Here are the UoB entrepreneurs running a business during lockdown

Brighten up a day in lockdown by supporting some of these small businesses run by UoB students

This week marks global entrepreneurship week, giving us the perfect opportunity to celebrate the very talented entrepreneurs living in and around Selly Oak.

From jewellery, to face masks, to an online marketplace and more, these UoB students offer a wide range of affordable and stylish items to spice up your lockdown 2.0.

We chatted to the owners of some of our favourite small businesses in Selly Oak.

Ffion Leeman – Masks

Designed by Ffion

Ffion began handmaking masks during the first lockdown in March. Offering a range of designs from quirky geometric patterns, floral prints your nan would love and a fun festive collection, Ffion has cleverly capitalised on the “new normal” that we now find ourselves in.

Ffion told The Birmingham Tab “I learnt how to make the masks by watching a few Youtube videos and then adapted what I’d seen to make my own style of mask. I got my sewing machine out in lockdown and decided to give it a go. I really didn’t expect the response that I got!”

Check out her masks at @designedbyffion

Oli Assor and Raffy Zysblatt – Waffles and Cookie Dough

Waffle Me Up

Waffle Me Up offer the pengest menu we’ve seen in a long time. Freshly baked waffles? Warm, gooey cookie dough? Covered in melted chocolate? What more could you want to lift your mood during these tough times?

“We started our journey during lockdown due to the gap in the market for late night desserts,” the boys told The Birmingham Tab. “When we saw the success in London, we decided to bring the idea with us to university and sell our desserts to students!”

Something tells us these guys are going to be very popular around Selly during lockdown 2.0. Have a look at their socials now @wafflemeup_

Jamie Cheung – Stickers and Prints

Curious Crow

Credit – @curiouscr0w

We love Old Joe. You love Old Joe. Who doesn’t love Old Joe? This begs the question, why wouldn’t you want him printed on a vinyl sticker? Jamie of “Curious Crow” has done just this, creating a range of his own digitally illustrated stickers and prints based on everything from animals, plants, food and our beloved clock tower!

After starting “Curious Crow” in lockdown, Jamie described to The Birmingham Tab how sales “really picked up” in September and that lockdown 2.0 has been “a blessing in disguise”, giving him more time to dedicate to his business.

Emily Calvert – Handbags

The Little Bag Store

Emily’s croc print bags come in an amazing array of colours and shapes to suit any outfit or occasion.  Gone are the days when “Baguette” bags were seen as comical accessories carried around by 5-year-old wannabe fashionistas. These iconic 90s handbags are now a wardrobe staple and the brand’s most popular product.

Emily explained to The Birmingham Tab it was “challenging” starting her business in lockdown because “supplies and stock took longer to get here”. However, she used the extra free time she had to “make sure everything was perfect!”

Check out her bags at @thelittlebagstore_

Tanya Munyua – Fine Art and Poetry

Obsidian Circus Group

If you’re looking for alternative wall art to cover up the “water marks” *damp* in your uni room, clothing emblazoned with eye catching motifs or a sick new phone case, Tanya’s got you covered. Based upon subject matter from aliens to vaginas their dystopian designs are striking and truly unique.

If being a cool new artist wasn’t enough, Tanya also writes thought provoking poetry and champions other creative writers through their company.

Tanya explained to The Birmingham Tab the difficulties of running their business in 2020. “Honestly it’s been quite hard because I can’t properly seek out opportunities for my art with galleries who support small, upcoming artists”. However, they try to remain positive, adding “I’m getting a good amount of support right now which is what keeps me going!”

Have a look at Tanya’s creations at

Amar Singh Bhogal, Luke Cutts and Jack Martin – Tutoring

Encompass Education

After noticing how expensive it can be for student to fulfil their academic goals, Amar, Luke and Jack wanted to do something to support all students regardless of their background. The group of Birmingham Medical Students launched Encompass Education, a social enterprise delivering free GCSE and A-Level tutoring to disadvantaged students across Birmingham. However, starting their business just before lockdown, things haven’t been easy for the trio.

Amar told The Birmingham Tab “Everything changed with the pandemic. We couldn’t start our face to face tutoring and schools had shut.” However, unfazed, the team have taken on more tutors in anticipation of increasing demand and are now looking to partner with local schools and deliver tuition online.

“It’s been challenging starting a business during this period,” Amar admitted. “However, it gives you time to really build on all the behind the scenes work that goes into running a business”.

Take a look at what they’ve been working on @encompasseducation

Lucia Ellis – Earrings

Lucia’s Funky Earrings

Expanding Jenga beyond the realms of a slightly basic but none-the-less exciting pastime, Lucia has created an earring collection made out of miniature Jenga blocks. The earrings are hand painted with tiny patterns and can be customised to suit specific tastes.

Not only extremely creative but charitable too, Lucia donates 10% of profits to BLAM UK CIC charity, which aims to improve the education and well-being of young, black children.

Lucia told The Birmingham Tab,, that, during lockdown “I accidentally bought tiny Jenga instead of normal size. In lieu of making it into a drinking game, I decided not to miss the chance to try my hand at making some funky earrings.”

Check out these funky accessories @luciasfunkyearrings

Emilie Butler – Face masks


Given most places now require mandatory face coverings, it’s just as well we have two entrepreneurs selling masks in Selly! Emily’s masks come in an assortment of stylish prints and fabrics including tie-dye and black lace overlay. She also donates 20 per cent of profits to charity (the current chosen charity is Brain Tumour Research) meaning that buying her products not only protects you but helps others too!

Emilie told The Birmingham Tab, “I’ve always enjoyed upcycling or altering clothes from charity shops so I figured it would make sense to try and sell masks from second-hand fabrics” (we love a sustainable business!)

Take a look at the masks now @pa.pillon_

Anna Grantham – Jewellery

Jewlz By Granna

One of Spotify’s slickest features has to be their scannable Spotify tags, instantly linking you to songs and playlists. Anna has capitalised on this application, handmaking earrings, bracelets, keyrings and necklaces adorned with the Spotify tag of your favourite song. Customers are able to pick custom charms, colours schemes and songs, for the perfect personalized accessory. Jewellery has never sounded so good!

“Now I am a Chemistry student by day and a jewellery maker by night. I love personalised items so wanted to design something cute and affordable that I personally would buy for my own friends and family,” Anna told The Birmingham Tab.

Get yourself the best sounding accessories in Selly @jewlzbygranna

Harriet Noy – Zero Waste Market Place


Hazaar is a zero-waste marketplace aimed at reducing both the volume of fast-fashion and the pollution from ordering online – which often means excessive packaging and delivery. Hazaar allows UoB students to buy and sell items from textbooks to Sports Night costumes (RIP). To make shopping even easier, Harriet is developing a Hazaar app which will be available after Christmas.

“Simply buy online, then hand over in person. By cutting out postage there is zero packaging and no travel miles!” Harriet told The Birmingham Tab.

Check out Hazaar’s socials @justhazaar

Anna Seymour – Figures, Keyrings and Earrings

Anna’s Mini Creatures

Beginning by making small clay figures for her stop motion videos, due to boredom in lockdown, Anna diversified. “I’d always wanted to sell things that I’d made so I thought it was a perfect time!” Anna told The Birmingham Tab.

Anna’s range now includes keyrings and earrings adorned with cute and colourful figures and shapes.

Anna explained how much she is enjoying running her business during lockdown, describing it as “a distraction to what’s going on in the world”. Have a look at her creations at @mini_creatures_

Amy Larsen – Art and Poetry Prints

Larsen Studios

Digitalised illustrations are super on trend right now and, looking at Amy’s artwork, we can see why. As well as an assortment of fun doodles, convivial prints and beautiful illustrated poetry, Larsen Studios also undertake commissions, turning clients’ favourite photos into amazing digital prints.

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support” Amy, who runs the business with her sister Izzy, told The Birmingham Tab. “There has been a real push lately to help support small and local businesses and we are so grateful for this.”

Look at these beautiful illustrations @larsen_studios

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Meet the UoB student who is raising money for a local charity offering LGBTQ+ support 

• 10 alternative study spaces instead of working from home 

• What kind of UoB student you are based on your mask