In a world of social media and online content, we can sometimes feel disconnected from the people on the other side of the screen. It is undeniable that the internet can cultivate some truly horrible experiences, but many young people have managed to find a community, a safe space, a haven online. Leia has run her online business for four years, and in that time she has grown a supportive and friendly online community. It is vital that spaces like this exist online. 


Can you tell me about yourself and your business?


L: My name is Leia I’m 19 years old and I run a small business selling subtle pride

jewellery on Instagram called thewardr0be. I’m also in the process of starting up a new business that I’m really excited about. I finished A levels last year and didn’t apply to any universities because I was certain my own business was where I wanted my time and energy to be focused.


How long have you run your small business?


L: I made my first sale on Depop the 2 nd of June 2020, it wasn’t any product I’d made, it

was simply some clothing I didn’t want anymore but I like to count it as the start of my business because it is what initially gave me an excitement for selling online and lead me onto creating jewellery and then later into the subtle pride niche that I am most known for now.


How long have you operated this online community?


L: I started my Instagram around October time 2020, I was completely clueless about running a business page and very much took the approach of throw stuff at the wall and see what stuck. I’m really not sure at what point my account became a community, but I always tried my best to 

make it as personal and relaxed as possible.


What is the best part about doing what you do?


L: My favourite thing is when I receive messages off of people who have been impacted positively by stuff I’ve said or done or created. There’s not a lot that matches the feeling of knowing I’ve been able to help someone feel more confident or happier in themselves, occasionally I’ve had a parent message me on Instagram and tell me how much their child loves my account and how happy it makes them and that has made me cry multiple times but in the best way. I think one of the things I’m most proud of which I’d say is one of the best things I’ve done with this business was when I gave out £5 gift vouchers to anybody who emailed me a picture of their room before and after being tidied up. I received so many emails and so many of them came with messages saying that the little push and incentive had been exactly what they needed and how much better they felt in a clean space, it was quite emotional to read them all I felt so happy for everyone and it just felt surreal that something I had said online had lead to several people being able to go to bed that night in a cleaner environment than they woke up in.


What are your aspirations for your business and / or social media space?


L: As much as I love thewardr0be and have loved everything I’ve been able to do with it, I feel like the time is right for it to end. I don’t have quite the same passion for creating jewellery as I originally did and that’s okay. My favourite part of this business has always been helping people and creating a safe space and a happy environment online, so that is what I want to be the core focus of my new business. My next venture is a business I am working on called thecardboardlemon. I want it to be a safe and positive online space for anyone who wants to focus on making their happiness and peace of mind more of a priority. I will use it to create as many free resources as possible and to set up online communities (I’m thinking a book club in

upcoming months!). I do love business and being able to provide people with physical goods as well though so I will definitely be launching a new website with thecardboardlemon that will stock products such as comfy clothing, stationary, decor, and all sorts of things to help keep your mind and space bright and colourful and happy.


What motivated you to start your business originally, and what was your vision

for it?


L: Initially when I started we were a few months into the first covid lockdown. At that point I just needed something to do and focus my energy on. I was in a really bad place mentally as a result of not being able to go see anyone and selling online meant I left the house to post things and at the very least had one thing that gave me some excitement. At the start the motivation was to just get as many sales as possible, I didn’t really have a vision, I just had goals such as “one hundred 5 star reviews” and “10 sales in a month”. When I got into the subtle pride niche and started to see the community there was the potential to build, that was when I started

properly having a vision for thewardr0be. I wanted to create a whole bunch of subtle pride pieces and build a safe space for young queer people to feel comfortable and happy and accepted.


What is the hardest problem you’ve had to overcome and how did you solve



L: If I’m honest I’d say a lot of things I didn’t find too difficult, I know that sounds a bit

pretentious, but I really enjoyed the challenge of working out algorithms and trial and

erroring things until I got the best results. I wasn’t particularly discouraged if my

engagement online wasn’t so great or if a launch didn’t go quite as expected, I knew

I could try again or adjust things and it would all work out and be okay, call it

delusional confidence but it worked. The one thing that did have me almost banging

my head against the wall was the financial side of things. Setting up new bank

accounts, fighting with Etsy when they said my details were invalid and wouldn’t let

me take the money I had earned, registering for tax, none of those tasks were a

laugh. I just had to tell myself it was going to work and was going to be easier than I

was making it out to be and that once it was sorted the rewards would be so worth it,

essentially just keep going back over the problem until it gets smaller and eventually

it all clicks into place.


If you could travel back, is there anything you would do differently?


L: I don’t think so, maybe I would have posted more online during college, I took a lot of

college off from my business and I guess if I had stuck to posting consistently

throughout then things may have ended up quite differently. But at the same time I

really enjoyed my college experience so I don’t think if it came to it I would really

want to change that. 


Running a business is a lot of work, what is something that motivates you?


L: When I’m working on projects I really love, it's not a case of being motivated. When I

was working on a new launch for thewardr0be I didn’t need motivation because I was

just so excited to be creating and sharing what I was making, and my happiness about it. Now that I’m starting the first couple of projects with thecardboardlemon I don’t really need motivation to get up and grind because I am genuinely just so invested in it and so happy I get to make these things happen. I think about the results when what I’m working on will be put out into the world and how it will help people and I crave being able to get on and work and bring it to life. I think when there’s something you love to do you don’t need motivation to do it, you just do it

because you can.


What is a piece of advice you would give to people who hope to start their own


L: Honestly, just go for it. If you have an idea, and you think it could work, then give it a

go. Most of the things you worry about happening like being judged or made fun of

don’t even end up happening. I was so scared to start my Instagram account

because I thought people from school would find it, and they did, some of them told

me it was cool and then forgot all about it, the others really didn’t care. Ultimately the

worst thing that can happen is the business fails, and if it does then as long as you

haven’t bankrupted yourself to set it up then no harm done, you’ve still done more

than all the people who talk about starting businesses who never do. So don’t

overthink it, get excited, and just start.


We must all cultivate our own safe spaces, whether that is creating them or seeking them out. 

Leia does incredible work, and she is an inspiration to many young people who want to start their own small business, especially young queer people. Please follow @thecardboardlemon on Instagram.