The pandemic has robbed us of almost two years of life as we know it and has certainly been testing us when it comes to patience and keeping ourselves busy, with unemployment and furlough leaves on an all-time high.
In fact, the unemployment rate in the UK has increased by 5%, which is the highest in four years. The constant closing and re-opening of shops is not making the job search any easier for people who have been made redundant during the pandemic.
The situation is quite clear, a lot of people are stuck at home with quite a lot of time on their hands but very little to do.
Not only has the employment rate increased but so has the number of mental health patients. According to The Health Foundation: “More than two-thirds of adults in the UK (69%) report feeling somewhat or very worried about the effect COVID-19 is having on their life.”
Staying at home due to unemployment and lockdown restrictions is therefore not a good contributor to those figures and many are left being stuck at home, losing motivation and getting increasingly frustrated.
But there is hope in this mess. The pandemic has not been “just bad” for everyone. Some people have managed to hit the ‘The Sims’ mother lode cheat code while being stuck in their four walls and used their time in the isolation prison to make some extra money.
More than 375,000 businesses have been founded during the pandemic in the UK alone, with 5.4% of that being Online Retail.
But the literal golden question is: How do they do this, especially during a pandemic?
We spoke to four of them:
Blood BunnyLily, 20, knows a few things when it comes to establishing a business. She is the owner of the edgy clothing brand Blood Bunny, which is available on her Depop store, including custom requests. “I sell mostly handmade accessories, like teddy bear bags and bunny hats. I’m constantly designing clothing, but I don’t have a full-time profession as the pandemic left me redundant from my job, so Blood Bunny is all I have at the moment,” Lily explains.
Even though Blood Bunny was founded in July 2020, designing clothes is nothing new to Lily: “When I started Blood Bunny, I had already been making clothing and accessories for myself and my friends for about five years, I found it hard to find items I liked online or in shops so I would make them myself. I knew that if I liked what I created, other people probably would too.”Lily had the idea to start a brand two years ago but has only found time to put her vision into reality during the pandemic. However, the motivation to start was rather anxiety-driven.
“The motivation came from my anxiety around being productive. It’s something I see in a lot of people around me. In this capitalist society, we’re taught to measure a great deal of our self worth by our productivity. And it sucks. Having so little to do made me anxious. I tried many things but they weren’t fun. So I used that anxiety and spare time to do something I actually liked instead of something I thought of as ‘productive’.”
Even though establishing a brand has always been a wish for Lily, she doesn’t think she would’ve been able to do it so soon, all thanks to the lockdown: “Before the pandemic, I was working two jobs and relaxing wherever I could so I never had time to get things started with Blood Bunny. So I don’t think the brand would’ve existed for a few years without the pandemic.”
Hannah Morgan DesignsLily is not the only one who thinks that the pandemic has been a major advantage when it comes to making her dreams a reality. Hannah, 23, is the owner of Hannah Morgan Designs, which has just managed to get their designs to be sold on Asos Marketplace.
For Hannah, this is a long-term dream come true. “I knew from the age of 16 that I wanted to run my own fashion company. At 18, I made a list of goals that I wanted my future company to achieve. I researched for years about how I could do it but started making the products I sell now in September 2020.”
Hannah has been put on furlough, which has enabled her to concentrate on her design company. “I certainly don’t think it would have gone as well as it has if it wasn’t for lockdown. I’ve been very lucky that lockdown has meant that I can focus solely on my business and furlough will pay my rent,” she explains.Her brand, which sells formal and sustainable womenswear and accessories and available on her website, is mostly managed by Hannah but she receives support from her friends when it comes to photography, managing Pinterest and modelling.
In order to keep the company going in such uncertain times, Hannah has set a strict rule: “Set deadlines and think about consequences. I work the hardest when I know something or someone is relying on me to finish my work.”
Like many people across the world, Hannah has a lot of time that she completely invests in her growing business. Although she loves her work, she does not forget about self-care and breaks: “I make sure I give myself an hour for lunch and an hour for dinner to just chill but other than that, I maybe take one day off every two to three weeks. To me, it’s not work. I enjoy it.”
Yeehaw CeramicsThe category online retail doesn’t only contain fashion brands that have been started during the pandemic. Many people are now exploring their creativity and craftsmanship, in all kinds of areas.
Lucy, 22, has set up a successful Etsy and Instagram account called Yeehaw Ceramics that sells hand-painted ceramic vases and plant pots, which are outsourced second hand on eBay. “I could make the vases and pots myself but I love the thought of up-cycling unwanted items and giving them a new lease of life, it also means that each piece is unique,” Lucy explains.
Not only are the ceramics recycled, but they also serve a good cause: “A lot of sellers that I buy from are online charity shops, so it’s also a nice feeling knowing that my business is helping charities at the same time.”
The idea for a ceramic business came to Lucy when she wanted a cow print vase for her room but not being able to find one online, so she did one herself.
“After posting the finished vase on Instagram I received a lot of feedback from friends saying that they loved it and were asking if I would be doing any more, which then led me to start my own business.”
Lucy started the ceramics business in January 2020 and was able to launch her first collection of ceramics on February 5.
Although the idea was very spontaneous, Lucy has always had a love for creating and making things, already having experience working in the creative industry as a tailor.Yeehaw Ceramics has helped Lucy stay occupied and follow a routine during the furlough, which was the initial idea before things changed: “At the start of February, I was made redundant. I run the business on a part-time basis as I am currently job hunting. However, it has been a lifeline starting the business around the time I was made redundant as it gives me some structure and purpose to my day since the job application process is very draining.”
Since Lucy is a “routine-person”, as she calls herself, she is already an advantage when it comes to being motivated and productive during the lockdown. However, starting her own business was what Lucy needed to keep her head in the game, and she is convinced that setting small goals is the way to do it.
“Setting small targets gives me something to achieve each day and I try and keep each day a little different so my days don’t feel repetitive.”
UlliversumNot everyone who wants to start a business always knows what kind of business and in what industry to start. And mostly, the idea for a business stems from a hobby or trying something new. With lockdown, we have been given the opportunity to re-think and reflect on what truly makes us happy.
Ulli, 38, from Austria, has used the pandemic to reflect on exactly that. Having worked in marketing for many years, she is now the owner of Ulliversum as of June 2020, which sells personalised, handmade gifts, cards and mugs.
Initially, Ulli intended to reconnect with her creative side: “The main goal was to find my creativity that I had lost many years ago. I initially just wanted to have fun and be creative.”
Ulli started off selling her cards online when she put one of her designs on Facebook and a friend reached out for purchase: “I posted one of my handmade Christmas cards on Facebook and a friend contacted me and asked if she could buy one from me as well. That friend lives in Germany and also shared my work, which then started to spread and I started to receive custom requests. I then set up an Instagram account for requests and everything. It has gotten to the point where I’m being asked to paint into baby books for newborns.”Despite the fact that people gave positive feedback, Ulli was pleasantly surprised that people wanted to buy her products: “It was totally surprising and overwhelming. I even doubted the people who wanted to purchase, I asked them ‘Are you sure?’
“I also had a problem calculating appropriate prices, even though I have a degree in Marketing, it was hard since this was more personal and I wasn’t sure how much people would pay for my work. Now I’m proud that people would pay for my cards. I even received an offer to publish an illustrated book, which is very exciting.”
The pandemic and its lockdowns have certainly changed Ulli’s goals in life, and Ulliversum has helped her find her path in life and start a new journey: “I have recently been to a creative seminar where the presenter said: ‘If the flame of creativity burns within you, you have to look at it because this flame will never extinguish’ which led me to apply for further education in Graphics and Communication Design.
“If all goes well I will be studying in September of this year. I would’ve never done that had I not been given the opportunity to reflect on myself.”
As draining as lockdown seems to be, with all of its stay-at-home orders, social distancing and travel restrictions, it is not impossible to create a new and perhaps very successful normal within the comfort of your home!
Featured Image by Blood Bunny via Instagram.
Edited by Sophie Victoria Brown and Ashkenaz.