The Covid pandemic has changed the world of work in many ways. But for some people, the shifting sands created by the closure have led to them changing careers entirely – a global trend dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’. But what’s it like to start a new business in the midst of a global shutdown? We spoke to five new business owners across Scotland who have done just that…
Ayrshire’s Wee Fish Van
“I run my van all over Ayrshire supplying fresh fish and seafood, but until isolation I was a hostess. I was with British Airways, working long haul but I was made redundant in August 2020 due to Covid. It was my partner’s idea to start a fish van – he’s a trawler from Peterhead – and I set it up in December 2020.
“It went absolutely fantastic. Now I have a second van and I’m setting up a website to do national deliveries. I get people from all over the UK asking if we can come to them and I plan to do so.
“When I first got the idea, I went on Facebook and did a little research. I put up a post, saying I was thinking of making a mobile fish van, asking their opinion on the idea. I had thousands of responses to it that I just couldn’t believe.
“People were saying ‘come here’, ‘come there’ and I realized the demand was there. Many fishermen are closing due to overhead costs, making it increasingly difficult for people to get fresh fish. Going door to door is probably the most feasible way to do it.”
Jeri Kelly is the owner of Mabel’s Bakery, a dog treat company based in Perth
“I started Mabel’s Bakery in isolation when I was fired from my job – I didn’t know it would take off like that. Mabel is my dog, I got her four years ago and I always baked treats for her. My friends and family told me I had to make a business out of it, they said there was nothing like it in Perth, it was just supermarket dog treats.
“But I wasn’t sure. I’m not a baker, it was more of a hobby. I decided to create a Facebook page and told myself I would be happy if I sold a few biscuits, but things grew from there. When I started it was just bags of biscuits in the shape of bones, but now I bake dog birthday cakes and all kinds.
“Starting a business in isolation meant I couldn’t go anywhere, so I spent a lot of time on my laptop looking for ingredients. I’ve researched what’s good for dogs, bad for dogs, what other businesses do – but Mabel taste-tests everything before it goes on the menu. Things are definitely expanding.”
Old Mother Hunt Rum
Becky Hunt is the co-founder of Old Mother Hunt Rum in Strathaven
“My husband is a pilot and got his first job flying commercial at Glasgow Airport, so we moved from England when our children were young. I was a stay at home mom and he flew for Flybe. When the airline collapsed in March 2020, he was given no leave, no warning, and was fired the same day. He took it very badly because he worked so hard to become a pilot and lost everything overnight.
“We were really scared, but we thought we needed something to keep us going, something to work towards and give us hope for the future. Neither of us could get a job, despite applying to almost everything we saw, so we realized the best option was to start our own business. We wanted a pandemic-proof job, and alcohol seemed like a good option. We did a lot of research and realized that there are so many different flavors of rum that you can get from the same spirit.
“We were really held back by the pandemic, everything had to be done remotely. But we bought a lot of books and watched a lot of YouTube videos on how to make rum – there’s a lot of amazing material online. We launched in November 2020 and I think by that point people were desperate to have something positive from Covid. When we launched it was amazing, our local community came together and supported us and then told all their friends and family. Since then, the demand has been really high.”
Pegasus bathrooms and tiles
Barry Queen is the owner of Pegasus Bathrooms and Tiling, in Helensburgh
“I was in commercial window cleaning, for restaurants and shops in the center of Glasgow. When Covid hit they closed everything except supermarkets and shops and we didn’t clean any of them. I soon realized that I had to look for something else.
“I spoke to my neighbor, who told me there were no more tilers in our area, so I started researching tiling courses I could go on. There was one at a training school in Edinburgh, so I went and did a degree in paving and a six-week course, then hired a van and made a logo. Gradually, jobs began to appear.
“Mentally it was very difficult. I was used to working from Monday to Friday, starting at 5.45 and finishing at lunchtime, doing a job that was very easy for me. Then I went to a job that I had never done, that I knew nothing about, I threw myself into it. I worked on it – and I’m still working on it – but it took me about a year to get used to the art of tiling. I immersed myself in it, watched YouTube videos and became a better potter.
“Since then I’ve trained as a bathroom fitter, went back to trade school to do plumbing and now I can install full bathrooms from start to finish. Demand was high, I actually hired a full-time intern who is starting college in September.
“Now all my focus is on this, so I sold my window cleaning business. Covid made me look at everything in a different way – without the pandemic, I would never have started this business.”
Rosemary Wild Fabrics
Rosie Creyke is the founder of Rosemary Wild Fabrics, an online shop based in East Lothian
“I studied to become an accountant and then a chartered surveyor, but I was made redundant in the credit crisis in 2008 and became a full-time mother to my three children.
“I’ve always been a sewer and I thought it was time to teach my oldest daughter to sew. I took her to some fabric stores, but nothing inspired her, so I decided to open my own fabric store.
“I opened the business in September 2020. During the entire pandemic, I learned the language of business, how to run a website, how to work on Facebook and Instagram. And even though I made a lot of mistakes, there were people who wanted to buy what I was selling and it was such a joy to do.
“Work has become a very positive, affirming thing in the nightmare of homeschoolers and the bleak pandemic.
“Getting out of lockdown was also a complete adjustment, figuring out how online business responds to people who aren’t so online. But now I feel I can manage things with more confidence.
“Undoubtedly, Covid was the reason I started the business. Before the pandemic, I always thought I would do some of my own work, but the isolation made me realize that fabrics are what bring me joy.”