Business is booming for two Leeds graduates who launched online fashion stores during lockdown

Business is booming for two entrepreneurial Leeds graduates who have set up their own businesses during lockdown.

By Jack Walker
Saturday, 13th February 2021, 11:45 am
Molly Wain, 22, modelling one of her designs
Molly Wain, 22, modelling one of her designs

Hannah Whitelaw and Molly Wain, both 22, left Leeds Beckett after graduating last year and have since set up their own online fashion stores.

Hannah runs Mae Studio on Instagram and Etsy, while Molly’s store is also on Instagram and is called Wain’s World.

Both said that the Covid-19 pandemic had forced them to rethink their future plans in the short-term and as a result they had decided to take advantage of the free time they now have.

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Hannah Whitelaw's bedroom has doubled up as a studio during the pandemic

Molly said: “Lockdown has 100 per cent played a part in me starting my brand.

“I knew I couldn’t sit around all day waiting for things to get better and I wanted to do something productive to keep myself positive.”

Hannah said she had initially started out making clothes for herself, then noticed that some of her peers were selling items of a similar style to what she was making.

“I decided to take some product photos and post them on Instagram", she said.

However, both acknowledged the difficulties of starting up a business online during the pandemic.

Hannah said: “The hardest challenge is that all of my launches have had to be online and the opportunity to do any face-to-face marketing hasn’t been possible.

“I do think I’ve gotten less exposure in my first few months of trading than if I had opened my shop in ‘normal’ times.”

Molly agreed and added: “The main challenges come from starting your business from scratch.

“These include lack of funds, as you need to invest a fair bit in materials, threads, trimmings, packaging and postage.”

Despite the pandemic, both Hannah and Molly have been successful in establishing their brands online, and Molly believes that the future of fashion will be seen online and on social media.

She said: “I believe the future of fashion to be very much full of independent small brands on Instagram.

“So many of us are fed up with fast fashion and just want new and unique pieces that are made with love in our wardrobes.”

Hannah agreed and said: “Online store platforms such as Etsy only take a minimal cut of sales, which seems to be favourable for sure over paying rent for a physical store.”

Both offered words of encouragement to anyone who is thinking of pursuing a similar venture.

Hannah said: “I would definitely encourage anyone who is considering opening their own store or starting a new venture to go for it!

“We may never get this break from ‘normal life’ again, and normal life can get busy.

“It’s easy to put your goals on the back burner if you have a day to day job.”

Molly suggested that a positive attitude was the most important thing to have when starting your own business.

“Perseverance is important", she said.

“You’re not going to get thousands of followers overnight by not doing anything and it does help if you genuinely love what you are doing.

“Say yes to everything. Yes to stylists, yes to bloggers, yes to other designers or brand owners.”

Websites like Etsy have rapidly grown during the pandemic, owing to the rise in independent brands looking to establish themselves in a similar way to the stores set up by Hannah and Molly.

Etsy’s CEO, Josh Silverman, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “At a time when there are more and more places coming online to sell you exactly the same thing, Etsy is a place you can go to actually connect with other people and find things that express your sense of identity.”

“It's a place you can go to support small businesses in your community.

“It's a place that you can go to bring people together.”

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