Twenty-twenty has been a tough year. Health concerns apart, the economic effects of Covid19 and the result of the lockdown’s have had a drastic impact on businesses and livelihoods.
But, as it’s said, every cloud has a silver lining, and many found theirs because of the pandemic and the lockdown. New ideas and the need of the hour led to a lot of BR6er’s finally taking the plunge and starting their own businesses, some even venturing into unchartered territories. Few took the step because of lack of options available; others saw this as the ‘perfect timing and opportunity’. Whatever their reasons, the outcome is a fulfilling turnaround of their professional lives. Below you can read about a few of the new businesses that have been set up in the local area during these strange times we find ourselves in.
Turning a negative into a positive…
Orpington-based single mother of two Virginia Ocampo worked in events for twenty years before Covid struck. With all events being cancelled for the year, she had no choice but to look for another source of income. Her positive attitude helped her fuel her new beginning. “I’ve always had an artistic streak but never had the opportunity to showcase it. This was my chance,” says Virginia who started making home décor items from her living room. All her pieces have positive messages of love, hope and support for those suffering from anxiety and depression. She also donates a percentage of her sales to The Jordan Legacy charity that aids mental well-being and suicide prevention. In retrospect, Virginia feels the past year has had a positive impact on her own well-being. “This was a red flag for me. I needed to do something more meaningful for myself and the community.”
Holly Harcourt has a similar story. She was a West End and Broadway dancer but when theatres closed, she found herself without work. But not for long. “I have always been interested in nutrition and fitness, owing to my line of work, and have been wanting to do something in that field. But I never found the time.” But with months of lockdown, Holly had a lot of time on her hands and finally managed to turn her passion into her profession. She studied for her Fitness Instructor and Personal Training accreditations and now teaches bootcamp and dancefit classes as well as post-natal fitness in Bromley and other local areas.
Mother of two Divya Shankar found it difficult juggling working-from-home in a demanding IT job along with homeschooling and other pressures of the lockdown, so resigned and followed her dream of going self-employed. She started an online business Garden Rio where she sources and sells garden and home supplies. She also sourced and sold facemasks through her website.
Other businesses focussed on the need of the hour – masks, sanitizers and things related to the pandemic. Former Investment Banker Archita Misra from Orpington, also switched careers during the lockdown when her contract ended and finding another was proving to be difficult. She always wanted to showcase her creative side but never had the time with work and family. So when one door closed, she opened another and finally turned her passion into a business creating personalised gifts, clothing and home décor. And to keep things topical – and a little fun – she started making personalised hand sanitizer bottles and face masks as well as products like cushions, t-shirts and mugs about social distancing. You can see her creations at Cheeku Creations.
When shops closed down during the lockdown, seamstress Bel Ferguson couldn’t go into work. So she used her sewing skills to make facemasks to sell to the public.
For the love of food!
Food became another profitable venture during the lockdown. Former Executive Chef of Novotel Greenwich Nikhil Shringarpure was in the midst of switching jobs when Covid struck and the hospitality business had to close its doors. So he took the plunge and started a home-catering business offering “home-cooked Indian food with restaurant flavours”. Going solo has always been Nikhil and his wife Sonali’s dream (they even registered their company Khaugallee Food services back in 2014) but life got in the way and things never worked out. Currently all their orders are via word of mouth and through a whatsapp group ‘Mumbai Katta’, and he has no plans to stop. “If it continues to run successfully, I don’t see why I should stop once things are back to normal.”
Local henna artist Nida Qureshi also turned her love for baking into a business as she couldn’t continue with her henna painting during the lockdown. She now takes orders for cakes and plans to continue alongside her henna work.
The deli Joelles of Chistlehurst is also a lockdown baby. Owning a deli had always been her dream as she loves food and coffee, so when the shop became available for rent, she decided to make an offer. Her offer was accepted and the deposit was paid when Covid happened, and since she had already handed in her notice at work, she had to go full steam ahead. She opened the doors to her dream job as soon as lockdown restrictions eased, and has seen it go from strength to strength since those doors have opened.
The silver lining
Carly Hennah started Lady PA during the lockdown as it gave her more time to focus on her business goals. A Personal and Executive Assistant in the financial and insurance sector, Carly always wanted to be self-employed. “Lady PA is a product of my history, dreams and experiences that I now put into my own Virtual Assistant Company.” Giving up the stability and security of a corporate job is daunting but she feels there is no better time to take that step than now, when the world is working remotely and virtually.
Bromley based face painter for children’s parties and corporate events Sharon Coates Davies was also forced to stop work as her job required close contact with people. A random painting she did on a gin glass just to keep her creative juices flowing received lots of compliments. Which prompted her to start a business – Handpainted by SC – handpainting gin, wine and champagne glasses. “If someone told me in March that I would be painting and selling glasses, I would’ve laughed!” says Sharon.
Some unusual businesses have also cropped up. Nikki Randall Maslin started a dog toys business – Pooches Toy Boutique – after being inspired by her own puppy. “I own a dance school which had to shut during lockdown so I wanted to do something to keep me busy and bring in an alternative income.” What’s more, Nikki took this opportunity to teach her daughters the ins-and-outs of running a business. “This was a more practical sort of home-schooling,” says Nikki who is keeping the business going alongside her dance school. “I definitely wouldn’t have started it had it not been for the lockdown.”
From dogs to cats. British Airways cabin crew Emma Chantal Johnson was made redundant in August, but while she was furloughed, she did a cat grooming course. “I have cats and breed cats and have to travel far to get a cat groomer. I realised there was a gap in the market so looked into training and then started my business Pampered Pussies.”
Jane Knight of the Successful Mums Career Academy that helps mums get back into work says there have been a significant number of mums booking courses since June. “We’ve helped a lot of women start or adapt their business in Covid 19 through our funded (free) training courses.
Has this inspired you to go it alone and start your dream business?
Thanks for reading.