Meet the women whose businesses thrived during COVID-19: We catch up with our International Women’s Day entrepreneurs
Last year, we celebrated International Women’s Day with an event and marketplace showcasing some amazing small businesses, run by women in Wales.
Who knew that, just two weeks later, we’d go into a UK-wide lockdown?!
To mark this years’ International Women’s Day, we caught up with three of these women, to see how they’ve managed to keep going during the pandemic.
Here’s Emily Thompson, from Pretty Little Props.
It all started with my sewing machine three years ago. I was making hair scrunchies and headbands and selling them to friends. I set up a social media account to promote them and then branched out into selling other accessories and clothes.
The Instagram community loved it. I think it was because I was promoting the items myself and people could see I was a real person. I’m certainly not a tall skinny blond!
I then started hosting parties at home, clearing the sofa out of the living room each time to make space. It all got too much in the end, so I moved into selling at pop-up shops and local venues – including the Hugh James International Women’s Day event last March, which was great.
When the UK went into lockdown, it was an emotional first week. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was working from home in my garage conversion and just decided to put things on the back burner to gain some perspective.
But then I had a message from a lady who works at a local care home, urgently needing PPE. She reached out to me because she knew I had a sewing machine.
So, I set off making masks.
I made about 50 initially and gifted them to the home. Then I posted a photo on social and it just exploded. So many people were for looking PPE and masks. It just boomed from there.
My husband, Rhodri, plays international rugby for Wales. He’d be at home training in the garage every morning. When he came out at lunchtime, I’d go in and start making more masks. I must have made thousands.
It saved my business.
It was getting so busy that, in July, I had to move out of the house and into a unit. Then I got another one. And then a third. I just kept running out of space. I was reaching so many different people through the masks – new customers that would never have come across me otherwise.
I started making personalised masks and welsh products. Companies, like gyms, were coming to me for branded items. People were crying out for masks which can be attached to my headbands with buttons – because wearing the ones that go over the ears all day can get painful.
It’s been hectic. In October, I started ‘Mini Little Props’ – a sister brand which focuses on children’s clothing and accessories, like bamboo weaning products.
I also managed to get a stall at the Cardiff Christmas Market until the winter lockdown meant it had to close. I really enjoyed that because I’ve missed selling to people face-to-face.
Before COVID-19, I would do the Royal Welsh Show and the National Eisteddfod. Thankfully, online has been an amazing platform and has kept me going. But I’m looking forward to getting back to the high street again soon.
I’m having my first baby any day now, so things are going to change again. But I’ve always lived in the moment and will continue to adapt. I’ll have to bring the baby to work with me if needs be!
What will be will be.