In this new ‘Connect-19’ interview series, we hope to shed light on inspirational and uplifting stories and people, amid these continually challenging times. Starting the series off strong, volunteer Label writer Lydia Potrykus sits down with friend and business-owner Hollie Grant who has shown strength, passion, and dedication over the last eight months.

In an attempt to shine some light on what is, undoubtedly, a dark time, I spoke to dancer and model, Hollie Grant (20) about her experiences running a small business during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“I created ‘Heels With Hollss’ in early 2020”, Hollie tells me, in the way that has become the new normal for social interaction: over Zoom. “I’d recently graduated from dance school and moved back home, and I knew there was nothing like this in my local community”.

Seeing a gap in the market, Hollie took the initiative to start up her own dance business, ‘Heels With Hollss’, instructing in heels dancing. Hollie tells me how she hoped to give women a safe space to feel sexy and confident, “I set up my class with the intention of empowering women […] that’s how I feel when I get to put on a pair of heels and do my dancing”.

After starting her classes in early 2020, Hollie was suddenly faced with emerging restrictions, “when restrictions started coming on, I was able to carry on my classes for a while”. Once a full lockdown was introduced, Hollie had to rethink things completely, “I couldn’t go to the studio […] that’s when it did affect me”.

“My classes are all about giving women an opportunity to go somewhere to express themselves” – passionate about empowering women, Hollie was faced with a tough decision – “I took all of my classes online, completely free of charge”. It didn’t come as a surprise that online classes weren’t as popular: “when my numbers got lower throughout lockdown it was a bit disappointing, but understandable”.

“I’ve basically come out of lockdown and had to start from scratch”, Hollie tells me. To some, this may sound like a death sentence for a new business, but this young entrepreneur has taken it all in her stride; “It has been a blessing in a way, […] my business has grown so much more since [we] came out of lockdown”.

Post-lockdown, Hollie jumped right into getting her business back on track, “we’re at a brand-new studio, where I also teach in other classes”. There have been certain restrictions, including being limited to class sizes of 15, “it’s been frustrating. If I have more than 15 I have to turn people down, […] I could open more classes, but I’d risk not making enough to cover the studio”. There are also other smaller details to consider, like hand sanitiser and taping down guides to ensure social distancing, all of which have ensured that clients feel safe, “I explained all of my Covid procedures and I’ve had minimal concern from those who come to class”.

Even with safety measures in place, there are other barriers to consider, “I’m completely self-employed as a model and a dancer, […] I’ve not received any support”, Hollie tells me, as we move on to discuss the recent remarks made by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak regarding the arts industry. “It would be challenging for any government dealing with a crisis like this”, Hollie comments, “but I think that reaction, in particular, telling artists to re-train and find new jobs […] it’s ridiculous”. Discussing the importance of the arts, Hollie sums up the situation quite clearly: “there would be no more theatre, no music, no TV, no films; everything we enjoy would be taken away”.

Despite some bumps along the way, Hollie says she feels positive about the future of her business, “it’s been really really good if I’m honest, […] my turn-out has been great and all the girls have been really supportive”. As I ask about how she’s feeling about the future, I get only positivity in response, “lockdown really gave me a chance to work on marketing and networking, and my class has boomed”. Hollie even has plans for expanding in the future, “it would be ideal to have a beginner’s class and an intermediate class, exclusive workshops and guest choreographers, there’s definitely potential for growth”.

Bringing our conversation to a close, I asked Hollie for her advice to other current or aspiring creatives and small business owners, “it would just be to remember why you started […] it’s because you love it, because you don’t want a ‘typical job’”. On staying positive in difficult times, I found her final remarks to be particularly impactful, so I’ll leave you with this: “it doesn’t matter if the government care, your next-door neighbour loves going to watch the ballet, the kids down the road love their dance lessons […] the everyday people value you and what you do, that’s what counts”.

Header designed by volunteer Sofia Azcona.


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