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Female entrepreneurs who used lockdown to start a business



3 British female entrepreneurs who started a business during lockdown in the UK
Record: 340,534 businesses were registered in the UK between January and June 2021, an increase of 32% from the same period in 2019

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.

Clare Davies – founder at personalised bottle soc company Bottle Soc

Clare Davies – founder at personalised bottle soc company Bottle Soc

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”.


Carrie Neely – founder at art, apparel, and interiors brand Myrtle and Mary

Carrie Neely – founder at art, apparel, and interiors brand Myrtle and Mary

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.”


Lizzy Humphrey – Founder at aromatherapy home fragrance brand Epoch London

Lizzy Humphrey – Founder at aromatherapy home fragrance brand Epoch London

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.



Sky Studios Elstree searches for young talent to join Content Academy



Young cameraman filming a singer
Applications for new roles aimed at launching young people into a career in film and TV close on May 15th | Photo: Kyle Loftus

Sky Studios Elstree is on the search for local candidates, in Hertfordshire, to fill 12 fully paid, year-long placements as part of Sky’s Content Academy, aimed at launching young people into careers in the film and TV industry.

The Studio, which is set to open later this year, is looking for eight school leavers and four recent graduates to work at their brand-new site and is calling out for applicants from Borehamwood, Elstree and the surrounding areas.

For school leavers, the roles include four Runners who will be at the heart of the operations of Sky Studios Elstree, working with the Client Services and Operations teams to provide support to some of the biggest productions filming in the UK. There’s also one Rigging and three Lighting roles to be filled and this team will play a critical role in providing set lighting and equipment to clients filming at the studios.

“Elstree and Borehamwood is synonymous with producing world-class film & TV and, as long-term partners in the local area, we are excited to create these new opportunities for young people who want to get in to the industry. These roles allow us to break down barriers to entry, by enabling applicants without previous film or TV experience to secure a paid, full-time role at the heart of the UK’s newest studio. These 12 new roles, on top of the jobs already created locally at the studio, are just the first intake of placements and we’re excited to announce more as we ready for opening later this year.” – says Caroline Cooper, COO at Sky Studios.

When it opens later this year, Sky Studios Elstree will house 13 studios and enable £3bn of production investment over the first five years of operation.

The graduate roles include Senior Runner and Client Services and Operations Trainee positions. These candidates will be responsible for everything from coordinating the runner team, attending production meetings to overall studio operation support. The positions are designed to give people starting out in their career a broad understanding of what goes into productions and the vast range of opportunities available, as well as allowing them to build up their on-set experience and production network.

This opportunity follows Sky’s yearlong partnership with Elstree Screen Arts Academy, coaching students in a documentary project celebrating Elstree & Borehamwood’s rich film and TV heritage. This summer, ESA students will receive first-hand production experience as part of a 6-week summer internship on a variety of Sky Studios productions.

These new roles come after Sky Studios Elstree announced a local recruitment drive late last year for a range of operational roles and for facilities support across the site including security, cleaners and maintenance.

Applications for new roles aimed at launching young people into a career in film and TV close on May 15th  and for further information visit:

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Applications for the 2022 Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant are open until May 20



Young athlete getting ready
In 2021, more than 9,000 athletes benefited from Airbnb athlete support programs, representing more than $4 million in direct support | Photo: Anastase Maragos

Airbnb has opened applications for the next edition of the Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant, in partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The program, which was launched in 2021, offers up to 500 athletes a year $2,000 USD travel grant to use exclusively on the accommodation platform as they travel, train, and compete and will run through 2028.

Last year 500 athletes representing 125 countries and 63 sports benefitted from the Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant program, including Canoe sprint athlete Saied Fazloula, who represented the Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020:

’’I used my Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant for multiple trips before the Olympic Games in Tokyo, including for a training camp and other competitions. It’s incredibly valuable to have this support as a refugee – Airbnb has provided not only a grant, but also a clear head so that I can concentrate on my sport.” – acknowledges Fazloula.

Applications will close on May 20, 2022 at 1:59 pm PDT. The Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant can only be used towards Stays in association with training, medical, or competition-related travel, and is not intended for non-sports-related personal use.

To find out more and apply, visit:

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Top 10 cities for sourcing highly skilled talent in Europe



Young European male professional working on a computer
Forecast: 30-40% of employees are expected to be part of hybrid work settings

A new report by Forrester, a research and advisory firm, has ranked Helsinki, Stockholm, and Copenhagen as the top European hotspots for businesses to recruit highly skilled talent.

Navigating The Leading Skill Clusters Across Europe, ranks 50 cities to help tech and business leaders establish where to source the skills needed for the future. The focus on digital transformation efforts, an aging population, increasing automation, and continued pandemic-related disruptions have created a skills gap in Europe.

The recent study also highlights that Europe‘s heterogeneous skill landscape is led by the North and West. Top ranked cities like Helsinki and Berlin offer a highly educated and diverse workforce with above average language skills and a business-friendly regulatory framework.

“The focus on green and digital revolution coupled with the socio-economic changes have created a noticeable skills gap in Europe, which can be debilitating for business growth,” – says Dan Bieler, principal analyst at Forrester. “To prepare for the future of work, European businesses need to hire talent adept at both technical and soft skills. The Nordics region is teeming with precisely this kind of talent. Recruiting talent from emerging hubs like the Nordics will allow European businesses to accelerate digital transformation efforts and drive long-term business growth.”

The top 10 cities also include Berlin, Hamburg, Oslo, Munich, Vienna, Zurich, and Amsterdam. London, often known as Europe’s tech hub, was ranked 19th — largely due to stringent immigration rules post-Brexit, resulting in London, Manchester, and Birmingham sliding in rankings.

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