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Rise of the Indies: Event highlights

The global pandemic has led to a wave of entrepreneurs launching new businesses. In 2020, 43% more new businesses started up compared to the previous year, with London being home to the most - 239,066 new launches. To celebrate these new businesses and hopefully inspire some new ones, our Rise of the Indies event showcased some of the young entrepreneurs taking the business world by storm.

By Cara Fielder. Published 11 August 2021. Last updated 19 August 2022.

The event was hosted by Pro Vice-Chancellor of ULaw Business School Professor Marco Mongiello. Marco introduced the event by thanking the audience members for joining up from across the globe and the speakers for sharing their experiences.

Marco went on to introduce the first speaker, visual artist Christian Azolan.

After moving home to support his mother through her cancer treatment, Christian suffered a redundancy at the start of the UK’s first pandemic lockdown. Instead of freezing with panic, Christian merged his skills from his former career in marketing with his passion for art to found his own fine art business. He now has a full-time career creating and telling visual stories and ideas through his art.

In addition to his website, his limited-edition artwork is available on Saatchi Art, Handmade on Amazon, Wayfair UK and several other outlets.

“It was really tough. I didn’t get a payout, I didn’t get redundancy and I couldn’t apply for the furlough scheme because I was a contractor. So, I used the lockdown to really clear my thoughts and think about my next steps. To think not only about what job I was going to do next but what I wanted the rest of my life to be. And that’s very different to just going out and getting another job - I thought about what really makes me happy.”

Our second speaker of the evening was Amber Badger, founder of the copywriting business The Wild Wordsmith. Amber is an award-winning business owner and manages a team of three freelancers. Her work covers website copy and content marketing, right through to the business brand and tone of voice. She also presents a podcast and has recently launched a second business, Lila Retreats, where she hosts retreats and creative workshopsalongside two other business owners.

“It’s all a journey; it’s all a learning process. I’m constantly learning and tweaking how I do things and looking at my relationship with the business to make sure my work/life balance is right and that I’m putting the right energy into my business so that it can grow as much as possible. Genuinely, it was the best decision I ever, ever, ever made.

“Even when I’m super exhausted and wondering why the hell I started it in the first place, in my heart, I know that I am so happy and so proud of everything I have created with the business. I am super excited to see where it goes in the future.”

The evening's third and final business owners were Tyler Harris and Harry Lynch, directors of Sugar Rush Sweeties.

The couple’s journey started in October 2019 when they both worked full time in banking and teaching. They decided they needed to make some extra money for their travel plans and started selling sweets as a second income to people in their local area.

When Covid cut their travel plans short in March 2020, they returned to England two days before the first national lockdown, without their previous full-time jobs. Harry and Tayla decided to resurrect Sugar Rush and started to deliver sweets to their local community and post nationwide.

In July 2020, they opened the doors to their first physical shop - Sugar Rush Sweeties in Garforth, Leeds. In April 2021, they went on to open a second store in Leeds City Centre.

Tyler said, “If it weren’t for social media, there wouldn’t be a Sugar Rush. Instead of investing in a shop straight away, we took the option to open an Instagram page, which was free and easy. We already knew if it was going to work or not; we didn’t have to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds into a business or a website. It (social media) built our brand before was had a shop; we already knew we had quite a good chance of it working. We had a reputation from social media rather than diving in the deep end and opening a shop that might not work straight away.”

Director of ULaw Business School Andres Perez joined the event to moderate a Q&A panel between the speakers and audience members. Questions included themes on converting an idea to an actual business, the first steps involved in starting up and if someone should leave a secure job to start their own business.


If you missed our Rise of the Indies event, you can catch up by watching it on the ULaw YouTube channel. If you already have a business idea and want to invest in your future, study one of our undergraduate or postgraduate business courses.