2020 and 2021 were atypical years for us all. And when it comes to businesses, old and new, the challenges of keeping them afloat reached a whole new level. However, no pandemic was a reason strong enough to stop determined entrepreneurs in Britain from pursuing a new business venture over the past 24 months. In fact, during the first half of 2021, almost 80 new businesses were created every hour across the UK, according to research by small business lenders Iwoca. And if numbers are anything to go by these days, data from HMRC also shows that in March 2021 more new businesses were created than in any other month since records began in 1989.
If not long ago people starting up their own businesses in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was a way to switch from staff to employer – or to have a source of extra income – Covid-19 introduced us to words that weren’t part of our daily conversations, such as furlough. And a wave of many lockdown restrictions and company closures forced people out of work, resulting in new entrepreneurs refusing to be defeated by a virus or changes in work circumstances.
Analysis of Companies House data reveals that 340,534 businesses were registered in the UK between January and June 2021, an increase of 32% from 257,243 over the same period in 2019. And new businesses are being created, in 2022, at a similarly fast speed.
Here, three female entrepreneurs based in Britain share how they decided to make the most of the pandemic to start their own businesses. And they are not looking back.
Meet Clare, Lizzy, and Carrie.
I tried to solve a common problem and found my tribe
After completing a degree in advertising, Clare became pregnant with her first child and decided that advertising wasn’t for her and set up her first business with the help of the Prince’s Trust. The global meltdown of 2008 led the Wallingford-based freelancer illustrator to sell her company but, in the back of her mind, a new business idea was forming. “It wasn’t easy, and I lost count of how many times people said ‘No, it won’t work. Why would people want to re-use an old bottle when it’s just as cheap to go buy a new one?’
She carried on anyway and many prototypes later the Bottlesoc was finally ready, and Clare launched her new business in 2020, at the start of the pandemic.
“I started Bottle Soc during lockdown. I decided that it was a kind of now or never moment.
Like most people, I was at home and, because I had a particular problem with my children, who were perpetually losing their water bottles or getting them scratched and not wanting to use them, I decided to make a product that fitted my need and solved my problem. And that is what Bottle Soc does: I no longer have to carry bottles in my hands and they are not rolling about, on the floor of the car.
The way I am promoting them is still very organic: I met other mums at school, and I would give them some samples and say, ‘try this, it works for me’. When we have children, we all have a similar problem. We don’t want to carry water bottles, but we want the children to drink water because it is healthy. The business started to grow from there and now I have found my own tribe of people who had the same problem and common interests.
I think, in some way, the pandemic helped me. It galvanised things for me. We were all shut inside. And we all had plans with people in the family and podcasts to listen to, but I wanted to set my business up. So, I made sure that I used that time that the pandemic gave us to do something positive for myself because, if anything, those two years allowed people to do a lot of thinking about habits that they had before. I started as a greeting card designer, and I have always worked for myself. I think working for yourself is a good privilege and the pandemic just pushed me forward with my own business”.
Free time to do something creative, turned into a business
Graduated with a BA Hons degree in visual Communications from art college in Belfast in 1997, prior to the global pandemic, Carrie Neely made a living putting art into hotels. It all stopped when a series of lockdowns grounded people at home and the hospitality industry shut down across the UK. The quiet times gave the artist a chance to re-evaluate her career and to start a new art, apparel, and interior brand named after her grandmothers.
“I started creating the Myrtle and Mary characters over lockdown, and I launched the products less than a year ago. This is the first time, in over 20 years, that I have created something for myself. My business is putting art into hotels, but as the sector came to a halt, that side of the business dried up, giving me free time to do something creative, which I don’t normally have time to do. Myrtle & Mary feels utterly indulgent because I started it for enjoyment and didn’t realize that it would turn into a business.
The feedback has been fantastic, and I am in shock. We sell our products through our website and the global online marketplace Wolf & Badger. I think I am just shocked that people wanted to buy my art. It is a good chain effect: once I’d opened the creative floodgates, I literally couldn’t stop – morning, noon, and night I was creating. But also, once I started to create them, my other business started to come back and now I have to work on the challenge that is creating a balance between a new business that I really enjoy and my established company that actually brings in the money.
The future is promising and, now that people are going back out on the streets, I can’t wait to get my work in a big department store and to collaborate and design for other brands, too.”
Everything changed, so I changed my strategy
18 months ago, Lizzy Humphrey started Epoch London, an aromatherapy home fragrance brand, with no experience in running a business. She wanted to offer a natural alternative to home fragrances and to find new ways of making candles, instead of commercial ones that are produced using paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum, and synthetic fragrances. After many late nights and setbacks – and a commitment to taking a kinder approach to herself and the business – the entrepreneur now offers handcrafted candles created in small batches using a blend of sustainable soy wax and pure essential oils.
“I was working in advertising but ended up on furlough, due to the pandemic, and had lots of spare time. And as we were all crept up at home, it felt like it was really important to create a sort of home sanctuary as self-care was really, really needed. It was just a great outlet for me to start creating some natural home fragrances and use aromatherapy as a way of boosting wellbeing – and then also try and offer that to others.
The biggest challenge was having to adapt to the shifts in people’s lives. Everything from different lifestyles to the way people were dealing with the pandemic and restrictions, and how that affected people on an individual level and an economy as well. Originally, I was selling large quantities online and, as people were able to come back out on the high street, and into shops and boutiques, I had to pivot and approach more of a wholesale strategy. That was what my target was then, to have stocked and wholesale products. And then we went back into lockdown. Having to adjust not only to the current economy but also all the uncertainties that come with being an entrepreneur, nowadays, is a constant challenge. It involves having to try and pre-empt customers’ behaviours in terms of whether they’re going to want to shop online or in-store, and just adjusting to people’s needs and spending habits.
Top Drawer was my first trade event. It was definitely interesting to get a feel for the market and see it from a retail perspective. It feels like we are out of the woods now and moving forward in 2022. My goal is to get my products in stores across the UK and in people’s homes while raising brand awareness and the benefits of natural aromatherapy home fragrances.
The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project announces 50 nominees
Earlier this year, on International Women’s Day 2023, Häagen-Dazs launched ‘The Rose Project’, a global initiative with a $100,000 (USD) bursary grant inviting nominations to recognise unsung trailblazing women in honour of the brand’s female co-founder Rose Mattus. Yesterday, 23 November, on what would have been Rose Mattus’ birthday, Häagen-Dazs announced the top 50 #WomenWhoDontHoldBack nominees being shortlisted for their achievements and its five globally accomplished Häagen-Dazs Rose Project judges.
Over 2,500 applications were received for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project putting forward pioneering efforts and societal contributions made by women across the globe. From these, 50 talented and inspirational women have been shortlisted and will be put forward to win one of five monetary grants of $20,000 (USD), which will be announced on International Women’s Day 2024, to continue their exceptional work, unleash their potential or give to a cause they are passionate about. The top 50 shortlist includes women from 17 countries hailing from across Europe, Asia, Africa & Middle East, Australia and the Americas.
The all-female judging panel from across the world has been handpicked for the final selection stage of The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project includes. UK-based author, broadcaster and philanthropist Katie Piper, fashion entrepreneur and advocate for women’s fertility issues, Velda Tan from Singapore and Spanish entrepreneur and creative director Inés Arroyo, are amongst the judges.
“International Women’s Day 2023 marked the launch of The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project to honour the legacy of our co-founder, Rose Mattus, and create a fund platform to provide opportunities to women across all fields around the world who are truly deserving of support and recognition. We were thrilled to receive thousands of nominations across countries and our #WomenWhoDontHoldBack Top 50 shortlist is a compelling and diverse mosaic of trailblazing female narratives that moved us and serve as an inspiration to women everywhere”, says Aurélie Lory, Häagen-Dazs spokesperson.
To find out more about the story of each entrepreneur shortlisted for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project, visit: https://iwd.haagen-dazs.global/en/.
47% of women feel their workplace is not combatting inequality
The proportion of women who feel that their workplace is not taking appropriate measures to combat gender inequality has nearly doubled in a year, a new survey has revealed.
Web Summit, the world’s largest technology event taking place in Lisbon this week, has released its third annual State of Gender Equity in Tech report, which is based on a survey distributed among its women in tech community.
76.1 percent of respondents feel empowered to pursue and/or hold a leadership position; fewer respondents (41.8 %) feel the need to choose between family and career when compared to 2022 (50.4 %); and there is at least one woman in a senior management position in 80.4 percent of respondents’ companies, a similar proportion to last year (81.3%).
The survey found that 70.5 percent of respondents feel pressure to prove their worth compared to male counterparts, while 77.2 percent feel they need to work harder to prove themselves because of their gender.
Over three quarters of respondents (76.1 %) feel empowered to pursue and/or hold a leadership position. And almost half of respondents think that their workplace is not taking appropriate measures to combat gender inequality, increasing from 26 percent in 2022 to 47
percent in 2023.
“While it is encouraging to see progress in some areas, such as those feeling the need to choose between their family and career, there are also some deeply concerning trends within this report. Seeing an increase in those who report having experienced sexism in the workplace in the last year is disheartening in 2023. We hope that this kind of research can breed some positives, and that it will push workplaces – and women within these workplaces – to broach these topics and make progress in these areas,” said Carolyn Quinlan, VP of community at Web Summit.
Last year, 42 percent of attendees at Web Summit were women and 33 percent of speakers were women. In 2023 these numbers have slightly improved with 43 percent of attendees and 38 percent of speakers on stage being women this year.
The women in tech programme at this year’s Web Summit is at capacity, and the women in tech programme at Web Summit Rio 2023 reached capacity in record time.
The WebSummit 2023 is running from November 13th to 16th in Lisbon, Portugal.
Krispy Kreme to give away free donuts on World Kindness Day
American multinational doughnut company and coffeehouse chain, Krispy Kreme, is celebrating “World Kindness Day” today by distributing free donuts in the US and the UK.
The chain is giving away a box of a dozen glazed donuts for free with no purchase necessary. But only the first 500 guests that visit each participating Krispy Kreme US stores on “World Kindness Day”, Monday November 13th, will be able to get a free box of donuts.
Krispy Kreme often gives away free or discounted donuts to generate buzz on special occasions. The company, founded in 1937, traditionally gives out free donuts to customers on National Donut Day, celebrated on the first Friday of June of each year. And in July, a dozen of glazed donuts were sold for 86 cents to celebrate its 86th birthday.
Thousands of free donuts are also expected to be given away today across Krispy Kreme stores in the United Kingdom, with customers being encouraged to ask for the World Kindness Day offer. No purchase necessary.
The company, which operates in over 30 countries around the world, said it wants the brand associated with World Kindness Day to make “meaningful connections” with customers.
“World Kindness Day is an opportunity to make a positive difference by being generous,” Dave Skena, Krispy Kreme’s global chief brand officer, said in a release. “Simple gestures of caring and thanks, including sharing a sweet treat, is a great way to do that.”
Krispy Kreme said that it’s considering expanding a limited partnership it has with McDonald’s to sell more of its donuts at the latter’s location.
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