Business owners go mobile as pandemic opens new horizons
9:45 a.m. on December 26, 2021
How did starting a mobile business go during a global pandemic?
STUART ANDERSON spoke to three Norfolk entrepreneurs who put their dreams to the test.
When not busy brewing her next batch of melted waxes, she fills orders online or sells direct to customers at a pop-up booth.
Running your own business, says Hannah Clark, is more than a full-time job.
âEvery second that you have, you have to put in,â she said. âThere is no more free time. “
Miss Clark, 22, and from Wood Dalling near Reepham, started her business called The Scented Barn in 2020 shortly after being fired from her job at a holiday park due to coronavirus.
Driven by the pandemic, she is now part of a growing cohort of business owners who have ditched traditional storefronts for a more mobile way of doing business.
Selling a range of wax casts and reed diffusers, most of her sales are online, thanks to the rapid growth of Facebook and Instagram pages, and she also sells at fairs and events.
âSocial media was a big help – one person found out and shared a post with friends and family. Within a month, I was selling to people who I had no idea who they were,â he said. said Miss Clark.
âThe hardest thing has been work-life balance – it might seem like a job, a job, a job.
âBut seeing customers share photos of themselves enjoying the products at home is worth it. “
Miss Clark said she realized the business was a success when it recently filled over 100 online orders in a month, and at one event there were over 30 people standing around the booth .
And while she appreciates the versatility of mobile working, she still hopes to someday open a permanent store.
âI love talking to clients in person, and I can’t do it online,â Miss Clark said.
“I can’t wait to open a boutique with a workshop in the back, very close to my house but also in a lively neighborhood. I will get there.”
Peter Thorogate, 48, from Sheringham, is also taking the mobile approach.
From a former chef turned taxi driver, Mr Thorogate’s taxi business took a huge hit during last year’s closings.
He had a van converted into a gourmet fish and chip shop that he called Chish and Fiddy, and started selling dinners in underserved places around towns and villages in northern Norfolk.
During this year’s tourist season he focused on the camping boom caused by the pandemic and he quickly had all the customs he could handle.
Mr Thorogate said: âAfter moving into the campsite we were so busy we were selling every night. It was really hard work – but I feel very lucky and very blessed.
Mr. Thorogate is now on winter vacation at the business and he had considered completely selling and using the proceeds for a deposit on a house.
But now he’s decided to continue with Chish and Fiddy as a seasonal business, combined with off-season taxi driving.
âIn a few years I will have a bigger deposit and I hope the housing market has stabilized,â he said.
âI can’t wait to start over – I have some wonderful ideas for 2022. I plan to make vegan and vegetarian wraps and burgers to suit all tastes.
âWe were very well supported – we went from really small to big pretty quickly.
âI also enjoyed getting to know the communities in places like Aldborough and Overstrand.
Connor Florence wasted no time planning to launch his mobile business – he started planning it when he was only 17.
Two years later, Mr Florence of Diss said he was delighted with the way his business was going – a coffee stand in a converted horse chariot called Florenco’s Coffee -.
He said: âI was in grade 13 and didn’t like school. It was an important decision, but I decided to give up.
âI worked at Breckland Lodge in Attleborough for a few years and that’s where my passion for coffee, and for making it right, really grew.
âI wanted something that I had complete control over. We also considered having a store, and it would have cost Â£ 120,000 to start – for a 17 year old who is not affordable.
Mr Florence bought and adapted the horse chariot thanks to a loan from his mother and a little ingenuity.
He said: âThe main challenge was that we couldn’t get a lot of materials like wood, so we used a lot of recycled material and old pellets.
“Another problem caused by the pandemic was that I couldn’t get my trailer license because they weren’t doing tests, so I had to get someone else to tow the float.”
Although this has slowed business down for over six months, Mr Florence said he now enjoys taking the trailer to places in East Anglia including Sheringham, Cambridge and North Lopham to share his love of coffee.