Even in this harshest of climates, many businesses have been able to keep trading, start up or even thrive, according to data release by the British Business Bank.
Its Start Up Loans programme has issued £100 million to more than 8,300 people across the UK since April, helping them to start or scale-up a business.
In fact, July 2020 was the programme’s busiest month since the scheme was founded in 2014, with many of those it supported identifying new trends or demand as a result of the pandemic and taking the opportunity to launch their first enterprise.
Others were forced to adapt to survive during the March and November lockdowns – whether it was moving online for the first time, ramping up a social media presence, or creating a new product altogether.
Jane Crane took out a loan of £20,000 to launch Your Tribe in 2019, a studio-based, paint-throwing therapy experience. As, what she describes as “a messy face-to-face experience business”, it wasn’t easy to translate what they do online.
“I developed a guided meditation and couple’s paint pour for people to get messy with at home,” she said. “Going virtual has allowed me to stay in touch with customers and bring a bit of colour to what could be a very gloomy January.
“Learning to accept the things that are outside my control has helped me stay rational.”
Susan Bonnar, top right, took out a loan of £12,000 to set up the British Craft House in 2019 – an online marketplace for handmade British crafts. Whilst online stores have prospered during lockdown, there have been plenty of lessons to learn.
There was an increased demand for convenient gifts, which were easy to post as people could no longer exchange gifts in person
“I was fortunate to be fully set up online before the pandemic. However, I had to adapt my offerings slightly to ensure we were catering to the new lockdown trends. There was an increased demand for convenient gifts, which were easy to post as people could no longer exchange gifts in person.
“So, in January I launched the ‘Letterbox Gift’ section of the website, featuring a range of artisan items, no larger than an envelope. In the 12 hours following the January lockdown announcement, the website was busy with people buying pocket hugs and motivational gifts to send directly to friends and family.”
Anthony Quinn, top centre, took out a loan of £10,000 in 2013 to open The Pudding Pantry, a bakery in Nottingham, which was forced to close temporarily during the first lockdown as cashflow dropped significantly.
“With revenue down, we had to get creative. We developed innovative takeaway menus for Valentine’s and Pancake Day, comprising sumptuous afternoon tea arrays,” he said.
“We had to create different services based on what our customers wanted during Lockdown, and we will be doing the same this time around. We have the fundamentals in place and we now sell more takeaway afternoon teas than we did when we were a dine-in business.”
Goji Hair was launched on the back of a £7,400 loan taken by Victoria Griffin of Cardiff, top left. She launched the organic hair salon, during the first lockdown, selling products usually bought in-store.
“I was surprised at just how busy we were after the first lockdown,” she said. “We were fully booked for eight weeks, a clear indication of how highly clients value their hair.
“I am very grateful that the business is within a sector which seems to bounce back quickly, but the online site has been such a success that we’re likely to keep it running even after lockdown.”