· By Oonagh Simms
Our Independent Heroes
All the bizness who independent throw your hands up at me…
Yup, it’s Small Business Saturday today and it’s time to celebrate the little guys; the crafters and grafters, the makers and creators. Let me tell you, we’re here for you. When I stated my own business I stopped being a chocolatiier and had to become everything from an accountant, to a photographer to a HR manager.
Creativity and passion are essential parts of any successful business. But they’re not the only parts, I have had many, many ‘learning curves’ since starting my business but one of the key obstacles I had to overcome was believing that with a bit of graft and pushing myself that I could become the everything I needed to be for my business. I never thought that I would be styling food photo shoots having never studied art. I never realised that I would master my book keeping having never really wanting to open my bank statements. I never thought I would understand all the bloody acronyms … yet here I am knowing my MOQ’s from my B2C’s.
So, as it’s Small Business Saturday. And I love you. I thought I’d introduce you to a couple of our favourite independent stockists- those shops that are almost a daydream of how perfect a shop can be. With their fresh coffee and their ‘ooh look at that’ window merchandising. You might know them already. But just in case you don’t…
We Built This City
We love this shop- Although, it’s less of shop and more of a graffitied love letter to London. They made souvenir shopping cool. And meaningful. Partnering with small local brands to create exclusive on- offs and showcasing new artists. To give you an idea, they currently have an exhibition of ‘London Pigeons’ by illustrator Alice Tams in their basement gallery.
It’s fun, quirky, colourful, affordable. The kind of souvenirs that London deserves. It’s founder, Alice, came up with the concept in reaction to the rise of ‘cookie cutter’ high streets dominating the UK.
“As one of the most creative cities in the world, London would certainly look like a very different place without the many inspiring independents that exist here – which is why it’s so important that they are given as good an opportunity to trade in Central London as the bigger chains”
Then there’s the windows. They give good window. They’ve had London artists Camille Walala and Supermundane transform their exterior into vibrant murals and change it up regularly to keep people stopping. They keep Carnaby street bright and vibrant and have London in their soul.
We love it when you get a good find. And this the type of shop you want to keep to yourself because it feels so…cosy. Founded by Peter Mulvenny and Karen Haas, Colab Store is located in the Partick neighbourhood of Glasgow. It’s a concept store with a coffee shop and they don’t have anything in the shop that they don’t truly love.
Everything is a favourite of ours because you have to love what you sell.
The idea came when Peter and Karen realised that they were both tired for working for others and thought they’d really love to do something together. They wanted to incorporate their love of design, art and travel into their work so started selling Peter’s photography at markets around Glasgow. It was when they started being approached by other shops to sell his work that they decided that, hold up, they could do this themselves. And CoLab was formed. They create really unique cushions from cool imagery- amazing individual pieces that you won’t find anywhere else. They merchandise everything so it looks like it’s just sat out in your cooler mates living room- for you to have a little nosy at. They sell fresh cakes. And tea. And that makes them good for me.
This Christmas the Hambledon have asked each of their team to pick their favourite gifts from the shop ‘ to bring to a dinner party’ or ‘to buy for your mum’ or ‘someone you don’t know’. And each guide is brilliant because the team here are passionate about what they sell and who they sell it to. They want chats, they care about who makes their products, they make an effort to know the community around them- from the delivery drivers to the florists to the window cleaner. They’re involved and they are what makes retail really exciting. They sell everything from must have clothing pieces to books to children’s toys and they sell it really well.
They have just celebrated their 20th anniversary and their founder, Victoria, puts their success down to having an encouraging accountant in their early days..
I got a new accountant who said just spend a load of money, I have no doubt that it will sell. And so I did buy a load more stuff and I did sell a load more stuff
I love this quote and I like to think that’s all it takes really- someone else just telling us that we’re doing a good job, they trust us, and we’re making the right decisions. It certainly seems to have worked for the Hambledon. To celebrate their 20th birthday they commissioned some awe-inspiring colabs - exclusive Edwin selvedge jeans to Falcon enamelware, and..us. We whipped them up a limited edition elderflower fizz mallow. They even wrote a ‘coffee table’ book about the shop which they hilariously describe as "something which was loads of work, not at all commercial and a ridiculous vanity project’ Which sounds right up our street!
For Small Business Saturday we've put together s guide of all our favourite gifts from independent shops- have a nosy here.