Tell us about yourself?
I am Sarah Dennis and I run the kids vintage Etsy shop Magpie&Hen. I live in Crystal Palace and have two daughters, Lily who is 4 and Elsie who is 1.
What is Magpie and Hen and why did you set it up?
Magpie&Hen is an online shop, selling vintage kids clothes, toys, books, puzzles, textiles and collectibles. I set up my shop partly out of necessity, as I am a total hoarder and our flat was fit to bursting with things I had picked up in charity shops, car boot sales, vintage fairs and markets. I have always been a bit of a collector, but once I had Lily I became really interested in kids things. Also my parents had kept everything from my childhood – all the Fisher Price toys, My Little Ponies, Care Bears, Sindy and Barbie dolls…even the four-storey Sindy house complete with working kitchen and bath! I can’t bear to part with these toys so I (reluctantly) have to sell the new ones I find instead….well most of them!
I also wanted a little project for myself, which was really important when I became a full-time Mum. I previously trained in printed textiles and worked in fashion journalism/trend forecasting for 6 years, and I think my love for colour and pattern shows through the items I source. I would like to become known for a particular style, and for customers to come to me for a certain product – I specialise in beautiful wooden jigsaws (for play and display), retro craft books, quirky patterned clothes and bedding, and lovely bright unisex toys (none of the blue/pink we see today).
Many people buy things for their children that they remember having or playing with as a kid themselves. They are very emotive and nostalgic purchases. I would also love for my products to be used for shop displays/props or for research; I can imagine a book illustration or fabric print becoming the early inspiration for a new fashion collection or painting.
How do you balance running a business with motherhood?
I must admit I have been struggling since having my second child! But I try not to put too much pressure on myself. I chose to use Etsy as I like the fact that I can add new products whenever I have time, and can keep them on there until they sell, for a small fee. There are no worries about launching new seasons or clearing out old stock, it just keeps ticking along in the background!
What do you love about SE London and particularly being a mother here?
I love the community feel of SE London, particularly Crystal Palace where I live. There is a great vintage vibe here, as well as lots of amazing independent shops and green spaces; we have five parks within walking distance of our house. Since having kids, I travel around by bus a lot more and love finding new local areas to explore (and hunt out charity shops!).
Can you share a secret tip with other mothers in this area?
We love the farm tucked away near the top of Crystal Palace Park. Just the right size for little ones to run around in (and free!), the farm gives them the opportunity to see lots of different animals up close, and even get to stroke or hold them if they’re lucky. Springtime is the best time to visit when there are baby lambs and goats, and my daughter’s favourite bit is the reptile room!