The businesses born in a pandemic

It is a turbulent time for the economy but that has not stopped thousands of people from launching a business this year. According to the support service Business Gateway, that number is expected to rise as people look to work for themselves after redundancy or decide to reprioritise their lives.

Jamie Mallon drizzles olive oil over a freshly-baked artisan pizza for his neighbours.

The 52-year-old has launched a takeaway business from his back garden after being made redundant from a signage and graphics company – an industry he worked in for more than 20 years.

“While there was work for Covid signage, there were challenges getting enough through the factory with social distancing and restrictions,” he says.

“I sat one night with a glass of red wine wondering what I could do. I like meeting people, I love cooking and I like to see people happy. It was like a lightbulb moment.”

Pizza has always been a passion for the father-of-three, with friends often encouraging him to “go pro” with his wood-fired oven.

“I think when you have children and you’re in a job that pays the bills, it’s almost selfish for you to say ‘I’m going to have a go at this’. But when you end up in a situation where you don’t really have a choice, and you don’t have an income, it became quite obvious,” he says.

For now, Jamie will be balancing the Falkirk business selling pizza to neighbours, family and friends with a new part-time graphics job. He has a Facebook page and some regular customers.

“Week on week, it’s got busier but I don’t want it to be a massive company,” he adds. “It’s just about looking at ways that you can actually earn a living at something you enjoy.”

Shona Blair, 27, from Glasgow, has always enjoyed sketching pet portraits and working on her own custom designs.

At the height of lockdown, she was made redundant from her job in e-commerce which forced her to turn her hobby into a full-time job.

“It was the kick I needed,” she says. “I was flung into this with not a lot of money behind me, but these things make you a stronger person and make you work harder.”

The fashion and textile designs graduate, who sells her work through social media, is still adjusting to her new routine.

“I don’t really have a day off. I try and give myself one a week but I’m always doing something, even if it’s just answering messages and coming up with new design ideas,” she says.

“But I really enjoy having my own flexibility and working until 10pm if I want to.”

She says the experience has made her re-evaluate what’s most important.

“I’m probably not earning as much as I was before but I think it’s worth it for my happiness.”

Turning 40 was the final push Ashley O’Neill, a former glass artist, needed to start her own venture.

She’d always wanted to run a cafe and says lockdown made her re-evaluate her career.

“I heard that the previous tenants were thinking about moving on and I just thought ‘if I don’t do it now, I never will’.

“I’m not one of these people who admit things like this but I do feel quite proud of myself.”

The Kirkcaldy coffee shop is only a few weeks old and, despite the current restrictions, Ashley is feeling positive.

“We’ve got quite small premises and only have three tables at the moment but our outdoor seating has been popular. It’s been challenging but we’ve just had to adapt.”

Ashley is using the new space to sell gifts made by other local companies – and is hopeful that customer support will continue into the future.

“I think people are generally going back to shopping locally and coming to places on their doorstep. I think the future looks quite promising for us.”

Former footballer Scott Linton has set his sights on a new goal – an events management service for his old team mates.

The 31-year-old spent 12 years playing in the Scottish lower leagues before finishing up at Kelty Hearts in June. But it’s his passion for team bonding off the pitch that inspired his new business.

“It’s a one-stop shop,” he says. “I’ll go to football players that I know and help take the stress off their hands by organising events for them, whether it’s a golf day, a team trip abroad, sporting events, the whole thing.

“That’s where you get the camaraderie, and that’s where you get to know more about your teammates.”

He says he’s well aware of the challenges that lie ahead.

“I’m a realist. I understand it’s a difficult time for everyone but I still think there are opportunities there,” he says.

“I’m not going to be able to launch the service fully in the way that I want to but now’s a great time to get my feet under the table, meet as many people as I can and understand the market I’m going into and I think I’ll be much better for it when normality resumes.”