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Creator of the Week: Big Mam’s Bottom Drawer

This week for #CreatorOfTheWeek, we sat down with Jenna, the owner of a brand new craft shop in Silloth to discuss the who, what, where and why of her funky new business.

Having opened March 8th, Jenna and her family aim to both display and sell the incredible talent of local artists in one homely little space.

Let’s ask the obvious question: what’s the inspiration behind the name?

“That is my great grandma’s nickname! She was quite famous in Silloth because she used to own a local bakery. Her actual name is Beryl Carr but my dad gave her the nickname ‘Big Mam’ even though she was about 4 foot.”

“She always had this bottom drawer that you could find anything in, so it stemmed from that. My gran used to run this shop, so it’s always been in the family; so I thought I’d give it a name that’s in the family too.”

You have some pretty unique stock! Do you think it’s important to showcase local artists in this manner?

“Definitely! I do pottery, my sister does taxidermy and my dad makes those massive dragons (pictured below). So there’s all three of us, but we can’t fill the shop ourselves.”

“We knew there were loads of local artists with nowhere in this area to show off their work, so we realised we needed to do that.”

Describe the vibe of the shop in three words.

“Homey, chilled out, cool.”

Obviously this shop has been in the family for a while, but how do you feel about Silloth as a location for this kind of business?

“I think it’s good, and I think it was missing out on businesses. Round here it’s all food, drink and chippies. The only shops are Jaybees and charity shops."

"I knew that there was a need for more shops, especially in tourist season when they want to buy little trinkets.”

What are your aims for the shop in the next year?

“Getting a website and having a larger reach, especially for some of the bigger items we sell.”

How did you get into this ‘crafty’ business?

“Well I left school early, didn’t get any GCSEs, went to college, didn’t like it. I was just trying to find new things to do when my dad told me about this potter he knows who lives in Newton Arlosh.”

“Pottery had always been something I’d wanted to do so I picked it up really well. My dad wanted to retire and do ‘arty’ stuff, my sister had a crappy job so she wanted to do similar things; we thought we might as well use the shop we have, and make the town a bit of money.”

So how long have you held opening an establishment like this as an aspiration?

“Not long really! I knew I wanted to be self-employed because I struggle with people, but it kind of came about around a year ago.”

“My dad had quit his job, I didn’t have a job, loads of people were telling me to either get one or go back into education. It was kind of one of them things where we were like ‘we need to do this now’, so it was quite sudden really.”

Do you think ‘quirky’ retail should be more prevalent in Cumbria?

“Definitely. I mean, a lot of people move up to Cumbria when they’re retired, and because it’s a rural area they’ll pick up little crafty hobbies to keep them busy. It’s one of them things that’s very widespread in Cumbria.”

“I think there should be a lot more retailers that are selling that work, or at least showcasing it. A lot of people in Cumbria are ‘quirky’ people, so it helps everyone out really.”

Has the cost of living crisis affected you as a small business?

“Not really! Because we’ve owned the shop for that long, the only thing I really need to pay for is electric.”

“I’m only 18, so money isn’t really a big problem for me. My mam doesn’t have a big income but it covers us, so we haven’t really struggled which has been great.”

“It’s a good time for me to start up too because I don’t need to think about bills, so I can build my business up before I need the money which is a lot better.”

What’s the best thing about owning a shop like this?

“I think for me it’s meeting people. I struggled a lot with anxiety and mental health, so I just needed a way to get out of the house and talk to people. It was getting to the point where I was struggling to speak to people at all, because I didn’t go outside.”

“But because this is my shop and because I know all these artists personally and I know how they do everything, I can speak to people about it and be like ‘oh this person does this with that’”.

“You can have some really good conversations with people, especially the locals. Some of them come in and have a natter with you and it’s just nice to be able to sit here and have a good conversation with someone you don’t even know.”

What advice would you give to someone wanting to open their own business?

“Do it. A lot of people hesitate and it gets to the point where you struggle even more to do it. With me, I couldn’t do anything else, but it’s been surprisingly easy so far. I had my mam to help me with the computer stuff and my dad to help too as he used to be self employed.”

“A lot of it I’ve done myself and I’ve found it quite easy even though I wasn’t taught how to do it."

"More younger people should start doing things like this because when they tell you ‘go to school, go to college, go to uni’ you don’t have to do it. They tell you that you have to but you don’t.”

“I just hope it can inspire other people that have been in situations like me.”

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