA AND SCARLETT- PARTNER AND BLOOM
Myself and my wonderful friend & co-founder Scarlett had been planning on launching our hybrid Marketing, PR & Sales consultancy for a while...we doubled down on our efforts to launch within the UK’s first lockdown last year in fact! Why, you may ask? We wanted to make sure could offer our reassurances and unique services to businesses trying to look ahead through the opaque fog of early 2020 wanting to reach new audiences at home, move their product or service offerings online or in some cases even expedite their brand or product launches in order to capitalise on growth markets in the pandemic. We are so passionate about supporting amazing entrepreneurs, but it has been particularly special to support the growth of small independent brands during these trying times. Much like our consultancy name implies, we want ‘Partner & Bloom’ to help catalyse and futureproof the growth of our client’s brands. We believe great PR, marketing and sales strategy & outreach can work in synergy with each other to optimise collaborative opportunities. We proudly bring these services under one roof, which was a major motivation to found Partner & Bloom. We love to work in ways which make us feel like a natural extension to client’s in-house teams. Together Scarlett & I bring a number of skills to the table – some of which we share and some of which complement each other’s experience. Scarlett’s background as a journalist, in-house in PR and also as a successful blogger and mine as Head of Sales & Marketing in-house at Lola’s Apothecary and also as a creative business consultant lends us a rounded set of skills and the main premise is that we offer a really valuable set of synergy skills & networks to support our clients and we love having this cross-sectional view into businesses - it’s very rewarding!
We have launched and grown our business in the pandemic. In the absence of in-person meetings and events we have been blown away by the amazing pace of operating entirely online. It has been really fun to host innovative client facing wellness events online, perfectly manageable to refine strategy via Zoom and if anything, it has opened us up to international opportunities more in the digital world. It has been odd for us though as co-founders not so see each other to clink glasses and celebrate together...with something bubbly and delicious! We like many look forward to when in-person gatherings can resume as we do miss them dearly, be it for work or pleasure!
We may not have a crystal ball, but given how many exciting things we are working on such as product launches, PR campaigns and stockists opportunities all of which are upcoming for clients, we can certainly say the future is looking exciting! We hope to grow organically this year and look forward to hearing from any prospective clients who want to Partner & Bloom!
SHANNON- OWNER OF SHANNON LEIH DESIGNS
I have always had a love for all things crafts related and in January 2020 I decided to try to teach myself to crochet again (after many failed attempts as a child!). I have always had a habit of learning a skill and moving onto something else by the next week, I thought crochet would probably be the same but it stuck! I completely fell in love with it and have crocheted every day since. When I got a bit better at it I decided to put a few things up on my depop and it went from there!
I am very thankful that I picked up the hobby before lockdown as it had given me something to do and kept me motivated to keep learning! It meant I was able to spend a lot of time honing my craft before I decided to really put my creations out into the world. I didnt start my Instagram until June when I was a bit more confident in my abilities. The pandemic in some ways has been great for business with the influx of small businesses popping up as a result, Instagram is an amazing platform for the small business community, it's like a little family. But on the other hand being a business that sells mainly earrings, it could be hard at times to make sales with a lot of people not going anywhere to wear them haha!
It would be a dream come true to make Shannon Leih Designs into a full time job! I would love nothing more than being able to crochet all day, so that is something that I am hoping to work towards.
I am definitely looking forward to being able to hold my first market stall once the pandemic is over, it is something I have always wanted to do so that idea is very exciting!
It's amazing to look back at the designs and pieces I had made when I first started or even months into practicing and seeing how much I have improved. I am continuing to learn and improve everyday so I can’t wait to see where I will be this time next year :).
Although the creation of a business is one way of spending your lockdown days, this is not something that is necessary for everyone. The demand for creativity and productivity that is placed on us during a pandemic has been high, especially when one look at Twitter or Instagram reveals a world where it seems everyone is delving into their creative sides. If you choose to spend lockdown resting and coping that is just as valid a venture. Investment in yourself and your mental health is equally as rewarding as the creation of a new business.
For those who feel ready for a business venture, take inspiration from these amazing businesses and the wide variety that have appeared throughout lockdown. Believe in yourself and your business could flourish too!
Written by Rachella Lartey