Meet the people who started a business during the COVID-19 pandemic | Crunch - image of 3 ladies

There’s never a perfect time to go self-employed, but even if there were, starting a business in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic probably wouldn’t qualify.

That being said, business formations grew by a staggering 47% in June according to Companies House. We’re expecting that number to continue to increase in the coming months as people continue to identify career opportunities in a post-COVID world.

If you’re thinking about going self-employed, either as a sole trader or a limited company, you may think it’s safer to hang fire and wait for the pandemic to blow over before committing yourself. That kind of caution is understandable, but it could also be holding you back.

Thinking of taking the leap yourself?

The debut episode of our jargon-free ‘Take The Leap’ video series take you through a bunch of important things you’ll have to think about when going self-employed.

We asked the members of our self-employed community, Crunch Chorus, to share their experiences of setting up a business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elsa Bennett | EB Marketing Consultancy | LinkedIn

“Opening a business in a pandemic is not easy, but I believe that if we are not happy where we are we should work out how to change it.

“After 20 years working in marketing both in the UK and Europe, I genuinely believe that my knowledge and experience is beneficial to companies with the desire to expand their services/products to Europe and vice versa. My determination and passion to develop strategies and innovation projects in disruptive markets gave me the strength needed to launch EB Marketing Consultancy.

“I enjoy the freedom that I have to decide the route of my business and the fact that I am my own boss. The responsibility is high but also rewarding. I did have my own business before while living in Portugal before recession and it was very challenging but at the same time rewarding.

“We should look at the challenges in life to think outside the box and identify opportunities.”

Sally Rice | S Rice Consultancy | LinkedIn

“Unfortunately like many others, I got made redundant earlier this year and the opportunities for roles that really suited me became really limited.

“Some potential employers I was talking to said they would still be interested in working together on a contract basis or on specific projects and I realised that actually this was a time for opportunity. Where companies in my industry were making redundancies and aiming to be as lean as they could be, they still needed assistance with their operations, so I started my own consultancy business focusing on helping people make time and cost efficiencies in their business.

“I am happy to say going into month three. While it has been challenging, I have gained clients and had a great July!”

Mo Kanjilal, Rachel Pearson & Allegra Chapman | Watch This Sp_ce | Twitter

“We had been discussing the idea for Watch This Sp_ce for a while – we run a group called Brighton Digital Women, and we already knew through our work there how much of an issue the business world has with diversity and inclusion, and how badly the world of work needs to change. But life always got in the way.

“When lockdown hit, we suddenly found we had less work and more time. We had time to think about what we really wanted to do, to consider what we wanted our own futures to look like, and to talk about what impact we could make on the world. Lockdown also forced everyone to think about new ways of working and to question the status quo, so we knew the time was right to challenge the established system that holds so many people back and encourage new ways of thinking and working.

“As soon as we began talking about ways to reimagine work, we received a great deal of interest, so we knew we were on the right track!”

Mazz Rhodes | Tech Girl (UK) | Facebook

“Being a single parent has always been complicated with work, even with the amazing support from my family, friends, and my daughter’s father. However, at times I found myself struggling to secure childcare for my daughter or not able to afford childcare even whilst working full time. Last year I had been working as an IT Field Engineer and Consultant for a small computer shop locally and when I asked if it was possible to reduce my hours, they were unable to help due to being such a small business. I decided then that I would have a crack at working for myself.

“Originally, I took on some work from a friend and then was offered work from my previous employer on a sub-contracted basis, he reduced my hours to suit my daughters school hours. When the pandemic happened recently I lost everything – my gigs got cancelled, the shop I was sub-contracting at was forced to close and my friend was unable to give me any work. Luckily during this time I was able to diversify to start doing voiceover work, WordPress websites, hosting websites, consultancy, creating videos, artwork and even ended up being the Technical Director for a play that was performed on Zoom!

“I have gradually seen work come in and got to the point last month that when my previous employer asked if I was coming back to sub-contract again for him, I was able to turn it down as I had enough work lined up ahead of me and could see a fairly steady income.

“Self-employment for me means I can spend valuable time with my daughter and not miss out on her growing up, I can pick and choose my hours, I wake up in the morning and feel excited about working. It also makes me proud when I look at the progress and the buzz when I hand over work to a client is really something unique. It does take hard work and it is scary but the rewards you get back are well worth it and I feel, far greater than when you work as an employee.”

Pablo O’Hana | Apostrophe Talent | Twitter

“I didn’t do very well at school or college, and I didn’t go to University. So I always knew that if I was going to get anywhere, I was going to have to work twice as hard to prove that I was capable.

“I knew that I wanted to work in something to do with PR, marketing and personal management, and I did lots of jobs that covered bits of those – I led the PR for the iconic government THINK! Road Safety Campaigns, worked with the Leader of the Liberal Democrats and with incredibly talented people like Billie Piper, Kate Garraway and Hugh Bonneville.

“I couldn’t find a job that allowed me to work to my schedule and with who I wanted. With Apostrophe, I have a fantastic mix of clients. I work with some of the UK’s most acclaimed and award-winning talents, senior UK politicians and charities, so I get to do the total mix of work that I love.

“But I also wanted to do things around the world. For example, in 2018, I went to Ireland and worked with the campaign to legalise abortion. I also went to New York to work in key swing seats which the Democrats needed to win to take back the House, and helped elect the first-ever woman to statewide office.

“No job would allow this much flexibility and freedom, so I went freelance and, even though the last few months have been tough without much support from the government, I haven’t ever looked back.”

Jo Walters | 25 Dots | Twitter

“After years in a job I loved, I started feeling overwhelmed and struggling with anxiety. I’d done a little bit of freelancing alongside my job in the past and had always wanted to work for myself so I decided to go for it and freelance full-time.

“They weren’t the ideal circumstances in some ways but the ability to work flexibly and call the shots was exactly what I needed. My clients are mainly in the same sector I was working in so I’ve been able to keep doing the sort of work I love and I haven’t looked back since!”

Suzanne Buckley | Greyhound Literary Solutions | Twitter

“To be honest, it’s not something that I would have considered until about two years ago! Having always been an employee and also being very risk-averse, it always felt too unstable to try and start something from scratch. But the desire to finally do something that I have been thinking about for years (proofreading, copyediting, and writing), along with being frustrated in my current part-time job (online ESL teaching) spurred me on to get going.

“I had a pretty torrid time with what we assume was COVID-19 at the start of lockdown and was very unwell at home for about a month. I just don’t want to waste any more time worrying about what might be instead of being excited about what could be! My husband is also launching a self-employed business in the near future.

“We’re really keen to set an example to our four girls of how to take small steps into big dreams.”

Janelle Borg | Janelle Borg

“As an individual, I was never really into the typical 9-5, corporate climate. When I finished my studies in Anthropology and International Relations, a lecturer of mine recommended me to this cultural organisation who were looking for a generalist-type social media and marketing freelancer.

“After that contract ended, I decided to apply for a ‘normal’ job and started working with an innovative start-up. Initially, I got hired as an administrator, but after a few months, I also kind of became their ‘content’ person truly by accident.

“The stars aligned when I decided to move to the UK: I got fed up of applying for jobs and receiving rejections, and I really wanted to become a professional musician (which involves a lot of touring). How would you explain that to an employer? That was the moment that I made the conscious decision to just go for it.

“I must admit – these last few months have been difficult due to COVID-19 and the impending recession. However, working from home is a blessing that I don’t take lightly, and I’m lucky to have retained some key clients that are helping me go through this rough time.”

Russell Shachar | Sell2Excell Ltd | LinkedIn

“After repeatedly bashing my head against a wall wondering what I wanted to achieve with my life I decided to stick to the things I love and enjoy.

“I have always had a thirst for Coaching & Development [so] it seemed only natural to utilise my skill set to provide support and give SME’s the confidence and tools to grow consistently.”

Ceylan Boyce | Academy for Women Entrepreneurs | Instagram

“Women-owned micro-businesses are key drivers for productivity, growth, employment and social progress. Women entrepreneurs also tend to focus more on changing the world for the better. And I want to help them in bringing about that change!

“Having spent 15 years as a business strategist and marketing expert resolving corporate marketing challenges, I qualified as a business coach and founded Academy for Women Entrepreneurs with one mission in mind: to empower women business owners in gaining a business mindset and developing skills to enable them to grow their businesses with confidence, fulfilment and joy.

“We launched in March 2020, just as the lockdown hit, and had to quickly move our coaching and training online. And signs so far are promising!

“We’ve already helped improve the business acumen and skills of hundreds of women entrepreneurs across the globe including the UK, Nigeria, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Kenya, Turkey, the US, Suriname, and Lebanon.”

Ready to get started?

At Crunch, we’re all about simplifying self-employment. No matter where you are on your self-employed journey, no matter how big or small your company may be, we offer the support you need to take your business to the next level.

Join Crunch Chorus, a supportive community of thousands of self-employed people across the UK, form your limited company with the support of our expert advisors, or get your hands on free entry-level accounting software with Crunch Free.

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Ross Bramble
Content Executive
Updated on
December 14, 2020

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