Ola Olayinka is a thirty-year-old entrepreneur from London. She first reached out to The Prince’s Trust three years ago, as she knew the charity supported young people wanting to start their own business.

“Once I had my idea and was ready to start my business, I spoke online to The Prince’s Trust about the Enterprise programme. I joined the course the following month, and I really enjoyed it. It was a five-day course, and the Youth Support Worker running it was really enthusiastic”.

Ola enjoyed the course and learnt a lot: “It was such a nice group of people, in a convenient location, and it really gave me a good foundation for my business. I could start to take my business seriously. It was a real thing now, not just an idea.”

After the programme, Ola worked closely with a mentor, and worked further on her business idea and got advice and support for her business plan. She also had access to specialist workshops to grow her confidence and skills in all aspects of starting a business. In March 2018, less than a year after joining the programme, she launched her business, OlaOla.

My background is as a textile designer. I sell bags, accessories and stationery with my original patterns on them and I hand make most of the products myself or they are locally produced.  At first, I had an Etsy store and I was visiting markets and participating in pop up shops all the time. I had to get myself out there and make myself visible as online sales took a while to build up.

Luckily for Ola, in the current Coronavirus pandemic she’s been able to rely on online sales to keep her business going. Thanks to the hard work she put in at the start of her business career, she has a strong online presence and regular orders. It was still a scary time when the virus broke out in the UK.

“It was a change in lifestyle. At that time, I was working from a studio and I had to think quickly about what I needed to take home in order to keep my business running, with the hope that I would even get online orders. I was trying to plan something you can’t really plan, so that was difficult. A lot of people have been supportive especially during the pandemic, and they were keen to buy from small businesses and support me which is good.”

Ola has had lots of return customers, and also people have been sharing her work online and supporting her even if they can’t make a purchase. It was in April that Ola first started making face masks – at first, she just made them for herself and her family, to keep them safe.

“I was using what I had – at first they were just plain black, but the rich cotton fabric was good quality, an easy fabric to work with and affordable, so I was glad to help people. Then I started to think it would be nice to make masks with my prints on them, so I was using extra fabric that would have otherwise gone to waste from my other products.”

Ola has had a fantastic response to her facemasks, and they’ve been essential for keeping her business profitable during the pandemic.

They are the most viewed page on my website, and I can pretty much guarantee that every day I’m going to sell a mask. It’s been great that as a small business I’ve been able to meet demand and help people, but also stay on brand.

In June, The Prince’s Trust got in touch with an opportunity for small business owners, that had come from corporate partner and long-term Prince’s Trust supporter, notonthehighstreet. They were looking for an entrepreneur who was making facemasks to join their platform, and Ola was keen to get involved.

“I’m really confident that they will sell well, and it’s so exciting to be on notonthehighstreet. I’ve got a direct contact there who has been so supportive, sending documents and ideas for how to sell well on their site. It’s really exciting."

Since completing the Enterprise programme, Ola has continued to receive support from The Prince’s Trust and is now part of the ‘Boost Your Business’ programme which continues to provide advice and tips for Enterprise graduates as they run their businesses. She’s attended workshops and talks about marketing, business planning and more.

There are always opportunities. My Prince’s Trust Youth Support Worker always reaches out and lets me know about anything suitable for me. Like the opportunity with notonthehighstreet which is so exciting. Even during lockdown, you feel that you can always get in touch with The Prince’s Trust and learn more, which is great.