I Started A Business In Lockdown & I Love It

1. Grace, what were you doing just before lockdown?

I was running a property company that I had launched back in 2019. I was also planning on taking 3-month maternity leave as I gave birth to my daughter on the 15th of March.

2. What did you start up during lockdown?

I launched Simply Noir (my second business) in August, during the 1st lockdown. Simply Noir is a curated marketplace, connecting consumers with sustainable, value-led, black-owned businesses. Our mission is to boost the profile of black businesses and make shopping with them more accessible and convenient. 

3. What was the motivation for starting up your new business? How did it come about?

In November 2019 we moved from London to Hampshire. I very quickly realised how difficult it was to get hold of certain items, for example, products for my son’s curly hair. Initially, I was travelling back to London to get these products but when lockdown happened many of the shops that I could get the items I needed were not considered essential. This really proved to me the need to make these items more accessible.

But it was the death of George Floyd and the way that impacted the way I saw the future for my children that was the final push I needed to start Simply Noir.

With my entrepreneurial skills, I decided to create a platform that gave black businesses a voice where they could be seen and celebrated.

4. What have the biggest challenges been with your new business?

I think the biggest challenge is making people understand why Simply Noir is important. Statistically, black-owned businesses receive proportionately less financing than their white-owned counterparts and also, unfortunately, face challenges accessing finance.

The other challenge is running a business alongside being a mum to 2 young kids. There is simply not enough time in the day and I often feel a pang of guilt if I’m not spending enough time with the kids

5. What are the things that have helped you the most on your new business journey so far?

Being a part of some great business groups alongside having mentoring sessions with successful female entrepreneurs. I’m inspired by other women’s success stories.

6. What are the things you’re enjoying most about your new business?

Connecting with other women entrepreneurs, especially other parents in business. As I can easily relate to the struggles their face in business.

Also being able to witness the brands that we endorse on the platform grow and achieve success has been such a pleasure to witness.

At the beginning of the year I also received the following feedback from Jacqueline Gold (CEO of Ann Summers), this was definitely a prominent moment for me.

‘I really loved your passion and determination to develop a platform and community for black-owned UK businesses. Cole and Halle are adorable too! Your beautiful online marketplace captured my eye, and I see great potential in your business showcasing talented black artisans and designers. It was a no-brainer that Simply Noir had to be selected as one of my top three 2020 #WOW winners. Just fabulous!’

7. What are your next steps for your business?

I would love to launch an App for Simply Noir and I’m also planning to take Simply Noir on the road. With Pop-ups in all the major cities.

8. What are the biggest lessons you have learned from starting up a new business during lockdown?

My biggest lesson has been learning how consumer behaviour has changed. We are now much more conscious of how much power we hold as consumers. I guess this is what has made Simply Noir a big success in such a short space of time.

9. How has starting up Simply Noir changed you or your vision of your future work life?

It’s made me really want to work harder to change the narrative in business. I want to see black-owned businesses represented more in the mainstream. I’m much more positive & hopeful that we are heading in the right direction.

10. We all know juggling children and a business is tough. It was even tougher whilst home-schooling. Did you find anything that worked particularly well for you?

I was extremely lucky as my son’s nursery reopened in July so this gave me a chance to spend some one-one-one time with my baby daughter as well as focusing on a new start-up. What works for me with juggling a business and kids, is making sure that I’m super organised and that my day is very structured.

11. What are your top tips generally for building a business around your family?

Don’t be too hard on yourself, there are going to be times when tasks go unfinished, don’t fret.

Also try and build a supportive community/ network around you, this is great to keep you motivated and to also hold you accountable if and when needed.

To find out more about Simply Noir visit the website here or follow them on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter

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