Women Mean Business: Telegraph readers share their secrets to having a successful business

·6-min read
Telegraph readers share their business success stories
Telegraph readers share their business success stories

As part of this year’s Women Mean Business event, we asked our female readers to share their entrepreneurial success stories from before and during the pandemic. From the challenges they faced to the things they learned in the process, women came forward with inspiring small business stories. We share five of these stories below.

Susie Reid-Thomas, founder of Twilight Trees

“I started off as a one-man band in 2014 selling LED trees, but soon demand for rentals went crazy and the business grew exponentially.

“In 2020 we were on fine form, a slick team of 10 taking on artificial tree installs for high profile events at the most prestigious of venues. As the month of March 2020 drew on, the phone started ringing, cancellation after cancellation after cancellation.

“Business went from 100 to zero overnight, the staff went home, and I was left on my own as the business that I had put my entire life into evaporated. I had a choice to make, but it was never even really a consideration: Twilight Trees would rise to the challenge. I stayed up through the night designing a product to suit the Covid market; artisan social distancing screens was it.

“We quickly found a manufacturer, a fellow business who had been taken out by the pandemic and was in quick need of revival. The team sprung back into action as we started selling the screens, which sold like wildfire, due to our quick innovation and the fact that they were a luxury and niche product within the market.

“We had to pinch ourselves as the orders came in and we ended the financial year having taken the same turnover as the year before. Business is getting back to normal now, the team is being rebuilt and postponed events are back in the calendar.

“We had to pivot very quickly but are stronger for it. A quiet period also gave us the chance to explore other avenues and our bespoke installation service was born and is thriving. We would never have chosen 2020 to be the way it was but what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, right?”

Sally Dear, founder of Ducky Zebra

“I'm Sal, founder of Ducky Zebra, and still on an absolute high that I've launched a brand, selling kids' clothes I love and believe in. Ducky Zebra is a unisex clothing startup, which challenges gender stereotypes with its sustainable, colourful clothing for kids aged 0–6 years.

“We launched on social media in April 2021 and will be selling our clothes later this month, October 2021. During the process, I've overcome a number of challenges, including: learning about a completely new industry; identifying the most sustainable fabric and manufacturing process; homeschooling; designing unisex clothes that kids themselves want to wear; factory lockdowns; Covid-friendly (kid) photoshoots; and shipping delays.

“But I've also experienced huge kindness and support, which has fuelled me to keep going. My background isn’t in fashion. Nor is it in retail. My experience is in marketing, predominantly for the automotive and rail sectors. So, why Ducky Zebra? I was frustrated by the impact of gender stereotypes on my children. The language they were hearing, the TV they were watching, the games they were playing and the clothes they were wearing. Ever the optimist I decided to tackle one of these areas. The clothes they were wearing.”

Olga Emeretli, founder of ​​To The Fairest

“To The Fairest is a British fine fragrance company. We launched just before the pandemic, and suddenly faced the challenge of introducing new scents to customers without the traditional 'counter' interaction at pop-ups and bricks and mortar retail outlets.

“We developed a postal sampling programme, started selling via Whatsapp and Instagram, and also worked with some beauty subscription boxes. Scent used to be quite difficult to sell online as it is so subjective and the product itself is invisible (unlike, for example, lipstick swatches) so working with photo sharing apps was challenging. However, beauty buying habits have really shifted over the last 18 months and there has been an increase in 'blind buy' perfumes, based on peer reviews and brand narrative.

“We still have a long way to go but the company is growing and we launch three new fragrances next year.”

Charlotte Ismael, founder of Protect, But Make It Fashion

“I started my business during the first lockdown. I was first selling face masks online while working part time from home – until one day, when an entertainment company asked me to make 500 custom face masks for them.

“This was a real challenge because I had no idea how I would do that, but they trusted me and we succeeded in making it happen. With the money from this huge order, I decided to keep on going with my business and to transition into satin bonnets for curly textured hair and women experiencing hair loss.

“After some research, I realised that I was the only one in Europe to create this product: a bonnet lined with satin that can be transformed into a head wrap. I started online in April 2021, then in Portobello and Brixton Markets.

“Social media helped me gain visibility thanks to my 2000 followers across all platforms. I am now looking forward to finding more stores around London, the UK and Europe to distribute my product.

“One of the biggest challenges that I had to overcome was my mindset. I had to reset myself and my mind to fully believe that I was capable of running a business. Now, I am working full time on my business and I am very confident about where it is going. There is a lot to tell about my story and my brand – I'd love to share it to the world and encourage women of colour like me to pursue their dreams.”

Samantha Tulloch, founder of Project Mind and Behaviour Ltd

“Before the pandemic, I worked through my own company as a contractor to various public sector clients. As soon as the lockdown began, I started working for a new Government client and after five months won a leadership award in the organisation, despite never having met anyone in person and only working part-time (four days per week).

“I realised that I have a way of working which clients enjoy, so I sought a mentor to help me to start turning my single person business into a consultancy and expand this approach so I can expand my reach (this is what I am currently working on).

“This also made me realise that I wanted to share the lessons I have learnt as a project manager and change manager who has successfully worked part-time for the past 2 years, as a contractor, with other women to help them find their strength and voice in how they manage their projects and conduct themselves in the workplace.

“This led me to create my coaching and mentoring business in May 2021. My aim is to create a portfolio career for myself; designed by myself; based around MY strengths- rather than something which is dictated by a job description and organisational terms and conditions.”

What is your entrepreneurial success story? Share it in the comments below

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