Jenny Thomas, Smallprint
Tell us about yourself?
I'm Jenny Thomas, Founder of Smallprint. I live in Forest Hill and I have two children - Bess who is 4 and Gabriel who is 1.
What is Smallprint and why did you set it up?
Myself and my husband came up with the idea to create a destination for adults looking to buy books and prints for children that don’t compromise their own creative and design ideals. There has been a trend for deign led unisex clothing and eco-friendly toys, hand-crafted kid’s interiors but we really struggled to see anyone focussing on beautiful books that share the same ethos as all these other businesses.
We focus on selling beautifully illustrated books, works of art that are bound for kids but enjoyed by all ages. Kid’s picture books have always had a devoted following and we are tapping into this market and saying that we are determined to create this hub where amazing books and prints are put in one place to answer all gift needs. Where possible we source from smaller publishing houses and independent artists and we really buy the books that we love and our kids love. Stories, picture books, baby board books, paper art pop-ups etc, we are growing our collections all the time. We also gift-wrap in the loveliest double-sided graphic-print paper and cellophane for little hands to stare at and scrunch. A book is definitely for life and should be loved and read and passed on.
How do you balance running a business with motherhood?
Badly. I am my worst critic and am constantly dissatisfied with my efforts but I accept that I am a mum first and foremost. I never intended to be at home with the kids and my husband and I hadn’t planned to fit into the tradition roles but we have and have vowed to make the best of it. I started the business when my son was born and missed out on a maternity leave with him as I was so caught up with trying to get something going. I knew I didn’t want to go back to my part-time copywriting job (pay wouldn’t cover childcare costs) but felt the burden of needing to work. I had a wonderful maternity leave with my first and she benefited from me fully, I feel in many ways Gabriel has taken a back seat to this business and his sister but I still get a day just me and him which I love. I am currently working 2 days a week whilst they are both at nursery for as long as we can afford that without me making any money! I think that the best piece of advice I could give anyone would be to accept guilt but not let it overwhelm you, accept that you cannot be everything to everyone and just do your best. Oh and if you work from home do your best to ignore the breakfast splattered on the floor and the washing pile and dirty pants lining the bathroom, this is your office and something to get used to. I am proud that my children see me working and I need the balance of having something for myself and being their slave!
What do you love about SE London and particularly being a mother here?
I have lived in SE London for around 7 years I think, maybe more. Originally in East Dulwich and then Forest Hill. I like the fact it is down to earth here and very green. I can look outside my back window and see trees and not buildings which is incredibly rare. Forest Hill is an exciting place because you can see it is on the cusp of changing and new businesses are coming in and smartening up the neighbourhood. The parks are great and there is a real feeling of collaborative parenting, you can say hi to someone or let your kids play together without being considered odd. My street is a very old-school community street, I know all my immediate neighbours and a handful of others, we look out for each other, we stop and have a chat daily, we share food when in need and generally have a nice time living here! One of the things I like here is the diverse mix of mums, sometimes you can feel that you are too young/too old, not cool enough, not rich enough (or maybe that is just my own insecurities ;) but Forest Hill is for everyone to enjoy.
Can you share one secret tip to other mothers in this area?
The community garden at Mayow park is lovely and there are Forest school classes there which I fully support, loads of digging, building, foraging etc for little kids. Also a big fan of the Catford Constitutional Club which is inconspicuously hidden in a parade of shops in Catford, it is like stepping into another world and the food is fantastic. Oh and don’t discount The Bridge leisure centre because it is shabby looking, yes it is the Forest Hill pools ugly sister but it is great for kids as it has a warm pool, it is cheap and the staff are super friendly, plus you are not battling with every other family under the sun to get in. Keep these places open!
Smallprint will also be selling at the Blythe Hill Fair on the 4th July and will be doing story-telling there. They also have a range of other fairs and events on the horizon, check social media for dates. And if you are looking to purchase something from her wonderful shop, Jenny is happy to offer free delivery to local mamas (dependent on postcode so contact her directly before purchase).