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With online companies seeing the biggest boom in 2020, especially those filling a new need created by lockdown, it’s actually been the right time to launch the right kind of business.
Liverpool is never short of fantastic ideas and entrepreneurs ready to make the most of their skills, even in adversity. The Guide spoke to four brilliant local businesses which were born out of lockdown and have already been a huge success …
With the worst possible timing, Andy Cook quit his job in March last year with a grand plan to start his own adventure activity company.
“I planned to take people up mountains all over the world – then in the space of about two days I lost all the work I had for the year when Covid hit,” he says.
Luckily, 33-year-old Andy had been working as a baker, so all wasn’t lost.
His girlfriend suggested asking neighbours in Allerton if they’d like any fresh bread delivered during the first lockdown and he was immediately inundated.
“We have a What’s App chat group for Plattsville Road and I put it up on there, expecting maybe two or three people to reply. I came back an hour later and there were 20 orders already.”
Andy set up a community bread scheme for the road in early April, taking orders online then setting up a stall outside their terraced house where people could collect.
“I started one day a week and then as demand grew from adjacent roads eventually I was baking from home six days a week.”
He started bakery Instagram and Facebook pages, and as word spread he began getting orders from local independent delis and shops, coffee shops, cafes and restaurants including Purple Carrot and Nomad on Smithdown, Skaus on Allerton Road and most recently Windmill Wholefoods in Aigburth.
“I try and choose my clients carefully because I look for businesses who have the same values as me, around community and the environment. I only use organic flours sourced in the UK, from a small family-run mill in Gloucester, and there’s no plastic packaging, so those things are really important for me.”
As the retail side of Plattsville Bakehouse began to grow, Andy stopped taking domestic orders but neighbours still buy his bread from local shops which have been able to stay open through the pandemic.
He now bakes from a small production space which not only allows him to have professional bread ovens, it also saves his house from getting covered in flour!
After starting as a stop-gap to keep busy and help out, Andy says Plattsville Bakehouse has become a six-day-a-week career he loves.
“This is me now and it’s been a real revelation,” he says. “I’ve always loved to bake and wished I could devote more time to it and now I can.”
Visit the Plattsville Bakehouse website here.
When lockdown restrictions came in Hannah Edwards decided if kids couldn’t go to parties then the parties should go to them.
The 33-year-old from West Derby bought indoor teepees and garden bell tents, as well as giant projector screens, and launched her own events company.
“I bought the first bell tent and when we were told we could only get together in the garden, it was booked out every weekend. Coming up to winter I thought, what can I do indoors? So I bought 12 teepees, created different themes including Harry Potter, unicorn, dinosaur, football and it’s just rocketed.”
Even now, Hannah’s business hasn’t slowed down because customers want family sleepovers.
“At the moment we’re hiring mostly two or three teepees per house for siblings and we put adult airbeds in them so often mums and dads are joining in as well.
“It’s just something different because everything’s closed and now kids can’t even go to school so a lot of people are thinking ‘what can I do to make them happy’?”
Indoor teepees come fully dressed with lights, sweet cones, chocolate coins, table lamps and seating. “Each one is tailored because they give us a blank canvas so for instance the Harry Potter ones have Harry Potter bedding, wizards hats and broomsticks, wands and glasses, and flags of the different houses.”
She says parents can bespoke a package to suit themselves, with teepee and cinema options.
“People can hire as much or as little as they like, and whatever they want I’ll try and make it work.
“It’s all really simple to set up so we just drop off everything off with instructions and pick it all up,” she adds.
Hannah’s looking forward to warmer weather when the four-metre bell tent, which can come with a karaoke machine and disco ball, will be in big demand.
“It’s gorgeous and it’s not just kids who love it. When Glastonbury was cancelled last year, if I’d had 20 tents I think they’d have all gone out because everyone wanted a mini festival in the garden!”
She says lockdown gave her the opportunity to do what she’s always wanted. “I would never have had the time otherwise because I was working full time and I’ve got a two-year-old daughter Beatrice.
“I bought the first tent on a whim and I’ve just been blown away by the response.”
Find out more info here.
Liz Spencer started her bake business by bringing together two things that have kept most people going over the past year … chocolate and cake!
Liz, who lives in Aigburth, set up Bakes & Beyond which has been delivering brownies, blondies, and rocky road bakes across the city since last September.
She was on a career break from teaching after having her two children, two-year-old Helena and four-year-old Sam, when the Covid crisis first hit.
“My husband Andrew owns Lock & Key hotel in the city centre and I’d always done cakes and bakes for them, I got my qualifications to do that, so during lockdown I thought I might as well bake for other people too,” explains Liz.
“I made some celebration cakes and then when the hotel started doing takeouts, it seemed like every order of coffee or tea added a brownie or blondie so that gave me the idea for the business.
“I looked at what sold well and what people were asking for, and to make things a bit quirkier I did seasonal themes and started experimenting with different flavours and once I started putting them on my Instagram things just took off.”
Treat boxes for Halloween were her first big test, then centrepieces for Christmas including rocky road Christmas puds.
“I just got so many orders, I was baking full-time and we were doing all the deliveries ourselves. Now I set aside hours every day to bake, even if it’s just trying out new flavours, so the oven is always on and we’re always taste testing!”
Going into 2021, 33-year-old Liz plans to expand her range and start nationwide postal deliveries.
“Traditional ones are always really popular but I’ve found chocolate bar versions sell best – I do a Terry’s Chocolate Orange brownie, a Toblerone one and Mars which people love, as well as Caramac and Gold Bar blondies.
“I’ve already started working on Valentine’s Day 10-inch brownie hearts and treat boxes, then I’ll be doing specials for Mother’s Day and I can’t wait to experiment for Easter because last year I did Crème Egg and Mini Egg brownies for the hotel and they just flew.
“As well as gifts, I’ve been really surprised by how many people are ordering just for themselves. I think in lockdown people just want a treat to cheer themselves up and brownies definitely do that.”
Visit the Bakes and Beyond Instagram page here.
As a wedding co-ordinator for Constellations in the Baltic Triangle, Jessica Doyle loved being part of couples’ big day.
So when the venue closed and she was left looking for a new job, she was keen to stay in the wedding industry.
“I was interested in floristry so I got work experience at a local florists and she suggested getting some dried flowers to practice on at home,” says Jessica. “I used my redundancy pay and bought a lot of dried flowers, thinking I’d be able to go on and get a job in a florists once I’d built up a portfolio.
“But then lockdown happened, and I was sitting at home without a job, so I started making up arrangements for friends and the Instagram really took off.”
In fact, Jessica has had so many orders for her dried flower arrangements that she delayed going to college in September to train formally, focusing on building up the business instead.
Grasshopper Floral Designs has attracted customers wanting to improve their homes because they’re now spending more time in them, and those who are just looking for something beautiful as a gift for themselves or someone else.
Because the flowers are dried, they have a longer life-span which people like too.
“I think because you can get them to match a room colour scheme they’re seen more as a home improvement piece instead of just buying fresh flowers,” says Jessica.
“And people are more focused on sustainability now as well so they don’t always want a fresh bouquet, they want something that will last.”
As her business has grown, 29-year-old Jessica has started to look more into using natural dyes to dye flowers herself and she’s been experimenting with the drying process at home in Aigburth.
“Not all flowers dry very well, some do just crumble, but there is a big range that I can buy when they’re in season and dry them myself at home, so as soon as I can make enough space that’s something I’m going to start doing.
“This first year has been a massive learning curve for me, I’ve had to teach myself how to run a business and how to do floristry, but it’s honestly been so enjoyable and it’s really helped me cope through lockdown. I just love it so much, so I’m excited to see where it ends up.”
Visit the Grasshopper Designs website here.
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