We chatted with Jenny Thomas from Smallprint online bookstore about her day-to-day, the importance of one-on-one time and the elusive work-kids balance
I wake up at… around 6.30/7am to the sound of my two-year-old shouting from his cot or my five-year-old standing next to my face. From the start it is chaotic and involves lots of desperate requests (from me) for no bickering and clothes to be put on. I usually make sure the kids are eating and parked in front of Netflix before grabbing whatever clothes are there in front of me. They’ll be ultra-comfy, as I tend to sit at my desk all day. I take the youngest to nursery three days a week and then the older one to school before getting home to grab a hot chocolate, piece of fruit and some toast. I try to ignore the mess in the house so I can sit down at 9.30 and start going through any new orders and emails.
My typical day involves… working on the growth strategy for Smallprint. We had a great first year, so this year is all about branching out to new customers, new opportunities and new products. I answer emails from customers, publishers and collaborators, then I look at the website traffic and revise our social media activity for the day. I get all orders ready in the morning, which I take to the post office before I collect my eldest at 3.30pm and my youngest at 5.30.
If I have new stock I will get the photography done, edit the images and upload to the website. I often chat over email with illustrators, authors and publishers, and I’ll receive deliveries and do regular stock-takes before reading some books on digital marketing and business. It’s not exactly my favourite literature, but it has to be done!
I started Smallprint… after I had my second child, when I realised that my salary as a part-time copywriter at The Conran Shop wouldn’t really cover the childcare. My husband and I considered whether we could afford to live on his salary alone and decided that the best thing would be to set up something whereby I could be around for the children and also work from home.
When our son was born our daughter (then three) was feeling that natural sibling jealousy, and story-time became the only one-to-one time we had together, where she shared all her thoughts and feelings. We wanted to dedicate ourselves 100% to this time of the day.
We were really tired of the usual suspects that came out every night and thought there must be more imaginative and interactive books to help dust off the bedtime cobwebs. We started looking for books that inspire us as adults, ones that we genuinely wanted to share. It turns out there are some incredible kids’ books out there, but they are quite hard to find online. So we created this hub where people can find really special, design-led books that are bold, vivid and engaging – books that go beyond a quick story and actually support development and encourage questions.
My favourite part of my job… is communicating with our customers. Whether it is a hand-written note in the package or face to face at a pop-up shop, I love developing relationships. Our customers are supporting us with a dream and helping feed our children, so they are really important. We think about every book that goes out, who is it for, where will it end up in years to come. We learn loads from our customers and get masses of satisfaction from their feedback. It is so lovely to see where these amazing books are going and feel like we are passing on something special for someone.
The worst part of my job… Admin. I am not the most organised person in the world, so I do struggle to keep on top of the paperwork. I often have a huge pile of invoices that I will do all at once. I wish I was more on top of it, but when there are too many things to do, the fun stuff is naturally the stuff I gravitate towards.
The biggest challenges of combining business with motherhood are… Learning how to switch off from the housewife/mother bit in order to make the most of the precious time when the children aren’t around. It is a juggling act of chopping and changing your headspace when the school bell rings and it is hard to try and reason with a five-year-old who doesn’t understand why you are always on your phone. It is important that my children see me working and understand where money comes from, but to them I am Mummy first and foremost, so their needs are always more pressing than anything else. It is frustrating to feel inspired about your business but have to hold back because you are looking after a sick child, but I will always be the one who sacrifices work for the kids as I am not the breadwinner… yet!
In Jenny’s house
FOR ME: ‘I am a knitwear fanatic with a habit of stealing my husband’s Uniqlo lambswool jumpers.’
FOR THEM: ‘The kids are pretty much always wearing The Bright Company PJs for the whole weekend.’
‘I love Maileg’s super-cute little mice, my daughter and I are big fans. My son has some incredible cars from Automoblox.’
‘We’ve just bought an alphabet print from Melissa Greenwood, but whether it will make it into their room remains to be seen… Could be one for our bedroom!’
At the weekend we…
‘…like to head somewhere towards Kent. In 30 mins we can be at a farm feeding the animals or climbing trees and collecting sticks.’
What keeps me sane…
‘My husband, a clear living room floor and a smelly candle. I need to be grounded, to see the edges of the space I am in and get the calming effects of lavender or sage.’
My guilty pleasure…
‘I don’t drink so I figure I am allowed copious amounts of chocolate. I would love to say I have refined tastes, but you can’t beat a bit of Cadbury’s in my world. Oh, and Coca-Cola. I need the caffeine and sugar hit on a daily basis.’
Who I admire…
‘For me it isn’t about money, ambition or drive. I admire anyone who gets up every day to raise another human being to the best of their ability, both mums and dads, grandparents, foster-carers. It is a tough ride heaped with responsibility, and is incredibly selfless but hugely rewarding.’
‘I admire anyone who gets up every day to raise another human being’