One young female business owner’s journey of self-acceptance in 2020

The fact was, since late 2018, Georgia had been running her own jewellery business; House of Bijou, solo, and relied upon her regular income to keep it afloat.

“When you run a small business on the side, your full-time job is what you rely on to keep it going,” she explains, “At first I was absolutely devastated but I thought- actually this could be the opportunity I needed to put all my efforts into my business and be able to really push it forward and have that time to dedicate to it. It was a blessing in disguise.”

Georgia Thomas, 25, lost her job in HR at the beginning of lockdown.

“It was obviously a massive shock. You have to tell yourself not to take it personally, but it’s still so hard,” she says, “You feel like your whole world has come crashing down.”

Georgia decided to start the brand after a trip to Paris with her boyfriend inspired her. She studied fashion buying at university, so was well versed in how to start a business. Nevertheless, it’s impressive that she was- and still is- able to run the whole operation single handedly.

“It’s literally just me! And until a couple of months ago I was doing this part time so it was a lot of early starts and late finishes,” she says, “I would love to hire a team though! Because right now I am doing everything – from photography to packaging!”

The work that went into the brand – from hours of research, a lot of her own money and days of solo (wo)man power – are finally paying off, no doubt aided by the renewed focus lockdown has given her. She launched a collection in support of MIND charity over lockdown- inspired by her own mental health struggles and how in awe she was of the work the charity does.

“I am now working on my own designs as well which I should be able to get out within the next 5 months and that will make me feel really unique,” she says, “For me, it is about giving women confidence- the feeling they can take on everything. That is what it gives me.”

Whilst her unexpected unemployment was the catalyst for real brand expansion; 2020 has taught Georgia other lessons as well.

“Growing up I have dealt with a lot of racism – especially growing up in Essex which is a predominantly white area,” she says, “The first time I heard the N word was when I was in primary school and someone came up to me in the playground and called me that. I was told they couldn’t play with me because I had brown skin. That stuff really does affect you. When you are being judged at five years old because of the colour of your skin- that trickles through to adulthood massively, when you are the only person of colour on the team.”

The legacy of her experiences with racism came to a head when deciding how to market her brand.

“When I was starting I thought about it a lot and I really thought- because of all the prejudice I faced- are people going to not buy from me because of the colour of my skin? I didn’t want people to think that. I hid behind my business from day one.”

But this summer, and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter, changed all of that.

“I had to sit down and really understand what I am doing and think about what my brand stands for. I’ve created this brand that I am so proud of- but I don’t want anyone to know it’s me. If it is all about confidence but the person who started it doesn’t have the confidence to really put her name to it- what does that mean?” she says, “. My whole life I have never found my voice and lockdown has made me learn to love myself a little bit more and has given me the confidence to speak out. When you see others doing it, it really helps you to do it. Now I really feel like I have to stand up and not be afraid.”

Now Georgia’s brand, with her proudly at the helm, is surging onwards. With her own lessons learnt during lockdown, she has this advice for any young woman keen to start a business now- particularly women of colour.

“Just never worry about what other people think of you. Stay persistent and stay true to yourself.”

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