Just five weeks into their brand new business, Natalie Hartley and Pia McKenary found themselves having to completely overhaul their entire model. Coronavirus and the national lockdown had meant their sparkling new refill shop and cafe would suddenly have to transform into online orders and deliveries.
But there was another major factor in the mix too: Five children, all under the age of eight, who were all now stuck at home.
“It was a struggle, a massive struggle really,” Hartley told HuffPost UK.
“I was homeschooling my children, who are five and seven, all day and then working on the business until 2am most nights, trying to keep it all going.
And they were not alone.
Female entrepreneurs have been disproportionately hit by Covid-19.
Research published by Iwoca, one of Europe’s largest lenders to small businesses, in August found that 23% of women-owned businesses were still closed following the lockdown – compared to just 14% of male-owned enterprises.
Despite contributing some £85bn to the UK economy, women-led small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. The reasons why exactly are complex – with the virus hitting many sectors dominated by women, such as the beauty industry, particularly hard, and women taking on homeschooling and additional caring duties as schools closed.
A UCL study, released in July, revealed that women spent more than double as much time as men on their children’s home schooling and development during lockdown.
Mothers with primary school-aged children were also “considerably more likely” to have given up working than fathers with children of the same age, it was found in the same research.
Natalie Hartley and Pia McKenary, who run The Pantry at 51 in Prestwood, Buckinghamshire, had to self-build a website that would allow them to start a click-and-collect framework for their zero-waste shop, while also juggling the sudden demands of homeschooling.
“The kids had...