Tell us a little about yourself?
My name's Olivia Knight. I live in Brockley with my husband Laurie, our two children Vera (11) and Emmanuel (8), our cat, two rabbits and a few chickens. And I run Patchwork.
What is Patchwork and why did you set it up?
Patchwork is a platform that lets friends get together to fund one big gift - piece by piece. I launched the prototype site two years ago after me and my husband got married. I'd had the idea while planning our own wedding and trying to choose a gift list. We'd lived together for 10 years so didn't need department store stuff and the only one thing we really wanted was help from friends and family to fund our 'familymoon' to Cuba. It felt cold and weird asking people for cash gifts so I created a site that let our guests see a patchwork of images that represented all the experiences we wanted to enjoy on our honeymoon so they could choose which piece of the trip they wanted to treat us to - from a room in a guest house to a family dinner, beers or the beach or an ice-cream for the kids. So it sort of started there. Patchwork's purpose is simple: to enable people to get together to give presents that are really wanted and needed - and at the same time keep unwanted gifts out of landfill!
How do you balance running a business with motherhood?
I know some amazing mums who've started businesses with babies and toddlers in tow and I just don't know how they do it. By the time I finally worked up the courage to leave my job and start my own business both my kids were in primary school so at least I had a chunk of time in the day to properly focus. But it was and still is hard. When I started I worked from home with my business plan stuck up around the walls in the kitchen and site maps and figures and scribbles all over the place. I'd sit at the same table where the kids ate breakfast and was so there was constantly spilt milk and tears. Mine mainly. But I think it was hard on Laurie and the kids too because I could never quite switch off and that was shit. I think my studio saved me. And also my husband, our mums, my dad, brother and mates being so amazing. I'm lucky that I have a lot of support and having a studio in Brockley means it's easier to be clear about when I'm at work and when I'm at home. Also I've come to know when I'm most productive and when I'm not. I've realised trying and failing to work 12 hours a day is silly and tiring and totally demoralising. So now I get up at 6.00 and work till 8.00. Then I get up with the kids and either me or my husband take them to school and then I head down to the studio for 9.30 ish and work till 3pm if I'm picking up the kids up or till 6pm if one of our parents are getting them. Then I go home and have a glass of wine, do dinner, hang out with the kids and try my best to switch off for the evening.
What do you love about SE London and particularly being a mother here?
I'm a Catford girl. I've lived in SE London all my life, moved to Brockley 17 years ago and I'm never leaving. I love it. I'm lucky because my Dad and sister live on the same street and my brother and most of my best friends are only a two minute walk away. But it's also the broader sense of community that's really special. Because South East London has had such crap transport for so long places like Brockley have not been 'discovered' by the rest of London until recently so our community has benefitted from a sort of village feel, although it's a brilliantly diverse it's less transient than other parts of London. People who come to Brockley seem to stay and put down roots and I hope it stays that way. I've always loved how creative Brockley is. Of course there's loads of artists with Goldsmiths being down the road but it's also just the creative energy that I love - the festivals on Hilly Fields, the open studio days, the community gardens, action groups and all the informal networks. When I first had kids we didn't have any of the new coffee shops or bars and Hilly Fields used to feel a bit lonely on a cold winters day but now there's a cafe and the play ground has been renovated and there are loads more places to hang out with kids and other mums these days.
Can you share one secret top tip to other mothers in this area?
If you're a mum living near Brockley here are a few reasons for a Saturday visit:
Breakfast: Central Cafe for a cheap and cheery fry up or the Brockley Mess for proper coffee and posh eggs with wipe clean seats.
Activity: Hilly Fields football on a Saturday morning. It's a drop in session, with the best coaches a lovely friendly, non-competitive atmosphere and there's now a cafe for cold mornings.
Shopping: Gently Elephant for kids shoes, clothes and gifts run by lovely mums with great products who always make time for a chat.
Lunch: Brockley market is full of organic veg and meat stalls, sells lovely bread and the best cheese and although shopping there every week would break the bank it's nice for a treat. And as well as all the amazing street food stalls you'll also find a fish finger sandwich for the kids.
Look out for a Mamahood event at the Patchwork Studio in 2016! In the meantime, if you are looking at buying or asking for gifts, you can make sure they are really wanted or needed...by using Patchwork. And you will also be supporting an inspirational game-changing local mum-run business while you are at it. Well, it doesn't get better than that.