Like many internet entrepreneurs, Danielle Neill watched her online business grow during lockdown.
The 33-year-old, from north Belfast, used the time to expand her DDCTD line of fitness clothing, as did Lisburn businesswoman Chloe Elliott.
Chloe (22) launched Chloe Elliott Designs last October, but business has really boomed this year.
"When my tie-dye designs took off over lockdown, I was overwhelmed by the support that people were giving my business, which really allowed me to develop my designs further," she said.
Danielle launched DDCTD last year as a way of combining her love of fashion with her love of the gym.
"I studied a fashion and business degree at Belfast tech and graduated with a 2:1. This is where my love of creating and designing started," she said.
Her first job in the fashion industry was with the local company Douglas and Grahame Menswear. She worked in its head office in Carrickfergus and in one of its Remus Uomo stores.
"I did gain a lot of knowledge during this time. I headed up all of their fashion shows and styled photoshoots for their brand," she explained.
"Overall, the style of clothing wasn't what I was passionate about, so I moved on after three years."
Chloe said she had always wanted to work in the fashion industry. "I knew from a young age that I was interested in fashion design. I can remember designing shoes in primary school and I have absolutely loved art and design ever since," she added.
"One of my teachers at Wallace High School was a fashion designer and I was always so interested taking that career path.
"I went to Ulster University to study textile art, design and fashion. My love for fashion design developed there and I specialised in embroidery. I loved every minute of the course.
"I furthered my studies by doing a master's degree in fashion and textile retail management at Ulster University.
"This course showed me how to be an entrepreneur and how to sell my designs with the use of digital marketing and social media."
Danielle came up with the idea of launching her own label after her husband opened a gym in Belfast, Dedicated Fitness, seven years ago. "I had a passion for fashion over the years, but with the gym being so busy it was hard to pursue anything," she said.
"I started the DDCTD clothing line late last year with a small number of items and it gained some popularity within the gym. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I found myself feeling like a girl in boy's clothes.
"I wanted fitness wear that was fashionable and gave me style and confidence.
"I wanted to create a brand that could be worn inside and outside the gym and that would enhance women's shapes and curves. (I wanted to create a brand) you could wear for an intense training session or to lunch with the girls."
With gyms forced to close because of Covid restrictions, Danielle used the extra free time to focus on the clothing line project.
"During lockdown, I took Zoom fitness classes from home, which is where I would wear my new designs and get the feedback of the other gym members. The feedback was amazing," she said.
"From there, I really went to work. (There were) long hours for days on end and blood, sweat and tears when perfecting the line of clothing.
"We obviously didn't know how long this lockdown would go on for, but the demand for fitness wear increased, which was a major positive for me."
For small brands, especially new ones like Danielle and Chloe's, competing with major brands has its challenges.
"It was tough even with the increase in demand because it is a saturated market, but I just had to believe in my designs and work extra hard to compete with the major brands," Danielle said.
"Thankfully, my hard work paid off and we are now shipping worldwide. We have shipped to London, Dubai and even Canada."
Chloe, meanwhile, continued to make clothing she loved after university, with her passion gradually developing into a business over time.
"I never really thought I was going to develop it into the business I have today. I just started by making clothes that I loved and enjoyed making," she said.
"I used social media to document my process and showcase my work. It just developed into establishing my own loungewear fashion brand."
She is particularly interested in making clothes you can relax in that aren't mass-produced.
"I would describe my style of clothing as fashionable loungewear. I love clothes you can just chill in," Chloe said.
"I think that people were looking for some bright and colourful clothing to brighten up these unusual times.
"I feel that, in the last few months, people have started to see the appeal in shopping local and shopping with smaller fashion brands because they get something exclusive and unique.
"I think that people are starting to realise the massive sustainability issues with fast fashion and are beginning to look for alternatives."
For new businesses opening up, interactivity and engagement is key, as both Danielle and Chloe discovered.
"Social media has been a major factor for us. It helped us reach far and wide with our brand and helped us interact with customers for their feedback on a regular basis," Danielle revealed.
"The next project we are working on for 2021 is our Curve range for women of all shapes and sizes. It's super-exciting, so watch this space."
Chloe added: "My advice for anyone starting any sort of new business venture is to make sure it's something you truly love and are passionate about because there (will be) many tough times. If you don't love what you're doing, those tough times will not be worth it, so find your passion and work hard.
"If you have an idea for a new business, my advice would be to absolutely go for it."