Damien Pestell, owner and founder of ‘Be Your Business’ meets three local businesses which started up during the time of coronavirus.

I read a wondrous story last week that warmed my heart. It was about a lady who started an ice cream parlour on New Year’s Day, right at the start of the most recent lockdown. It reminded me of when I started my own business which was also at the wrong time, a story for another time perhaps. But it got me thinking that perhaps there are others, maybe many others, who have started a business in the last year. Regardless of the difficulties, as with any situation, there are opportunities and for some it was the perfect time to start a new venture. 

I have been on a mission to seek out people who dared do when other might have given up

So, I have been on a mission to seek out these people who dared to do when others might have given up. When I pitched the idea to HIP they said they didn’t think that anyone would have opened a business in this period, but wished me the best of luck. However, hope springs eternal and from the ashes, small shoots have started to emerge. These brave green shoots give me great hope and for me represent the indomitable spirit that is the very best of us. 

First port of call was a business whose product I have been enjoying since moving to St Leonards in April. I am partial to kombucha, its health benefits have been lauded and I was mightily impressed to discover Booyah Vitality was a local business. Started by the effervescent Lisa Driver, her husband Phillip and their two (adult) children.

Lisa is a keen ambassador for “food as medicine” and has worked in the health industry since 1995 as a naturopathic nutritionist and nutritional fitness consultant. She also runs a popular Pilates class on the pier and when Lisa started selling turmeric shots to her members, an idea was born. They launched in March 2020 and when I asked her about the environment in which they began Lisa was surprisingly positive, “It was the impetus for making it a business! Phillip had no work, I lost a lot of Pilates members as I had to move my business online, we had to get on with it”. 

As with any small startup business Lisa and her family had no choice but to make it work, so they turned their kitchen and garage into a production facility and their son’s bedroom became a storage space filled to the ceiling with boxes stacked with ingredients. They each took on roles within the business which suited their skills, Lisa was the guiding force while Phillip and their son were in charge of production and their daughter Phoebe looked after social media and logistics. 

Over the last year they have gone from strength-to-strength opening a shop on the pier and a dedicated production unit in Silverhill. They’ve built a strong base of resellers in the local area and a definite buzz about the whole business. Their products are all made using fresh ingredients and are good for helping maintain a healthy body. They have a range of health drinks including Dandelion coffee, turmeric shots and kombucha. 

For more details see Booyahvitality.co.uk 


My next stop was a business which is one of my personal passions and something I have missed greatly throughout the last year, eating out. I was excited to visit an exciting new pop-up kitchen which had opened during lockdown and saved a popular local from closing.

Mary Barrett had just landed her perfect job when the pandemic struck, she was finally in control of a commercial kitchen at a deli in central Hastings. No sooner had she started her dream job though, lockdown caused the business to be closed down and she was back to square one. After getting a temporary bar job at the Jenny Lind she discovered an idea on one of her lunch breaks, “I asked where do you go for your lunch breaks? It was a derelict kitchen upstairs, not used for 15 years with two microwaves and a couple of stools.”

At the same time the substantial meal policy had been introduced meaning the pub wouldn’t be able to re-open for Christmas without a kitchen. Mary told the pub she’d always had a passion for cooking and it was her dream to open a fusion kitchen using Asian flavours. She got the nod from the owner and over the next month undertook crash courses in business over Zoom, renovated the dilapidated kitchen and passed the food hygiene inspection with flying colours. The Little Fusion Kitchen opened in December 2020 just in time for Christmas and the pub was able to keep its doors open. About the food Mary said “I’ve always loved Korean and Asian twists on food, and I love producing good food”. It makes perfect sense then that the food is just that. 

I tried a number of the dishes and the food is excellent. I’m not sure I have ever enjoyed a salad so much as Kimchi salad with sesame fried cauliflower. Highlights for me were also the slow-cooked Korean Beef and the Dirty Gochujang Pulled Pork fries which were a sensation. 

The Little Fusion Kitchen is open Thursday-Sunday, more details here facebook.com/thelittlefusionkitchen 


Finally, Maku is the creation of Suzan Aral, it stands for “make use, not waste” and uses waste material from the leather and textile industries to make slippers, rugs and throws. 

Suzan is a designer from Hastings and when “the industry ground to a halt”, it was the opportunity to put several of her other passions together and create her new business. “I’ve always had a passion for textiles and making things and I love the challenge of making use of off-cuts”. All the products are produced in a small area of Istanbul, where they partner with traditional craftspeople to create a product which relies on handmade techniques rather than industrial processes. “creating something people love and making work for people, felt like the right thing to do at this time, it is important to me”. 

Maku will be appearing locally at the pop-up emporium on 4th July at the Stade Hall and trading online at Maku.uk


Mission completed

I contemplated the things I will take away from meeting these remarkable people. They were all affected in some way by the events of 2020 and were forced to make a decision or take action on something which felt right to them. What has followed in each case are tiny miracles and something that
can give us all the hope and belief to follow our instincts and create a better world, each in our own small way.

Be Your Business helps new businesses harness their energy and to expand them to develop fun, meaningful and profitable work. Damien believes businesses should be a reflection of the person! “Do something you love, make a change, Be your Business!” beyourbusiness.co.uk


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