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Best advice for women starting their own business in lockdown

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Megan Murray
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Thinking about starting a business in lockdown? Three women who became entrepreneurs in the pandemic tell us the one piece of advice they’d give to someone considering stepping out on their own.

If there’s one positive we can take from lockdown it’s that this time has seen a flourishing movement of newly launched small online businesses, many of which have been founded by women. 

At a time when the economy is suffering thanks to Brexit and the financial pressures of the pandemic and many people have lost their jobs or spent months on furlough feeling displaced and directionless, it’s incredible that thousands have been brave enough to start something new.

Marketplace websites such as Etsy or shoppable social media platforms like Instagram have been integral to this, making it so much easier for entrepreneurs to create a brand and communicate with customers. Meanwhile, consumer support for small businesses has been slowly building to a point where many will happily wait months for a ‘drop’ from an independent maker handcrafting ceramics or candles. 

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But while this is positive, starting your own business can still feel like a big, scary step. If you’ve got an idea to start a company of your own and have been watching on as others take the plunge, then you might be interested to hear from those who have been there, done that and got the T-shirt. 

We spoke to three women who started their own businesses in lockdown and asked them for the one piece of advice they wished they’d heeded at the beginning of their business journey. If you’re considering making the move but need some encouragement, keep reading.

  • Realise everything won't be perfect from the start

    Warsan’s story of going from a stressful office job to a full-time, self-taught baker is inspiring because it’s a truly uplifting example of how following a passion can change a person’s life. 

    It was back in 2019 when Warsan first started to use baking as a way to cope with anxiety. As her bakes got better and recipes more creative, friends and family encouraged her to turn this part of her life into something bigger. It was when the pandemic hit, though, and Warsan’s low mood returned that she found the strength to really go for it and started selling her brownies online. 

    Warsan means ‘good news’ in Somali which, along with her passion for being positive and making the most out of any situation, is the inspiration behind the brand’s name. It’s an ethos which is certainly reflecting in the joyful, colourful packaging and the brand’s personality on social media. None of which, of course, is as impressive as the bakes themselves. 

    The Good News Baker specialises in letterbox brownies, which we know from experience are deliciously gooey and thick with all the good stuff like cookie dough, salted caramel or, for Valentine’s Day, red velvet and black forest (wow, right?).

    For Warsan, the hardest part of starting her own business was learning how to grow and nurture a start-up with zero business experience. 

    “I’ve wasted time, product and money on making bad decisions or not making decisions quickly enough. At the start, I wanted everything to be perfect and I quickly learnt that it was impossible.”

    Her advice is to just throw yourself in headfirst and realise that your brand won’t look exactly how you want it to from the word go. In fact, if you refuse to put yourself out there because you’re worried about attaining perfection before you start, you’ll just lose out.  

    She says: “I’ve adopted a fail-fast approach. I follow my instincts, take opportunities and essentially throw myself into the mix so that I learn as many hard lessons as fast as possible. From forecasting sales to inventory management, the more tears the better oddly enough!”

    Shop letterbox brownies at The Good News Baker, £14

  • Be patient

    Emily has known for years that she wanted to be a wedding planner but it wasn’t until lockdown gave her the opportunity to stop and think about how she could make her dream happen that she made the first steps, which she did six months ago by creating In Awe Weddings and Events.

    It’s a difficult time for the wedding industry and although Emily has found that many couples don’t yet have the confidence to start planning, she’s used this time proactively to develop her brand and marketing strategy, network with other suppliers and planners who would otherwise be busy themselves, and learn via courses, podcasts and workshops.

    While the industry is having a tough time, Emily is thrilled with her decision to start her own business and says she often “can’t believe that I have actually done it and people are trusting me with something I’ve been excited about for such a long time.”

    Emily’s biggest piece of advice is to be patient and that if a voice in your head tells you it’s not going to work and you should cut your losses, not to listen because these things take time and you’ll get to where you want to be in the end.

    “I am nowhere near where I want my business to be, but equally, I am also proud of how far In Awe Weddings and Events has come in the last six months,” she says. 

    “There have been times where I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, that I wasn’t good enough or unique enough and should just give up. I know I have to keep marketing, keep learning and keep going with a positive mindset to take my business to where I would like it to be!”

    Take a look at In Awe Wedding Planning and Events

  • Just do it!

    Ricki used to work in a hectic job that saw her travelling around the world constantly. Her way to feel calm, grounded and connected to home when she was half-way across the world was to unpack her travel candle from her case and position it on the bedside table of whatever hotel she was staying in that night. 

    As candles became a bigger part of her self-care method and she realised how important a beautifully made and smelling candle can be to help unwind, she started to see a gap in the market for a brand that harnessed a female spirit, eco-conscious production and ethos based in fighting for racial justice. So, she created Selfmade. 

    Selfmade candles are not only beautiful to look at but each one has a plantable seed label which you can pop in the glass jar with some soil once the wick has burned through. Ricki also donates 5% of the company’s profits to the Black Minds Matter charity, so by purchasing one of her candles you’re helping to fund mental health support for those who need it.

    Ricki notes that these days, the barriers to creating a business are considerably lower than those who came before and that this is something we should take advantage of.

    “It can literally be as simple as taking some photos of something you’ve made on your iPhone and then popping that on Etsy or a Shopify website,” she explains. 

    It might seem scary at first but Ricki urges anyone on the precipice of starting a business to just do it, reciting her motto: “Fear is just an excuse to be brave!”

    Shop Boujie candle at Selfmade, £25

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a senior digital writer for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about homeware (particularly candles), travel, food trends, restaurants and all the wonderful things London has to offer.