Meet the millennials who started new businesses during the pandemic

Krisha Kotak, 28, from Leicestershire was made redundant from her role as a travel PR during lockdown. She used the experience to finally start her own business. She is now the founder of tūla + tye; a sustainable loungewear brand.

I was made redundant from my job in the travel industry right before lockdown started, so I moved back in with my parents, who have worked in the textiles industry for over 40 years. I was keen to get involved in their garment dyeing business as soon as I moved back to keep me busy, but I was also witnessing fast fashion production first-hand, which led me to research how parts of the process could be done more efficiently and sustainably on a smaller scale. Before I knew it, I was speaking to suppliers of recycled fabrics and eco-friendly dyes, and was building my own sustainable loungewear brand!

The whole first collection is tie-dye loungewear. The dyes are non-hazardous to the environment, all of the packaging and labels are made from recycled materials or reusable, and we donate 5% of profits to The Ocean Cleanup.

For the foreseeable future, I will definitely continue to put all my time and energy into tūla + tye! I have always wanted to have my own business, and the whole situation provided the perfect opportunity for me to do so. I imagine I’ll return to the travel industry once it’s back on its feet, but I’m hoping tūla + tye will be the perfect ‘side hustle’

Hannah Gill 30, works in advertising in London. She decided to use lockdown to finally fulfil her dreams of being a professional photographer. Now she’s thinking it may become more than a side-hustle…

I always thought how amazing it would be to be a photographer full time, but with a career in advertising and a seemingly endless list of commitments and admin, the idea sort of stayed that way – an idea.

Then lockdown happened and I really wanted to get creative. With my boyfriend as my (slightly unwilling) subject, I set about documenting our daily walks over March and April, collating the images into a series which I then posted onto Instagram as An A-Z of Isolation.

Fuelled by the encouraging comments and messages from friends, and with lockdown measures lifting, I continued to shoot and to collate photographs and set up H Gill Photography. I set up my own website using Squarespace. Through friends and friends of friends I have already been booked for two ‘lockdown weddings’ in August, and have just received my first wedding booking for next May (which is really exciting). Bring on the rest!

Chloe Collyer, 39, is an art director and designer from London. Feeling confined and frustrated during lockdown, she decided to finally launch her dream project; Fangirl Unauthorised, which is unisex sports fan apparel.

I’d chatted about my ideas for Fangirl Unauthorised and the products I wanted to create for such a long time. When lockdown hit, I realised that I needed to stop holding back and just kick it off! This year gave me the opportunity to start my business with no distractions, so in a weird way, I’m quite grateful for it.

Fangirl Unauthorised is a way for people to show their passion and love for their team on a day to day basis and away from the traditional male-focused football paraphernalia. I love fashion and jewellery and I’m from a line of Arsenal fans, so being able to create an inclusive product that combines all of the above makes it just a really enjoyable project for me.

From registering with Companies House to creating the website, to getting my first order, to getting orders out in time- and during lockdown- I felt a real sense of achievement with every step. I also love that I can be creative every step of the way. I can’t do things as fast as I would if I was working on it 9-5, but it’s something I have full control over and it brings a huge sense of satisfaction.

Catherine Gleave, 27, a content marketer from London, was inspired during lockdown to put together The Lockdown Cookbook, a charity community cookbook published at the beginning of August.

During lockdown, I felt like everyone was really throwing themselves into cooking. So, really, I got the idea for the cookbook out of sheer nosiness- I wanted to know what people were cooking, how they were cooking it, and if I could have any!

It was a challenge to start. It took a lot of cold calling to get my first contributor! I have no connections in the food world, so I wrote a lot of personalised emails, asking authors, independent businesses and chefs to get involved. It was hard-going but a real labour of love. When Diana Henry agreed to get involved, I danced around my living room. I couldn’t believe it!

Thankfully, as a content marketer, I do a lot of web design and copywriting, so setting up the website was fairly straight forward. But editing recipes and photographing food? Creating and designing a cookbook? Setting up an e-commerce platform? Well… that wasn’t quite so simple!

We’re also raising money to support The Trussell Trust and Migrateful UK. Food poverty is rising in the UK, and food banks are struggling to keep up with the demand. The Lockdown Cookbook helps to support those in our community who are in a food crisis or facing hunger. Though I may not be able to raise tens of thousands like some other projects, there’s a lot to be said for the work, the effort, and of creating something to be proud of.

Annabel Parkinson-Lee, 34, is a freelance writer and PR from Oxfordshire. When her work started to dry up during lockdown, she decided to start her own business, Mindful Marketing…

My freelance work naturally slowed at the start of lockdown while at the same time I needed to look after both my children (aged 1 and 3) as my husband continued to work. I knew I had to keep doing something creative to keep myself sane, but that I had to figure out how to do it around my other commitments. I adore being a mum but I found it quite overwhelming to be on parenting mode 24/7.

Lockdown, despite its challenges, was an opportunity for me to reassess what I was working on and what I wanted to be doing. My new business is mindful marketing – marketing training, mentoring and consultancy for small businesses. I help independent, creative and passionate businesses to get on top of their marketing and find ways to shout louder about the amazing work that they are doing, without getting overwhelmed. My aim is to empower other people with their marketing and PR and demystify the process to make it easy and fun.

It was definitely a journey and hard work setting up a business in lockdown, and I did find the mental load of figuring out the logistics alongside everything else during a pandemic challenging at times. Lockdown was crazy but it was a really good opportunity for me to look seriously at what I’m doing work wise and where I want to spend my energy.

Too many zoom calls and not enough bar-hopping, led Natasha Thomas, 43, CEO of a travel and events company, based in London to start another venture; the Lockdown Liquor Company, with her husband…

On the lead up to Easter weekend, we were having a zoom call with friends so we thought it may be nice if we sent them one of our favourite tequila cocktails premixed, so we could all share a drink together which then followed on with the idea to gift some of our local neighbours a bottle to bring themsome joy through the current situation. We received so many messages from friends asking if they could pay us to make more for them, so we thought why not open it out and allow people to purchase and we would donate proceeds to the NHS Charities Together. This spread like wildfire through word of mouth and social media within our local London community and then subsequently through the UK and now overseas.

The frustration and struggles in the early stages always came down to supply and demand. The bookings came in at such a pace, we had to really push suppliers to help us get the stock required whilst struggling with Covid-19 time constraints however this did make us iron out our processes very quickly to ensure we could efficiently manage the consistent demand. The main thing this project has shown us however is the support and community spirit. People have really wanted to get behind something new and positive during a pretty negative time.

Lockdown Liquor is growing like crazy- overseas too. But it was born during a pandemic and we will always vow to donate a percentage of proceeds to NHS charities together, as this is something that is very important to us and is part of the company’s DNA which will always remain true.

Louise Mary Fraser, 25, from Wales, was an advertising account manager whose furlough project-Lou Lou Stitch, a business making handmade and bespoke arm knitted blankets or bed runners -became a whole new career after she was made redundant…

I’d previously only made arm knitted blankets once or twice before when initially learning as a fun activity with my mum. In April, my boyfriend’s mum asked if I could possibly make her one, and having just been put on furlough I was really excited to have a little project to work on! We all joked about the fact I could make it into a little business – but then I thought, why not?

Being on furlough I really struggled mentally with feeling like I’d lost my career, which I’d previously put so much emphasis and importance on in my life. But this gave me a purpose and something to work towards again which I think helped me cope with my situation in lockdown immensely. I’m obviously going to continue running it and hopefully business will pick up towards the winter months, when people really need a big cosy blanket to snuggle up with!

My furlough has now transitioned to redundancy so it’s even more important to try to keep pushing on with it as a little side gig, especially while I try to find something new for my ‘main gig’…

Emily Ingram, 34, from London was already starting a new business, Greengage, which aimed to make discovering live music and theatre performances easier to access, when lockdown hit and made its USP even more valuable…

I would say lockdown provided a catalyst to make artists and artistic organisations pay attention to online performances, and for audiences to try them for the first time.

Greengage is reimagining music and theatre for a digital world. It’s a production company and a platform for paid-for, high quality live streamed and on demand performances.

To test out the company, a friend and I decided to put on a pretty rough and ready performance in April of something we called “Two Metres Apart” using Zoom webinar as the technology.

It was a total experiment and I was ready for nobody to show up, and nobody to pay for a ticket. Greengage paid the artists because I felt it was the right thing to do. To my surprise, nearly 300 people turned up, the show turned a profit, the audience response was overwhelmingly positive and we even got a 4-star review!

In April, May and June our first shows were fully remote: I assembled 4 shows with different teams of directors, crew, actors, writers and musicians in 8 UK locations, 4 US locations, the Netherlands and Austria. It was often crazy busy with different timezones, contactless drops of external harddrives, navigating different livestream options, sending people ethernet cables and microphones, emergency Zoom calls about integrating payment providers for tickets and so on. We all lived vicariously through our laptops and phones for a while. But didn’t everyone?!

Journalist Dee Acharya, 32, and full-time mum Emily Passingham, 34, are two friends from London who became accidental florists; founding Doorstep Flowers during lockdown…

Unable to meet up with friends and celebrate big moments such as birthdays, engagements and Easter, we dropped off small tokens to each other’s doors on our daily walks to mark these occasions. Having seen the positive effect this had on our families, we wanted to explore how to share this joy with the community around us in those difficult times. It was through our research of posies that we discovered the May Day tradition – to anonymously leave a posy at the door of a friend or neighbour – which shaped our delivery approach in the first week of Doorstep Flowers.

We wanted to be as reactive as possible, so setting up Doorstep Flowers was quick and we are still learning as we go. The wonderful thing about starting small is that we can really connect with people and fine-tune our approach with every bit of feedback we received from friends, family and customers.

It’s now been three months and we continue to create a small seasonal bunch each week that we now sell online and through Parlour, a much-loved neighbourhood restaurant that’s also part grocery store. Most importantly, in an effort to give back, we gift bunches to key workers and those who have struggled during this time (through nominations on Instagram), as well donate any surplus stems to The Peoples Kitchen on Golborne Road, Queens Park Hub and Ida in Queens Park, to go out with meals that they make up for shielded residents and those most vulnerable in our community.

In the immediate future, the search is on for an affordable studio / workspace that we can use to continue to grow Doorstep. We’d also love to collaborate with like-minded businesses and take delivery to another level – possibly in a milk float!

Thinking more long-term, we would love to work with more independent British growers and support the ongoing conversation about diversity and access to the industry for young florists. We might be new to this world but Doorstep Flowers has always been community minded and it’s something we will always feel passionately about.

Abbie Lewi, 37, and Suzy Aminoff, 30, are friends who both work in PR and live in London. A tie-dye sweatshirt they made for fun during lockdown, became their new company: Ava May…

We made a tie dye sweatshirt for fun as we couldn’t find the perfect one that was reasonably priced and in the colourway we wanted. When we wore it friends and family asked if we’d make them one. We were suddenly getting multiple requests so thought we would start selling them and created a brand called Ava May named after our daughters Ava and Maya and we grew from there.

We are neighbours and met in the park by chance last year so we started doing it in our communal garden, socially distancedof course. We tested different dyes and once we found the best option, we also started doing it separately inside our homes. We still like to create our orders in the communal gardens and we’ve become known around the neighbourhood for our creations.

We weren’t even going to make an Instagram account but thought we’d trial it and put it out there and it was the best thing we did as we are now making orders for people we don’t even know and shipping them internationally!

We started doing this during lunch when our babies were asleep and now we do it at night a couple of times a week together in the garden. We are now planning our winter collection!

Paige Harvey, 23, a health advisor from Hertfordshire, turned her anxiety into a new passion during lockdown; a scrunchie and mask brand Made By Paige…

I suffer with bad anxiety so during lockdown I needed a good distraction. I decided to buy a sewing machine to make scrunchies and then also ended up and making masks. It was all new to me because I had never sewed before! But I ended up loving it and spent most days workinging on it, giving them to friends and family.

Now because we have to wear them everywhere, I decided it would be a good time to sell them. The process was quite simple. I made sure I got the right product by testing different styles. When this was all sorted I made many of the different products in all the different patterns. Then I decided how I was going to wrap my orders and make sure I sourced the right things such as delivery bags, ribbon and tissue paper. The logistics were quite difficult due to lockdown. It was quite hard to source material as I had to do it online and then there were always delays in delivery.
I’ve totally loved it though and I really want to carry on my passion for sewing. I’d love to start making tote bags, clothes and make up bags too!

With the theatres closed, 31-year-old musical-theatre actress Olivia Holland-Rose’s career was put on hold. Instead she started making candles, and founded the Little Light Company…

You can’t really socially-distance at the theatre…so rather than travelling to Italy to perform My Fair Lady as understudy Eliza Dolitte at the Teatro Regio in Turin, I found myself without any source of income, and distressingly, ineligible for any form of government aid that was being offered to the unemployed.

I was angry and frustrated, and scared. I’d never not had one job or other to bring in at least some income, and I felt really powerless.

A few years ago I had touched on the idea of making my own scented candles, and decided to revisit this during lock-down.

I realised that there was a bit of a gap in the market for a high-end natural based product that not only smelt amazing, but crucially didn’t cost half a days’ wage. Once I had that idea firmly in place, the idea of the ‘Little Light Company’ came to me – shining light in a literal and figurative sense.

I’ve found that process so interesting and exciting; every day I’m learning something new and different, so it is never ever boring. Plus when you get it right – best feeling! A key idea behind the Little Light Company is to #shinealittlelight, and as the company grows, I’m aiming to see a percentage of our profits invested back into charities.

Nottingham student Yasmin Yau, 20, decided to get creative with her extra free time during lockdown and created Yau Bands…

It all started from one of my friends asking to buy one of the headbands I was making, and soon from this my mini Instagram business grew. Lockdown was the perfect opportunity for me to balance my time between revision and enjoying creating these individual pieces. The materials I work with are either from local businesses, charity shops or upcycled!

I love the idea of upcycling, making something old new again, giving it a new lease of life. The first few weeks were hectic as I was balancing revision and luckily lots of orders! But it meant I had to take that time off from working- which was so necessary during this time!I’ve just started a new job for my industrial placement year, I am currently working remotely but will be relocating in August.

I have really enjoyed creating these accessories and would love to carry on with this for as long as there is still a demand for them.

One thought on “Meet the millennials who started new businesses during the pandemic

  1. I imagine I’ll return to the travel industry once it’s back on its feet, but I’m hoping tūla + tye will be the perfect ‘side hustle’

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