A BUSINESSWOMAN who got three successful ventures off the ground during the worst of the pandemic says the key has been “all about relationships”.

Samantha Harley used her house as the first base for Communicate Care, a business supplying care homes, in March 2020.

She went on to set up Communicate Hospitality that June to supply the hospitality sector, followed by Communicate Cleaning in January 2021 to provide self-employed cleaners.

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The fbusinesses moved to a garden shed, then a shipping container at Hurn and to a warehouse at Woolsbridge by November, 2020.

But although she started with knowledge about the care industry and contacts in it, Mrs Harley had not intended to go into business on her own so soon.

“I had a conversation with a friend and a website was created and a company started but there wasn’t a plan to start trading straight way," she said.

“I had relationships with suppliers and manufacturers but it was a new businesses on my own, building those partnerships whilst in the pandemic.”

The Southbourne-based business was designed to provide all the supplies a care home would need to function – at the time when the industry was under its most intense stress.

“They were taking in people from hospital and needed duvets and pillows, that sort of thing, and cleaning materials,” she said.

Supplies became more difficult to obtain amid rising demand, but she said she maintained good relationships by speaking directly to customers.

“They just trust us and it’s more human than ordering on a computer, when they don’t get to see the person or ask questions,” she added.

The hospitality business was launched as that industry was gearing up to switch to takeaway offerings during lockdown. “Hospitality wanted to do it and they didn’t want to use plastic packaging,” she said.

The business provided bar supplies for the recent Bournemouth 7s festival and is the sanitisation and sustainability sponsor for Southbourne’s Shake & Stir event, taking place on June 25-26.

“I want to get involved with the community. We want to be more than just wholesale orders,” said Mrs Harley.

“It’s about having relationships – people that trust you, people that talk to us, people that can have a laugh with you ultimately but know that they’re going to get the service and we know what we’re doing,” she said.

Her husband Paul is warehouse manager and the staff consists of Helen Hayward, Gemma Marrow, Samantha’s mum Dale Masters and a part-time driver.

“We’re people and we care. That’s massive. Paul went to Bristol recently because a delivery didn’t come in. We didn’t want to let down a customer and so we had a three-hour round journey because we care. It was a restaurant that does takeaways. We potentially made a loss on our part. It probably wasn’t the most smart decision financially but ensures customer relationships are good,” she added.

She added: “We want people to know who we are and want to become the people that people think of when they want someone to support businesses.”