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TEAM ZOELLA SEPTEMBER 23, 2020

Meet the Entrepreneurs Who Launched Businesses in Lockdown

With more time on our hands to reflect on what we want from life and our careers, these quick-thinking entrepreneurs made the best of a bad situation, turning their side hustles and part-time passions into fully-fledged businesses.

We all know coronavirus has had a devastating impact on the economy and business on a global scale, with many small and micro business owners facing massive adaptations or even closures.

It presented a unique opportunity for emerging businesses

On a brighter note, however, it also presented a unique opportunity for emerging businesses to find their feet and put that old adage ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ to the test.

With more time on our hands to reflect on what we want from life and our careers, these quick-thinking entrepreneurs made the best of a bad situation, turning their side hustles and part-time passions into fully-fledged businesses.

From date night and pick ‘n’ mix boxes to tie-dye delights we got chatting to these small business owners to find out how they managed not only to survive financially in the middle of a pandemic but to thrive.

Whether you’re looking for some expert advice on how to develop your business ideas or build a brand from scratch, these are the budding business brains you’ll want to pick.

Box42

The current pandemic has seen a flurry of innovation, with small businesses filling gaps left by bigger businesses, what inspired you to launch your business in lockdown?

At the start of lockdown, my boyfriend and I realised we were missing our regular date night routineBox42

At the start of lockdown, my boyfriend and I realised we were missing our regular date night routine, where every week we would go out for a meal/drink, or a see show or do some activity together. It was our way of guaranteeing fun quality time together. But being stuck indoors, we were really struggling to come up with interesting date night ideas. Everything we found online sounded uninspired: cook together, work out together, watch a movie together, etc. This got us thinking, what if we could create an entire date night experience, stuff it in a box, and ship it to people?! And so Box42 was born! We’ve launched a date night subscription box that makes date nights at home fun, easy and meaningful.

What resources did you find useful?

Social media has been amazing for getting the word out – Twitter, Facebook and of course Instagram! We remember having 0 followers to begin with, and wondering how people get their first follower. But now almost everyone who has found us – including the journalists who have written about us – has found us because of social media. Other than that we haven’t used any specific resources and have just relied on good old Googling to figure out how to build a website, do SEO, find suppliers, etc.

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business?

We had the idea for Box42 in early May, then spent the next two months setting up the company, gaining followers, designing our product and engaging with influencers and journalists. We got our first sale in early July. It was slow to start with but now we’re getting more orders every day than we can fulfil! So for us, it was a 4-month journey from an idea to a successful business.

What’s your top tip for turning a side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

Our top tip is to be resilient! We spent one month between our website being ready and our first sale. There were many points in our journey when it would have been easy (and tempting) to give up and consider our investment a sunk cost. We would recommend anyone starting out gives their business the time it takes to grow sustainably. Stay motivated and don’t stop pushing ahead!

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

Every day running Box42 is completely different as there’s always a new fire to fight – too many or too few orders, supplier delays, incorrect items, website issues, financial decisions, etc. On an average day we start working on Box42 around 8am every morning.

The evening is then spent brainstorming our next themeBox42

8am-12pm is spent on our laptops ordering new supplies, posting on social media and responding to emails. 1-4pm is spent packing boxes so that we have enough to ship out that day. At 4pm we head to the post office to send our boxes out. The evening is then spent brainstorming our next theme and working on the design of those products. We finally finish around 11pm and head to bed. Over the day we’re also replying to any customer emails as they come through. 

We try to take a short break for lunch and dinner so that we can cook and eat healthy, and also try to get some exercise in the morning. And when we have social commitments we try to prioritise these to maintain some semblance of a work-life balance. Despite trying to plan things in advance, many days get thrown off by an unforeseen problem which puts us back behind schedule!


How do you build a brand from scratch? Do you have any step by step advice?

Building a brand from scratch is never easy. Our main advice is to be as personal as possible. This is obviously hard when you’re a big brand with many hundreds of customers, but when you’re starting out small, it’s a great way to build really strong relationships which will help you grow in the long term. For us this is the main reason we’ve not yet had a single customer unsubscribe from Box42 so far.

We recommend reaching our personally (i.e. not the same generic copy & pasted messages) to everyone your business relates to – influencers, journalists, customers, suppliers, etc. Everyone loves supporting small businesses so don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice.

What’s been your biggest learning so far?

The biggest thing we’ve learnt is how difficult it is to rank on the first page of Google.Box42

The biggest thing we’ve learnt is how difficult it is to rank on the first page of Google. When we set up the business, we assumed that since we were called “Box42” and we had registered an account on Google Search, we would show up when someone searched for “Box42”. Learning about domain authority and backlinks and SEO was not part of our plan until we realised its importance. We invested probably a month’s effort into speeding up our website, creating online content, learning about SEO and strategising about how to gain backlinks, all in an effort to show up when someone searched us on Google. 

Now we are usually the first result for Box42 and on the first page for most relevant search terms, but the rabbit hole that is SEO was a huge shock for us at the time. We have massive respect for every business that has gotten to the first page of Google – especially anyone who’s done it in under a year!

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge?

Our advice is to make sure you have a good idea, and then give it everything you have! Every time you walk down a street or drive down a road, chances are you’ll pass tens of businesses that once started with one person and an idea. Many businesses do fail – that’s not a secret – so it’s important to get some validation about your idea early on.

Speak to bloggers, customers and other authorities in your industry who can provide some insight into your idea. If you think your idea can stand on it’s own two feet, go for it, don’t give up and you’ll make it work! The sense of accomplishment for building something by yourself and becoming your own boss is something everyone should experience at least once.

Starting from zero is no easy task and we have the highest level of respect for every entrepreneur out there who is putting their heart and soul into a startup. But for anyone on the fence, we’ll take inspiration from Nike to give you our advice: “Just Do It”

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

The early stages of a business are tough and we probably aren’t at the point where we can maintain an ideal work-life balance. Our advice would be to draw boundaries and be really clear on priorities – don’t overpromise and be realistic about what you expect from yourself. We make it a point to set aside time to see family & friends, for exercise, to eat healthily and maintain good habits. You can’t run a business if you’re ill.

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis?

What’s important is to celebrate the successes as they come, and not spend too long worrying about what the future brings.Box 42

Almost every couple of days we inevitably question whether we were just very lucky, or whether everything is going to fall apart in another week. It’s not so much imposter syndrome as a sense of disbelief in what we’ve created with Box42. What’s important is to celebrate the successes as they come, and not spend too long worrying about what the future brings. It’s only reality that many small businesses do not last past their first year so confidence crises are inevitable, but we try to stay optimistic and always reflect on how much we’ve grown. 

It’s easy to feel insecure and overwhelmed looking at other businesses that might be getting more exposure or success, but we try to focus on comparing only against ourselves and where we were a month or two ago. It’s our way of maintaining perspective and keeping our expectations realistic, while also maintain our motivation and optimistic spirit!

Blaqbase App

The current pandemic has seen a flurry of innovation, with small businesses filling gaps left by bigger businesses, what inspired you to launch your business in lockdown?

Blaqbase is a curated shopping app with premium and high-quality products by black women.Blaqbase App

I started working on my app idea in June 2019 and spent a lot of 2019 gaining the skills that I needed to launch the Blaqbase app. Blaqbase is a curated shopping app with premium and high-quality products by black women. I started this because I couldn’t find the products I wanted in local department stores or the high street eg makeup and hair care for black women. In the process of looking for what I needed online, I discovered that brands by black women weren’t easy to discover and they were the least funded group in business.

When lockdown came I was put on furlough which meant I had more time on my hands to refine my idea. The Black Lives Matter protests that happened in June and subsequent initiatives like Black Out Tuesday were sadly catalysts that shined a light on what I had been working on and led to me launching the shopping version of my app. The need to support black-owned businesses was pushed to the forefront.

What resources did you find useful?

The tech programme that I went on called TechUpWomen was instrumental to my progress and acquiring the skills I needed. In terms of getting the word out the most useful resource that led to growth for my app was Twitter where people shared the app and gave their feedback as well as Instagram where influencers from other ethnic backgrounds spread the word about Blaqbase. 

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business?

I had the idea in June 2019 and had a working version in September 2019. In June 2020 I launched the shopping app version which enabled the app to start getting revenue. The development of the app is ongoing.

What’s your top tip for turning a side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

You have to factor in your life circumstances to the plan of how long it will take for this to happen. You may have family commitments like I have or limited resources meaning you have to devote time instead of money. In doing this you will hopefully stop comparing yourself to other people’s success stories by understanding the different variables at play. 

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

Part of the joy of running this for me is the flexibility of changing my days so there is no monotony. There is no typical day. I wear a lot of hats which means I’m always on a learning curve for the most part. My days include research, outreach, building relationships, pitching, strategy, creative planning, filling gaps by learning news skills and more.

How do you build a brand from scratch? Do you have any step by step advice?

There are a lot of moving pieces to brand building- start with what comes naturally, learn what you don’t know and hire experts for what you are not good at. Blaqbase App

I believe there is a lot of well-intended structured advice out there but what makes the difference is authenticity and being able to communicate the reason why this is your passion and the values that underpin what you are doing. You then need to find the right way to share this with people that will be interested in what you are offering. There are a lot of moving pieces to brand building- start with what comes naturally, learn what you don’t know and hire experts for what you are not good at. It’s important to remember Rome wasn’t built in a day and you shouldn’t try to build your brand in the same way that a billion-dollar company does it because the company has access to significantly more resources.

What’s been your biggest learning so far?

You don’t have to know everything and everything you try won’t always work out how you thought it would but keep going because it will attract people that believe in what you are doing.

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge?

Get on with it, just do it. There will never be a perfect moment. If it doesn’t work, try something else- there is nothing to lose only lessons to learn.

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

I love watching trash TV every now and again. I listen to my body and my mind and adapt this to my style of working which is intense bursts of creativity and productivity and living in the moment. 

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis?

All the time but I understand that it’s because I’m doing something that I don’t have a blueprint for. I just keep going because I am driven by helping others and seeing what I can achieve when I focus on seeing results.

Three Sisters Farm

The current pandemic has been a flurry of innovation, with small business filling gaps left by bigger businesses. What inspired you to launch your business?

Jessica moved 200 miles back to our hometown of Essex, more uncertainty followed when Philippa was made redundant in AprilThree Sisters Farm

The pandemic created a lot of uncertainty for everybody and being close to family was the number one priority for us. As a result, Jessica moved 200 miles back to our hometown of Essex, more uncertainty followed when Philippa was made redundant in April, after a 15-year career in the city.

Lockdown was a pivotal moment for us as we strived for certainty within an uncertain world. Our original idea was to own a farm with the ideology of becoming self-sufficient and live a sustainable lifestyle. However, after watching multiple farming TV shows, Jessica realised the farming life wasn’t for her! After a bit of brainstorming, we saw a real gap in the market for a sustainable alternative to floral designs and homeware. We also could see a big shift in consumer behaviour with an increase in supporting small businesses and shopping local, this gave us the confidence to enter the market.

What resources did you find useful?

A Phone. As cliché as it sounds, you really can run a business from your phone.

Instagram. This platform is hugely powerful. You have free access to a wealth of information, facts, mentors, insights and audiences all from your sofa. We both follow a lot of entrepreneurial women on Instagram, who really fed our appetite for self-belief and a desire to succeed.

Google. Philippa is the type of person to google EVERYTHING. We spent a long time asking google questions, researching competitors and suppliers, and looking into trends and online publications.

Amazon. Love it or hate it, it enabled us to become professional photographers overnight by spending £100 on photography equipment.

People. Every single person you meet can add value to your life in one way or another, ask questions, join clubs and make friends with everyone along the way. People buy people.

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business? 

We worked day and night to get the business up and running within a matter of weeks.Three Sisters Farm

Philippa never does anything by halves. As soon as we had the idea, Jessica devised the name and the logo was designed that evening. The idea has evolved somewhat since creation; however, we quickly materialised our ideas into a reality. We both took an online floristry course and became web designers overnight. We worked day and night to get the business up and running within a matter of weeks.

What’s your top tip for turning your side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

Plan, plan and plan some more oh and don’t forget the amount of work involved. It really is blood, sweat and tears. Jessica is still working full time, so we must work smart but also still have a steady income. We have made sacrifices along the way and lockdown helped as it meant we didn’t go on holiday or even meet with friends. But ask yourself these questions; What do you want to achieve and how can you get there? Are there any areas that you can expand on without external help? How can you maximise on your current situation?   

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

There is no such thing as a typical day, which can be mentally challenging. We spend a lot of time planning our objectives for the week ahead, fully aware that it can change hour by hour. We are both part of the 5am club, allowing us enough time for what is most important to us, family, healthy minds and the business.

Today we have discussed our new pampas grass stock, which we are super excited about as the new season is starting. We have negotiated with our commercial landlord regarding the lease we have just signed. We have responded to customer enquiries, walked Kevin our pug dog and taken Henry (Philippa’s son) to his weekly Tennis lessons. This evening will consist of interacting with our customer base on Instagram, making bouquets and packing orders.

What’s been your biggest learning so far?

Working for yourself really highlights your strengths and weaknesses. You can lean on a company for so long but when it is just you, you really must be honest with yourself.

Making mistakes is inevitable but essential. Philippa has given Jessica a lot of reassurance that the mistakes we have made along the way are paramount to our future successes. You cannot have the good without the bad is a great saying.

How to build a brand from scratch?

To create a brand, ask yourself two simple questions: Why buy? Why buy from us?

Visualising the dream will bring the brand to life.Three Sisters Farm

The ‘why buy from us’ question allows you to explore the values of your brand. We brainstormed what it meant to us. It means family, so every customer is part of our family. It means a personal touch, that is why we send our customer’s handwritten cards to say thanks. We also wanted to give back to charities and communities so have decided to donate some of our profits and will continue to work with those that need help. Visualising the dream will bring the brand to life.

All parts of the business need to come together for the brand to be successful. For example; sourcing our sustainable packaging and ensuring our suppliers match our values is paramount to us.

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge?

The pandemic made us realise, life is too short. Life is for living and what is the worst that could happen?

As women, we are generally programmed to think of every possible risk or reason not to take the plunge, rather than believing in yourself and making it happen. Why doesn’t the risk of losing an opportunity outweigh the fear of going for it? We keep reminding ourselves to feel the fear and do it anyway.

How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Philippa: Being a single mum and working in the city for such a long time meant I had to create a work-life balance early on. Ensuring I have ‘quiet me time’ in the mornings is so important to my mental health. When planning a busy week ahead, self-care and family time are factored in. Now I work for myself I have more time for hobbies and it is so important to know my limits and when to stop or say no.

Jessica: Keeping it simple and bringing it back to nature is what gives me a great work/life balance. Walking every day, listening to podcasts and guided meditation keeps me grounded. Eating a fresh and healthy diet is super important for my mental health, bad food equals bad mood!  

Don’t get us wrong, it is so hard to keep that balance. There have been many late nights fuelled by sugar however, these only take you so far and in order to keep going, you need to put yourself first and give your mind and body what it deserves.

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis? 

Philippa:

I am no stranger to imposter syndrome after working in a high profile male-dominated industry for such a long time. What I have learnt is that everyone and I mean everyone, has self-doubt and that this is normal.

To tackle this, I continually work on myself by reading self-help books, counselling, coaching and surrounding myself with influential women. Self-compassion is the most powerful tool you can have.  

Jessica:

Separate feeling from fact – What you feel isn’t always a representation of the truth.Three Sisters Farm

As the youngest member in the family and with a 10 year age gap between Philippa and I, I am used to feeling like an imposter. Working alongside Philippa is perfect for me as I am being pushed outside my comfort zone. She treats me as an equal 100% of the time and is always boosting my confidence. This shows that age is nothing but a number and that I have the skills and ability to be an equal partner in our business.

Some sound advice that has helped us both is ‘separate feeling from fact’. What you feel isn’t always a representation of the truth.

Treat Boxx

The current pandemic has seen a flurry of innovation, with small businesses filling gaps left by bigger businesses, what inspired you to launch your business in lockdown?

With everyone unable to go shopping as normal and the online shopping industry booming – Treat Boxx the Online Pick n Mix Shop was born!Treat Boxx

Prior to the Pandemic, I was working as a Bridal Makeup Artist & Lash Technician whilst also working part-time on a Beauty Counter, so I had a steady income all year round. But once the Lockdown took hold I got put on Furlough, lost a whole year’s worth of weddings and had to shut my Beauty studio. Randomly I decided to send my sister some Treats as she lives 3+ hours away, it was just a box filled with different chocolates but she loved it. I started to think this could work as a Business, with everyone unable to go shopping as normal and the online shopping industry booming – Treat Boxx the Online Pick n Mix Shop was born. I had a lot of time to think in Lockdown about what I wanted to do with my career and if I was truly happy, now I’m aiming to get Treat Boxx to Full Time as I enjoy it that much.

What resources did you find useful?

I listen to a lot of podcasts on Business and watch Youtube Videos – my biggest inspiration is Ben Francis who owns Gymshark! It’s a completely different business but he started from a spare room and grew this incredible brand which is very inspiring. I’ve also been looking into online courses for anything I don’t fully understand such as marketing. 

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business?

About 1 month, luckily I studied Graphic Design at university so once I had the idea I started planning it all out and designing my brand. Which also saved me a lot of money as I can do everything myself. I then launched a very basic website, quickly learnt which functions worked well/what didn’t and then upgraded to a far more user-friendly website a few weeks later which I again designed myself. This was combined with sourcing packaging, planning logistics, figuring out stock and how my brand actually fits together. I went through a number of different ideas, branding and packaging options and even name changes until I was happy with everything!

What’s your top tip for turning a side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

This is something I’m still working on but I’d say resilience and confidence is very important! Nothing comes easy and you can’t always be looking at the quick option – there are always going to be struggles but you’ve got to keep trying because eventually, it will pay off.

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

Each week I take time to look ahead and plan for upcoming key dates that could tie into advertising or product campaigns. Treat Boxx

First thing I always do is check for any orders that have come in so I know what I need to put together throughout the day, I’ll often head to the Royal Mail Post Office to drop all my parcels in the morning. Then throughout the day I update my social media and take photographs for advertisements as I’m fulfilling orders. Each week I take time to look ahead and plan for upcoming key dates that could tie into advertising or product campaigns. Currently, Halloween is my big focus, but soon I’ll be moving onto the Christmas products I’ll be stocking.

There is also a lot of admin and logistics that takes time, so making sure I’m tracking everything and I’m up-to-date on everything I need to take care of. 

How do you build a brand from scratch? Do you have any step by step advice?

First, you need a solid idea, I went between 2 slightly different business ideas for a week or so before I finally decided on Treat Boxx. Then you can start designing the brand or getting someone to design it for you. You need to think about your initial investment this will play a big role in creating your solid idea, you need to make sure you can cover every aspect from the design, to stock etc… don’t run before you can walk and take on so much that you’re out of your depth. 

What’s been your biggest learning so far?

It’s very easy to grow a client base in a small town but an online shop which can sell all over the UK and World Wide is a different ball game.Treat Boxx

Marketing – running an online shop is very different from Beauty. It’s very easy to grow a client base in a small town but an online shop which can sell all over the UK and World Wide is a different ball game. Marketing is something I’m constantly having to learn, understanding analytics and social media. Also how to use the relationship side of building a brand to engage future customers and hopefully ensure people return! It’s something I’m still learning and plan to develop more but it’s also really exciting to see the business grow and where it can hopefully end up!

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge?

Follow your gut as cliché as it sounds. I knew in Lockdown I needed to make a big change, and whilst the entire situation was pretty awful had it not happened, I wouldn’t have changed career paths. I think a lot of people have felt this way as we all finally got to stop and really look at our lives. Obviously, weigh up the risks, I was in a position where I had zero work so I didn’t really have anything to lose. It could be the biggest mistake you make, but it could also be the most amazing and for me that definitely wins. 

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

I knew I could eventually get this to Full Time, hopefully, employ people to help me further down the road and just create a far better balance overall.Treat Boxx

Luckily at the minute, I have a lot of free time, however, before Lockdown I was working 3 jobs, all weekends especially through summer when it’s Bridal season so I didn’t really have a healthy balance. This was my main decision-maker when it came to starting an entirely new Business I knew I could eventually get this to Full Time, hopefully, employ people to help me further down the road and just create a far better balance overall. With Bridal & Lashes didn’t give me the flexibility I was really after in the long term. 

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis?

Yes all the time, people always say to me “you seem so calm, nothing worries you” whereas 90% of the time I’m feeling the opposite, I think I’m just very good at hiding it. With Treat Boxx as I’m working by myself, I’ve not really come across this so far, but I’m sure as it grows there will be times I feel out of my depth but I think that’s the exciting thing about running your own Business.

Tingle

The current pandemic has seen a flurry of innovation, with small businesses filling gaps left by bigger businesses, what inspired you to launch your business in lockdown? 

I wanted to allow other women to discover these amazing brands and innovative products and to be able to enjoy them for an affordable price. Tingle

I’m really into my beauty and skincare, so when my products started to run low during the lockdown – I really started to panic as I couldn’t go to the shops and online stores were focusing on essential items so I started to discover products and brands that I wouldn’t generally buy which lead me to create Tingle. I wanted to allow other women to discover these amazing brands and innovative products and to be able to enjoy them for an affordable price. With people around the country being unable to leave their house – what better way to provide them with their monthly beauty fix, than having a box full of products arrive on your doorstep!

What resources did you find useful?

I read an awful lot of books around business and startups- these really helped me to learn about starting a business in a lot more depth. 

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business?

It definitely took a few months, and there was quite a delay due to the pandemic, however, due to the demand – I had to turn everything around in shorter space of time than I would have liked to – which lead to a few mistakes here and there – but one’s that I’ve definitely learnt from.

What’s your top tip for turning a side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

Passion is key, it’s so important to ensure that you’re really invested in whatever it is that you’re doing otherwise you risk either getting bored or giving up. 

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

I wake up at around 6.30am, check and send emails in bed, 7am – shower and get ready for the day then take our dog Ace for a walk in the forest. 9am-11am I start processing any orders that have come in through the night, this is a whole pick and pack process. 11am-1pm I’m back on my laptop responding to emails and any customer service queries. 1pm-1.30pm I give myself 30 mins for lunch and read the latest news online. 1.30-3pm I’m back on emails and more often than not I’m on a zoom call, either with suppliers or potential suppliers. 3pm-5pm This when I tend to work on social, so focusing on building engagement, scheduling posts, responding to comments, creating stories etc. 5pm-6pm – I’m back to processing any orders that have come in throughout the day and responding to customer service queries and any emails. I think it’s important to always be in touch with the customer, whether it’s answering a question or simply providing an update. 

Once it gets to 6-6.30 I try to close my laptop for at least a few hours so I can cook and spend the evening not overthinking or worrying – however, I do always have my phone by my side as to keep up with any social updates and also so that I don’t miss any important emails.

How do you build a brand from scratch? Do you have any step by step advice? 

My main advice would be to be clear on your offering and what problem you are solving with your product or service from the outset.

What’s been your biggest learning so far? 

Expense and time! I learnt very quickly that building a brand is not only expensive but extremely time-consuming, its something I’m gradually learning to manage. It can be scary as after all you’re taking a risk and putting your all into creating your dream.

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge? 

First of all don’t be afraid to do it, as well as ensuring that you’re in a position to do so financially. 

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance? 

I’ve really had to prioritise but I’ve had to create boundaries, so I generally work from 8am-6pm and then ensure that my evenings are spent with my fiancé and the dog. However, I must admit that there are some nights where I am up all night working – I do just try to ensure it doesn’t happen too often.

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis? 

I literally have to psyche myself up and force myself to OWN my accomplishments.Tingle

I get it all of the time, I literally have to psyche myself up and force myself to OWN my accomplishments. I also sometimes try to visualise success which is something that always keeps me going because I have a goal and I want to reach it so I can’t let anything get it my way. Luckily I’ve got a really supportive Fiance who gives me that extra push whenever that dreaded self-doubt starts to creep in.

Down Rainbow Lane

The current pandemic has seen a flurry of innovation, with small businesses filling gaps left by bigger businesses, what inspired you to launch your business in lockdown?

My business actually started from me making tie-dye bandanas for all of my friends.Down Rainbow Lane

I’ve always been an advocate for small independent businesses and have always loved the personal touch you get from them. If I’m going to be completely honest my business actually started from me making tie-dye bandanas for all of my friends, I then went on to post them with other little gifts and a cute card to cheer everyone up while we were in complete lockdown. It was from that I ended up making some for myself, wearing them and then having people enquire about where they could get theirs, so I started making and selling them to some of my Instagram followers and so on. During all this, I got made redundant from my job which inspired me to push this even more – and it seemed like EVERYBODY wanted one, from there Down Rainbow Lane was born. I was never expecting this to happen but I couldn’t be any more grateful and proud that it did.

What resources did you find useful?

I’ve worked in fashion since I was 16, for big companies and then also for smaller independent companies and I feel I have learnt so much along the way from all different aspects. From the business side to the customer service to how you should be packaging your orders. Taking inspiration from other small accounts/businesses held a massive role in this and already have an amazing Instagram community around me. 

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business?

So for the first few months, I was working through my own personal Instagram via stories as I never expected it to grow this big but as you can imagine the messages amongst personal messages was getting too hot to handle. The amount of amazing content I was receiving off my customers were just too good not to share and that’s why I then went on to create a separate Instagram solely for the brand and it kept growing from there. 

What’s your top tip for turning a side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

Believe in yourself and love what you do. I genuinely don’t think if I didn’t enjoy creating the items, loving the items myself and every message that came through then this wouldn’t have worked the way it did.

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

Engaging with other small businesses and customers, planning the feed, getting inspiration for new colours coming through for A/WDown Rainbow Lane

So I usually take two to three days a week to topping up stock. As all my products are tie-dye/bleach effect it takes a few days to set, be washed and then dried. The other day’s I’m quite lucky as apart from packaging up orders which I tend to do as soon as they come through I can work from my phone remotely. This includes engaging with other small businesses and customers, planning the feed, getting inspiration for new colours coming through for A/W and trying to grow my account to a wider audience. 

How do you build a brand from scratch? Do you have any step by step advice?

I would definitely start by saying don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get everything right first time as that can hold you back. Let the brand grow as you grow and learn. Find your product (and something you love) and how you want to market it. Create socials for it and get it out there. Ask your friends and family to support you and keep it authentic to you. 

What’s been your biggest learning so far?

I’ve already learnt so much along the way by trial and error of my own. My main learning has definitely been to understand that things may drop down before they go cop and that’s completely normal.

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge?

Don’t expect to or get yourself down for it not being exactly how you vision it to be straight away. Believe in yourself. Set your (realistic) goals that are still going to ensure you work hard.

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

It’s amazing how many people shop in the middle of the night!Down Rainbow Lane

As I am now working from home doing this rather than getting up and going to a head office its definitely been important that I still structure my day with my morning alarm, eating and going to sleep. I am very lucky that I can be anywhere and still able to reply to messages / connect with people at any time of the day. It’s amazing how many people shop in the middle of the night!

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis?

For me, I find it more where am I going to take this next, what does the future hold, how can build on this and find my next big item. It’s a part of the business I’m always going to have to deal with but its what I love, being creative, inspired and finding new things. 

Bee’s Blankets

The current pandemic has seen a flurry of innovation, with small businesses filling gaps left by bigger businesses, what inspired you to launch your business in lockdown?

My best friend kept on at me to create an Instagram profile for my knitted homeware and when I did, it opened a new world of possibilitiesBee’s Blankets

I was lucky enough not to be furloughed during lockdown but day to day business did dwindle so I wanted to fill my evenings and lunch breaks with something which made me happy and took my mind off of the current situation. My grandmother has always been a knitter and taught me to knit as a child so I decided to pick that up again – originally, I started knitting things for myself and my family but soon my friends wanted to order things too and word spread quicker than I could keep up! My best friend kept on at me to create an Instagram profile for my knitted homeware and when I did, it opened a new world of possibilities and that’s how Bee’s Blankets was born. 

What resources did you find useful?

My specialism is Digital Marketing so I am aware of how to market products via social media but doing it for yourself is a completely different ball game. I started by doing some hashtag research to make sure I found the most relevant hashtags for my products and then began liking and following accounts that I believed might be interested in my knitted homeware. Once I’d gotten to point where I felt I had made enough profit to fund a paid campaign, I utilised Instagram’s paid ads service which really increased my reach, followers and likes. I didn’t pay much for it but it certainly helped! I then decided to reach out to a small influencer with an offer to send her one of my cushions, if she would be happy to post a picture or two of it – she agreed and so my first influencer campaign went live. This was a game-changer and I gained a lot of followers and likes very quickly, other influencers also began sharing my page as a favour to their friends which was amazing! I also utilised Facebook marketplace in my local area which turned into my biggest source of orders so don’t knock the things that are right in front of you!

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business?

I started my journey on August 4th when I created the Bee’s Blankets Instagram account and by the middle of September, it is a fully-fledged lockdown business. 

 

What’s your top tip for turning a side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

Work hard, believe in yourself and do what makes you happy. Track everything, every single penny you spend, every piece of stock you have, every order you get and make sure you keep that up – getting ahead of things makes turning your side hustle into a profitable business much easier!

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

In the evenings I make sure to take photos of orders/stock and upload them to Instagram so that my content is up to date too!Bee’s Blankets

I wake up and look at any orders that have come in overnight, I check those orders against stock and decide if I need to order more wool to create them. If I don’t have the stock available, I will order the wool that morning and get on with creating the orders that I do have stock for. I will spend at least 5 hours knitting on and off so that I can get as many orders ready for postage as possible. Once they’re created, I tick them off on my spreadsheet and package them up ready for postage. Once they’re ready, off to the post office we go. In the evenings I make sure to take photos of orders/stock and upload them to Instagram so that my content is up to date too! That’s important! and then we do it all again the next day. 

How do you build a brand from scratch? Do you have any step by step advice?

Start with social media. Guage interest in your product or service and decide if you’ll be able to take it further. 

Don’t rush yourself into paying for an expensive website or lots of stock if you aren’t sure you’ll be able to make that money back straight away, really think about your financial decisions. 

Begin by offering your product or service in local buying and selling groups of Facebook, try Gumtree, eBay or Depop. 

Once you have begun to make a little profit, reinvest it if you’re able. Bee’s Blankets

Once you have begun to make a little profit, reinvest it if you’re able. Start looking into online advertising services via Facebook and Instagram, they might seem scary but they aren’t difficult to use and they won’t cost you the earth if you don’t want them to. 

Make sure you analyse your results from these campaigns before setting up another one. Look at the followers you gained, are they the type of people you want to be following you? Look at the reach, could you invest a little more next time? Look at the likes, did they go up or do you think you could use another image or maybe try a video in your next ad? 

If you have the ability to do so, try reaching out to some smaller influences and ask if they’d be happy to promote your product/service. Make sure you check their engagement rates though, look at their followers and then look at the number of likes and comments they’re getting on each post. If they’re getting a reasonable amount of likes for the number of followers they have and lots of comments, then they’re likely to be legit, if they have thousands of followers and only 30 likes per post, steer clear. 

Be true to yourself throughout this process and remember that this is your baby, don’t be too hard on yourself and do it because you love doing it. You’ll have to make some mistakes before you can flourish but treat them all as learning opportunities. Your brand will come naturally but it might take a few goes before you get it spot on! 

What’s been your biggest learning so far?

I’ve had two biggest learnings so far.

Number 1 is to make sure you are being paid your worth. I know it’s easy to be tempted into offering cheaper products and forfeiting your profit in order to increase your customer base but it doesn’t work out in the long run. Make sure you’re accounting for all of your outgoings, stock cost, postage and packaging, ads, influencers etc and most importantly your time. You’re trying to make a living, remember that! 

Number 2 is that your product isn’t going to be for everyone and that’s okay. Set up a refund policy and disclaimers so that you’re covered in the event that something goes wrong (which it will) and you’re asked for a returns slip. And stick to it!

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge?

Just do it! Start slow and build yourself up. Stick to your day job and turn your hobby into a business on the side before you go all out and take the plunge into full-time small business ownership. Having a 9-5 can help you financially and give you a safety net if you have a bad month but most of all, just enjoy the process! You’re already miles ahead of anyone who hasn’t even found their hobby or side hustle yet, go for it! 

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

This is so important! It’s really easy to get sucked into the idea that you need to work all hours under the sun to maintain a successful business but this isn’t the case. Try to remember that if you were working for a large company, you’d be working a set number of hours, you’d be given holidays and lunch breaks. Do the same with your small business. 

If you’re working alongside a day job too then try and stick to a few hours an evening or one day on the weekend. Maybe take a day’s holiday to catch up on orders or emails. You can still be a boss and take breaks! 

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis?

All. The. Time! If you’re not feeling very confident about a certain aspect of your business or you feel like this shouldn’t be happening to you, try to remind yourself that it’s just your inner critic speaking and that they need to be quiet for a moment. ‘Trust the process’ as they say. 

Others will love your products for what they are and if they don’t, then they won’t buy them and that’s okay too. Bee’s Blankets

If you’re concerned about a product or you don’t think that something is quite right, take a step back, analyse why you’re feeling that way and then see if you can fix it. If you can’t see a fix, maybe there isn’t one and you need to remember that others will love your products for what they are and if they don’t, then they won’t buy them and that’s okay too. 

You’re running a small business, you’re allowed to be judgemental but try not to stay in that place for too long! 

Know a small business that started this year? Drop them in the comments!

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Melanie ForsythCarlaEmma McKnightLisa AutumnGreta Recent comment authors
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Greta
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Greta

Pticoat @ instagram
Handmade underwear brand that started during corona!

Lisa Autumn
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Lisa Autumn

Ahhh so inspiring!

Lisa | lisaautumn.com

Emma McKnight
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Emma McKnight

Love to see so many new small businesses launch and grow over this year! Over lockdown I launched my own small business called Mission Better at http://www.missionbetter.com – selling space themed sustainability starter kits and plastic free products to help people start making changes to launch a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

Carla
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Carla

@ calypsocurated makes handmade sunglasses chains on Instagram! Can also use them for your mask as a strap / holder

Melanie Forsyth
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Melanie Forsyth

All these brands look amazing and I’ve just found the perfect Xmas present for my mum on one of the brands thanks Zoe and gang😁

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