Go see my BLOG POST FOR AllBright EDIT, out today.
If you’re struggling to make it in the marketplace, you’re far from alone. We spoke to three creative entrepreneurs in London to learn how they’ve adapted during the pandemic, the impact of sisterhood on their journeys and their tips for fellow female founders.
This year has been one of change and of challenge – particularly for small businesses. According to research by McKinsey, 70% of small and medium-size businesses in Europe reported a fall in revenues, caused by the pandemic. More than half worry they may not survive another year.
Across the pond, the number of small businesses in America plunged 22% from February to April – the largest drop on record, disproportionately affecting BAME and female-owned companies.
The COVID-19 crisis has triggered lasting consequences for small businesses worldwide. But there is hope on the horizon.
Entrepreneurs including interiors artist Simone Brewster, illustrator Sakina Saïdi and fashion designer Edeline Lee have not only adapted their enterprises, but also paved paths to success during this challenging year. We learned how.
Simone Brewster, Artist And Designer
With an eye for beauty and a powerful message embedded in each piece she creates, craft entrepreneur Simone Brewster designs statement jewellery and furniture.
When the pandemic hit, Simone reacted swiftly, finding opportunity in a sea of uncertainty: “I’ve used lockdowns to create new work and make connections with people that I hadn’t before,” she tells AllBright.
“Coronavirus hasn’t stopped me. It’s forced me to adapt, which I think everyone should look to do. I used time away from my studio to start painting – something I only thought I would have time for during my retirement,” she adds.
“We should diversify and look at how skills we already have, but don’t necessarily use, can become secondary sources of income.”Simone Brewster, Artist And Designer
Simone also shared her advice for female founders struggling to grow their businesses right now: “Any creative has probably acquired a whole number of skills, just to do their business. I’ve learned to use software programs, give presentations, public speaking – the list goes on.
“We should diversify and look at how skills we already have, but don’t necessarily use, can become secondary sources of income. Another way is to become extremely niche. By becoming niche, we can target and talk to our audiences in a very clear and precise way,” she advises.
While it’s tempting to crouch down and weather the storm during a crisis, for Simone, relying on her network opened her up to growth: “Reaching out to your community is integral when you’re an independent creative running a business… There are so many talented female creatives. I’ve learned by connecting with them, and from other people’s mistakes.”
She also describes the value of female connection throughout the pandemic: “I’ve had a crazy year with an amazing outpouring of support from women. I’ve been checked on by so many creatives. Especially during the pandemic, there is definitely a sisterhood.”
Sakina Saïdi, Digital Illustrator
Drawing curved edges with splashes of colour and the occasional inspirational word, digital illustrator and freelancer-turned-entrepreneur, Sakina Saïdi, depicts themes of growth and womanhood in her work.
Describing the initial uncertainty of the pandemic, Sakina says: “In the beginning, I closed my shop for a month. I took time to think and see how the situation was evolving. When I came back, I was pleased to see people were still buying from me and sending [my products] to loved ones.”
However, although she trades mainly online, Sakina wasn’t immune to the pandemic. “I had planned to get a studio and expand my range to do more wholesale,” she explains. “Obviously it didn’t happen, so this year took me in a different direction. I want to continue to do commissioned work for causes that matter to me and independent, sustainable and ethical businesses, in parallel with my shop.”
“Be open. Look in directions you might have not considered before. This has been a year of adaptation and resilience – be prepared to change your plans and adapt to new, challenging circumstances.”Sakina Saïdi, Digital Illustrator
Offering guidance for entrepreneurs afflicted by the pandemic, Sakina says: “It’s a crazy time. We feel more vulnerable, but our lives have also changed a lot. Now is the perfect time to try new things.
“Be open. Look in directions you might have not considered before. This has been a year of adaptation and resilience – be prepared to change your plans and adapt to new, challenging circumstances.”
Reflecting on the value of sisterhood, Sakina adds: “I’ve met some wonderful women since starting to work for myself. I was pleasantly surprised by the warm community feeling I got from both in-person and online interactions.
“I’ve also connected with many lovely people on Instagram. It can be a temperamental tool, but I’ve found a lot of support and a real feeling of sisterhood.”
Edeline Lee, Fashion Designer
For fashion designer Edeline Lee, each garment she creates is specially made for what she calls the ‘Future Lady’ – clothes that are edgy and modern with practicality, timelessness and sustainability at their heart.
Edeline sprang into action when coronavirus hit. “As soon as the virus reached the UK, I closed the studio for lockdown,” she tells AllBright. “I designed a mask and we prepared kits for hundreds of volunteers to make masks at home, which we collected and donated to frontline workers. It was a small way of contributing.”
Despite wading through the uncertainty, Edeline captured the mood shift in her fashion collection. “A lot of us want to dress up more on the infrequent occasions we go out now, and I responded to that. My designs for the spring season are a mixture of fluid, easy-to-wear pieces as well as bold statement pieces for the events we know we will get to go to again.”
Offering her guidance for women business owners, Edeline says: “We each have power within us. Do whatever feels like play to you – it’s there that you will find the greatest expression of your personal power.”
Contemplating the impact of sisterhood on her work, she adds: “A lot of the women who wear my clothes are friends, and it gives me the greatest joy to see them living their lives in my designs.
“My autumn-winter 2019 collection was inspired by Professor Mary Beard’s seminal text Women & Power. I was lucky to have Mary open the presentation, for which we gathered a group of 35 prominent women from a range of professions and viewpoints. It was a wonderful moment and really encapsulated the spirit of the brand.”
It’s clear to see that, despite the pandemic, there is hope for small businesses to survive and even thrive. For entrepreneurs like Simone, Sakina, and Edeline, embodying the values of nimbleness, resilience and sisterhood have truly made all the difference.