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Is it time to start your own business?

2020 has forced us to radically rethink our careers, goals and dreams. Muddy meets four women who made the leap and started their own businesses during Covid. Is it time we joined them?

Last year Muddy teamed up with Tide bank to promote the next generation of entrepreneurs with a £2000 financial kick start. We loved Tide’s commitment to female-backed business then, and in 2020 it’s been more important than ever. During those first crazy weeks of the pandemic, I was one of thousands who turned to Tide’s Covid 19 support hub for advice when it felt like all the other business banks had their fingers in their ears going la-la-laaa.

Now with furlough support ending next week and huge anxiety about job security, Tide continues to help entrepreneurs get started in business with a free account and they also pay the company £12 Incorporation fee (they’re the only bank to do it). It takes minutes to register and 24 hours to be confirmed and receive your company certificate – pretty nifty, right?

So if you’re tempted to make your side hustle into your dream job, reignite a former passion or to try something new, read on for inspiration from these four first-time business owners who started their companies during Covid with Tide, and successfully made the leap to entrepreneur. Who knows – maybe next year I’ll be writing about you!

Register your company for free with Tide.

THE CAFE OWNER

Cathryn Lecolley, 52, is a creative director and co-owner of the Pear & Olive Scratch Kitchen and The Pantry Farmshop Café in Hildersham, Cambridgeshire. She lives with her husband, Michelin-rated chef Gael Lecolley and has two grown-up children.

“When lockdown happened hospitality and leisure industries were among the hardest hit so we had to get creative. Thankfully we had qualified for the £10k small business grant from the government and we thought, ‘OK how do we use this money well? What can we do to survive?’ With no income, so we had to do something fast to generate money.

We decided to build a farm shop where people could come and sit outside with a coffee and piece of cake or takeaway local produce, and we did it in six weeks, starting in May and opening in mid-June. We already had three existing business bank accounts with another high street bank but during lockdown they were no help to us. We couldn’t get through to anybody and we had to quickly set up a Ltd company for The Pantry Farmshop. I started researching and found Tide and got our account set up literally in a few hours and we began trading that day. 

The Pantry is essentially just a small summer hut, with a pergola overhang and some seating. We sell dips, crisps, crackers, juices, great little things for the kids. And we really wanted to support local business so we have a local girl who makes our brownies, and another one who makes our vegan gluten-free cakes, and Gael makes sausage rolls and bacon rolls in the morning. It’s very simple; you just walk up and grab a cappuccino and sit in the garden or takeaway. The Pantry was only ever meant to be seasonal though we’ve put a roof on the pergola and got some heaters outside, so we plan to open it Friday, Saturday and Sunday over the winter now. We’re also looking at doing a pumpkin event for the kids and at Christmas, have a Santa’s grotto with treats and mulled wine.

Creating a new business in six weeks was stressful. I don’t know if my philosophy is different from everyone else but I do believe that everything happens for a reason so I don’t get too caught up in it. I mean, I had no nails left as I’d bitten them all off but I just kind of surrendered to it. I just thought, ‘I should do what I know and what I think I can do best. It’s going to work out one way or the other. Something is going to lead me down the path, I just have to take the step forward.’ And if there is something that I am taking as a negative, it’s an opportunity for me to pause and think, ‘Why was this roadblock put in my way? What am I not seeing? How do I need to look at this differently?’ 

For anyone thinking about starting a new business now, I personally believe it is possibly the best time in history as long as you’re passionate and agile – you’ve got to be pliable to succeed. My advice is to be systematic in your approach. Get your game plan on and ask yourself, what are you passionate about? What’s that thing in the back of your head you’ve always wanted to do – everybody has one. But after that, talk is cheap, it’s about action. It’s about coming up with a strategy, meeting your benchmarks and keep pushing forward. No one got anywhere by just thinking about it, you know?” 

THE CUPCAKE QUEEN

Amy Rudd, 26, is a marketing professional but set up cupcake delivery service Mulberry Street Cupcakes as a side hustle during lockdown. She lives in Burton-on-Trent.

“If you had said to me a year ago that I’d have my own cupcake business, I’d say you were mad. I always wanted my own business but I’d never have done it if I didn’t think I was going to lose my job. When lockdown hit, I was placed under consultancy for redundancy and I thought that was it. So I started to think about what I could do from home, safely, to make money.

By chance my dad asked me to make a birthday cake for his work colleague. I’m a pretty good baker (though I still have lots to learn) and I’ve always enjoyed it. Anyway, I got asked to do a child’s birthday cake off the back of that and then someone suggested that I set up a little business to get some money in. 

At first, I was like, ‘Ooh no. It sounds like a lot of bother and I don’t want people coming to my house.’ But then I put some time in on Google and saw that there were loads of companies that used national shipping to deliver their baked goods. So that set me off. I ordered in cupcake boxes and pods to stop the cupcakes getting ruined, and ran loads of tests. I sent boxes and boxes to myself, each time fiddling with the ratio of buttercream to make sure it didn’t smudge, trying different packaging. I ordered in loads from my competitors to see how they did it. If I could recommend one thing for people thinking of going it alone, it’s doing your research. I was really excited and eager but I had to hold myself back a few weeks to really make sure the plan was solid and that it made sense. 

I realised I needed to set up a business account but they were really expensive, so I did my research and chose Tide on the back of the free company formation offer (though now I’m with them I wouldn’t move – the customer service and app are both great). I bought in all the stock, renewed my Health and Safety certificate and applied for an Environmental Health Officer inspection. And at that very point, I found out that I’d kept my job and could go back to work in a fortnight!So currently I get up at 5.30am to bake my daily orders before starting my day job. Luckily, I’m working from home at the moment so I’m here when the courier comes to collect all the cakes but I do work some very long days and if the occasional customer complains about packaging or whatever I can carry the emotional toll for days! But of course the positive feedback is great, and it’s really nice to know that it’s not just family and friends who enjoy my baking. I’m so excited to see how my business can grow from here.”

THE FASHION DESIGNER

Rhiannon Buckley, 28, is a clothes designer. She set up her label Etikette while in lockdown and started trading in September. She lives with her husband in north London.

“I’ve always had an issue with jackets. I’ve got 50 million on the back of my door and yet I can never find the right one. When you’re commuting in London, you’re either too hot or too cold, or you get caught in the rain or the coat you have is too bulky for the tube. So that’s where the idea for Etikette came from. My first piece, The Commuter Jacket, comes in three lengths; it’s practical, showerproof and vegan and as sustainable as possible. It’s still cool – I mean, it’s not a cagoule! – and it will take you from day to night.

I did a fashion degree at Manchester University and when I graduated I worked for a few fast-fashion companies and a high street brand. I got to know the ins and outs of how retail works, how garments are manufactured, how design teams work together and what the customer really wants. When lockdown happened, although I’d just finished up with one job, I was suddenly presented with this decision: was I going to try and find a new job in a now-uncertain industry or was I going to seriously think about my pipe dream, which was working for myself making clothes. 

Obviously I chose the latter and equally obviously it’s been terrifying!  I budgeted how I was going to spend my life savings and went from there. It’s been a journey of almost constant self-doubt but I keep saying to myself, ‘I’ve made the decision now and I’m going to do this’.

Initially started made a few samples at home on my domestic sewing machine. Then, I applied and became a member of Makerversity at Somerset House in late July, which is essentially a co-working space but they have workshops – wood work, metal work, laser cutting, print files, a fashion and textiles studio – available 24 hours a day, so I had access to the equipment I didn’t have at home. There was one point where I was thinking, “Shall I just buy an industrial sewing machine and install it in my tiny little flat? How am I going to get it up the stairs?’ And that’s when my husband said to me: ‘Rhi, I think you need to get out of the house and let’s see about renting somewhere else to do your work.’

So I kept on at it, got everything finalised, organised the modelling shoot, and then once I had that I was able to properly market things and get out on Instagram. I made the wireframe of the website on Shopify which thought would take me two hours from what people had said but it actually took me much longer. On my journey there have been some tough nights – mainly the ones where I’ve been hunched over my sewing machine at 1am. And it’s always worse when you’re tired and, of course, you think: ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ But friends and family have kept me going. And then you have these little mini-victories – you try on the jacket and it looks good, and that feels amazing. You just do one thing at a time and you do get there.

We’ve just launched and we’ve had good feedback but I’ve got no idea if the jackets will sell. But you don’t know until you try, do you? I wish I could look into the future and see how it’s going to turn out. But more than that I just don’t want to look back and think, ‘I wish I’d given it a go.’”

THE HAIR SALON OWNER

Georgina Tordoff, 26, is a hair stylist and lives in Hexham, Northumberland. She opened up her hair salon, Salon Ruelle, on 4 July this year

“I know it sounds mad but I honestly never wanted to start my own business and I really wouldn’t have done it had the opportunity not arisen. People would always question me about it but I would say, “No! I’d rather have the security and the paid holidays.” 

Before lockdown, I’d worked at the same salon in town for seven years. I was senior stylist and managed the store and that was the job I believed I was going back to. But around mid-June, as the date approached where hair salons could open to the public, I started to have doubts. We were going to have to do 12-hour shifts dressed head-to-toe in plastic and I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t feel in control of what I’d be exposed to. I was just so anxious.

That’s when I began to think about options. I bought my own house last year and it has a little concrete shed attached. I initially wondered if I might be able to convert it to a little two-seater salon but a builder came round to cost it up for me and it was way out of budget. But then he told me there was an empty salon, literally 10 minutes’ walk down the road, that had been left unused for years. I went to have a look at it and just walking through the door – I know it’s a cliché – it just felt right. There was loads of space and it felt light and airy. I just had such a good feeling about it even though part of me was saying, ‘I can’t be doing this. This is silly.’ Anyway, two days later I got the keys and 12 days after that I opened. So that was a turnaround and a half!

I didn’t have that much time to think about it – it was just, ‘Get yourself in there and go for it.’ And it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s scary and there are definitely days when you’re sat on the floor crying but there’s no way it won’t work out if you put all the hard work in.

I was worried about getting customers. We couldn’t bring clients across from my old salon because I didn’t have their contact details because of GDPR so I was reliant on word of mouth and Facebook. But even as we were getting the signs up on the building, people were putting their heads in to see what was going on. You need that nosiness of a small town! Opening day was a bit rubbish as I couldn’t have a party but all day I had appointments with clients that I’ve had for years so it was really lovely being able to celebrate with them. A couple of friends came over after we closed and with some Prosecco so that was a nice way of finishing the day off.

I have absolutely zero business knowledge, but Tide’s company formation tool had some really useful business tips that helped me get an early grasp of what I needed to focus on. I was also lucky that I had a lot of people around me who could help, like the builder who is a family friend. He’s set up loads of businesses, so he helped me with the legal side. I also tried to do as much research as possible and wrote down the things I needed to do in bullet points. The lists were endless.

It’s been really busy since I opened but I definitely want to do some marketing and business courses online when I get a chance. And I don’t know if I’ve made any major mistakes so far… I might have! But everything is a learning curve isn’t it? That’s how you learn. You can only get better by making mistakes.

Three months on, the salon is doing brilliantly. Obviously, with Covid, our main priority was for people to feel safe and comfortable but also, all us girls get on so well in the salon and there’s this lovely atmosphere. Customers say it’s a really nice place to be. I couldn’t be happier or prouder of all of us. We’ve all worked really hard.”

Are you ready to be your own boss? Register your company and open a business account at the same time! Tide will even pay the £12 company incorporation fee on your behalf.

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