The last few months have been extremely difficult for many in business. As the country emerges from lockdown, and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme dries up, many experts are afraid that hundreds of thousands of workers may find themselves made redundant post furlough. But through this turmoil has emerged new small businesses and more self-employed workers wanting to make a difference. Prompting entrepreneurs to chase their dreams and aim higher than before. This may include quitting their day job to achieve their life long ambition or perfecting their craft to generate income. This extra time we have suddenly found in our lives has prompted people to be more authentic and look to buying from small businesses, not huge corporate companies. Ultimately awakening genuine progress and change in our lives and the way we buy!
After the #helpsmallbuisnesses, people have been consciously looking to buy more sustainably and are trying to give back to small business owners. We are all in this together and I think we are more aware of the fact we need to help each other out, so many of us have seen an impact on our jobs and the economy. In South Wales, there has been a trend of small businesses opening up post and during lockdown. I live in Gower and I have seen a trend of small businesses emerging, inspired by Gower and its beauty, all brands are proud to create and produce their products in Gower.
I wanted to find out more, so I interviewed a few small businesses who are based in South Wales. In this article, we welcome 7 entrepreneurs to talk about their brands and what it is like to run their own business during lockdown.
Hannah Lewis Textiles
‘’I’m Hannah, a second-year University student studying Textile Design at CSoA, where I specialise in knit, weave & mixed media. I’ve set up my own business selling my designs as bespoke art prints and facemask & scrunchie sets. I started my business during lockdown, as a way to utilise my spare time to positively impact my life. I began this journey shortly after creating an instagram profile to showcase my design ideas and textile processes alongside my studies. I had the intentions to build an audience to reach people of interest and engage with them. I loved discovering the supportive and inspiring art communities on my journey, they influenced me to reach a larger audience by turning my designs into products. Lockdown motivated me to start my business as I loved seeing so many people come together to support small businesses within their communities.
I used this time in lockdown to start something I wouldn’t have had the time to do otherwise. It gave me the time and freedom to think creatively. Although people worried that lockdown would put their life on hold, I didn’t want that to be the case for me so I found a new way to progress. I am grateful that in this time I grew as a designer and started my dream career early as a textile designer with my own business. I also took these unfortunate circumstances to my advantage and started making bespoke fabric face masks from my own designs. By continuing to engage and introduce new ideas to my business, I have continued to thrive post lockdown.
Visiting the coastline and exploring the countryside we have in South Wales plays a big role in inspiring my projects. Although we don’t have art galleries at the scale that London does, our galleries and art shops are still rich with talent. It is nice to have a personal attachment to the artwork as our galleries often exhibit local artists.’’
Cadi Mai Jewellery
‘’My name is Cadi Poulton and I am 20 years old. I have lived in the Gower Peninsula in Wales all my life. My jewellery is beach-inspired and I have always loved jewellery, from a young age I always found myself fixing and putting together different jewellery parts. But it wasn’t until my travels I started making jewellery for others. I spent 9 months in Byron Bay, which is a small beautiful surf town on the east coast of Australia. Byron is a very creative place. There was a jewellery shop there where they used to sell parts of jewellery. I spent a lot of time in this shop, buying pieces and testing them.
During lockdown, I had time to get creative and get together pieces to create my jewellery. I have always known of the charity Surfers Against Sewage as I am a surfer. They have done some work in surf festivals and competitions I have been to in the past. Their main objective is to protect our beautiful coastlines from plastic Pollution. Being a beach lover, there is nothing more I want to conserve marine life and maintain a safe, beautiful beach environment for everyone to enjoy.
I believe Gower is a very special place. I think there is a trend of small businesses emerging from our area. I believe many people are inspired by the beauty of what Gower has to offer, which I believe creates a space for creativity.
South Wales is definitely an inspirational place for me. I believe anyone would be inspired to be creative here, in their own way.’’
The Bay Clothing
‘’We are Max and Issie. We are 24 and 25 and we live in The Mumbles, Gower. We both love visiting all the different areas of the Gower for various activities, such as walking, surfing, fishing etc. We wanted to catch some of the amazing sites we see daily and share it with others. We decided to use screen printing on our T-shirts to showcase our designs.
We started our business during lockdown. Being in lockdown was perfect for us as it gave us time to practise screen printing and gaining experience around the whole process. This kept us pretty motivated and we were super chuffed about the response we had from everyone in the local area.
The Gower is an exceptional place. The diversity of what you can do around the area is awesome. Beautiful coastal walking, fun waves (sometimes) and outstanding beaches to spend the day at. Everyone who comes here loves it and that’s when it really sets in that we are so lucky to be living and to have grown up in such a wonderful environment. We wanted to show this off basically and give people the chance to wear locally made T-shirts with designs of local landmarks to show our appreciation for some of the sights we have.
Small businesses are what keeps our community alive. We should always support local business as that is what sets Mumbles and the Gower apart to different areas of the UK. There are so many creative people in our area who have started some great companies and we should all work to support each other as the quality will always be so much better! Our products are normally not made in bulk so we can put more effort into the process.
South Wales is definitely an inspirational place to live and I think the local population of people have realised that more than ever. With the circumstances of the current climate, people have been made to appreciate parts of the UK and South Wales as somewhere to visit and experience. You just have to put up with a bit of rain from time to time!’’
Gower Clothing Co.
‘’I’m 23 years old, born and bred in Swansea. I am currently working in property and have started the business on the side. All my life I have worn surf/skate clothing brands i.e billabong, ripcurl, vans, Santa Cruz etc. I like the style and fit of the clothes as well as the ethos that often surrounds those companies. I love Swansea and the Gower and felt like it would be awesome if I could use some of Gowers beauty in a logo that I could wear with pride and for it to look good. That’s why I started the brand, purely for myself, to see if I could create something I thought was cool and then to see if others thought the same.
I actually started my business in the middle of lockdown. I was fortunate enough to keep and continue work, but by not leaving the house I had far more time on my hands. I wanted to do something productive with that time so I started learning piano, learning to video edit and eventually came up with the idea for the brand. Starting in lockdown seemed like a good idea as social media marketing was all that was needed. I could place orders and send deliveries all from the comfort of my own home. Having a background in marketing from university, after developing the logo and the first product the interest kept growing in social media. Post lockdown it’s much the same. The sense of “help local business” seems really strong and I’m getting lots of orders.
I spend as much of my free time as possible down the Gower. Whether that’s walking down Worms Head or South Gate to swimming in Pwll Du or Langland, I just love it. I feel very lucky to have this place on my doorstep and I intend to make the most of it. I feel that making a cool stylish product that can hopefully showcase the surf nature of Gower, helps to show other people how nice a place it is and gives people the opportunity to wear a logo with pride.
I have definitely noticed more independent businesses start-up in Gower and Swansea alike. I think it’s brilliant, I believe Covid has put a lot of things in perspective for people. People now realise that life is short and if you have a dream, passion or even a cool idea DO IT NOW. Don’t wait for next week, month, year do it right now and have a go, the worst thing that happens is that it doesn’t go as well as you hoped. But at least you can say that you did it! And if you do something you love you can’t really go too far wrong. If anyone is considering starting something fully or part-time my advice would be to do it!’’
The Ninth Wave Clothing Company
‘’The Ninth Wave Clothing Company was first conceived 30 years ago and was set up by myself and a friend after finishing University. We travelled around India sourcing fabrics and meeting suppliers then worked from a workshop in Mumbles making the clothes and selling to shops in the UK. We ran the business for 4 years before going separate ways to pursue other career interests. A few years later under the Ninth Wave label, I designed a range of fleeces, had them manufactured and sold them to independent shops around the country. After 4 years of working with fleece, family commitments and a change in the market led me in a different direction. Since that time I’ve raised 4 children and spent the last 11 years working for Swansea University. After a difficult year at work and with an urge to get back to a more creative work life I left the University and began sourcing fabrics and designing patterns. I was considering a change of brand but this was taken off the table when my son and his friend came home from Reading Festival with The Ninth Wave logo tattooed on their legs! To be honest I don’t think I would have gone through with a change of name anyway and am delighted to be back making and selling under The Ninth Wave label. It feels right.
After 6 months of research and preparation, I set up an Instagram account (having never been involved with any social media prior to this) and published my first post last February but then did not post again until early April. I have been overwhelmed by the response and have been flat out fulfilling orders ever since. Instagram is my only selling platform at the moment and all orders are done through direct messaging which so far has been a really nice personal way of communicating with my customers. I love getting sent photos of people wearing the garments they have ordered.
It was a difficult decision to leave secure, paid employment to take a chance on running my own business again but it was definitely the right decision and I am absolutely loving it. My business started trading properly almost exactly the same time that we went into the first major lockdown back in April. I really didn’t anticipate such a quick and significant response. The first few weeks were a crazy combination of fulfilling my orders, working with a group of volunteers sewing scrubs for the NHS and managing the demands of a busy household. My husband was working from home, two of my sons were studying for and sitting their University exams from home, my daughter was home from school in her first year of ‘A’ levels and my son’s girlfriend was also in lockdown with us for 4 months. There were times when it was all hands on deck and I had help from them all with packing, threading elastic, cutting out and with Instagram. My motivation was boosted by the response I was getting and the need to work hard to fulfil the orders. Having had no previous experience of selling online or of social media, I had been planning on selling at markets and fairs as well. This obviously was not possible during lockdown but I have been kept really busy through the online sales anyway. It is still very early days for my business but so far post lockdown it is still going really well. My followers are growing and the orders show no signs of slowing down.
There are so many creative and inspirational people in Gower running businesses and making a go of it – musicians, artists, jewellers, potters, bakers, brewers, board shapers, garment makers, coffee blenders, photographers etc. I live and work in Sandy Lane which is a special community on the Gower peninsula. I work from home in the house we built 24 years ago. It is an upside-down house and I am lucky enough to sit and sew with a view across Three Cliffs Bay to Oxwich point and up over Cefn Bryn. That in itself is inspiring.’’
‘’I am currently working part-time in retail and throughout lockdown saw people doing embroidery on Tik Tok! So out of boredom and interest in a new hobby, I bought some embroidery hoops, thread and T-shirt’s from online and started just doing it for fun. Then some of my friends wanted me to make them some and I realised I could make and sell them to people! Since starting my own small business I have realised how many of them are about and seeing them all throughout lockdown has really motivated me to keep going as I have seen so much support from other businesses. One of the first jumpers I made was for one of my friends who owns her own nail business and when she posted it I got more requests from people that followed her. So far it’s going well and I really enjoy doing it, it is very time-consuming as I do it all by hand but I love seeing the end result and the pictures when the customer receives it!
South Wales is a great place to be creative as there are so many small businesses about that support one another and there is so much to be inspired by for my designs in a coastal area, like the sea and all the wildlife.’’
‘’I went to BCU university to study fashion design and graduated last year (2019)! Since finishing uni my plan was to come home back to Swansea and work for a little while I get myself back on my feet financially. I was about to start applying for design jobs outside of Wales just as lockdown started so the timing didn’t seem right. I decided to use lockdown to test the waters and see if there was a market for handmade pieces. I really wanted to start making and sewing again and I was furloughed so it was the perfect opportunity. As soon as I started advertising pieces on social media the orders never stopped!
As I started in lockdown there hasn’t really been any change in the business. If anything I think people are more open to purchasing made to order pieces as a way of shopping more responsibly and moving away from trend-led/throwaway fashion! There’s an online community of super talented hand made and made to order businesses on Instagram that I never even knew existed and it’s really exciting!
As far as living in South Wales, the surrounding area is beautiful and of course, that can be very inspirational. I completed a foundation course in art and design in UWTSD before moving away to uni and it was the best course, I would recommend it to anyone creative in a heartbeat. In terms of opportunities in South Wales, I wish there were more, there is nowhere I’d look to apply for jobs to do with my degree and that’s part of the reason behind Golden Hour.’’