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Back in March 2020, Toronto artist Nadia Lloyd found herself with little prospect of making any money. One year later, she has a legendary success story and now counts the city’s mayor and the Raptors as her biggest fans.


When the pandemic hit, Nadia Lloyd’s commissions dried up and several art shows scheduled with her company, Toronto Art Crawl, were cancelled.

“I panicked but I didn’t want to let it take over,” she says.

Instead, she went for a walk with her son and gazed at the Toronto skyline. She turned to him and said, “Hey, why don’t we start making masks?”

At the time, there was a shortage of PPE in Canada. Repurposing fabric from cushion covers she had from a previous project, Lloyd borrowed a sewing machine and started making masks, posting her creations on social media. It wasn’t long before she was flooded with requests.

“I was rolling with the punches,” she says.

Her ability to do so paid off. In no time, Toronto’s mayor was sporting her goods at almost every press conference he attended.

Always be reacting — that was my motto for 2020. See what needs to get done, get it done, and take deep breaths.

Being resilient and innovative has proved to be well worth it for entrepreneurs.

A PayPal Canada 2020 study on small businesses found that 64 percent said the pandemic has motivated them to consider new ways of growing their business and 69 percent said that selling online has made them more successful.

Lloyd continued to push forward but was left reeling again after the death of George Floyd. She found herself having a difficult conversation with her son, who is biracial.

“After our conversation, I said, ‘Why don’t we design a BLM mask and donate the proceeds? People can use it to talk about racism and their experiences,’” she says.

Lloyd posted her BLM mask on social media and within hours, she was contacted by the wife of Raptors head coach Nick Nurse.

“She said that the team wanted to buy them and support me, a Black female business owner,” Lloyd recalls. “I must have read the message 15 or 16 times to make sure it wasn’t my imagination.”

Nadia Lloyd, Painter and Fashion Designer, modelling her mask
Nadia Lloyd, Painter and Fashion Designer, NadiaLloyd.com

Soon Coach Nurse and some of the players were wearing her masks in public. The ripple effect was enormous.

Today, Lloyd finds herself busy with orders and commissions, not only from Torontonians but from people around the world.

It hasn’t all been glamourous. With a lot of business comes a lot of paperwork, something Lloyd dreads.

“The last thing on earth I want to do is spend hours at my desk doing bookkeeping. I don’t want to be doing accounting, I want to be creating,” she says.

One of the biggest pieces of advice Lloyd has for other business owners is to implement a commerce platform like PayPal into their operation.

“It’s not just about having the right team, it’s about having the right technology to keep all of this sustainable in the long term,” she says. “Not only do my customers love paying through PayPal (about 55 percent pay this way) because they know it’s a safe way to transact, but, frankly, I wouldn’t be able to run my business without it. PayPal saves me about 20 hours of admin work a week. It’s an easy way to track how my money comes in, do my bookkeeping, and send invoices.”

Lloyd’s other advice comes from the way she has lived her life and ran her business this past year. “Always be reacting — that was my motto for 2020. See what needs to get done, get it done, and take deep breaths.”

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