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Small Stuff UK, Children's Store, Sheffield
By bira
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Small Stuff, big ambitions

IT’S HARD TO imagine now, but when we first meet Hellen Stirling-Baker, we sit inches apart, cosying up over mugs of coffee inside her award-winning ethical children’s shop. Located at 170 Crookes, an emerging suburb of Sheffield, Small Stuff is a delightfully dinky shop selling eco-conscious clothes, toys and gifts.

However, what it lacks in size (it’s just 30msq) it makes up in style and ambition. Hellen, 33, tells us how she’d done the remarkable – and plausibly unthinkable – thing of launching a small business while on maternity leave following the birth of her son Rafe in 2016. In those sleep-deprived first months of a new parents’ life, Hellen resisted the lure of sofa and boxsets, and instead started making ethical, traceable, chemical-free clothes for Rafe. Those garments attracted attention from friends and, unable to keep up with demand for orders, she set about sourcing goods which combined ethics and style.

A website was launched, she experimented with pop-up shops in Sheffield city centre, and eventually – despite advice to the contrary – she took the brave leap from cyber space to bricks and mortar shop. The calculated risk paid off; by her own admission Hellen couldn’t quite believe she was building the foundation of a really successful small business without compromising the environment. Brands stocked include Banwood, Olli and Ella, Tender Leaf, Fabelab, along with Sheffield-based Derek Orme and Bear & Babe. There’s beautifully-illustrated books such as the Little People, Big Dreams range. And she didn’t need to look far when she needed to appoint a chief toy tester – her son Rafe was the man for the job. She added a community area, seating to enjoy locally-sourced coffee and cake, ample space to manoeuvre a double buggy and – rarely a consideration in a retail – a baby changing room.

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