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Entrepreneurs who fought back when Covid took their jobs

Entrepreneurs who fought back and started a new business when coronavirus took their jobs

  •  Some 73,000 people lost their jobs in the first months of lockdown
  • Many decided to take matters into their own hands and start their own business
  •  From food boxes to an online art store, we meet some of the entrepreneurs


National lockdowns during Covid were an unsettling time for all of us, but for some they also brought an end to their employment. 

Around 73,000 people lost their jobs in the first few months of lockdown, while millions were put on furlough. 

But many of these decided to take matters into their hands – and start a new business. 

An extra 84,758 businesses were set up in 2020 compared with 2019, according to Companies House data. 

‘Huge step’: Christian Azolan started his own business selling art online

One such business belongs to Fiona Metcalfe, 27, from London, who was due to start a new job in March last year as head of events for a group of London properties. 

The offer was retracted because of the pandemic and she was left without a job. 

During the six months in which she was unemployed, Fiona set up Cuisine Box with her partner Manuel Martinez Infante, 31. 

They sell a range of themed food boxes, including Japanese, Thai and Indian, which are filled with all the ingredients needed to cook a range of dishes at home. 

Since October, they have made £22,000, much of which has gone back into the business. This year turnover is predicted to be £65,000, of which 12 per cent will be profit. 

Fiona now runs Cuisine Box alongside a part-time job, but she plans to work on it full time by the end of the year. 

Starting a new business when you lose your job can be an alternative to seeking a new one. 

However, Beverley Sydney, from Sydney Hudson Accountants, believes it is much easier if you have built up some savings first. 

‘This can help to ensure personal bills are paid while the venture is still in its infancy and also provides the necessary funds to bring in expert advice where needed,’ she says. 

If you go it alone, you will also have to get your head around the tax implications. As soon as you earn more than £1,000, you need to either register as a sole trader with Revenue & Customs or Companies House if you have a limited business. 

You are responsible for filing your tax return, and knowing the deadlines for paying tax. It is possible to do this yourself, or you could pay an accountant to do it for you. 

A business plan is also key, including research about the market you are entering. 

This is what Christian Azolan, 38, discovered when he lost his job as a media lecturer at the University of Brunel due to Covid in March last year. 

Christian researched the art market, consulted with artists and then launched a new business selling art online. Now he sells art all around the world and earns up to £3,000 a month, 70 per cent of which is profit. 

‘I never imagined I would ever start a business,’ he says. ‘The idea was scary, I had always worked for someone for a salary so the idea of relying purely on myself for my income was a huge step.’ 

Using your existing skills to start a business can give you a great head start. 

Loc Bui, 46, and his fiancee Paula Cooper, 49, set up a cookery school and private dining service after Loc lost his job.

Paula says: ‘Our restaurant, where Loc was head chef, had been under some sort of restriction since March 2020, apart from a few weeks. ‘In January, we decided it just wasn’t viable to stay open as we couldn’t see an end date and had no outdoor space even if we were allowed to open again.’ 

The couple, who live in West Yorkshire with their two young children, set up Loc’s Taste of Vietnam. 

They have spent this summer giving demonstrations at UK food festivals and have recently started in-person cookery classes alongside their online offering. 

They invested around £15,000 of their own money and are aiming to make the same amount in profit this year. 

KEEP ON TOP OF YOUR TAX BILLS IF YOU RUN YOUR OWN BUSINESS 

If you work for yourself, you need to be on top of the tax you owe and when it is due. 

As a sole trader, you need to register with Revenue & Customs by October 5 after the end of the tax year you turned freelance. 

If you earn more than £85,000, you’ll also have to register for VAT. 

You’ll need to file your tax return for the previous tax year by October 31 by post or January 31 the following year if you do it online. The tax is also due on January 31. If you earn between £12,570 and £50,270 you will pay a basic rate of 20 per cent tax; for earnings of £50,271 to £150,000 it’s 40 per cent; and anything above £150,000 attracts a 45 per cent additional rate of tax. 

You can offset some of your expenses – including travel costs, office supplies and insurance. 

You will also need to pay National Insurance and corporation tax if you have a limited company

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