Whilst we’ve all heard the depressing stories of business closures during the Covid pandemic, it’s not been all doom and gloom. The world has seen a boom in small businesses as people make use of their time at home and the Isle of Man is no different. From wire art to work out plans, we’ve spoken to some of the budding entrepreneurs who’ve made their start since the world turned upside down.
Words in Wire
Paige Skillicorn started her online business, creating handmade wire artwork for that ideal Instagram aesthetic, after looking for something to do in her two week isolation upon returning to the island in October.
She said: ‘I’d seen similar products on Instagram and thought it would be a good skill to learn to decorate my own room and make gifts for my friends and family as quite a few had recently moved house at the time.’
Paige also said that it is unlikely she would have started the venture had she not been forced into staying at home for two weeks. She said: ‘Other than working from home, I had nothing else to do so it was weirdly a good opportunity to try something new like this.’
The business has now become Paige’s full time job since she decided to leave her work coaching for England Netball in February after coming back home to the island. She said: ‘Obviously I couldn’t really do my coaching job in London from the Isle of Man and it made me realise it wasn’t really the career for me now, so I decided to go into this new business full time. I’ve had lots of support from my family and friends, who pushed me to try selling my work in the first place, and now I really love making new pieces so am just waiting to see where this takes me.’
Started as a lockdown project making hair accessories but is now Amanda Dawson’s main focus, alongside her career as a hairdresser. She said the new business came from a desire to ‘keep my mind occupied in a really anxious time when I was stuck at home with my little boy and couldn’t carry on with my normal work’. ‘I just started sending them out to friends to cheer them up at first but some of them started asking for more and referring me to other people and it grew from there.’
Despite the business mainly operating online, Amanda says she has felt the support of the small business community, she said: ‘I just started off putting a few pictures on Instagram and the products would be sold out within a couple of hours so I moved onto doing pop-up stalls as well. There’s a lot of support between businesses on Instagram and here on island, that’s really how I’ve managed to grow, through mutual support like shout outs and cross promotions. I’ve found we all like to help each other out.’
Despite the hardship of the last year, Amanda said: ‘I don’t think I would’ve ever got going with it like I have if it wasn’t for lockdown, it was kind of a small blessing to take a chance on it. I wouldn’t have had time to put my heart and soul into it otherwise and I think there’s a lot of people who are the same as me, the break gave us a chance to explore that artistic flair and do things we’d have loved to do before and non-contact deliveries like from the sewing shop in Ramsey, for me, made it quite easy to carry on.’
Although the relaxing of the restrictions on the Isle of Man has meant that Amanda could return to her usual day job, her new business has ended up as her main focus. She said: ‘I never thought I’d be moved away from hairdressing like this, I’ve got my mum and auntie working with me on it now, helping to prepare fabric and everything. I wouldn’t be able to do it without their help.’
Run With Reid
Joe Reid, a runner who has represented Great Britain and the Isle of Man at competitions like the Commonwealth Games and the European Indoor Championships, started his online coaching business, for personal running plans and run clubs, after running with his partner during the first lockdown. He said: ‘I was still running and training a lot throughout so she would come out with me on runs. I started to see her progress from just coming out for a run with me to going for personal bests and it helped me see how satisfying it was to help someone improve.’
That idea eventually progressed into launching the business in late November whilst Joe was living in Guernsey. He said: ‘Whilst I had been thinking about this idea for a while, being in lockdown definitely helped speed up the process of going ahead with it. I also think that lockdown turned out to be the kick up the backside that some people needed to start looking after themselves and their fitness.’
Whilst the coaching part came easy, learning to run a business during a pandemic was obviously new to Joe , he said: ‘I did get some advice from other people but part of the reason I decided to launch Run With Reid was to challenge myself and learn how to do it as I went on. For example, the coaching actually worked well as the island went in and out of lockdown this year as I do the plans in four week blocks and people could still get out of their house to get running and train, a lot of it is online anyway so I could still carry on. The only problem was if someone was self-isolating but even then I could still support them with ways to keep fit in the house.’
Joe said his plans for the future are to grow his client list and turnout for his run clubs, he said: ‘Since coming back to the island I’ve seen the business progress a lot, the free run clubs that I do have been doing well and I’d love to get up to 20-25 regular attendees.’