Telegraph readers share their secrets to having a successful business

As part of this year’s Women Mean Business event, we asked our readers to share their entrepreneurial success stories 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 those stories below.

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

“In 2020 we were in good shape, a clever team of 10 taking on artificial tree installations for high profile events at the most prestigious venues. As the month of March 2020 approached, the phone started ringing, cancellation after cancellation.

“Business went from 100 to zero overnight, employees went home and I was left alone as the business I had invested my whole life in evaporated. I had to make a choice, but it was never really a consideration: Twilight Trees would rise to the challenge. I stayed up all night designing a product suitable for the Covid market; Craft social distancing screens were.

“We quickly found a manufacturer, a colleague who had been paralyzed by the pandemic and needed to be revived quickly. The team jumped back into action when we started selling the screens, which sold like wildfire due to our rapid innovation and the fact that they were a luxury and niche product in the market.

“We had to pinch ourselves when it came to incoming orders and ended the financial year with the same sales as in the previous year. Business is now returning to normal, the team is being rebuilt and postponed events are back on the calendar.

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

Sally Dear, Founder of Duck Zebra

“I’m Sal, Founder of Ducky Zebra and still on my absolute peak of starting a brand that sells children’s clothing that I love and believe in. Ducky Zebra is a unisex clothing startup that challenges gender stereotypes with its sustainable, colorful clothing for children 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 overcame a number of challenges including: getting to know an entirely new industry; Identifying the most sustainable fabric and manufacturing process; home education; designing unisex clothing that children will want to wear themselves; plant closures; Covid-friendly (kids) photoshoots; and delivery delays.

“But I also experienced great kindness and support, which spurred me on to keep going. My background is not fashionable. Not even in retail. My experience is in marketing, primarily for the automotive and rail industries. So why Ducky Zebra? I was frustrated with the impact gender stereotypes had on my children. The language they heard, the television they watched, the games they played and the clothes they wore. As an optimist, I decided to address one of these areas. The clothes they wore.”

Olga Emeretli, founder ofTo the most beautiful

“To The Fairest is a British fine fragrance company. Launching just before the pandemic, we were suddenly faced with the challenge of introducing customers to new fragrances without the traditional “counter” interaction in pop-ups and brick-and-mortar retail stores.

“We developed a post-sampling program, started selling via Whatsapp and Instagram and also worked with some beauty subscription boxes. It used to be quite difficult to sell fragrances online as they are so subjective and the product itself is invisible (unlike say lipstick swatches) so working with photo sharing apps was a challenge. However, beauty product buying habits have really changed in the last 18 months and there has been an increase in “blind buy” perfumes based on peer reviews and brand narratives.

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

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

“It was a real challenge because I had no idea how I was going to do it, but they trusted me and we did it. With the money from this huge order, I decided to continue my business and switch to satin bonnets for curly textured hair and women with hair loss.

“After some research, I realized that I was the only one in Europe to develop this product: a satin-lined hood that converts into a hat. I started online in April 2021, then in Portobello and Brixton Markets.

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

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

Samantha Tulloch, Founder of Project Mind and Behavior Ltd

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

“I realized that clients enjoy the way I work, so I sought a mentor to help me transform my sole proprietorship into a consultancy and expand that approach so I could expand my reach (I’m currently working on that).

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

“This prompted me to start my coaching and mentoring business in May 2021. My goal is to create a portfolio career for myself; designed by myself; based on MY strengths and not something dictated by a job description and organizational conditions.”

What is your entrepreneurial success story? Share it in the comments below Telegraph readers share their secrets to having a successful business

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