Starting a business in the pandemic

Counterintuitively, progressing with a new enterprise now could be a smart move

The number of businesses starting up has increased dramatically during the pandemic. Latest government figures show 51,269 new UK businesses launched in Quarter Three this year – 30.2% more than in the same period last year.1

Take husband and wife team Guy and Abi Fennell who, in June, launched Pura, an online-based company direct-selling their own brand of affordable, eco-friendly, plastic-free, compostable baby wipes and nappies via mail order and subscription.

In their first week of trading they took 27,000 orders, and have since seen sales growth of between 150% and 200% week-on-week and their subscription base expand by 70% weekly, and now employ 30 people. Passionate advocates of the green agenda, they’re expanding into Germany this year and will launch in France, Spain and Italy early in 2021 with long-term plans to enter the US and Canadian markets.

Formidable challenges

Having identified a huge hole in the baby care products market three years ago, they set about developing eco-friendly products and finding reliable, capable manufacturers with a reliable supply chain to make them, aiming to launch in 2020. Then Covid struck; yet despite the formidable challenges it posed, they pressed ahead anyway.

“Extensive research and preparation is important, but you need to set out to be a serious market disruptor from the outset. Our decision to adopt an online, direct-sales model, cutting out retailers so we can control our prices and margins to compete against big players, has been critical to our success,” explains Guy.

Furthermore, any successful start-up in the current environment needs to be as flexible, nimble, agile and as resilient as possible to meet rapidly changing consumer demands, he argues.

Embrace e-commerce

“With people increasingly turning to online for their purchasing, it’s essential to embrace e-commerce and utilise the growing power of social media for your marketing as well as conventional advertising,” explains Guy. “It’s relatively cheap and you can use it to attract celebrities and influencers to become ambassadors for your business.

“Good communication is key but obviously difficult with social distancing issues. However, our team has trained and operated virtually right from the outset, using tech such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams and mobile video and we’ve successfully built team spirit and forged a company identity. Of course, you have to have personal passion and belief in the business you are trying to create.”

Rebel rouser

Fellow entrepreneur Cordelia Kate wholeheartedly shares that self-belief philosophy, having successfully founded Rebellious Business Network after lockdown in March to help entrepreneurs running small, service-based businesses make more money.

A mother of three, she’d been running her own freelance affiliate marketing business since 2017, but with the onset of the pandemic, decided to rapidly redefine her enterprise for the new environment and launched Rebellious from her home with a simple virtual networking event. Nine months later, her brainchild has mushroomed, generating six-figure sales and acquiring two employees by providing free networking and additional paid-for support services to a 500-strong – and growing – community of small businesses.


One-to-one coaching, expert talks and virtual business boot camps are offered, along with a training and coaching programme to help clients achieve six figure incomes, and the company’s first virtual networking conference took place in November. This time next year Cordelia expects sales income to treble.

“If you’re planning to start a service-focused business, you need to feel passionate about what you do because, ultimately, ‘you are your business’ and remember, operating online is the new normal for enterprises, thanks to the pandemic.”

She adds: “It’s vital to understand where your clients stand in this rapidly evolving market and what they need. So, before spending on marketing and advertising campaigns, work ‘organically’ by leveraging your existing social media networks and contacts and converse with other businesses and your potential customers.”

This article is written for the St James’ Place Entrepreneurs Club newsletter. The opinions expressed by third parties are their own are not necessarily shared by St. James’s Place Wealth Management.

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