Business as Unusual: Making the most of online

KINGS founder, Blue O'Connor
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
20 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has been impacting business in different ways, and founders have had to pivot to adapt and survive in an ever-changing environment. 

In our Business as Unusual series, we’ve been speaking to companies supported by Virgin StartUp to explore the impact of coronavirus on small businesses and entrepreneurs. Blue O’Connor, founder of KINGS, spoke to us about his men’s ethical grooming brand.

“Just before the lockdown came in, we launched a clothing line,” Blue said. “It was fortunate really, because aftershave and fragrances are the last thing on people’s minds at the moment.”

Blue said that they’ve seen steady orders for their clothing range, which has helped as orders for aftershave have reduced. “With physical shops closed, there’s nowhere for people to test the scent, so it’s harder to sell at the moment,” Blue explained. KINGS has now added a free sample option on the website so that people can try the fragrance from home.

Talk Club

Blue also runs Talk Club, a social enterprise that encourages men to talk about their mental health. Normally, groups of men meet across the UK twice a month to discuss their mental health and support each other. But as the UK went into lockdown in March, they made the decision to take the groups online.

“We’ve been meeting via Zoom,” Blue explained. “People are being pushed beyond what they’ve experienced before. We know that it’s important to keep meeting in some form, especially at the moment.”

KINGS apparel

And it’s been working. The Talk Club Facebook page has grown to over 1,300 people, and in recent weeks they’ve seen conversations go up significantly. “We’re providing a place where men can talk about their mental health and how they’re feeling in a way that they might not feel able to in other settings,” Blue said.

It’s not without difficulties, of course. Blue said that relying on technology can be challenging at times and it doesn’t offer the same benefits as meeting in person. “Zoom is great, but it’ll never be as good as meeting someone face-to-face,” he added. “But it’s still important that we check in on a regular basis.”

Blue’s mental health tips

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week – a key time for everyone to think about their mental wellbeing, especially given the ongoing situation. Blue shared some tips for looking after your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic: 

  • Surround yourself with positivity. Positive stories. Positive music. Positive films. Positive podcasts. Ring or share screen time with positive people. Avoid negative stuff in the news and if certain social media makes you feel anxious, avoid it.  Be kind to yourself. Identify what causes you anxiety and try to remove it where possible. 

  • Stay present. In Talk Club, we ask men to grade their feelings out of 10. So if you wake up at 5 out of 10, how do you get yourself to a 6, to a 7, to an 8? Take little (achievable) steps to improve your mood one number at a time (use some of our other suggestions in this list). Don’t worry so much about the big things, the stuff you can’t control, just look at the little things you can. 

  • Try to maintain a routine. Get up, get showered, dressed and go to bed at roughly the same time each day. Create some structure in your day. If you are working from home, arrange a meeting at 9am. Give yourself a “commute”, even if it’s a quick walk around the block or the garden.  But be realistic. You may have to let some things go a little.  If you’re trying to work from home and look after your kids, accept you can’t give both 100 per cent of yourself all day.   

Visit Talk Club for more advice and to find out more about their online meetings.