NEW businesses have been springing up during lockdown – with a 14 per cent increase in start-up businesses in the past year according to business finance company Bionic.

Accounting company Ember’s research showed that almost 100 new businesses were created in the UK every hour during the first quarter of 2021.

The number of people starting their own businesses between the start of 2021 and the end of March surpassed 2,300 a day – with a total of 211,368 during the quarter, surpassing 200,000 in a quarter for the third time in the past year.

Ember co-founder Daniel Hogan attributes some of the increase in new start-ups to the pandemic. He said: “It’s great to see so much new business activity in the UK. The pandemic has changed the way a lot of people think about their lives and their work, and it looks like more people than ever are taking the opportunity to go into business.”

Many businesses, especially in the hospitality sector and in non-essential retail, took a big hit to their revenue with the numerous lockdowns, meaning they have spent the most part of the past year and a half closed down or under severe restrictions limiting their revenue and forcing them to put staff on furlough or redundancy.

A number of people across Gwent have turned to creating their own businesses during the coronavirus pandemic – which allowed them to continue to earn an income without having to rely on government handouts, falling into unemployment or risk losing their jobs.

Some have even been able to employ their own staff which is also keeping more people out of unemployment during such an unprecedented time. Here we spoke to a few of the new business owners to find out how they took the plunge.

South Wales Argus: Lila Miles from Risca and her Glamorice teeth whitening businessLila Miles from Risca and her Glamorice teeth whitening business

Lila Miles from Risca runs an online Non-Peroxide Teeth Whitening Kit business. She had previously wanted to go into teeth whitening and prior to the pandemic was a self-employed mobile hair extensionist. Due to the Covid pandemic and the lockdown restrictions, the mum-of-three was unable to work in her job and was not given any funding, was not able to make use of the government’s furlough scheme or didn’t receive any help.

When Ms Miles was beginning her business, she had no spare financial income but saw a potential market to help provide some income while working towards her new business. Ms Miles said: “I started selling hair dyes on eBay because as we went into the first lockdown, hair dye prices rocketed due to people being unable to get to salons.

“So I kept my prices lower, just enough to earn £2 per hair dye to start saving towards starting the teeth whitening.

“Over the few weeks, I was able to raise the funds to buy my first lot of teeth whitening samples. I managed to get a few samples out for people to trial them before saving for my next few and continued on like that.

“I built a website on Wix and over time I started building both stock and returning clients.

“It was such a hard and worrying time as a mum-of-three and I had lost everything so had to start again. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but I got there bit by bit and therefore was able to put food on my table, pay my small bills.”

You can find Ms Miles’ business Glamorice Whites on Facebook and


Helen Morris lives in Cardiff and has worked in childcare across Gwent for a number of years. In 2000 she was the creche coordinator for Newport Sure Start, where she set up creches for parenting programmes before becoming the childcare coordinator for Newport Flying Start in 2007. In 2018, she moved to the Caerphilly borough’s Flying Start programme and worked full time for the council.

Mrs Morris had found a detached house and a large separate garage while working for Caerphilly Early Years and said she was aware of the lack of childcare provision apart from a few local childminders.

Alongside her husband, a self-employed builder who was unable to work during the lockdowns, Mrs Morris bought the house to renovate into their Brighter Minds nursery. “Due to my childcare background and experience in setting up provisions from plans, I knew what was needed and my husband, who is a competent builder, together we renovated the property.

“We were able to renovate the house as my husband wasn’t able to work due to the Covid pandemic, so spent all his time completing the renovations.”

The couple made use of grants from Caerphilly County Borough Council and Early Years to help fund the work.

“By the time the house was finished and registered, we already knew that we needed the garage converted much sooner than anticipated as the parental demand had been so high for wraparound.”

To complete this, the couple were given additional funds and Mrs Morris applied for a £50,000 loan from Development Bank of Wales.

The main nursery is registered for 46 children at any one time, and they have satellite provision based at Ty Isaf Infants School in Pontymister which is registered for 16 children. They currently also employ 18 staff

While it sounds like it was straightforward, it was anything but. Mrs Morris says the impact of delivery in terms of remaining open during the lockdowns was a concern, and finding and recruiting qualified and experienced staff was also a challenge.

“We never anticipated being as busy as we have been and in January we needed to expand our services again which saw us register the provision at Ty Isaf Infants School – where we will be offering breakfast club and after school clubs in September."

They have a designated officer to support with contracted management issues and have received advice from Business Wales.

South Wales Argus: John Cousins with his son.John Cousins with his son.

John Cousins is originally from Newport but living in Risca. He started JJ’s Burger Bar during the pandemic after being placed on furlough from his job working as a crane operator for a steel company – a job which he lost in November.

Mr Cousins offers gourmet burgers, dirty loaded fries and side orders for both takeaway and delivery.

He said: “It was difficult to set up the business as I acquired the commercial property in January and had to cover rent for almost six months from my minimum wage job whilst also looking after a young family and covering regular bills at home.”

He then gained a business loan to help start the business but found that he ran into a number of unanticipated costs which meant that his calculations were off.

Mr Cousins has, however, successfully opened this June and has seen a number of customers return and has received a lot of positive feedback from the community.

South Wales Argus: Jan Baker of AromaOilsJan Baker of AromaOils

Jan Baker has had a difficult period in opening her AromaOils business in Pengam, just outside Blackwood.

Mrs Baker is the only practising level-4 qualified clinical aromatherapist in Gwent and is therefore qualified to take GP referrals as a complementary health expert.

She offers clinical complementary health services using aromatherapy as well as Swedish and Aromatherapy massage.

She uses vegan-friendly, organic, essential oils which are drug and synthetically chemical free to promote physical and psychological wellbeing.

Before setting up AromaOils, Mrs Baker was bead of faculty at a large three-18 academy in England, where she was working 70 hours a week, managing seven staff and overseeing three foreign languages. She was made redundant following changes to A-level funding.

“My husband had also had a bad accident and had hurt his back playing rugby, and I needed to find something thar supported his recovery," she said. "It was at that point I got interested in and started to learn about aromatherapy and started treating my family and friends.

“My mum had been ill, and my daughter had recently given birth to our first grandson, and I didn’t really want to go back to working long, inflexible hours. So I decided to do a level 4 diploma in Clinical Aromatherapy so that I could become a little more ‘expert’ at my hobby as my husband had been nagging me for ages to do it professionally.

“When the first lockdown hit, my husband was furloughed, I wasn’t working and things began to get a little tight.

“I’d been toying with the idea of starting a business, and now it looked like I was going to have to look at it seriously.

“I sat down and spent the first lockdown writing a business plan, and the idea started to take some sort of shape. I did worry about whether it was the right time to open, but I knew people would be needing my service as they were desperately missing the human touch and anxiety levels were going through the roof, so I decided to open the business anyway.”

South Wales Argus: Jan Baker of AromaOilsJan Baker of AromaOils

Mrs Baker found that getting the funding and premises during the pandemic was tough. “The bank wouldn’t lend me the money to start the business because I wasn’t working, and premises hunting in the middle of a pandemic was also proving to be really difficult," she said.

“I did eventually find a premises above a salon, but this caused an unexpected issue because it was outside Caerphilly, and the council weren’t happy about me having any grants from them if it meant that I was going to have to work from home, four miles the wrong way in another county if we had another lockdown. So I had to begin premises hunting all over again, this time in my own area.”

She managed to find a suitable premises in the Caerphilly borough and was successful in applying for funding. Mrs Baker was able to get a government-backed loan to start up the business alongside the money she had already invested. Caerphilly Council also provided her with a grant to buy some stock to sell and also talked her through the application process for the NDR grant. She also had help from Superfast Business Wales.

“This more than anything has kept the business stable enough to continue,” she said.

AromaOils opened officially in October, and was then closed down a week later due to another lockdown.

 “There were no grants available," said Mrs Baker. "I had no income and I’d just spent about £5,000 of my own money getting the clinic ready. Everyone was telling me not to panic.

“As a close-contact service, you just can’t open during a pandemic. So, I did the only thing I could, I went home and waited.

“Caerphilly had been in some sort of lockdown in 2020, local or otherwise, for most of the year – so people couldn’t even cross the borough border to get to me at all, even when I was open, and nobody had any idea about what was going to happen.

“It’s very hard when you have no roadmap and no certainty about anything.”

After getting the clinic ‘Covid-ready’, AromaOils was allowed to reopen and then shut down again as Wales went into the ‘firebreak’ lockdown. “I phoned the council asking if I shut or if I stay open and nobody knew," she said. "As the only clinical aromatherapist in the area, there was no advice for my type of business.

“At this point, I didn’t think I qualified for any grants, so I spent the fortnight rapidly building myself a website and getting online as I needed an alternative income stream and fast.

“I had absolutely no idea what I was doing either – I’d never built a website before, let alone grappled with the technical behind-the-scenes stuff.

“But that’s how I ended up opening the ‘all-scented’ shop, tipping my carefully-crafted business plan on its head in the process.”

She was able to reopen after the firebreak lockdown and then bought a pile of stock to do a Christmas market on December 21, however there was to be an emergency lockdown put in place on December 20.

“There would be no market and therefore no income," said Mrs Baker.

“I went into Christmas not knowing if I was going to survive or not. This shutdown went on into April and at that point, I’d officially been shut more than I’d been open.

“It’s been hard, really hard. I’ve had to start from scratch trying to build reviews and momentum with client visits and we’re still not out of full lockdown or fully vaccinated yet, but I am hopeful now at least that we will get there.

“I started my business because I really believe I can help people and that my service will be of real benefit to people's wellbeing. It's my mission.  Only time will tell if I've been brave or stupid opening up during a global pandemic, but I do know this much, if I can do it and come out the other end, then it is possible.”

Starting a new business can be both terrifying and thrilling and it can be hard to know what you need to do. Our new business owners have provided some handy tips for if you want to take the plunge and turn your hobby into a full- or part-time job or just want to try something new.

Tips for setting up your own business:

Ms Miles said: “Anyone can do it if you put your mind to it. Years ago, I started selling old clothes on eBay, which later went on to me having my own market stall, but I was unable to carry on with this when I became pregnant.

“Anything is possible, although challenging, but how proud it makes you feel is amazing as it’s something you’ve done from your own back.”

Market research is what both Mrs Morris and Mr Cousins say is extremely important. Mrs Morris said: “If you have done your market research and are confident that your business will be successful, keep pushing through and always take time to reflect on what has been achieved.”

Mr Cousins said: “Do as much research as you can about competition in the industry you are thinking of going into.

“Don’t be afraid to ask the local community what they would like to see open locally. Speak to other business owners in the area and find out what pros and cons they have while running a business.

“Last of all, no matter how hard things sometimes seem when planning to open, don’t give up. Keep pushing forward and eventually your hard work will pay off and help you overcome all the obstacles thrown in your way.”

Mrs Baker advises to make sure your business plan is comprehensive. She said: “Where possible include your costings. I adapted a free template from the Prince’s Trust.

“It’s a good place to start and do your research. If you know your numbers and have a good idea about where you want the business to go, who your main competitors are and why it’s different from everyone else’s, people are more likely to support it. Just don’t assume they understand it like you do. Make it clear.

“Don’t give up if things get tough, learn to adapt because that’s how your business will grow. Someone once told me, ‘it’s like being in the shallows, you get roughed up by the force of the waves on the beach when you leave the island, but it’s always calmer once you get past this.”

Mrs Baker also said that having a support network is key as is having faith, positivity “buckets of resilience, belief in yourself and old-fashioned hard work.”