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Small Stuff: Ethical children's shop in Crookes

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Hellen Stirling-Baker and son at Small Stuff in Crookes.

Small Stuff is part of a new wave of Sheffield businesses putting people before profit. We spoke to founder Hellen Stirling-Baker about toys, transparency, and how to expand in a way that's good for the planet as well as the bottom line.

Tell us a bit about Small Stuff.

Small Stuff is an eco-conscious children's shop in Crookes. We stock the finest in design-led, eco-friendly gifts, clothing and homeware for younger children. We're solely focused on ethically made and sourced products, transparency about where the products are made, and most importantly, how they're made.

I decided to start sourcing ethical brands and keepsake products to add to the collection

The store is an open and spacious concept store, with plenty of treasures, but we also have a hot drink station with seating as well as a cosy reading corner for our younger customers - there's changing facilities on site too! Within the store there's a space for events and it's a community focused area - we have a few regular children's and toddler classes, such as Laura's Story Corner and craft sessions too.

Is it all made by you, or do you buy some of the stock in from other suppliers?

In the beginning I was running the business as a clothing company, making everything myself and making sure I knew where it came from. This got bigger and bigger and so in 2018 I took a step back and re-jigged how I wanted the business to be run. I decided to start sourcing ethical brands and keepsake products to add to the collection. Small Stuff is now a carefully curated lifestyle store with both big brands such as Wee Gallery and local brands like Bear & Babe, but with added products that I make, such as my wooden toys EcoBlocks.

What inspired you to start the business?

Definitely my little boy. He was the reason that I became so passionate about what I sell and the reason I sell it. I wanted to create something beautiful that he could help me work on (he's chief toy tester and no. 1 brand rep), but also something that has an important message for his generation: less waste, transparency in production, and products that can be kept and handed down are kinder to our planet.

What's your favourite thing that you sell at Small Stuff?

That's a tough one! It can change depending on what I have, too, but at the moment it has to be the line of bath toys I have by Green Toys. They're made from recycled plastic milk bottles and are so brightly coloured and fun, last for ages, and when they eventually do come to the end of their life they can be recycled again. They definitely make bath time more interesting and are such a fab eco-friendly alternative to plastic bath toys.

What challenges have you faced in trying to build a business ethically?

When I first started I found it really hard to get some companies to open up about their production policies: waste, transparency of manufacturing etc, and it was sometimes a little bit of a battle. That's why I made the decision to only work with smaller brands that I can trust.

I'm always looking for new and fun ways to get the less waste message out there.

I'm now in a position where I have such a fantastic relationship with all my suppliers, everything I stock has been checked and checked again and I'm so happy with the collection I have.

What's next for the business?

It's already been a really busy few months since my opening in February. The store is now part of a great recycling initiative with TerraCycle for fruit pouches, and we work with Refill the free tap water campaign so you can bring your own reusable water bottle with the encouragement to buy less bottled water. I'm always looking for new and fun ways to get the less waste message out there.

There's also lots coming up for Small Stuff in the summer too, with craft events, socials and boredom busters for the holidays. I'm also looking at doing a few new collaborations with some more fantastic brands. It's so exciting for me to be part of this fantastic thriving high street and I'm really looking forward to the future of my shop.

Sam Gregory

Find Small Stuff's trader profile on the Now Then App, visit their website, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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