Many businesses across Leicestershire and Rutland were hit hard as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic across both 2020 and 2021, which was why The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity moved quickly to establish a pilot grant scheme to support ventures in need of crucial funding.
One business to have benefitted from one of the £5,000 grants available to business owners across the county was Giulia Mio Millinery. One of a number of businesses based in the Maker’s Yard on Rutland Street in Leicester’s city centre, owner Giulia Mio delivers bespoke millinery for customers wishing to don something truly unique. The Italian milliner, who trained in cities within her home country before moving to the United Kingdom, has created hats for huge occasions. However, with COVID-19 bringing a close to large gatherings, many of the events that resulted in business for Giulia were put on hold, resulting in a sizable drop in custom.
“I had heard of The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity when I moved to Leicester, and I had previously enquired about their loans. However, as I had no guarantors, I wasn’t in a position to apply,” explained Giulia (left).
“I saw a post on Cool as Leicester on Instagram about the charity’s grant scheme and I thought, ‘that’s interesting – a grant so I don’t have to pay the money back’, and I enquired. I was told that the money wouldn’t have to be repaid, but that there would be a strict selection process to ensure the grants were delivered properly.”
Measured in the way she runs her business, Giulia applied for one of The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity’s grants and was able to outline exactly how the grant would be used to strengthen her business in this challenging time.
“When I received the email telling me that my grant was approved, I knew exactly what I was going to do with the funding, as I had to outline this as part of my application,” she said. “With the additional cash, I was able to purchase additional sets of blocks, which are the wood moulds I use to make hats. That in turn would enable me to offer a wider range of designs that, previously, I couldn’t offer.
“Having access to the grant gave me the opportunity to open up a slightly different branch to my business and allowed me to build up a bigger collection of blocks (some new and some vintage) needed to produce a more casual range,” Giulia continued. “It would also allow me to pay for an additional professional photoshoot. The grant gave me the peace of mind to think to the future and plan something different. The way I make hats is very specific and I’m able to take that into a new range of products.
Giulia was also keen to emphasise how The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity’s grants were able to provide the financial support that other providers weren’t able to.
“The charity provided something of a ‘double relief’ for me. Because I work in a shared studio, the Government funding meant that we had to split it and I wasn’t eligible for the full amount,” she explained. “I also wasn’t eligible for other grants that were made available. To keep going, I found myself making lots of silk flowers and face masks, which made me feel like I was back working in the environment I wanted to get away from, there was an awful lot of repetition. Finding out that there was a local charity that was willing to provide some financial support was a moment where all I could say was, ‘thank goodness’. I felt that the charity was thinking about people like me or those that share my workspace. Even if I was unsuccessful in applying, I was happy that there was an organisation in Leicester with good intentions.”
Prior to having her grant approved, Giulia was visited at her place of work by one of The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity’s trustees.
“When one of the trustees came to visit where I work, he was baffled when he saw that I made everything by hand the old fashion way,” Giulia remembered. “I went through the process of explaining what a hat block was and the entire process of hat-making – and very soon, he was able to understand that nothing in millinery comes cheap.
“The grant gave me the security to enable me to find alternative ways to run and support my business. I felt like I didn’t have to worry, because without the grant there would have been the potential for me to worry about whether I could sustain my business. This business is more than a business to me, it’s part of who I am and I can’t detach myself from it. The grant gave me security, it gave me a plan and it has made a huge difference. Four blocks on their own cost £1,000 – and I wouldn’t have had £1,000 to spend on that equipment otherwise.”
For more information on Giulia Mio Millinery, please visit https://giuliamiomillinery.com/
Photos by IsoElegantWeddings
Hair & MakeUp by Pincurls Vintage Services