As we sprauchle on through the third national lockdown of the last year, many of us look back with sadness at what the pandemic has taken away from us. While the setbacks and heartbreak are overwhelming, it is important to celebrate the gifts that lockdowns have given us, too. For some young Sheffield creatives, lockdown gave them the gift of time to launch their own businesses.
The lockdowns and varying national restrictions have brought with them a growing demand for online shopping. According to research by Growth Intelligence, more than 85,000 online businesses were launched in the UK during the first national lockdown. LINK While millions of us have enjoyed buying from various independent virtual stores, scores of Sheffield-based entrepreneurs have equally reaped rewards throughout lockdown.
Lara Curtin, 22, who completed her MA at Sheffield University last year, hadn’t had the time to do any art since leaving school. She decided to pursue art again in her free time evenings and weekends in this third lockdown, leading her to launch her Etsy shop Art by Lara.
“If Covid didn’t exist, I think things would still be busy and I would have never nailed any time to get back into it”, she said. For Lara, this lockdown has given her the opportunity to do something she’s “always wanted to get back into.”
Many people have taken to launching their own businesses to replace income lost due to the effects of the pandemic. Lucy Hamer, a 17-year-old student from Barnsley, lost her part-time waitressing job at the start of the pandemic and with her boyfriend Oliver used her spare time in the first lockdown to launch their own t-shirt business, OLCY.
Lucy explained: “When the lockdown started I was handed my GCSE results based off teacher predictions and for 3 months I had absolutely nothing to do, I didn’t even have any school work. I was so bored.”
At the start of the pandemic, Lucy was told she “wasn’t the right age” to be furloughed and was left with no income. She was frustrated with the loss of money and decided to get creative to fill her time and hopefully make a profit by launching OLCY.
After spending more time working on her illustration hobby due to the spare time lockdown brought, Grace Burrows, 23, was nudged by her boyfriend to set up an Instagram account for her work and from there her hobby grew into a small illustration business, GdotIllustration.
Grace said she would probably never have had the time to launch her illustration business had it not been lockdown. She said: “I’ve definitely thought about it before but just thought I’d never actually get around to doing it. Art is the thing that I’ve always enjoyed so I sort of poured all my leftover energy and lockdown time into it.”
The many hours gifted by the global pause has also led people to discover talents they never knew they had. Caragh Green, 22, said she would never have considered herself a creative person before the first lockdown. Being a fashion enthusiast, she started making clothes for herself and her family in the first lockdown and from there grew Caragh Creates.
Caragh said the circumstances of lockdown became the impetus for starting her business. She said: “I had so much more free time than ever before, and very limited ways of spending it. Caragh Creates has really helped me cope with lockdown. Having something productive but also fun to do while connecting with others over social media in a way that I have never really done before has been really great.”
Upcycling has grown in popularity throughout the pandemic with many people spending much more time at home and choosing to pick up a paintbrush to brighten up their surroundings. Olivia Quinn, 22, took her flair for upcycling to the next step and has launched Chic Furnishings.
In the first national lockdown Olivia bought her first home and started to take on the odd upcycling project to make gifted furniture more to her taste, this then progressed to taking paid commissions and now the launch of her own business.
Olivia is currently furloughed but is using the money from her new venture to fund other dreams of hers, and plans to continue doing so after the pandemic. She reflected: “It has made me think about the saying ‘what’s one man’s trash, is another man’s treasure’ and that certainly is true.”
“I don’t plan on stopping up-cycling as it is funding my dream home and a puppy. It is now my goal to get a puppy out of up-cycling, as I’m a dog lover.”