Written by Sophie Wyatt

In the midst of yet another national lockdown, it’s clear that businesses in the UK (both big and small) have taken a crashing blow in 2020. Whilst we must of course acknowledge the struggle that this year has been for everyone, there have also been some big victories for small businesses. We have decided to celebrate some of the emerging companies that have been continuing to thrive in what has proved to be a confusing and uncertain year. Below we have listed just a few of our favourite small businesses at the moment, ranging from female form candles to colourful tufted mirrors. While some have flourished from a lockdown hobby into a continued adoration for creating, some started simply from the love of making products that they believe in. We got to chat to the owners of each small business about the inspiration behind their businesses, what motivates them to build their company and whether this year has altered their plans for the better or worse.

By Soph is a flourishing jewellery company that started amidst the first national lockdown earlier this year. After deciding to take up a new hobby, Sophie discovered that she found making jewellery therapeutic, and loved coming up with new, unique designs . Now with orders flying in from both new and returning customers, Sophie’s hobby has bloomed in a growing business. And with affordable prices, colourful beads and beautiful designs, we’re not surprised why.

What date did you start By Soph?

In June 2020! I did initially make my first pair of earrings in May but they were awful and I thought ‘that’s it, I’m done this isn’t for me’. But I came back to it in June and made some decent ones.

What was your inspiration behind starting it?

We were in lockdown and I had started buying earrings from small businesses on Depop because they were so cute and affordable and I was so bored! I then thought, these look so simple to make surely I could just buy the parts and make my own earrings to save money? So I bought wire and beads and made so many pairs. I was literally sat on my bedroom floor every morning before work with a pair of pliers making random shapes out of wire to attach to fishhooks and add to the growing pile of earrings on my chest of draws. I made so many that I decided to try and sell them on Depop and it went so well that I continued to make more.

What motivates you to continue to grow your business?

I enjoy every part of it! From sitting with a cup of tea and music whilst I make pieces of jewellery, to the photography and digital marketing aspects of it. I can let my creativity run wild. And at the end of the day that’s why the business is growing, because people appreciate what I’m creating and are actively responding to how I’m advertising, it just feels so fulfilling. Running a small business is so varied as I can dabble in everything which is why I really love doing it. I never thought I’d do anything like this, so why wouldn’t I want to grow By Soph and continue to do something that makes me happy.

What is the most rewarding aspects of running your own growing business?

It feels amazing knowing that people love my jewellery enough to want to buy it and wear it. I get so much fulfilment from it especially when someone takes the time to leave a positive review. Also every time I make a sale it’s so exciting and motivates me to make even more.

Had you ever thought about running your own business before lockdown?

I have definitely thought about it but I didn’t have any ideas as to what it would be, and kind of thought of it as being an unobtainable goal. However, By Soph came quite unexpectedly which has been really nice as it still feels more like a hobby rather than a business. It’s just fun!

What are your future plans for By Soph?

I just want to keep growing it and see where it takes me. In a perfect world it could eventually be my full time career but I am just going to continue to advertise By Soph online and see what happens!

Newly established candle making company Niloh, prides itself on bringing it’s customers tranquility both within themselves and externally. Their body-positive, celestial scented candles are moulded in order to represent different body types and races, in celebration of individuality. The project began in lockdown following a want to create candles that celebrated the female form. The hand-poured, vegan, soy wax candles are not only wholesome in ingredients and scent, they also promote self-love in it’s purest form.

What date did you start creating for Niloh?

So the initial concept came in July. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t have the conception of ‘Oh let me create goddess candles’, I had seen them on Instagram before and thought they were really cool. So I thought why don’t I do it and create my own ones instead, so like creating my own moulds. I designed them with the help of a 3D artist to create the actual design and get them 3D printed. And then from those 3D prints I was able to make my own silicone moulds, and that’s what I make the candles into. It’s a three stage design process, so it’s taken a while from July to October to get everything sorted and tested.I think that was about two months of designing and then it officially launched of the 24th October. So still relatively new really, I’m still learning a lot of things.

What was your inspiration/reason for starting it?

100% body positivity was my primary cause. More so, being a woman of colour it was really really important that the first collection that I do, I want it to be build on inclusivity and diversity. So I really went out of my way to make sure that my designs were inclusive and spent a long time creating shades.  Because let me tell you, using wax to make inclusive skin tones is very hard. And obviously 2020 has been a bit of a madness in general, so I wanted to make sure that women who are often overlooked and underrepresented were seen from the get go. Because I want all women to see themselves as the goddesses they are! That’s my little mission. I do hold my hands up, we are not completely there yet with the body shapes. I do say the first one is like a hyper-realistic version of it you have the perfect body, and then the curved one is more of a realistic one. But without a shadow of a doubt I want to do more designs but I just want to gage what people like first.

Where did the name ‘Niloh’ come from?

A lot of people have asked me this. So Niloh is kind of an homage to my heritage. So I’m half South-Sudanese, and people from South-Sudan or surrounding areas around the Nile are referred to as Nilotic people. So the first part of Niloh is in homage to that.

What are the most rewarding aspects of running your own growing business?

I have obviously delved into candles, and that is because I love scents. I always have something with an aroma. I think that scents really do have the power to lift and change your mood, you know to zen you out and things like that. So what I try to say with these candles is that they look as good as they smell. And they can promote your wellbeing, especially no with being at home. They are a lily cotton and musk, so they can help calm you. If you decide to burn of course, I don’t take offence if people don’t.

How has 2020 affected you and your business?

There would be no possibility of me doing this had it not been for lockdown. I work in quite a corporate job and the hours can be really long, so being able to work from home allows me to have so much more free time to be able to pursue things like this. Because it does take a bit of time to make the candles, they’re not a quick job. From start to finish I’d say it takes around two hours and then they have to set overnight, and then because they are scented I like them to cure over two weeks to infuse the scent. 

What does the future look like for Niloh?

When I initially started this I didn’t have any kind of thoughts of where I wanted to go, but now I really do think I have a brand that I can build upon. So I’ve got great ideas for things like International Women’s Day. And what I say with Niloh is that it’s not just a candle, it’s more that that so I want to create designs that bridge the sense of smell and vision together. One thing that is really important to me is sustainability and being as eco-conscious as we can be, so everything is environmentally friendly. But the wax, if you do decide to burn it, the wax that collects at the bottom can be reused as a wax melt. So it’s not like you’re not just burning your money, it can be reused.



If you’re looking for sustainable bags that are also bright and fashionable, we’ve got just the online shop for you. Lalo The Shop produces a number of bags in different colours, sizes and styles, all made from recycled materials. Apart from being super cute to carry wherever you go, the creator of Lalo explained to us that they also make great shopping bags. In her effort to rid the world of ‘evil single-use bags‘, Honey has gone the extra mile in also making these environmentally friendly bags a fashion must.

What date did you start Lalo the Shop?

Lalo The Shop started back in June this year – being made redundant from my job was the defining moment to start a company of my own.

What was your inspiration/reason for starting it?

It all began with a trip to Oaxaca back in 2018. My partner, Jack, had been the year before and had already been a huge admirer of the traditional weaving methods there. During that holiday I got to see some of the beautiful objects that the local artisans were producing and I immediately fell in love with their bags made from recycled plastic – I felt so inspired by their sassy colour combinations that it quickly became a bit of an obsession for me. All I wanted to do was bring them back for all my mates, as I knew they would love them, and they did!

I find them irresistible as they tick so many boxes – they are colourful, durable and sustainable – which really is the icing on the cake for such a wonderful object. They make the best grocery shopping bags as they are waterproof and easy to wipe down – I would love it if everyone used one instead of evil single-use bags. We design them in London, based on styles, sizes & colour combinations that we like; we then work with the head of creative in Oaxaca, being our friend Lalo (who the company is named after) and his mother, Monica, to get them into production.

What motivates you to continue to grow Lalo?

I feel as though we should be making a collective conscious decision to actively support artisanal trade, considering we live in such a world where everything is mass-produced and the consequential impact that it’s having on the environment. To be able to help preserve the craftsmanship of objects that are made by hand is an honour. It’s important to us that we operate in a fairtrade environment so that everyone is happy and feel as though they are getting their fair share. Our accessible price point is based on a business model which allows for constant employment – we keep the prices fair so as to keep selling and keep putting money into the workers pockets. So from that perspective, my inspiration is to keep those in need of employment working.

From an ecological viewpoint, I also want to set an example of how plastic can be repurposed into an entirely new product, and to show how exciting up-cycling can be. I’m really happy that young people are becoming more attuned to their carbon footprint – there are so many cool brands on Instagram that champion slow-fashion at the moment, it’s really inspiring.

What are the most rewarding aspects of running your own growing business?

I would say being able to work for myself and be my own boss – it has its challenges, but ultimately it gives me a determination that i’ve never felt before. Seeing traction from all your hard work, when it finally pays off, is highly rewarding. Also working directly with the weavers in Oaxaca and knowing that it brings financial security and provides additional income to sustain their livelihood.

How has 2020 affected Lalo?

I would say that we have been quite lucky considering we launched during a pandemic, but it’s definitely affected us – people are experiencing hardship and are being cautious with how they spend their money. Working from home on my own has been quite the experience and definitely an endurance test! There have also been the physical limitations that have withheld me from being able bring some of my ideas into fruition. Some of our creatives in Oaxaca got ill with Covid, and so that directly affected us too. Postal and shipping delays have also been quite problematic.

What does the future look like for Lalo?

We have an exciting collaboration coming up next Spring, so i’m looking forward to that. I’m hoping to expand the business and employ more creatives in Oaxaca next year. I would like to experiment with creating more woven objects in the future, but for now i’m working on new ideas for bags.

One of the most unique small businesses on our list is Al’s Place. After finding a love for tufting (a skill that has been growing in popularity this year), Alice Kelly decided to start creating some eye catching homeware, including mirrors. Her soft and colourful mirror frames instantly make you smile. With different colours, shapes and textures, her beautiful mirrors and belief that rugs don’t just belong on the floor have gained her a loyal online following.

What date did you start Al’s Place?

I started Al’s Place at the end of University in June 2019, but it became my business in June 2020.What was your initial reason for starting it?

I specialised in Knit in university but I was always working with thick fluffy wools, trying to make them into rugs. I started with latch hooking but I fell in love with tufting in my final year of University, I made 2 huge rugs as my first ever tufted pieces. I remember I brought them out into my garden and was mind blown that I had just created them! I didn’t properly start Al’s Place until after I had to come home from travelling Australia due to Covid. I was stuck at home (like everyone!) and used my page as an opportunity to be creative whilst not feeling any pressure to turn it into a business straight away, that’s something I never thought would happen. Al’s Place has grown an incredible amount since I started my tufted mirrors, I made them as an experiment but now they’re my most popular item!

What motivates you to continue to grow your Al’s Place?

Having the opportunity to be creative keeps me motivated, to know that so many people would love a tufted mirror / something I’ve made is actually incredible!

What is the most rewarding aspects of running your own growing business?

The most rewarding aspect of running my business is definitely the feedback from customers and also a positive Instagram community. Hearing that someone loves their rug or mirror and how they are so happy they’ve purchased their first piece of art makes me so happy!

Has lockdown affected your business in any way? 

Honestly, no! I remember when second lockdown got announced, I ran out to stock up on as many supplies as possible. But other than that, it hasn’t affected it at all.

What does the future look like for Al’s Place?

I’m hopefully moving into a bigger & better studio soon, I currently work from home and I have completely taken over the house! Once I move to my studio I’ll be able to have a bigger tufting frame, more space to be creating more! I want to experiment with larger tufted mirrors which I’m so excited about. I will also definitely be making more tufted homeware items!

Elsie Moss Botanicals is here for all your lockdown self-care needs. The vegan, cruelty-free soaps are free of synthetic fragrances, colours and palm oil making them 100% natural and amazing for your skin. Each bar is wrapped in completely recyclable packaging to tie in with the companies ethos to not only create natural products, but also to be plastic free. In fact the company have even been awarded the ‘Plastic Free Champion’ award by Surfers Against Sewage. So if you’re looking for natural face, body and shampoo soaps that are scented with amazing local products, head over to their website now!

What date did you start your business?

I made my very first soap bar around this time two years ago, I started making it just for our own use at first. The business sort of grew organically and I began selling a few bars here and there around February 2019. I created the website in April this year, and that’s when things really took off.What was your initial reason for starting it?My partner went on a work trip to Scotland and brought me back a lovely hand made soap as a gift. I loved using it and it kickstarted my mission to cut down our single use plastic waste. The bathroom felt like the easiest place to start and I swapped shower gels for soap bars. That’s when I got the idea to give soap making a go, just for our own personal use, but I got totally addicted to it!

What motivates you to continue to grow your business?

Seeing it grow and develop is a big motivation for me. I love that it’s grown organically from nothing, and that it’s now a fully operational little business, that gives me a huge amount of satisfaction and I’m excited to see where I can take Elsie Moss Botanical in the future.

What is the most rewarding aspects of running your own growing business?

There are so many! I love being my own boss and I like the flexibility it gives me. I’m really enjoying the sense of community that comes with running a small business too, and the relationships I’ve built with other small businesses owners and customers who have become friends. I think the most rewarding aspect though, is seeing people enjoy what I’ve created, nothing beats that feeling!

Has lockdown affected your business in any way?

Yes, strangely, it’s had both positive and negative effects. The first lockdown gave me time to finally get around to building a website, which I’d been trying to do for ages but didn’t have the time. The second lockdown has had a more negative impact though unfortunately. Right now, I should be selling in a pop up in John Lewis, Sheffield, alongside 23 other makers. It was organised by Megan of Curated Makers and was supposed to run from the beginning of November right up until Christmas Eve. We got three days in before it had to close; fingers crossed we get to reopen in December. So many small businesses are suffering right now in what should be the busiest time of the year. I really worry for them.

What are your future plans for your business?

Along side the soap making, I’ve been working on a couple of other products over the past few months, which I plan to launch sometime in the new year. I would love to develop Elsie Moss Botanical into a range of skin care products that use naturally derived ingredients and fit the ethos of the brand. Watch this space!

Beginning amid the lockdown earlier this year is clothing brand ROSAYAB. Using repurposed fabric scraps and textile up-cycling methods, Rosie has grown her small business off of her love for fashion and sustainability. With patchwork pieces galore, Rosie has already grown quite the following on Depop and over social media, and is planning to continue with her passion. Not only do her pieces help towards a more sustainable future for fashion, but her subtle and earthy tones are perfect for every season.

What date did you start your business?

March 2020 during the first lockdown.

What was your inspiration/reason for starting it?

I never set out to start a business or had any intention of being in the position I am now back in march.  I founded ROSAYAB by accident, when I began making pieces for friends at the start of lockdown. Blessed with the time and creative freedom to experiment with shapes and fabrics thus allowed myself to  design the first collection. ROSAYAB was so well received by friends and on Instagram that I decided to sell online on Depop.  As a platform for start ups and independent designers like myself, Depop really enabled the exposure and customer base that allowed my brand to grow. I wanted to create handmade pieces, with a rawness and crafted feel to them, hence the patchwork. I also am passionate about being as minimal waste as possible, so using old scraps and textile waste to repurpose into a something new is also what initially drove my ideas and aesthetic for ROSAYAB

What motivates you to continue to grow your business?

I don’t need motivation, I am doing what I love every day, so it never feels a chore or a job! Its mentally hard to work long hours, but I have always been very determined and driven, so in a way my work ethic and willpower to keep working even if I am exhausted or too tired to keep sewing has enabled the brand to grow. Also recognition for my work and the warm response that customers give when they receive and love their pieces. To be able to sell as many handmade pieces as I have has given me the joy of knowing that customers are changing their consumption habits and purchasing more mindfully.

What is the most rewarding aspects of running your own growing business?

You are your own boss! I can create opportunities for myself, and make all my own decisions without having to refer to someone else or double check for help. 

Has lockdown affected your business in any way? 

As I began in the first lockdown, it enabled myself the time to really set the foundations for ROSAYAB. Sales increased as many people were online shopping due to the restrictions of shops being open, and furlough allowed them the excess income to spend on luxuries such as fashion pieces. As the restrictions lifted, summer hit, and we were allowed to return to restaurants and pubs, this is when I reached maximum capacity. There have been ups and downs with sales, which was common among other Depop sellers, with October being a struggle. This could be pinned to the furlough scheme stopping, cyber week looming, and the uncertainty of cross seasonal design as we moved into autumn. 

What are your future plans for your business?

My plans are to have as many collaborations and photoshoots involving my pieces as possible. I love to work with other designers and creatives and create exciting imagery. Also to work with journalists and writers who are able to open up the discussion about small businesses, sustainable fashion and highlight the importance of buying small. I also am taking part in many virtual pop up event son Instagram.  I also have a really exciting article with VOGUE that will be published next year!

From wall hangings and plant baskets, to earrings and dresses, Hepburn Crafts is home to all your macrame needs. Using the art of macrame (a style of knotting ropes in order to create beautifully patterned items), Brighton-based Hepburn Crafts has combined housewear with colourful threads in order to create gorgeous additions to people’s homes. The bright, bold and beautiful colours are sure to light up your home, and your life.

What date did you start your business?

Hepburn’s Crafts became a thing around March 2017- as I had just finished university in Falmouth, Cornwall and not sure what to do I moved from Peterborough to Brighton. After my move I started to find myself and introduce myself to a new life, so my business was left in the dark for a while until I relaunched last Christmas, December 2019.

What was your inspiration for starting it?

I honestly was suffering from a lot of grief and loss from deaths in my family, which caused myself to suffer with anxiety & depression. So I wanted to do something to heal myself & also I come from a family of Gardeners, Craftsmen & Women. So it was a calling plus a tribute to my family, which is why I’m happy I chose the name Hepburn’s Crafts.

What motivates you to continue to grow your business?

Each time I make a sale I do a happy dance and bounce up and down- it’s the best feeling someone admiring and supporting your business. I think the more this started to happen, my mind was wondering “What else can I do?! What else will my audience like?! How can I do it and when is the right time to do it/release it? I’ve found that being optimistic and courageous is the best thing to motivate you with your business & I 100% think the audience and clients are a huge part of that- the support is everything and means the world.

What are the most rewarding aspects of running your own growing business?

The fact I relaunched nearly a year ago, just showed me what can happen or change for your life in that short space in time. With the persistence and consistency, you can honestly underestimate yourself and then prove yourself wrong and it’s such a lovely surprise. And hand making or crafting our creations instead of having them mass manufactured is gold for the customers as it’s bespoke and personal to the individual

Has lockdown affected your business in any way?

Lockdown has helped my business grow as my audience has had the time to invest their time watching it develop and grow.
I think a lot could’ve happened if there wasn’t a global pandemic but I feel like it’s been a blessing in disguise of helping small businesses having the time to grow.

What are your future plans for your business?

I would love to stop working my full time job and work my own business full time. It’s a goal I’m hoping to get to this time next year. I would love to have a shop & to eventually have a delivery service so we can deliver our products personally to our clients. I just can’t wait to see where I am in the next year.

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