Starting a business in lockdown
Starting a business in lockdown: the story of 'Masks by Sasha'
We know the coronavirus lockdown has impacted on young people, who have been cooped up inside without being able to see their friends, go to school, or do the things they normally do. Everyone has coped in different ways, and for some, the lockdown has presented an opportunity to learn new skills and even make use of their existing talents and hobbies.
Sasha, who is 16 and from Mirfield, has used her skills with a sewing machine to design and make face masks for people around West Yorkshire, and beyond. She’s even created some masks for our staff here at C&K!
We caught up with Sasha to find out more about her business venture and her advice for young people looking to start their own business.
Sasha started up her own mask making company during the coronavirus crisis when schools shut down and she was left with little to fill her time. She was in Year 11 and like all Year 11s, she was geared up and ready for exams earlier this year when everything changed. She was left with little to do in lockdown at home and pestered for a sewing machine to kill the boredom. The original idea was to make some nice things and work on designs but she soon realised she might be useful in other ways when there was talk of members of the public needing masks or face coverings. 'If you get me a sewing machine early for college, I could make all our masks!' Sasha said. She had always planned to study textiles at A level at Huddersfield New College and her parents had promised they would buy her a sewing machine when she started the course.
The sewing machine arrived in June and Sasha hasn’t looked back! She started by making masks for family and friends, and then a few requests came in from friends of friends that had seen people in her masks. Someone mentioned Sasha on a local Facebook group and it sparked the idea that this could be a little business for her. To date she’s now made over 1,500 masks and has fulfilled two corporate orders, one for C&K Careers and one for a restaurant in Halifax. She has supplied a lot of local people in her home town in Mirfield, where she offers a delivery service. She has also become a bit of a local celebrity enjoying a full page spread in the Huddersfield Examiner and she was interviewed for Radio Leeds!
Q&A with Sasha
Have you always been interested in working with fabrics? Did you do much sewing before the pandemic and the need for face masks?
I discovered my love of fabrics and textiles at school. Mum was never into sewing and so it wasn’t something I’d tried before but I really enjoyed it and I took it as one of my options, studying a BTEC in Textiles. I recently received a distinction star grade for my work, so the hard work paid off! I made some interesting things on the course including a dress and Cinderella’s slipper, and I intend to further this work by taking an A level in textiles, alongside business and geography at Huddersfield New College.
Had you given any thought to becoming an entrepreneur before the pandemic?
I had always had the thought in my head that I’d like to run my own business in the future and be my own boss but I was never sure what direction that would take. I was starting to discover what I liked to do, including my love of textiles and I also discovered on work experience, that I enjoy marketing. I spent a week with Huddersfield Town in their marketing department last year. I’ve chosen to study business and textiles next year to cover all bases, and to see where it takes me but I’d love to think I could work for myself in the future.
It sounds like the people around you have been very supportive. How have you found the process of starting and organising a business – have there been any challenges?
Every business will have its challenges and I am lucky to get a lot of support from home. My older sister has been helping me to keep track of orders and do my accounts, and mum and grandma have helped with posting orders off and with local deliveries. Even my younger sister has been on the payroll with little jobs, such as pinning and sorting masks.
I have not had any major challenges but I am learning so much about business along the way, as customers give me feedback - thankfully all good so far. I have learnt to manage supplies and where to source fabrics and elastic from. I set up my own business page on Facebook and have learned how to market it to keep a flow of orders with the help of social media.
Do you have any advice for any young people looking to start a business from home?
If you have a good idea – go for it!
You do need to do your research though, especially into pricing because once you’ve set your prices you don’t want to be increasing them but equally, you do not want to price yourself out of the market. You need to work out costs, production time and work out if your idea is viable - does it give you a decent return? You also need the support of people around you, as they are your best marketing tool!
What are your future career plans?
I am not sure what the future will bring. I would like to go to university but I am not sure if this will be to study textiles or business as yet. 'Masks by Sasha' will be continuing as a part-time job for me while at college and while the demand for masks is there. I may look at diversifying into some different products, so watch this space! I love the freedom of working from home and have had some lovely feedback from the Mirfield community, who have also supported me. I’ve been able to deliver masks through people’s doors if they’ve been shielding and I’ve recently gone international by sending masks to our Australian relatives and some people in Denmark!
If you’d like to find out more about 'Masks by Sasha', or to order some masks for yourself, check out her Facebook page. If you want to find out more about starting your own business take a look at the main things you need to consider.
A big thank you to Sasha and her mum Clare for taking the time to contribute to this post and best of luck for the future Sasha!
Kate and Georgina,
Trainee careers advisers
Page updated September 2020