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'You'll think it's the end of your business - but it won't be': Two sisters write a letter to their pre-pandemic selves

Sisters and business partners Masindi Phiriga and Denga Phiriga look back on launching a small business during the pandemic.

Masindi Phiriga and Denga Phiriga

This has been a year like no other in living memory. As 2020 draws to a close, we are asking people from around Ireland to write a letter to the person they were 12 months ago. Today, we hear from Masindi and Denga Phiriga, who are sisters and co-founders of a small business called Whipped.

Dear past us,

There’s never one perfect time to start a business, but when you launch your skincare line in February, you’ll never imagine what’s about to come.

You’ll have made carefully laid plans for your first launch, first photoshoot, and first year on the market, and then a global pandemic will hit Ireland. You’ll learn how to think on your feet, adapt, and take each day as it comes.

Don’t be afraid to dive in. You’ll wonder if now is the right time to keep going and consider whether you should wait until after the pandemic has passed to build your profile, but you’ll realise that there’s no point in not trying. Instead, you’ll look at each other and say – let’s do it.

You started this business because you wanted to create products that could cater to anybody with any skin type and any skin colour. That motivation will keep you going during 2020 despite all the challenges that come your way.

It will be an interesting year for you both as sisters. Since you’ll live together and work together, when something goes wrong or a decision needs to be made, you won’t be able to hide from each other, and it’ll make your business stronger.

There will be frightening moments. When you hear that in-person events can no longer take place, you’ll start to freak out. You’ll think it’s the end – but it won’t be. You’ll think that you’re going to go bankrupt – but you won’t.

During the summer, the Black Lives Matter movement will gain renewed energy around the world, and people will turn to Black-owned businesses with a new excitement. You’ll speak to RTÉ and the Irish Times about your business and the recognition you receive will be one of the highlights of the year, but you’ll also wish that it didn’t take a global social movement to spark this kind of enthusiasm and respect for Black-owned businesses.

The momentum that the movement sparks will lead you to projects that you’re still working on heading into the New Year. You’ll meet people you didn’t know before and you’ll have opportunities to partner up with businesses and social media influencers and launch your body butters at a salon in Drogheda.

Remember that things that used to work for businesses won’t work anymore. Every day will be a new chance for trial and error. Instagram will be your best friend.

You’ll both keep pursuing your careers and your degrees. Masindi, you’ll enter your third year of your mental health nursing course. You’ll spend weeks on placement working with patients whose experience will be entirely changed by the impact of Covid-19 on health services. You’ll balance placement – which you aren’t paid for – and assignments with Whipped, family life and spending time with your son, and you’ll draw on the knowledge you’ve learned through your course in your own life to protect your mental health during these strange times.

Denga, you’ll work from home in your job at a law firm and keep studying for your master’s degree and babysit the kids when they come back from school. By the end of the year, you’ll struggle with feeling demotivated – working nine to five is hard, especially when there’s no one to talk to. You’ll be so excited in the hope of college reopening in the future and the chance to connect with yourself and with others.

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You’ll keep dreaming big and working on new and exciting products. You’ll work hard and think about what people need and what’s missing on the Irish market. There are gaps, especially in caring for Black people’s needs, and you want to fill them.

As you’re starting out, you’re working towards getting your products out into society, being recognised as a small Irish business, and growing your brand to new heights. You’re passionate about the new products you have coming down the line and you can’t wait to release them into the world.

You’ll tell yourselves ‘this is what I’m going to do’, and then you’ll do it. You will keep powering through this pandemic and into the new year ahead. You won’t always know how something will get done or how you’ll make it through a difficult time, but you’ll stay determined no matter what.

Masindi Phiriga and Denga Phiriga are sisters and co-founders of Whipped To Glow, a skincare line that targets a range of skin concerns. They are based in Kells, Co Meath.

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Masindi Phiriga and Denga Phiriga

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