A YOUNG Wiltshire entrepreneur has defended her decision to close her shop in Trowbridge.

Leyla Bakali-Spence said she was forced to close her community interest company, We Are Undressed CIC, to fix issues affecting her business and her health.

She said the stresses of running a business through the Covid-19 pandemic had taken its toll on her health and she needed time off to recover.

Leyla, 28, said: "For the concept of everything that I set out to do, the goals, the vision, I have made a big decision that I am going to close the shop with immediate effect."

Mrs Bakali-Spence said she and her husband Niall, 29, will work together to become "a real powerhouse" in a new business venture.

"It is a rebirth of everything that I set out to do. It is the same vision, the same goals, however it is going to take a few more months."

Mrs Bakali-Spence assured customers with accounts or gift cards that they would be carried forward to her new venture, which will be announced in a few months' time.

She added: "I am not closing the idea of the shop, simply parking it and rebirthing it in a few months to fix many of the problems that have occurred."

Mrs Bakali-Spence originally launched the business, Trowbridge's first zero waste and vegan shop, as a market stall trader.

Then she raised nearly £10,000 through a crowdfunding appeal in 2019 to open a shop inside Trowbridge Town Hall, where she has been based for more than a year.

We Are Undressed sold plastic and packaging-free wholefoods, baking supplies and eco-friendly products.

Customers were able to bring their own containers to replace the foods they had consumed. The shop also raised awareness of climate change.

She added: "It's not goodbye, it's just see you soon. As you all know, it's been a very interesting 18 months."

Mrs Bakali-Spence was responding on local social media to a customer who said they were "a bit disappointed" the shop had closed after having such support from the public and £10,000 crowdfunded by the community.

She said: "I have always been very transparent with how I have run this business hence why I traded as a not-for-profit. The goal was never to make large amounts, purely to cover the shop bills and then carry on trading.

"Everything good about We Are Undressed is coming with me into my next chapter - the wall of gratitude, my ethos, my values, the products etc."

Mrs Bakali-Spence said she had problems with people not knowing where her shop was located and customers not buying her products although they were 70 per cent cheaper than in local supermarkets.

"When we opened five months before Covid business was booming. The first lockdown we were booming because everyone wanted to support local.

"I built a e-commerce website due to no-one wanting to leave home in two weeks and personally delivered over 50 orders a day throughout Wiltshire with my two-year-old child.

"In the second lockdown people forgot about local businesses and in the third lockdown we weren’t allowed to open.

"During the second lockdown I had to let go my member of staff who was an absolute pillar in my business which meant more pressure and jobs on my back.

"Due to this I worked for 1.5 years without time off (again a choice) and decided I wanted to start spending time with my new husband and young daughter.

"To do so, I took this summer off which meant the shop had to close over August as I can’t afford staff. This also meant that during August I didn’t receive any pay."

She added: "Our turnover due to Covid was down by a quarter - bearing in mind we are a tiny business - so this had a devastating impact. This alone couldn’t cover the shop bills let alone, buying stock replenishment or paying my £300 wages.

"I went one year without earning any money and putting my heart and soul into the business, to not even being able to afford £300 a month for my tiny wages.

"I am a mother and a human being who has a household to pay for and it is not sustainable.

"I listened to my customers, got the stock in many requested and then it didn’t sell. This meaning I had hundreds of pounds worth of stock sat going out-of-date.

"I spent a long amount of time doing a supermarket comparative and over 70 per cent of my products were cheaper, yet I couldn’t get the custom.

"I spent hundreds of pounds on marketing both online and physically, again people still didn’t know where I was.

"I received extremely little support from the government regarding Covid and even when we are closed you still have bills to pay when you have no money coming into your tills.

"Other businesses were receiving £5,000 plus a month. I wrote to the council multiple times asking for help. I even crowdfunded again asking for help but received no support.

"My mental health and my family were starting to notice the effects of how down I was getting from my baby of a business not working out so I needed to take time off.

"I incurred a massive amount of debt - we are talking in the tens of thousands - due to Covid and the massive decline of business.

"And this is with starting out the business with no debt because the people of Trowbridge and far beyond believed in my vision and donated (they were not forced) their hard-earned money."