Creating a business in lockdown: an interview with Isobel Perl

The current situation has affected us all in some way, whether you’ve had to move back home, cancelled exciting plans, moved to home working or have been keeping us all safe and well from the frontline. In today’s blog, I’d like to share Isobel’s story of how she lost her job as a result of company cuts at the start of the pandemic, and has since set up Perl Cosmetics; a skincare brand.

For anyone that is facing a difficult situation at the moment, especially regarding employment post-university, have a read of Isobel’s story and be inspired by her resilience and advice! While you might not be in a position to do the same yourself right now, it’s always nice knowing that you’re not alone facing a troubling time and things do get better – you have the power to change things!

I hope you enjoy this one – I really did!

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m 25 and now 3 years out of university, having taken not one but two gap years. I feel that sums me up perfectly, never fully knowing what to do and so I kept delaying starting real life.

My first gap year after sixth form was very impromptu. I never thought I was that smart, especially compared with my friends and sister, so I decided University probably wasn’t for me. Then I saw how much fun my friends were having whilst I was stuck in a crappy retail job. I quickly got my act together and settled on the University of Nottingham, to study Biology which was my favourite subject at school.

University, despite many ups and downs, was overall such a positive experience for me. To my surprise, at the end of the three years, I graduated with a first. To celebrate, I decided I needed another break from working and so roll on gap year 2.0. I landed myself a job in HR at a Big Four firm to save money to travel and off I went to South East Asia and Australia for 6 months with my best friend.

Before I went travelling, I had lined up a masters in Cancer Biology at Imperial. I thought as I had enjoyed my undergrad so much I wanted to carry on my passion for Biology. I lasted 3 weeks before deciding that wasn’t the path for me. Yet again I was back in a position of not knowing what to do with my life. Luckily, my old job was delighted to have me back, but I knew that it wasn’t a career path for me. After a few months, I managed to get an internal promotion moving into Project Management. I also moved to the London office, and rented a flat with my two best friends, which has been so much fun.

The job, however, wasn’t as much fun. I was struggling with finding my feet and knew this wasn’t where I wanted to be. But at the same time, I didn’t know where I wanted to be.

In November 2019 I began thinking about what I was passionate about. I’ve always loved makeup and skincare. I’ve always been playing around with making cosmetics from pressed glitter eyeshadows to face and hair oils.

After reading a Daily Mail article (I know, I’m not proud of reading it either) about two young guys who had set up a hugely successful skincare brand in Australia selling clay masks, it got me thinking. I did research and saw a gap in the market for what I had in mind. I bought my website domain, perlcosmetics.com, and set up my Instagram, @perlcosmetics. However, it remained inactive as having a full-time job I didn’t have the time to be able to fully commit to launching the brand.

Then came 2020, coronavirus hit the world and had devastating effects on the entire population. My company had to make cuts, and unfortunately, my job was one of those. Once I got over the panic of losing my job and worrying about what was next, I began to see this as a positive move in my life. It gave me the momentum to pursue my passion and bring my brand, Perl Cosmetics, to life.

Perl Cosmetics bottle and packaging
Perl Cosmetics launches soon!

Have you always wanted to start your own business?

Working in a corporate environment has given me so much insight into how businesses function and following people on social media who have taken the plunge to set up their businesses have always inspired me. I truly think it would have taken me a lot longer to do this if it weren’t for me losing my job.

Job security and conforming to the 9-5 lifestyle was a big factor and once I moved into London, I kind of thought that was it. I was on the hamster wheel of life and there was no getting off. Little did I know, it only takes a global pandemic to knock you off (lol). But I am truly thankful for this time I’ve been given to see where I can take my brand!

What’s been the best thing about working on your skincare brand?

I am such a creative person, and throughout my career I’ve never really been able to use my creative side. I’ve enjoyed being creative and creating content for my Instagram, website, Pinterest, Twitter etc.

Being able to work on my formulation for the product has been so much fun, with lots of trial and error. I’m now in a position to begin the testing phase, which is very exciting. Keep an eye out for my ‘how-to’ video on Instagram TV.

I’ve also enjoyed learning new skills, such as website design, SEO, and trying my hand at writing blogs. But mostly, I’ve enjoyed connecting with people! From Felicity in Australia who designed my branding, to Kate who has helped me with my marketing, and Kim who helped with teaching me the ropes of WordPress. I’m honestly blown away by all the love and support I’ve had from strangers!

What challenges have you already faced or are there things you’re a bit apprehensive about for the future?

My biggest challenge was to overcome the fear of ‘what if it all goes wrong’. But there is this brilliant quote by Lewis Carroll, “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take”. I don’t want to ever look back on my life and regret not taking that risk. It’s daunting spending a lot of money, particularly when I am not earning any money, but I am so passionate about what I’m creating I know (positive manifestations) it’ll pay off.

For the future, I guess I’m nervous about how successful the product will be. I know I have a niche and a brilliant product. I have lots of friends, family and followers who are super excited to try the product, but once they’ve bought it, I’m then worried about who my next customers will be. But I’m not letting this deter me, I’m going to keep at it and hope the hard work pays off!

Image shows young woman Isobel Perl who set up Perl Cosmetics
“Focus your time and energy on things that make you truly happy”

What would your advice be to anyone else that’s lost their job currently?

You will be emotional, you will be upset, and it will be a strange time. But once these emotions pass, and perhaps not right now, but one day, you’ll look back on it and realise the positive impact it’s had on your life.

Try to focus your time and energy on things that make you truly happy. This doesn’t have to be something that will make you money, it could be reading, baking, or exercise. Just anything that you enjoy and can positively spend your time doing.

Know that you are an amazing person, with a wealth of experience behind you and any company would be lucky to have you. My DMs are always open, @isobelperl, and I’m always happy to offer any advice or support having been through this myself!

What would your advice be to graduates more generally?

My biggest piece of advice is that it’s okay not to know what to do. Don’t feel the pressure to do something just because your friends are doing so, or that’s what you think should be the next step. If you’re not sure about going to University, take a year out and think about it. It’s a big commitment to not be 100% sure about it.

Equally, if you don’t know what career path to go down, that’s okay. Know that whatever you end up doing, you’ll gain so much transferrable experience from doing so. At the same time, you’re never too old to change career paths, go back to studying or try something different!

My second piece of advice is to try and not compare your ‘now’ to someone else’s ‘now’. I’m an absolute sucker for this, with a sister who is 3 years older than me and seems to be doing everything the way it should be ‘done’ (see my biggest piece of advice).

Everyone does life differently, at different speeds and at different times. I took 2 bloody gap years, yet I still try to compare myself to my sister who is also 3 years older than me. It doesn’t make sense, if anything I should be comparing myself to where her life was 5 years ago if you include both my gap years.

So, although its brilliant to be inspired by others around you, do just that, be inspired and don’t compare.


Thank you so so much to Isobel for sharing her story and inspiring us with how she has turned her negative (losing her job) into a huge positive (finally working on her dream skincare brand).

For anyone that has felt the harsh effects of Coronavirus lately, don’t be put off from losing your job, not being able to get work or finding that you can’t leave a job that you really want to – try your best to make the most of that situation. You’re a lot stronger than you think and you’ll be proud to come out on the other side of all of this chaos being able to say “I did it!”.

For more advice, you can find another blog about starting your own business here or other advice for twenty-somethings here.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Richard Astle

    Really interesting interview, thanks for sharing.

    1. Maddie

      Thank you 😊

    1. Maddie

      It’s great isn’t it!

  2. Anna

    That’s so amazing! You took a bad situation that could’ve broke you and flourished into an amazing entrepreneur, thank you for sharing this with us, it was a joy to read!

    1. Maddie

      I’m glad you enjoyed this interview! It’s very inspiring how Isobel took a negative and turned it into a positive!

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