Those who saw their plans stopped due to lockdown and other measures reacted with resilience and replaced the lack of opportunity that the pandemic brought with business ideas. It was in this context that a 20-year-old girl, Ana Ribeiro, created her eco bag brand.

Ana Ribeiro is a young woman from Paços de Ferreira, in the Porto district, in Portugal and runs an online tote bag shop. After finishing secondary school, during the pandemic, she told The Portugal News, that "finding a job was becoming quite difficult." Faced with this scenario, Ana decided to create her own job by selling a useful product to people, but one that could be combined with her "taste for the arts and the protection of the environment."

The difficulty in finding a job and the ambition to join a tattoo course at a high cost led Ana Ribeiro to find a profitable activity to her liking, to help pursue her goals. Today, Ana has managed to complete the tattoo course she wanted, with the help of her business.

Setting up shop

On 16 August 2020, Ana Ribeiro created the Instagram page that would become her sales portal, named @meraki.naturalbrand. She is dedicated to the sale of eco bags, or tote bags. Bags are hand-painted with a fabric marker or fabric paint and Ana Ribeiro customises the bags according to what her customer asks for.

Plastic bags are increasingly falling into disuse and in Portugal, measures were even taken to contain the cost of plastic bags, such as the obligation to pay 10 cents for each bag purchased in any store in the country. Eco bags are resistant fabric bags that can be used on a day-to-day basis or when shopping, thus reducing the population's use of plastic. Ana Ribeiro, through Meraki, also intends to alert people to this cause. She told The Portugal News that she wants to "alert people to the awareness of the use of sustainable and recyclable materials", helping to contribute to the preservation of the environment. Through her brand, Ana believes that she helps people to convey a personal message, as all bags "are fully customisable to each customer's taste."

Currently, she receives, on average, 17 orders per month and admits that she never thought that the "business would grow so much."

The power of social media

Instagram has a facility for sharing content that helps to boost a business in a way that other platforms are unable to replicate. Posts or even a simple story can arouse the curiosity of followers of a particular profile. Ana Ribeiro says that the social network was the main “enhancer” of her success. Through shares where they identified the brand's profile, the products were reaching more and more people. Currently, she admits that "there hasn't been a day of the week since August 2020 that she hasn't been painting bags." She also adds that it may be related to people's awareness of the use of sustainable products, which helped in the growth of her business.

During the pandemic, social networks were the main allies of small businesses. Clothing and jewellery stores broadcast live to be able to sell their products. Many young people use social networks such as Instagram to start their business to help overcome economic problems that they are going through, while at the same time carrying out an activity they enjoy.