Travel entrepreneur launches new business during coronavirus downturn

A North Tyneside entrepreneur has used lockdown to launch a new children’s online store after the Covid-19 pandemic impacted her family’s travel business.

Helen Holmes, of Tynemouth, had planned to go live at the end of the year with Ruby and Grace, a new business named after her daughters, selling some of the unique toys and educational items she has sourced from around the world for her girls.

But her plans were brought forward when the family’s travel business was effectively shut down overnight by the lockdown in March of this year.

The business, called stagforyou.com, organises stag weekends across Europe and is still operating, but wedding and travel restrictions have impacted bookings, leaving the firm to wait for restrictions to ease before getting sales back on track.

In the meantime, Mrs Holmes, a former global customer experience manager for a car rental firm who used to travel the world for work, has worked with the North Tyneside Business Factory to set up the new business.

She said: “For many years we have run a successful family business in the tourism sector but unfortunately, when lockdown started, our entire 2020, and to an extent 2021 booking schedule was almost universally cancelled.

“We stood by our customers, refunding everyone as quickly as possible. In the meantime, however, we have Ruby and Grace and given the initial reception and orders coming through over the past four weeks – we are confident in its success.”

The online store sells everything from books and wooden toys to arts and crafts and dolls houses, and is designed to put the imagination back into children’s playtime and encourage the development of inquisitive minds.

Ross Laffey, business support manager at North Tyneside Business Factory added: “We are delighted to have been able to support Helen in the rapid set up and launch of her business.

“Ruby and Grace knows its customer well and we anticipate a very positive reception to the unique range of toys available – particularly for those looking to entertain children at home during what has been a prolonged period of home schooling.”


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