The Sheffield-based broadband provider said the four local lockdown entrepreneurs include a toy shop that makes teddies for kids with medical conditions, a sweet company, an online fitness business and a patisserie. PlusNet said all four firms are thriving thanks to a "brilliant" response from their local communities.
The four firms are Morley-based 3D Toyshop, Garforth-based Sugar Rush Sweeties, Leeds-based Laura’s Fit Loves and Hull-based Misty’s Patisserie.
Nick Silverwood, head of business at Plusnet, said: “Being from Yorkshire we know all about courage, grit and determination and that’s why we’re recognising the many thousands of businesses that took the plunge in lockdown by rewarding them with a unique 'That’ll Do Star'.
“We’re really thrilled to be taking our hat off to the incredible businesses launched over the last year across Yorkshire which are really making a difference to their communities.
“Plusnet already supports small businesses by offering business broadband, and we want to support these entrepreneurs further after an incredibly difficult year by shining a light on them and helping them continue their journeys into their second year.”
Nick Hardman from Morley, Leeds, began making PPE with his 3D printer at the start of the pandemic. When there was no longer a shortage, he switched to making toys through his 3D Toy Shop.
Mr Hardman makes special teddy bears that normalise medical conditions for children. The toys include teddies with crutches, teddies with a pacemaker and a penguin with a cystostomy button and a urine bag. Some of the youngsters who receive the bears are suffering from rare brain conditions while others are undergoing lifesaving care.
"The teddies give the children a way to understand what they’re going through and to explain it to others," said Mr Hardman.
"This can be a big problem for them, especially if they have an invisible condition. I struggle to explain how much it means to the people in this position. So far I’ve made toys for over 300 children, designed over 20 different medical toys and have five chemically tested plastics for safe toy production.”
Harry Lynch and Tayla Harris began their business, Sugar Rush Sweeties, in lockdown and opened their first shop in Garforth, Leeds. The Instagrammers said they received a "brilliant" response from the community, using tech to raise their platform and create eight jobs for local residents.
Despite the challenges of the past 12 months, the business has become the biggest counter and online seller of sweets in Yorkshire - with orders almost doubling during lockdown. The couple opened their first city centre store in Leeds last month selling more than 150 varieties of sweets.
Mr Lynch said: “It’s been an amazing year for me and Tayla. Running a business in the centre of a city like Leeds is great because we can grow alongside other businesses.
"Together we make an environment that we can all thrive in.”
Laura Kendrew quit her job as a teacher in 2018 to pursue her passion for fitness and become a personal trainer, but when the pandemic forced gyms to close, it looked as though her dream had died.
She decided to take her fitness business online, embracing a completely new way of working and offering online coaching sessions and workout plans. Relying on tech
has helped her reach women around the world and she has amassed over 30,000 followers on Instagram.
PlusNet said her business, Laura’s Fit Loves, in Brown Moor, Leeds, offers motivational fitness pictures and tips and encourages women to step outside their comfort zones.
Ms Kendrew has reported a "terrific" response from her local community and beyond.
“The past year has been both challenging and exhilarating," she said.
"It is such an honour to see my business recognised for the journey so far. I am looking forward to the next exciting chapter.”
Misty Green gave birth to her fourth child last March and then decided to launch a new business amid the global pandemic.
Despite the challenges, Misty’s Patisserie, in Hull, has adapted to technology to become a success. The business has relied on connectivity to reach people online.
“The last year has been a million miles an hour, but it has also been great fun," said Ms Green.
"I’ve got big ambitions for the business which include teaching children how to bake. After the last year with Covid-19 we have taken opportunities to make Misty’s
Patisserie into a full time business.
“Starting a business in the current times has been extremely difficult, but being noticed by this campaign by Plusnet spurs us on to know that Misty’s Patisserie is heading in the right direction for success.”
Plusnet said it gave each firm a helping hand to keep them on track, with free business coaching and guidance.
The firm said all four set up shop during one of the toughest years for generations, joining more than 800,000 companies that have started since March 2020.
Despite the pandemic, Yorkshire saw a 2 per cent rise in start-ups from 2019 to 2020 – the second biggest rise out of all UK regions. Start-ups have contributed 14 per cent to the region's turnover and Yorkshire now has a density of 28 start-ups per square mile.
Any UK business that launched during lockdown qualifies for a "That’ll Do Star", but the four in Yorkshire were among just a handful chosen by Plusnet for their perseverance.
Plusnet said it wanted to go above and beyond for the small businesses, offering them free business coaching to help keep them on track as well as a professional photoshoot enabling them to market their services and products online.
It has also launched a guide for new businesses with advice covering everything from using social media to avoiding burnout and hacks to get them through year two.