A Wiltshire artist who gave up a corporate career that made her “miserable” to launch a company promoting positive mental health has been named one of the UK’s best small businesses of 2020.
Anita Perry scooped the accolade for her online gift shop, Sugar and Sloth, at the Lloyds Bank Small Business Awards, which celebrates the achievements of local companies around Britain.
The Chippenham-based entrepreneur started designing animated characters as an escape from a job which, she says, saw her “crying in the toilets every day”.
Anita launched the business three years ago and now sells her designs, which she has turned into cards, colouring books, clothes and other gifts, through her shop.
Her company also creates bespoke monthly subscription boxes aimed at promoting positive mental health, with items such as enamel pins, sew-on patches, postcards, calendar pages and stickers.
“Conversations about mental health have, quite rightly, become much easier and commonplace in the last few years, but there’s always more that can be done to reduce stigma and help people feel less alone,” said Ms Perry.
“I decided to take the leap from my corporate job and create Sugar and Sloth to do exactly that. I personally design all our products and love being able to provide a bit of escapism and fun for our customers.”
With 1,500 subscribers to the boxes, Anita and her team wanted to do more with their community of customers when lockdown began in March 2020 to help keep people connected and prevent loneliness.
Sugar and Sloth began hosting weekly online tea parties on Facebook, encouraging people to play games and socialise virtually. The business also created a free text service called the Happy Text Club, with subscribers receiving a message each week.
“When Covid-19 hit, our orders continued but I knew we could do more to help people at such an isolating time for so many,” Ms Perry explained.
“We started the tea parties with what we call our ‘besties’ – our monthly subscribers – and it’s been a huge success. The feedback we’ve had from the community we’ve created has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s provided a safe space for many customers who are living alone.”
As part of the award win, Anita will receive a one-on-one mentoring session with businesswoman, Sharmadean Reid MBE, who is the founder of Beautystack – a networked marketplace app for influential beauty professionals.
Gareth Oakley, managing director of Business Banking at Lloyds Banking Group, added: “Last year was undoubtedly tough for many, but so many inspiring stories have emerged from the pandemic.
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“Anita is a perfect example of someone who is community-minded and used their skills and resources to create something positive for others. Her caring and innovative attitude is humbling to see and she is truly deserving of this award.”
Almost 900 UK businesses were nominated by their local communities for the awards and 24 winners were picked based on how creatively and quickly they adapted to events since March, and how they went over and above expectations.