A Chippenham artist and illustrator who gave up her corporate career to help promote positive mental health through her designs has been named a Small Business of 2020 by Lloyds Bank.
Anita Perry, creator and owner of Sugar and Sloth, has spent the past three years building up the brand by designing and selling artwork, cards, colouring books, clothes, and other gifts from her online shop.
The business also creates bespoke monthly subscription boxes designed to promote positive mental health. The contents of each box change each month but include items including enamel pins, sew-on patches, postcards, calendar pages and stickers.
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 virtual tea parties on Facebook, encouraging customers to play games and socialise virtually.
The business also created a free text service called the Happy Text Club. Each week, subscribers receive a thoughtful reminder via text designed to promote positive mental health during these challenging times.
The Lloyds Bank Small Business of 2020 competition celebrates the small and local businesses across the UK and their inspiring energy and resilience in meeting the challenges of 2020. Almost 900 businesses up and down the country were nominated by their local communities 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.
As part of the win, Anita will receive a one-on-one mentoring session with businesswoman, Sharmadean Reid MBE, the founder of Beautystack, a networked marketplace app for influential beauty professionals. In the session, Anita will gain insight and support to help her develop her leadership skills and grow the business.
Anita said: “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. 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.
“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. 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 and look forward to the virtual interactions each week.
“We’re a small but growing team and I’d love to get some advice from Sharmadean to help me develop my leadership skills while staying true to the values of Sugar and Sloth. I want to make people happier, even if it’s just in a tiny way, as we all work towards better mental health.”
Gareth Oakley, Managing Director of Business Banking at Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Last year was undoubtedly tough for many, but so many inspiring stories have emerged from the pandemic. 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.”