Nine Merseysiders who started their own business during the pandemic

The idea of launching a new business at any time in life would fill anyone with some level of anxiety.

But when you throw a global pandemic followed by an economic downturn into the mix, this would make many aspiring entrepreneurs shelve their idea for another day.

However, some people have used the time during lockdown to turn their dreams of starting a business into a reality.

Whether it’s sustainable produce, media production, selling ‘pre-loved’ clothing, sports psychology or floristry, some have seen the period of the pandemic as the ideal opportunity to act on a business idea.

The ECHO have spoken to nine Merseysiders who, despite the economic recession, redundancy, or being furloughed have bitten the bullet and seen 2020 as a good year to start something new.

Amy Yarker – The Fermentation Station

a person standing in front of a brick building: Amy Yarker started her food and drink fermentation business in July

© Amy Yarker
Amy Yarker started her food and drink fermentation business in July

Amy Yarker, 29, from Mossley Hill started her business with her partner Sam in July.

Together they launched The Fermentation Station, a company specialising in making fermented, probiotic foods and drinks.

Amy said the business was originally a hobby of theirs they did at home – brewing their own Kombucha, Kefir and nurturing Sourdough bread starter.

Passionate about positive health and food sustainability, Amy believes the impact of the global pandemic together with the UK’s exit from the EU will change the way we consume food.

She thinks the current move towards a more plant-based diet, a growing interest in ‘healing’ foods and a greater demand for long-life products means that the lockdown period has proved a good time to start her business.

Amy said: “We launched our online shop and website only two weeks ago and we’ve been pleasantly surprised and a little overwhelmed by the initial orders. We’ve already got a couple of stockists across Liverpool, Wirral and Cheshire.”

After receiving help from the Women’s Organisation in Liverpool to start her company, Amy said she has real hopes that the business will grow in 2021.

She added: “The Spring will also hopefully see the launch of our subscription service, which will not only rotate on what’s in our seasonal selection but a few little exclusives too. “

Gaby Mendes – Talk Twenties

a woman standing in a kitchen: Gaby Mendes started her business Talk Twenties this year

© Gaby Mendes
Gaby Mendes started her business Talk Twenties this year

Gaby Mendes, 25, from Wirral started her business, Talk Twenties, to help young people transitioning into adulthood with advice and equipping them with the skills they were not taught at school.

As a blogger and former teacher, Gaby said it was her own experiences going from her teenage years into her twenties that were her inspiration.

She said: “When it came to renting for the first time, starting a new job, or saving for your first home – it seemed obvious to me that there was a lack of support for young people to access.”

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Gaby’s business produces a regular podcast, and brings together online resources including webinars, access to courses and topical blogs from members of the community.

She said the idea had been “brewing” in her head for 18-months before deciding to take the plunge earlier this year.

As an events manager she managed to hang on to her job during the pandemic but with reduced hours and pay, meaning she had the time and drive to make her business dream a reality.

Despite the pandemic, Gaby said her business has reached a far greater audience of twenty-somethings than she anticipated.

Also, with a larger audience listening to podcasts during the lockdown period, her podcast has reached just shy of 10,000 downloads in just 10 months.

Next year, she plans to launch physical in-person events when it’s safe to do so.

Josef Hollywood – Occular Media

a man wearing a blue shirt: Josef Hollywood started his business Ocular Media in May this year

© Josef Hollywood
Josef Hollywood started his business Ocular Media in May this year

Josef Hollywood from Wirral has had a passion for DJ’ing since he was 12-years-old and despite just turning 20, set up his video production and marketing company, Occular Media, this year.

Still working in radio and having been involved with production on TV shows such as Hollyoaks and The A Word, starting his own company has always been a dream and something he saw as his next step.

Asked why he thought it was a good idea to start his business during the pandemic, he said: “I estimated that with more people at home, there would be an increase in the amount of time people would spend browsing social media and we all started to use it more to connect to each other in lockdown because we are all instinctively looking for a connection.”

Josef said friends and family have helped him to launch his business this year, from proofreading his website to listening to his business ideas, he has been grateful for their support throughout.

He said, so far, his hopes for the business have been exceeded and its growth over the past six months has been “phenomenal,” adding the company now has close to a dozen clients worldwide from Liverpool to London and New York.

Paula Watson – Made Up to Move

a woman in a striped shirt: Paula Watson from Garston started her exercise business Made Up to Move this year

© Paula Watson
Paula Watson from Garston started her exercise business Made Up to Move this year

Paula Watson, 43, from Garston was a full-time lecturer in sports and exercise psychology before starting her own company, Made Up to Move, in September this year.

Since then, she has continued to work part-time as a lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University after launching her own business to help people develop a healthy relationship with exercise and physical activity.

Paula said: “For the whole of my adult life, I’ve been passionate about exercise and physical activity, and fascinated by how being active can make us feel good and has so many benefits.

“But at the same time, I’m conscious it isn’t always easy to be active – particularly for people who may have had bad experiences in the past, don’t enjoy exercise or may face personal barriers such as living with obesity or ill-health.

“When the pandemic hit, everyone kept asking me ‘do you still want to do this?’ ‘Are you sure it is the right time?’ But I was convinced this was the right decision, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Paula said what makes her business different is psychological support to help the general public doesn’t exist on a broad scale, especially regarding common issues such as motivation, confidence or behaviour change.

Talking about why this year is a good time to launch the business, she added: “It’s interesting, because when the pandemic hit ‘exercise’ seemed to come to the forefront – probably because it was the only thing we were allowed to do. This, in itself, helped promote the benefits of being active, and helped re frame it as something of a ‘treat’.”

Rosie Stanistreet – VegNation

a person standing in front of a store: Rosie Stanistreet opened her business VegNation this month

© Rosie Stanistreet
Rosie Stanistreet opened her business VegNation this month

Rosie Stanistreet, 30, from Crosby opens her vegan food trailer business VegNation to the public for the first time this weekend.

She worked in a high pressure sales role before being furloughed during the pandemic – an event which ended up giving a new perspective on her career.

After a few weeks, Rosie realised she “wanted to live a different life” and so made the decision to go back to her catering roots and open a vegan food trailer.

Rosie said: “After working solidly for years I realised the value of enjoying my life when I stopped working 80 hours a week for a corporate company. There’s more to life and I’m determined to enjoy mine!”

With the business offering mainly delivery and takeaway service, it means she can continue to operate throughout lockdown.

She added: “I think the world will be very different moving forward and home delivery will continue to be a growing market. I’m really excited about the opportunities coming in the new year and I’m determined to stay positive whatever the world throws at us!”

Jay Connor – Lazy Bear Tattoos

a person standing in front of a television: Jay Connor from New Brighton opened his own tattoo studio during the summer

© Jay Connor
Jay Connor from New Brighton opened his own tattoo studio during the summer

Jay Connor, 39, from New Brighton decided to take a chance and open his own tattoo studio, Lazy Bear Tattoos, just after the first lockdown.

After working for nearly four years in someone else’s studio, the business was unexpectedly given two months notice to leave the property by the landlord, just four weeks after the first lockdown ended.

Jay said: “In the chaos and panic of trying to find a new place, I was given the opportunity to open my own studio. it was a tough decision to make, and wasn’t made lightly, but after a few sleepless nights I decided to take the chance.”

Despite the tattoo industry being deeply affected by the restrictions brought about by the lockdowns, Jay said he remains optimistic about its future.

He said after the first lockdown ended and they were allowed to open again, their diaries started filling up quickly.

And despite making the decision to open a new studio without knowing a second lockdown was looming, Jay said bookings are picking up again with the news that he will be open again on December 2.

He added: “My hopes for 2021 are the same as for any new business – to succeed. Like most tattoo artists, I love my job. It’s no real surprise, but tattoo artists love to tattoo, and to have that taken away has been hard.”

Jessica Doyle – Grasshopper Designs

a person standing next to a vase of flowers: Jessica Doyle started her own business after being made redundant

© Jessica Doyle
Jessica Doyle started her own business after being made redundant

Jessica Doyle, 29, from Liverpool set up her floristry business, Grasshopper Designs, during the first lockdown after being made redundant last year.

In 2019, Jessica was made redundant from her job as a wedding coordinator at the Constellations venue in the Baltic Triangle after the business closed.

Having met a lot of florists working in the wedding industry, she started to seriously consider it as a potential career move.

Jessica managed to gain experience working at a local florist and spent her redundancy pay on dried flowers to practice with at home while working part-time at a bar to pay the bills.

She said: “When lockdown hit, I was sat at home without a job and lots of dried flowers so I set up the Instagram page to start a portfolio of my work. I never expected the positive response I’ve had!”

With more people spending time at home during the pandemic, Jessica said they’re looking for something to brighten up their home space or sending flowers to cheer up friends and family.

She added: “It’s been an absolute rollercoaster as I’m sure it has for any business trying to deal with a global pandemic.

“I didn’t set up the Instagram page with much hope of it becoming a legitimate business so it’s far exceeded any expectations I had. I am so glad I started it and very excited to see what the future holds.”

Charlotte Redmond – Macrame By Charl

a woman standing in front of a window: Charlotte Redmond from Lydiate started her macrame business in June

© Charlotte Redmond
Charlotte Redmond from Lydiate started her macrame business in June

Charlotte Redmond, 31, from Lydiate started her macrame business, Macrame by Charl, in June only months after taking it up as a hobby.

Mum to a 16-month old boy called Max, Charlotte took up macrame – which she says is making pretty creations from the art of knotting with cord – in April and was delighted to sell her first item in June.

She opened an Etsy shop to sell her macrame plant hangers, wall hangings, dreamcatchers, earrings, keyrings and other “hippy boho” décor.

Before the pandemic, Charlotte lived in Japan for a year where her partner, Paul, who had a good job. But when coronavirus hit they made the decision to bring their small family back to the UK.

After returning, she admits to feeling “a bit lost” and so took up macrame while her son was sleeping.

It was then that the hobby turned into a passion and over time her skill in the art improved enough to consider starting a creative business.

She said: “I had noticed it was becoming a bit of a trend at the time. I would go to local home stores and see things like plant hangers being mass produced and sold, everybody was redecorating and buying new home décor pieces so I thought I would have a go and see if people liked the idea of buying something local and handmade.”

After opening her Esty shop, Charlotte said she had no idea how busy the business was going to be.

She added: “There’s a lot out there on the market, I felt like everyone had the same idea in lockdown, so I didn’t think my creations would be noticed amongst all the other wonderful items but turns out they did and it resulted in me having to close my Etsy shop a couple of times to catch up on orders!”

Laney Mitchell – The Spotty Banana

a person posing for the camera: Laney Mitchell opened her pre-loved clothing shop this year after being presented with an opportunity she couldn't turn down

© Laney Mitchell
Laney Mitchell opened her pre-loved clothing shop this year after being presented with an opportunity she couldn’t turn down

Laney Mitchell, 36, opened her business selling second hand clothing, The Spotty Banana, in November this year.

The mum of two said: “When I had my son two years ago, I decided not to return to my admin job so I could concentrate on my handmade gift business and work around the kids.”

Living in Widnes but originally from Seaforth, Laney said she was presented with an opportunity to open a second business this year that she couldn’t turn down.

A local lady who had been running a pre-loved clothing business for six months had decided to move back home with her family, and was unable to take the business with her.

The woman was looking for someone to buy her remaining stock and it’s then Laney said a “seed was planted” and she couldn’t stop thinking about it.

She said: “I’ve been hugely passionate about buying second hand clothing for myself and my children for a number of years so it seemed like the perfect opportunity.”

Asked why she thought it was a good opportunity to start a new business this year, she said: “With the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, families are going to have less disposable income.

“Children outgrow their clothes every year and parents can save a lot of money by choosing to buy second hand rather than spending a fortune on brand new outfits.

“All our clothing is good quality – some of it hasn’t even been worn with tags still attached. Customers can even sell their children’s outgrown or unwanted clothing to us – providing a circular economy.”

Adding: “It would be wonderful in the future when things are a bit more ‘normal’ to welcome local customers to browse our ‘shop’ in a physical setting as well as online.”