How Northern Business Women survived the ups and downs of the Pandemic

WRITTEN BY AMY DOWNES

Here at Sparkle Up North our goal is to help women in business share their story online, on social media and in the press, but there’s more to it than that.

We want to provide a supportive community for you to be able to reach out for help, advice and even a morale boost when times are tough.

When we started creating this online magazine, we asked a range of northern business women to share their experiences of the past 12 months, the toughest time many of us have had to face when it comes to our businesses.

Unsurprisingly, 95.8 % of businesses we spoke to said they had been affected by the pandemic in some way and, whilst there were many different examples of its impact (e.g. mental and physical health, relationships, childcare), 62.5 % said they were affected financially.

Delving into this a little deeper, 70.8% said their income reduced and 60.4 % saying it had been reduced significantly, resulting in drastic changes needing to be made in order for their businesses to survive.

New start-ups have been among the hardest hit, with government support unavailable for those who began trading in the year leading up to the pandemic:

‘My business started in January 2020… I have fallen through the net, with no grant funding or loans from the government. Prior to the new business I was on a full wage, so this has been a big drop of income. I have been offering some of our services online, but as yet there has been no uptake.’ Rachel Barber, Living 4 Moments

It’s been an extra challenging year for those of us who have children as well as a business to run: 22.9% of our Sparkle Up North community said they’d been affected by childcare. Meanwhile, 20.8 % said their physical health was affected, while 35.4% said their mental health was affected.

Shockingly, 25 % of businesses told us they had to close when government restrictions were introduced last year and – of course – the subsequent lockdowns that have been enforced since. With face-to-face appointments banned, a wide range of businesses have been effected; including masseurs, therapists, café’s and restaurants:

‘My business has been closed for 8 months in 2020,’ Elise James, Skin By Elise James

‘The retreat is currently closed and has been since 1st lockdown’ Mandy Worsley, Cheetham Farm Retreat

‘I ran a coffee shop which had been open for 7 months before the pandemic hit. We had to completely adapt the business to work in the new world; we set up a website offering cards and gifts so that we had another revenue stream, we started doing takeaway Afternoon Tea and grazing boxes. But we only serve from the door and haven’t had anyone sitting in since March.’ Heather Amos, Grays of Rothwell

The affect of these closures reaches further than the individual businesses, as the Sparkle Up North team have experienced themselves, the drastic reduction in income has meant they are then unable to employ others for services like PR, social media, graphic design and more:

‘I have run a graphic design business for the last 10 years, working with a lot of events, festivals and hospitality clients – all of whom have had to cancel or close over lockdown.’ Michelle Wright, Colour Wheel Art

As with many of the ladies featured above, 66.6 % of our Sparkle Up North women have changed business or blog as a result of the pandemic. Examples they gave us include: moving their services online, holding Zoom calls instead of face-to-face appointments, creating online networking sessions, and of course two of our ladies suffered from Covid themselves.

Here are just some of the innovative ways they have evolved their businesses and continued to grow them against the odds:

‘I love going to local events, fairs and markets promoting my eco-friendly products, but due to the pandemic I went online and have developed a new way to share my products with people: monthly boxes.’ Jodie Clough, Between Green

‘I have gone online for my hypnotherapy sessions. However, I have been unable to provide Reiki and Reflexology sessions since I have had to close. Some people have taken up the opportunity of distance Reiki, but many are unsure of this still and prefer to have them face-to-face.’ Abi Fenton, Reflexology, Reiki & Hypnotherapy by Abi

‘We did have a cafe open to the public too but this has been running at a loss due to the pandemic, so we have taken our business fully online. We now offer a meal-prep delivery service and this is proving really popular with our customer base. The plan now is to set up a nationwide delivery service, so we can reach more women who are looking to eat well and, more importantly, feel well.’ Amie Bastow, The Superfood Bowl

‘I’m a nail technician and beauty therapist who had to close in March. Rather than loose income, I took my business online and launched a range of press on nails. I’ve also become a business coach and launched an award-winning podcast!’ Michelle Mills, She Talks Biz

‘I have gone from selling my items in a shop (which we had only just opened) to using Facebook and Instagram. We’ve also started doing doorstep delivery to comply with social distancing rules.’ Janet Garnett, On Trend Boutique

‘I’ve had to book less appointments so that I have enough time to disinfect in-between each client, I’ve also had to wear PPE, and now do my consultations virtually rather than in person.’ Chantal Nogbou, Dragonfly Acupuncture Leeds

‘I decided to fully focus on my blog and it turned out to be the best decision I made. My work has been featured on 3 global blogs and a women empowerment magazine. I have also partnered with several brands for sponsored blog and Instagram posts.’ Leila Boss, Let’s Talk blog

‘I’ve mainly had to change by focusing on my own blog and writing guest posts for big brands. Before the pandemic, I wrote blogs for smaller marketing agencies/consultants/coaches. But from February, they started dropping off as they’re spread globally and started restrictions earlier than in the UK.’ Alison Wolf, Freelancer Lifestyle

But, it is not all doom and gloom. Sparkle Up North are proud to be sharing with you some inspiring and motivating stories about how these fabulous women in business have adapted their businesses to overcome the challenges of the pandemic:

Excitingly, 10.4 % of our Sparkle Up North ladies have seen their income actually increase since this time last year. What we love most is that the impact of their work is also helping others:

‘I chose to leave my corporate career in January, so that I could pursue my dream of setting up my own business!’ Louise Hynes, Louise Hynes Coaching

‘I am a counsellor and public speaker. Since the pandemic, I have had to go online which has resulted in being able to help many more people, globally.’ Christina Gray

‘2020 has kicked me up the bum to start a new business which I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I’ve streamlined my pre-existing business which has actually resulted in more income and my new business has been a hit so it’s all going well so far.’ Zoe Thompson, Build It Brilliant

Many of these amazing stories will be shared in more detail over the coming months, including features on Carol Barstow who was one of the ladies who fell ill with Covid (featured tomorrow) and Michelle Mills who launched a brand-new podcast (featured on Friday).

If you’d like to be considered for inclusion in our online magazine, we’d love you to share your stories with us here, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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