By Hal Campbell
As we are approaching one-year anniversary of the first lockdown, it is safe to say how lucky we are to have made it today. Reflecting back on the journey, I can’t help but notice many of my girl-friends and friends of friends have plucked up the courage to use this pandemic as an opportunity and create businesses for themselves.
These five business-owners are incredibly talented and most of all, they have REAL PASSION for their products. I found these ladies incredibly inspiring and exceptionally talented. How uplifting it is to see them thriving and earning more income than just their day jobs.
One other thing they share in common is that they are all in the business of e-commerce, selling their products through different online platforms that are wildly popular. Let’s hear from these solo entrepreneurs on their journey of starting a venture from scratch!
Meet Samantha, Jez, Andreea, Norma and Sobia.
1. What is the name of your business and what do you sell?
Samantha: My business is oulo Ltd – selling activewear essentials.
Jez: My business is called JezzzDesigns and I sell local and customised art prints.
Andreea: The name is ‘Into the Stocks’ since that’s our name on Instagram. Our main product is detailed but easy to read company research made for the everyday investor. These reports analyse key aspects ranging from commercial activity to management quality to finances & profitability. Each report will also include a fair value calculation of the company’s share price. Our mission is to enable everyday investors to invest with confidence.
Norma: KOFFI COLLECTION is a women’s fashion accessories brand, we sell cute handbags, statement jewelry & sunglasses.
Sobia: The name of my business is Sweets by Sobia and I sell bespoke treat boxes, consisting of cakesicles, geo hearts and sugar cookies. Soon to be expanding to cupcakes also.
2. What gave you the inspiration to start the business during lockdown?
Samantha: I’ve always wanted to start my own business but never had the time to look into/manage it by myself. Having that extra time from not having to commute and having a better work-life balance gave me the confidence that I could start to manage a small project/business from home and give it a go. In terms of the business idea, I practice a lot of yoga and found it expensive to buy high-quality yoga gear for my practice. I believe yoga should be for everyone and activewear shouldn’t come at a non-accessible price tag.
Jez: I was inspired to set this up completely randomly! In all honesty, I was bored as I was on summer for university and my internship fell through due to COVID so I started doing some designs for fun. I posted one on a local Facebook page and when I realised people had an interest in my designs I never stopped!
Andreea: We saw that retail investing had really started to take off with the growing popularity of mobile tradings apps. We also realised that the thought of investing can be quite daunting, particularly when good sources of information are hard to find and most people don’t fancy reading a 200-page annual company report. Given our finance backgrounds and our personal investing success, we want to enable more people to grow their wealth by investing in the stock market. Investing used to be exclusively for the rich, but if the last year taught us anything is that anyone can benefit from it.
Norma: l am absolutely obsessed with accessories and styling them with cute outfits. I initially thought about creating a brand before 2020, as I wanted ownership of something and to create something that’s my own. When lockdown happened it was the perfect opportunity to dedicate my time to launch my brand, it was either now or never.
Sobia: I’m not the kind of person to be able to sit still, even when at home. When I had to go on furlough, I found my days dragging far too much. I’m a busy body at heart. I have been a pastry chef for 8 years so I’m used to long grueling hours in my work life. I thought there’s no better time to start now during lockdown as I finally have the time to concentrate on learning how to start a business and how I will be able to make it work from my home kitchen. My husband and I are very competitive with each other when it comes to making money/achieving goals and saving up, that’s what drives me. With his support, I was inspired to branch out on my own rather than make profits for a larger company. I love baking and it shows in my products.
3. Have you met with any setbacks?
Samantha: Learning it all has been a whole new experience and challenge, from building an online website, building a social media platform,… to learning the rules and regulations in a completely new industry.
Jez: In terms of setbacks there have been no major problems however it has been a massive learning journey. I have had to deal with a wide variety of people, learn how to be reliant on other people (such as printing shops).
Andreea: About 6 months into Instagram, our page wasn’t gaining much traction, despite a lot of hours put into our research. We were very close to throwing in the towel but managed to push through and we just had the best month yet in terms of follower growth – plus over half of our Patreon memberships have been taken!
Norma: I haven’t had so many ‘setbacks’ but I’ve had to learn a lot about running a business. From learning about the finances to branding and marketing and so much more, however, it’s been an interesting journey so far. But l am learning so much and the brand will continue to grow so I’m excited to see what the future holds.
Sobia: Definitely the size of my kitchen and the amount of orders I have received.
4. What has been the best highlight of the business so far?
Samantha: Developing and designing the sustainable collections which is where the business is going. Through understanding and educating myself on new sustainable fabrics, I hope to soon offer these to my clients and help them make the transition from traditional fabrics to eco-friendly garments without having to pay a high price tag in doing so.
Jez: I think the best highlight of my business so far is seeing my print design in a local magazine! Although I have seen my work in physical form hundreds of times it was so exciting to know that this had been delivered to so many homes!
Andreea: The highlight of it all has to be the feedback that we get from our community. The one that hit home the most is when one of our close friends sent us this: “I cracked +£1k in return today 😭 just wanted to say thanks because I wouldn’t have any without you guys 😂🤗” This is a guy that would never have thought about investing before – but through talking to us and constantly following our page, he managed to build a portfolio of stocks and start growing his savings.
Norma: The highlight so far is customers telling me how much they love the items they’ve bought and seeing them wearing the collection. It genuinely makes me happy to know that they love the items as much as l do.
Sobia: The best highlight has definitely been this particular weekend for Valentine’s day. Never in my dreams, I thought I would have to say ‘sold out’ in my first 6 weeks of a business. It’s been a real high especially working down to the wire and getting back into a working lifestyle.
5. Where can we get our hands on your lovely products?
Jez: My products are available on my shop www.jezzzdesigns.com
Sobia: I am reachable on Instagram @sweetsbysobia and Facebook to purchase my products for now.
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