Secret life

“There is an element of nostalgia with sweets”

Optometrist Pretty Basra on how a fledgling sweet business gave her back a sense of purpose during lockdown

Sweets in a bag
Pretty’s Sweets

During lockdown, the practice where I work, Edwards and Walker Opticians, closed. It was quite hard on my mental health. I was wondering what I would do financially and how long the situation would go on for.

One evening on a Zoom call, one of my family members mentioned that she had ordered a box of sweets for a Friday movie night. I started thinking, ‘I love sweets and I love to be creative. I could do that.’ I thought it would be a little project.

That same night I set up a social media account and posted an order with a wholesaler. I said to my husband, ‘As long as I make what I’ve put in, I’m happy.’ I wasn’t expecting 10–15 orders a day.

I would go into practice and see emergency patients and then in the evening I would be working on the sweet business. When I go out to deliver orders within Doncaster, I often strike up a conversation with the people like I would do in the testing room. The looks on some people’s faces when they’re not expecting a delivery are absolutely brilliant. Especially when it is for a little kid and they come to the door, there is that feel-good factor.

The minute the business took off, I felt my shoulders relax


I would say I sent out well over 500 orders in my first six weeks of operating. Initially I had some late nights while I settled into a routine. I see it as a bit of a challenge to see how fast I can get at packing orders. I’ve asked my husband to time me.

I have begun to be quite arty with the presentation. For the end user, they are probably not bothered about whether the eggs are next to the cherry lips but the colourways matter to me. It is quite therapeutic.

Pretty’s Sweets
Optometrist Pretty Basra with orders of sweets ready to deliver

There is an element of nostalgia with sweets. They take you back to childhood. People have messaged me saying ‘I can’t believe you have managed to put this sweet in. It reminds me of x, y, z.’

When I was a child, we lived in a terraced house and I would negotiate how many sweets I could buy when my mother sent me to the corner shop for milk. She might give me five or ten pence. It was such a big decision choosing the right sweets. The shopkeeper would look at me wondering why I was standing there taking so long.

I keep saying to my husband, ‘I think this is it now, the orders will stop,’ but people keep on getting in touch. The experience has been gobsmacking. The minute the business took off, I felt my shoulders relax. I had a purpose again.

  • As told to Selina Powell.