For months now, the space once occupied by my favourite haberdashery, Hometown, has stood unloved and empty with quite a few traders concerned that it'd turn into another charity shop (Rochester is full of them in case you didn't know). So a few weeks back, whilst dragging my two children (I'm still getting used to saying the plural) around town to tire them out I was pleasantly surprised to see a brand spanking new boutique beaming at me from across the road. Reuben was first through the door and he immediately set to picking up and touching everything he could whilst I did my level best to avoid paying for breakages! Suffice to say, Mini Mi is just what a little town like ours needs. It's for small and big kids alike, boasts the best in Scandinavian and European children's design and provides us grown-ups with an alternative to the sometimes dreary mainstream option for clothing, toys and decor. No, I'm not being snobby at all but finding places like these in the Medway area is like hunting for a needle in a haystack. So "yay!" for Sarah Norris. Come and have a look round with me...
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Hello Sarah! Tell us a bit about you...
I'm an approaching 40 busy mum to two small girls, Daisy (5) and Poppy (almost 2), as well as step mum to 3 kids, two in their teens and one 21 year old - we don't all live together but our house is one hectic place pretty much all of the time. For the past 17 years I've been working in the fashion industry which I always loved and felt very fortunate to do a job where I looked forward to going to work. However, children came along and my life changed! I love anything that's a bit different - and that applies to my life in general!!
What inspired you to set up Mini-Mi?
My job involved a lot of travelling around the country, early starts and home late, I was stressed from the time I went to bed the night before until the time I got home the following evening. I've always had an ambition to have my own shop but I thought it would be something way off in the future until an opportunity came my way that I simply could not let pass me by! I had always complained that although I live in a beautiful town, our high street does not meet my needs. With two small children I love to take a walk into town, get the girls some fresh air and do my shopping. However, every time there was a birthday or an event that needed a gift for I'd have to get in the car and head to a shopping centre. I thought that if I felt like that then I couldn't be the only one. I also needed a way out of the fashion industry, it's a dog eat dog world and since having my girls I always felt that if I slipped up someone would be there snapping at my heals to take my job, juggling work and kids is hard enough without that added pressure. I tested the market first by starting small and renting space in a friends shop, this experience was invaluable, I was lucky to have this opportunity to start small and keep my regular job going - It was a lot of work, two jobs, two kids but I'm so glad I did it now!!
I am always looking out for new things, I take lots of photos and with my old job I was constantly in and out of fabulous shops so I was always picking up little ideas here and there. I wanted Mini Mi to have a unique feel and not just be 'another' shop. I buy my stock from all over the world, this season we've been to trade shows in Copenhagen and London, I also use Instagram to find suppliers, these tend to be based in the USA which is great as it's difficult to find these brands in the UK and my customers want something that is unique.
We stock beautifully made children's gifts and toys by Maileg from Denmark, another Danish brand which I love it called Sebra - I had to go to Denmark to place my order with this brand, it was so worth making the extra effort to get the correct stock, Sebra creates a massive impact in the shop. Traditional French toy brand Vilac, Radio Flyer trikes, Le Toy Van wooden toys, super cute Sonny Angels, Homewear by Rice and Littlephant, artwork by young Danish illustrator Carlslund (only UK stockist). On the clothing side we stock cool T's from American brand Prefresh (only UK stockist), new kids label Cute Graffiti, Bob & Blossom, Poppy, Joules, Minnetonka moccasins and in the summer our beloved Saltwater sandals!
I moved here 20 years ago when I started my Fashion degree at the Art college, I loved the area and never went back home!! Last year I assisted at my old art college helping the 1st year fashion students with their pattern cutting - it was lovely to be back, the 1st years were great!
You're clearly very keen on Scandinavian and European style, what is it that you love about it?
I have always loved this look, its very elegant and refined. It's probably no coincidence that I've worked for Danish fashion brands for the last 10 years! I would frequently go to meetings in Copenhagen and have had to run to the departure gate as I've spent too long wandering around Illums Bolighus gazing at the homewares!
My favourite brand changes daily but today its Sebra - I love the giant William and Lulu cushions!! They are amazing and make a real statement but still beautiful and understated.
What do you have planned for Mini-Mi in 2014?
I've got some new brands coming in for SS14 which I'm really excited about! I also know that I have product areas that I can fulfil so I'm looking forward to January when the shows kick off again so I can go on the hunt for new product categories, as well as attending the childrenswear shows, next season we are planning to go to Paris to Maison & Objet - very exciting!!
Now that I have two very special babies arriving for friends and family in spring next year, it's just as well that I have Sarah on my doorstep. Just try and keep me away!
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