We hear from the lovely Nicola from Sea Whistle on how it's been to be independent shop owner of the year...
How has it been during lockdown and what have you been doing to keep your shop going?
I’d only been open for 5 weeks when lock down came in plus my dad died the week before following a brave battle with aggressive cancer. We moved in with my mum as we could not leave her isolated after being so recently bereaved, which meant running an online business was not going to be a feasible option due the risk of me travelling to and from the shop and trips to the post office. Instead I took up knitting again so already have jumpers and bonnets ready for AW20! My mum and I also made Olson face masks for local care home workers and I made bespoke orders for children’s clothes under my own brand Sea Whistle. The last two weeks I’ve been back in getting the shop ready for safe opening on the 15th including unpacking the loveliest deliveries that arrived during lock down, one being the lush Little Green Radicals SS20 collection.
What made you decide to open up Sea Whistle?
In the Summer 2018 an opportunity arose at work which I took and decided to follow my dream of making children’s clothes and owning a children’s shop. I started out selling at events and fairs building a loyal customer following whilst I searched for the perfect shop in Hastings Old Town. I picked up the keys to the shop of dreams in January this year and set about creating a small shop of sustainable loveliness for children.
What do you love, and find challenging, about being a small business owner?
I love the many facets of running a business – designing and making, curating my window displays, the in person engagement with customers, sourcing products, managing social media, mastering new skills, stock taking, financial management, marketing, playing with the toys, risk assessment, gift wrapping and just the whole creating of a beautiful place to shop. I get such a buzz out of opening the door each morning, cleaning the windows ( which I do each day), and getting ready to greet customers with smile. None of us anticipated the challenges of the global pandemic and I’ve been so grateful for the support from so many of my suppliers who’ve checked in with me (thank Hannah and Donna at Little Green Radicals) and the amazing community of traders in Hastings Old Town. I’ve always been positive and agile so I’m looking forward to mastering a new normal in an uncertain world.
How do you decide what to stock?
Top priority is that clothes need to be sustainable so natural fabrics that are organic or OKEOTEX certified. I prefer to stock British brands that are thoughtful about their impact on the environment and how they care for those who make the clothes. I’m also committed to buying handmade clothes and toys from British mummy makers and I’m delighted to stock some of the most beautiful made items, means so much to support small and British, especially given the current situation with Covid 19 and Brexit. Design wise I look for styles that have a nostalgic vintage vibe, are comfortable for exploring and playing as well as well made so that they last longer and can be handed down or passed along.
If you're ever in Hastings (Kent), pop in to say hello!