JLife speaks to local independents to discover the impact the lockdown lift has been having on their business.
Beth Cooper, founder of Sweaty Mama mother and baby fitness classes
My classes offer a community that I believe is essential for mums and their babies to be part of as new parents. Offering my classes online offered this community, but it wasn’t as easy to communicate with each other and offer the support that we all need during our maternity leave.
The relaxing of restrictions so far has meant that I can launch an outdoor bootcamp. It’s good to be back training people face-to-face and later this May I can return to my mum and baby fitness classes too. Virtual fitness classes have become popular, but I think people are over the online fad now. There’s something different about exercising with an instructor physically in front of you.
It is a massive relief that things are returning back to some sort of normal, as I think it’s really important for mums to have these groups and meet others. A lot of my original mummies will have returned to work, and have bigger babies now, so might not be able to come to my classes again in May. It’s meant that I’ve had to essentially start from scratch – definitely worth it, but lots of work!
My mummies are super supportive. I have had a few that have been along with me since I launched my business in October and have completed the online classes too. It’s allowed them to have routine during a weird time. New mummies are pretty keen to get out and at it again and I’m sure lockdown babies will want to meet new faces too!
It was mid-pandemic and not the easiest of times to start a business, independent ventures like mine are counting on local support so we can get up and running again, and be able to succeed in doing something that we love.
Rob Grant, founder Prestwich business growth organisation Bread
Businesses are opening carefully and sensitively, but with lots of fun and joy. There are a few different camps, the first being businesses that have been allowed to open all the way through in some form. They’re being allowed to open their doors a little wider than they had before and see old faces coming back. Neil, the butcher in the village was saying to me yesterday that while he’s been open, a lot of his clients have stayed at home, so it’s been nice to see some of their faces.
Those who have only just been allowed to open as non-essential businesses are seeing people still stay around and shopping local which is great. Footfall is fluctuating, and bars and cafes don’t have the full capacity they would have inside but they’re glad to be open and glad to be putting on a service, and they’re trying to do as they can within the guidelines.
Then you’ve got businesses that still aren’t allowed to open. Leisure activities that are indoor only like Creative Calm yoga can’t open properly until 17th May. It’s the same with many businesses tentatively waiting to get back into the swing of it, and thankfully they’ve only got a few weeks to go.
Justin Parkinson, founder of Folk café bar
Lockdown 3.0 definitely had its challenging moments. We built up some fantastic momentum, and with a dynamic new general manager and head chef on board we were determined not to fully close our doors. However, we were forced to adapt and decided to operate weekends, offering takeaway coffee, bakes and lunch which was a huge success.
It is a relief to see things slowly getting back to a new normal, but hospitality has a long way to go. The support from our guests and other independent businesses in Prestwich has been incredible. The last two weeks have been a dream, everyone is so excited to be back out and enjoying the new normal. We have had some lovely feedback and very excited for what the future holds.
Myro Coates, founder of window art illustration specialist Myrodoodles
By the time we went into the third lockdown, I felt like my resilience had already been tested to the max, so it wasn’t such a shock! I’d already started online workshops which I could do from the comfort of my own home, and luckily a lot of my clients were using that time to prepare their businesses for the lockdown lift, so I wasn’t short of work. It was a really good feeling to be working towards reopening, helping businesses back on their feet again.
The relaxing of restrictions means that more of my clients have certainty about staying open, so they can afford to commit to having work done on their premises. It was a bit tricky before the roadmap was announced as lots of people were unsure how the future was going to look. But as soon as the reopening date was confirmed, industries I work with kicked into life investing in their businesses and going big for reopening.
It is a relief that things are slowly getting back to normality, but I think everyone working in ‘non-essential’ services is treating each day with caution. There’s this sense that we could all be put back into lockdown tomorrow, so we’re not taking it for granted. I know lots of people are making sure they take on as much work as possible to recoup the wages they’ve lost and to ensure they have enough to put aside if we do go back under restrictions. Most of us who are self-employed have not been fortunate enough to get financial support from the government, so we’re well aware now it’s up to ourselves to be prepared for the future.
When the second lockdown was announced before the Christmas period, I was so worried I’d be losing my biggest income of the year, but my clients were fantastic in keeping me working. I work for lots of small and independent businesses, arguably some of the hardest hit, but those are also the ones with the biggest hearts who kept us going. I just hope the public remember that as normality creeps back, living local is for life, not just for the pandemic.
When we couldn’t go out, creativity kept us sane, and I know so many people who gave their talents for free to keep everyone’s spirits up. You wouldn’t expect a doctor, lawyer or plumber to do that, so what makes it acceptable from an artist? Creatives are some of the most generous people I know, they do it for the love and for the people, but we all have bills to pay. I hope this past year reiterates to everyone how hard life would be without the arts and those who bring them into our towns and homes, and it’s crucial we support them as society reopens.