Though it had been an idea of hers for years, Nicole didn’t formerly set up her business, Stitcha, until 2018 when she went on The Prince’s Trust Enterprise course.
Now, with the Covid-19 pandemic greatly affecting the retail sector, Nicole faces new challenges she could never have anticipated. However, with the advice of her mentor, weekly Prince’s Trust info sessions and her positive outlook, Nicole is trying to make the most of this extra time to boost her creativity and productivity.
Before setting up her own business, Nicole had worked in retail. It was when she was working in a community of artists’ cabins that her business idea started to take shape.
“Stitcha had always been an idea but I needed support to set it up – the Enterprise course gave me help with my business plan as well as helping me find and apply for a start-up loan. The course helped me work out my USP and who my customer was. The Trust also gave me a mentor who helped me refocus when I was trying to juggle so many different things. Even though they’re no longer ‘officially’ my mentor, I can still always go to them for honest, constructive feedback.
“Stitcha provides sustainable interiors for tiny living spaces. From alternative homes, to vans, cabins, modular homes and shipping containers, I create customised curtains and lampshades. Eventually, I hope to have a whole line of soft furnishings. My supply chain is as sustainable as possible – I use organic certified cotton and I just got some samples so I can try to make products from bamboo.”
Nicole has found that Covid-19 has affected her business in a number of ways, though not all of them are negative.
“Before the pandemic, I was trying to juggle two part-time jobs alongside creating products. There have been positives to come of this situation because I’ve had time to do more stitching and many other things that have been on my list. I’ve also been able to organise giveaways with companies that I wouldn’t have had access to before which is great for Stitcha’s publicity. From this, I now have a new collaboration with a woman who makes dungarees and runs a company called Our Cornish Adventure (@ourcornishadventure). I’m going to give her leftover sample fabrics that she can use to make them, and then I’m going to stitch custom pockets – it’s an exciting opportunity that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
However, the financial strains on Nicole’s business are challenging.
“I still have business loans and start-up loans to pay and, though I’ve been granted loan repayment holidays, I still have to pay my business insurance and website hosting fees. I’m lucky that I’m living at home with my parents. If I was having to pay rent I’d be in a very worrying situation. I’ve also had to apply for universal credit because I lost one of my part-time jobs.”