Setting up Shop: Angie Hicks, Mother’s Hub

She left her job as an art teacher to set up a shop in east London selling ethical, creative clothing, toys, books and accessories for 0-6 year-olds. Here, Angie talks kids’ fashion and the cost of London living…

Angie, 41, lives with her partner Sean and their two daughters Betty, five, and Nellie, three, in Walthamstow, east London

“I began planning Mother’s Hub in February 2013 when Nellie was four months. I wasn’t happy with my workplace; I loved teaching A Level art but the past five years under Gove really killed it for me.

I couldn’t envisage my role with two children and wanted to find a more flexible way of working that put being a mother at the heart as opposed to separating life and employment.

I’m not a fashionista so I wouldn’t have known where to begin with adults’ clothes but I wanted to address the underrated creativity in clothing and products for young people, as it’s not always easy to find on the high street.

I’d never bought and sold stuff before, but I felt strongly about sourcing as much of my stock from my closest neighbours, as there are so many incredible companies that are just down the road.

If I can minutely help grow their small businesses and cut a bit of carbon footprint then I feel I’m doing a little bit towards supporting the local economy. I specialise in supporting ethical brands as far as possible.

Walthamstow is full of creative makers, so it was logical to offer a platform to cottage industries that mostly exist online and in seasonal markets. Since I’ve been open I get approached regularly by local makers whom, if it fits and sells, I’m happy to support and stock.

My girls’ wardrobe is becoming a small snippet of Mother’s Hub. They occasionally trial new stock for me and often come in and plead to have a skirt they’ve had their eyes on!

Betty likes to look smart but fun, she always likes Raspberry Plum, Monster Vintage and What Mother Made, Nellie is a bit more rough and tumble and wears Indikidual, Boys&Girls and Grubbies denim. I’m never precious with their attire, you can’t be with kids!

It’s hard work running a shop, it’s a huge gamble and sometimes lonely

When I’m working, we’ll all be up around 6.30-7a.m. Sean leaves by 7.30am to travel to north west London to teach (full-time), I get the girls fed and ready, drop Betty at school then Nellie at nursery (mornings).

I’m off on Mondays and Tuesdays so have Nellie all day at the moment until she begins nursery when she’s three. Betty is picked up by me two days, she goes to teatime club two evenings and a friend has her after school one evening.

I’ve been juggling childcare between friends where we help each other out to keep childcare costs to an absolute minimum. I wouldn’t have been able to get through my first two years without this.

So, I go off to the shop Wednesday to Saturday 10-5, I usually get home before 6 after collecting the girls from friends’ houses or school. You might catch me running to collect them on time sometimes!

As well as teaching, Sean is involved with the shop; he has been from the outset – with the branding and design of the business as well as being my main sounding board for new ideas.

He is also the founder and main designer for our house brand Punk Rock Penguin, while I’m the shopkeeper, director, marketing manager, designer and cleaner!

Angie Hicks -

We had a slow first year but year two has seen definite improvement. I really hope, with the introduction of the shoes, year three will see further progress.

It’s hard work running a shop, it’s a huge gamble and sometimes lonely. I like meeting people and I get to meet so many bumps and new babies, mums, dads, grandmas/pas.

I’ve worked hard for my shop to be an open friendly space for all of the community to enter, and they do. I believe in the importance of high streets and the shopping experience. A shop should be at the heart of the community and I am really interested in the community I live and work in.

The most challenging thing about starting my own business has been taking many financial steps backwards. Also, having all responsibility… no sick pay, no paid holidays etc.

I have many ideas of where I’d love the business to go. Because I set up on such a tiny budget it will take time to get financially stable but I believe the idea could be taken to other areas. Also, we’re working on an online shop and the development of Punk Rock Penguin.

My main advice to others looking to set up a shop is try to make it as risk free as possible

We love Walthamstow and I’m sure if our home were larger we’d never think of leaving. If we do move out of the city, it will be to allow us more time to grow our brand and the business. It’s that old chestnut that seems to hit most creatives that want more space and time. London, after 20 years for me, is just too expensive.

My main advice to others looking to set up a shop is try to make it as risk free as possible… easier said than done. So many businesses fail in their first year as they borrow too much from the outset. You need to be more than just a shop these days and you really have to love what you do, what you sell and the people you sell it to.”

Mother’s Hub