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Turn your hobbies into success: why now’s the perfect time to start a business | The unstoppables

Lockdown gave Bare Kind founder Lucy Jeffrey the push she needed to say goodbye to her corporate life and start her own fashion brand

For the UK’s microbusinesses – and the rest of us, really – the internet became even more vital in March 2020, as the first stay-at-home order was announced. According to Google’s 2020 Impact Report, 280,000 businesses started selling online for the first time as a result of the pandemic.

One such person is Lucy Jeffrey, who was motivated over lockdown to expand an online business, Bare Kind, which she founded back in 2018. “It was the year that single-use plastic was coming into the limelight and it was becoming a big trend to reduce your plastic consumption, so I started with a few different products like reusable straws, recycled T-shirts and other things in that vein,” she says. “I wanted to do something that helped the world in some way and I didn’t feel I was getting that from my day job at a bank.”

At that time, Jeffrey saw her project as an experiment and decided to try some other items. “I wanted to bring out a product where 10% of the profits were donated to charity and I landed on socks because I think most people love socks – they’re an easy gift. I contacted the Turtle Foundation [a conservation charity], got the designs going and brought the product to market fairly quickly just to test the idea,” she says. The “save the turtle” socks were a success and Jeffrey began planning an expanded range of socks featuring other animals, each in support of different charities.

Jeffrey carried on working full-time, but concentrated on developing Bare Kind whenever she could. The pandemic, however, gave her pause for thought about working in a corporate environment. “I was always looking for ways to get out because it wasn’t my long- term plan and I had a massive commute, so after the pandemic hit, I was like: ‘OK, this is it, I can’t go back to the office now that I know what working from home is like.’” She handed her notice in at the end of November 2020.

Quote: "When someone sees my business details on Google, it's a good source of trust"
Lucy Jeffrey.

Since then, Jeffrey has become something of an expert at finding support to boost her business. She benefited from the bounce-back loans launched during the pandemic; hired her first recruit via the government’s Kickstart scheme that reimburses employers for hiring 16- to 24-year-olds on universal credit; took on an intern from the University of Warwick; and signed up to an organisation called Enterprise Nation. “Through them I found out that Google was offering free one-on-one training.” She registered for a session with a mentor from Google to make sure she was doing all she could to be found online.

“He went through my website and said: ‘You’ve actually ticked quite a lot of boxes here’ – so it helped to validate that I was doing the right thing. There are all kinds of free Google resources for small businesses, so it was just a case of going through and checking that I was actually using all of them. I would definitely recommend it to people who are just starting up.” She’s also taken advantage of Google Business Profile, a tool that enables business owners to make sure that their most up-to-date details can be found in Search and Maps as well as engage with customers through reviews – much as you would for a bricks-and-mortar business.

“Obviously when you search for a restaurant it’ll come up on Google with the location details, whereas if you’re an e-commerce business you don’t have that. When someone sees my business details on there, it’s a good source of trust.” Jeffrey also likes that it aggregates and displays her business reviews.

“I’m quite lucky that I generally get good reviews, but if someone is unhappy and leaves a bad one I can deal with it there and then – and people can see that I’m sorting it out with the customer. So a bad review isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

After a year that many of us would give zero stars out of five, it’s a reassuring thought.

To see the Bare Kind collection, visit barekind.co.uk

Ready, set, glow: how a skincare brand went from a hobby to a successful business

Roshanne Dorsett.

  • Roshanne Dorsett, founder of The Glowcery, loves customer feedback online. Photograph: Amara Eno/Guardian

A plant-based diet inspired Roshanne Dorsett to start making her own skincare products: she wanted to nourish her skin in the same way she fed her body – with lots of natural ingredients. She launched her skincare company, The Glowcery, two weeks before the first lockdown hit. She explains how she overcame that challenge and went on to see her products feature in Vogue, Refinery29 and more

When did you first want to own a skincare business?
I started making my natural skincare products as a hobby when I was at uni and that’s when my sister said: “Maybe that’s something you could turn into a business.” So my first business was making lip balm with coconut and lemon oils.

I got my products ready, I got ready to launch and then I got hit with a cease and desist letter from a trademark lawyer who said the name of the product was too similar to an existing brand.

Over the next few years, you took a skincare qualification and launched The Glowcery – two weeks before the first UK lockdown. How did the timing affect you?
I think one of the things that the pandemic did was to force me to step out of my comfort zone. I’m a Gemini and people think Geminis are really extroverted, but I’m an introvert. I naively thought I could start a business and no one would see my face. But with the pandemic, there was a need to keep up communication with customers. It forced me to step up and be like: “This is me, this is what I’m up to, this is why I started my business.”

Roshanne Dorsett.
Quote: "If you want to start a business, the barriers to entry are much lower than they ave ever been"

What has been your greatest challenge starting out?
Self-belief. I have bouts of imposter syndrome and worry about being good enough to keep going. As an online business, you don’t have that constant feedback you would have if you had a physical shop with customers. So I enrolled for free on Google Digital Garage to learn how to get a better sense of what my customers thought. What I took away from it was an understanding of the best online platforms and types of content to connect with customers. For example, I was able to use the language of my target customers in pictures and videos on social platforms that led to increased likes, shares and comments on posts, therefore increasing brand awareness, which as a startup in a saturated industry was so helpful. It’s great to have tools such as Google Digital Garage to better yourself as an entrepreneur.

And your greatest reward?
This comes back to the customers again. I love hearing from people who have been able to alleviate long-term issues such as acne.

I thought about reviews from the outset, because you can’t sniff or test products online, so you need that social proof and sense of community. I recently launched on Google Business Profile, which is a really useful tool for adding that extra validity as it displays customers’ reviews in Google Search results.

Finally, what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business?
If it’s a passion of yours, lean into it! The barriers to entry now are much lower than they have ever been. If you don’t go for it, you’ll never know what could have happened. People just need to take a chance on themselves.

To visit The Glowcery website, go to theglowceryshop.com

Discover the tools, training and support Google provides to help businesses across Britain grow at g.co/growbritain

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