And I am back again with another handful of beautiful small businesses and snazzy start-ups! This week there’s a real mix, from masks and festival wear to self care boxes!
If you know anyone who deserves to have the spotlight on them, a small business who shares amazing products and messages, get in contact with me via my Instagram @a_little_inisght so I can feature them in next weeks blog! If you are one of these small businesses – don’t be shy! Let me know if you want to be featured.
Please do check out all of the people and places listed, full details will be at the end of each section!
Handmade By Meg
Meg Neil is a Fine Art student at the University of Northampton, starting her 3rd Year in September. She tells me she chose to study Fine Art to “explore (her) creative practice. further on from A-level as I wanted to see how far (she) could push it”. In the holidays she sells artwork through commissioned pieces as well as any requests people make
Due to coronavirus and the struggles that come with it Meg says that she ” thought to put my creativity to good use by starting to sell face masks as they’re not only pretty but help people adhere to the government guidelines and help them to feel safe!”, what a lovely mindset!
Your patterns are so lovely! Its great to see creativity in this crazy time! What made you decide you were definitely going to start up your little business?
The inspiration behind starting my little business was my Mum! She taught me to sew the facemasks, to make them for family, and I thought about how lovely it would be to share them with everyone! I felt absolutely certain about starting up my little Handmade by Meg business at this time, especially starting with face masks; as of course everyone needs a mask and these are perfect face coverings for going into shops and I have patterns to suit all tastes I believe.
Tell me more about your charities that you have chosen – why those and how come you are donating.
So, the two charities I am supporting are the RNIB and Guidedogs UK! I have decided to share 20% of profits from my facemasks between these two charities for a few reasons.
My father is registered blind and I felt like I wanted to support these charities in some way as I know from my father’s experiences how difficult it can be without support! The RNIB and Guidedogs UK both do great work and so that’s why I’ve chosen to support these two charities whilst I’m selling my facemasks.
You seem so creative, do you have any other creative outlets?
I’d definitely say that being creative is a passion of mine! I love all things arty and crafty! I have another instagram page which I use to share my art with people @megneilart. As I study Fine Art at uni I share content from my course on there as well as some recent commissions and other requests from customers.
Its great that you are making safety not only easy for people but pretty! How safe have you been feeling in the lockdown period?
On the whole, I’ve been feeling pretty safe, I don’t feel too panicked by it all and I know others can be a little more intimidated by the circumstances which is understandable. But when I came back home from university I had to be a little more careful as, we as a family, we’re shielding my father because he was classified medically vulnerable.
How do you want people to feel when wearing your masks?
When people wear my masks I’d like them to feel safe, but not only that, comfortable. My masks have had only positive feedback so far and I’ve sold over 40! They’re less bulky on the face and just fit nicely – whilst still covering your nose and mouth of course. I also have such an array of unique fabrics that allow for a sense of individuality and bring fun into these still rather challenging times.
How long does it take to make one mask?
I’d say about 20 minutes – I like to take my time making sure the elastics are identical and the stitching is in perfect straight lines.
Which fabric is your favourite?
This is a tough question! I like the more subtle fabrics on myself I love the ‘Gingham Dragonflies’ fabric but I think they’re all great and suit different people.
How do you make sure that your products are going to be comfortable?
There are two main things I aim to keep consistent and they are: using cotton fabrics and using thin (but strong) elastic for around the ears! As I find if the elastic is thick it’s not comfortable at all! Everyone who I have sold masks to have complimented the comfort of them greatly!
Do you enjoy making your masks?
I absolutely love making them! When I get an order I’m so excited that I work on them that same day if I can! I just think making them is so therapeutic and its just so much fun! I love the whole process.
Are you going to create other things as well as masks?
Well, when I go back to uni I will no longer have access to a sewing machine (as the one I’m using belongs to my mum) however I am planning to continue Handmade by Meg – by making crochet items like scrunchies, bags and earrings as well as custom embroidery hoops.
How does it feel when people order/wear your masks?
I just feel so honoured that people are interested in the patterns and the shape of mask that I sell! I am always so thankful for any orders that I recieve and I feel so privileged that I have had the chance to sell masks, helping people to feel safe and giving a little money to charity to help them too!
Eloise and Gosia got engaged last year in December and moved to Bath in June. Eloise is a Barista and Gosia is a student at Bath Spa University studying Commercial Music. Together they have set up an Etsy shop where they sell handmade Earrings and super cute jewellery!
Why earrings? There are so many accessories so why did you choose to make this particular product?
We think earrings pull an outfit together! We both always wear a pair of earrings when we leave the house and they are our favourite accessory, so we thought we would bring our own twist to our favourite accessory.
All of your designs are so creative! How many pairs have you made so far?
We’ve made around 100 different pairs of earrings so far, all unique in their own way.
How did it feel hitting 200 sales?
It was absolutely insane hitting 200 sales. We couldn’t believe it, we only started our small business in April and didn’t think we would get as many sales as have done. We may have also shed a few tears of joy!
Which is your favourite design? All of them are so fun!
Eloise – Strawberry Cow Shrinky Dink Earrings
Gosia – Baby Earrings
What motivated you to set up your own business? Did it start as a passion project?
It actually started to let out some creativity and boredom during lockdown as both of us were furloughed. We’re both really creative people and we wanted to do something to express that and we decided to get some earring making supplies to have some fun and then one thing led to another and we ended up creating it into a small business.
What was the most challenging part about setting your business up – or did you find it a breeze?
Definitely the social media side of things! Trying to connect with the right audiences and get our brand out there has been the most challenging part about setting up our business.
Do you think that your earrings reflect your creativity?
Our earrings definitely reflect our creativity, we make a lot of our earrings based off of our interest and likes, that way we don’t get bored by our product. Luckily other people like them too and it’s so lovely!
What would you say to other young people wanting to start up a business?
Just go for it – there is no time like the now. You never know what could happen from just listing one item that you love online.
Where do you want your business to go?
We want our business to flourish into something wonderful, and hopefully we can start selling in stalls/ markets sometime in the future.
From loud colours to funky designs and accessories, you definitely wouldn’t miss an Alice Lily outfit in a crowd!
After igniting her experimental creativity whilst completing an A-level course in textiles, designer Alice Beresford set up her festival clothing brand in August 2019. Alice started selling her unique one-of-a-kind pieces for festivals and events whilst studying at UWE Bristol, but has since graduated and there are big plans ahead! We spoke about motivation, creativity and the future of her brand.
First of all, well done on achieving a first in your Creative and Professional writing degree! How did you balance your small business and working at your degree?
Thank you! I started taking Alice Lily more seriously in February 2020, and it started off slow which is kind of expected for any new businesses, so it was pretty easy to manage with my degree. As lockdown was implanted and no one could go out, I decided to spend my time building my website and creating concepts. Having a lot of time during lockdown did help a lot with balancing the two.
What made you want to start up Alice Lily Clothing? What motivated you?
I’ve always loved ‘fashion’ and sewing, especially creating bold and unusual looks. I started Alice Lily by just making a few garms for some friends back in 2019, then their friends wanted an outfit and it just grew from there, then this year I decided to make it into a business.
Did anything hold you back before you started up?
The main thing for me was finances, it takes a lot of money and investment to start your own business so I couldn’t buy in bulk or invest in everything I initially wanted to. As a student, I didn’t have much money so I really had to plan out what I needed to buy and when.
Having an online presence was also a challenge! It takes A LOT of time and effort to create a trusting and loyal customer base online. I spent hours and hours on Instagram liking and commenting on photos to get Alice Lily’s name out there. I’m proud of how much I’ve grown since February, but I’m always looking to grow.
What is your favourite item that you make and sell?
Star bras! I love making them because they’re so funky and fun, especially when bought with bottoms to complete the set. I’m excited to be working on some personalised star bras which will be available very soon…
How do you feel when someone buys a set or piece of clothing from you?
It’s the best feeling, I can’t even express how amazing it is when someone something from Alice Lily. They’re investing in me and the business and investing in small, ethical, local brands which I love! I honestly do have a little dance around my room when someone buys something from my website.
What advice would you give to other students who want to start up their own business like you?
Make sure this is something you really want to do and invest in (and that it can work around your studies). But go for it, it’s so much fun!
What was the hardest part of setting up/the process of setting up a start up?
So far the hardest bit was when I first started out and needed to build my online platform. Obviously, with no festivals, raves or events going ahead this summer was a really big blow, but I’ve still managed to gain followers and make sales.
You have just bought out the ‘goddess’ top – what inspired this look?
I really wanted to do ‘jeans and a nice top’ look, especially that the pubs and that are now open again! It’s so flattering and I wanted the colours to be total chill summer vibes, dress up or down kind of thing! They’re a bit different from my usual festival/rave tops, but still very Alice Lily.
You have so many gorgeous designs – do you think they represent you?
Yes, I think so! All my garments are colourful and bright and inclusive (my sizing is from 6-16 but I do custom sizing on request at no extra cost). I love working with shapes and styles and just hope everyone’s loves what I produce as much as I do!
Where do you want Alice Lily to be in 5 years time?
At the moment I’m focusing on building my customer base ready for next year when I’m hoping festival season will be bigger than ever! I would love to be able to do Alice Lily as a full-time job and just be able to keep producing new garms and content! I would love to do a pop-up shop at a festival one year, I think that would be really cool, so I want to look more into that! For now, I’m happy with how far I’ve come and can’t wait to see where Alice Lily goes!
And Relax Box
Hollie is the founder of And Relax Box and everything she sells right now is available to buy online. The boxes include ethical brands and share strong eco values. Read on to hear about her favourite box and what factors she thinks other should consider before starting up!
Where are you based and when did you start up your business?
We are based in a town called Harrogate in North Yorkshire, however our business is based online and we deliver nationally. I started And Relax Box in February this year.
I love the concept of your boxes, what inspired you to create this? Where did it start?
A couple of years ago I tried out a few subscription boxes as I have always had an interest in skincare and beauty. I enjoyed receiving regular items in the post from new brands, but I found that I was looking for a more unique experience. This is where the inspiration for And Relax Box came from.
I realised that I was looking for a subscription box which provided full size items and included a mix of other wellness products at an affordable price. I was also interested in discovering new brands who had ethical and eco-friendly values. The concept of And Relax Box was born to fulfil these needs for myself and others looking for similar offering, with the aim to provide customers with the ultimate self-care treat.
Each of our boxes is focused on a different aspect of wellbeing. This year we have launched a box focused on improving sleep (DREAM), increasing energy (BOOST) and we recently released our GLOW edition for summer.
What was the hardest part of setting up your business?
I think the most difficult part of the process for me was deciding when to launch the business. I am such a perfectionist and I wanted to be extra sure that everything was right before sharing the brand publicly.
Whilst it was important to make sure specific steps were followed correctly as this was my first time putting something together like this, this resistance did leave me holding back for quite a while. It was only later that I realised that you need to set a starting point and then you can always build on that momentum.
Describe your business in three words.
Rest. Unwind. Indulge.
What message would you give others who want to start up a small business?
It is an exciting step for anyone to take and I think it is important to enjoy the journey as you go. There isn’t just one way of doing things so don’t be afraid to break the mould and carve out your own path.
What is the most rewarding part of having your own business?
I really enjoy the whole creative process, designing each box and selecting the best brands to work with. I have always worked in creative jobs but working on your own business and having complete control is very rewarding. Seeing customers enjoying their boxes gives me a wonderful feeling and I am proud of what the business has accomplished in such a short space of time.
What is the main message that you want your brand to say?
I think many of us lead a very hectic lifestyle and it is important to understand when your body and mind needs a break. And Relax Box gives customers the tools needed for this self-care, allowing them to relax and unwind. I believe that even focusing on wellness for a short amount of time can have a deep impact on our overall wellbeing.
Which is your favourite box?
Every time we launch a new box it feels like a new favourite. Right now, I am excited about our summer box GLOW. This collection is full of products with fresh, floral scents from beautiful brands. In this box we have some great skincare products, including a hydrating facial oil from True Skincare and a nourishing shea butter soap bar from Nuddy. For our candle lovers, we have a Seychelles soy wax candle and Raspberry & Black Pepper melts from Fika Candles. Finally, we have a set of eco friendly make up remover cloths from Danielle Creations and tropical anti-aging eye patches from Kocostar.
Which is the most important factor to think about when setting up?
As with everything good in life, starting up your own business takes plenty of effort and hard work. I would recommend overestimating on both time and money when it comes to setting up. Double your original value and then add some extra on top.
If you are setting up on your own, then I would also advise using family and friends as a sounding board for your ideas so that you can get some early feedback.
What keeps you motivated? Do you have certain goals or mantras?
It sounds cliché but my daughter really is a key motivator for me. I want her to learn when she is older to have confidence in her ideas and to go after whatever she wants to do in her own life. It would be hypocritical for me not to do the same as her parent, so this is a big driving force.
Where do you want And Relax Box to go in the future?
We are still learning a lot as we grow and working hard to create special boxes that our customers will love. We would love to expand more into the wellness space and create some new subscription options too (our boxes are released quarterly at the moment).
Working with a wide range of unique independent brands has given us plenty of ideas for boxes that we can create in the future.
Loving local shops and supporting small businesses really isn’t that hard, plus with such gorgeous products, like the ones highlighted in this blog, how can you say no? Seeing businesses grow is beautiful, especially for the people behind the products who work so hard at developing and creating them! Be sure to give these small businesses a follow and check out their websites!
Look out for another ‘Loving Local and Supporting Small’ blog next time!