“I wish I had found the WI sooner,” Samantha Jennings, 30, of Made by Mummy Markets
FORGET the old-fashioned image of ‘Jam and Jerusalem’ – the Women’s Institute has been a lifeline for 30-year-old Samantha Jennings who has been so inspired by its ethos that she’s launching the first Made by Mummy Markets to empower other women.
An archaeology graduate who worked since the age of 16, the reality of life as a stay at home mum has prompted her to help others in the same position and has resulted in a new career.
She’s set up a new business running high-quality craft fairs for mums to sell their work in a way that hopefully makes them a profit rather than costing them money. The first is being held this Sunday from 1pm to 4pm in Romanby a village on the edge of Northallerton which will be teeming with spectators – and prospective customers when the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race passes through.
Samantha grew up in Consett, County Durham before studying archaeology at Newcastle University which led to her taking part in fieldwork at historic sites in Slovakia as well as Bamburgh in Northumberland. She discovered that what she really enjoyed was working in the ‘finds’ shed enlightening schoolchildren about artefacts which led to her moving into community engagement.
She had roles at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle and Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens both run by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums’ followed by the Bowes Museum and Gayle Mill, which is thought to be the oldest structurally unaltered cotton mill in existence near Hawes in North Yorkshire.
She married David, within 18 months of meeting on internet dating site, match.com and their son Thomas was born nine months later.
Maternity leave coincided with the end of her contract and she made up her mind to be a stay-at-home mum and have two children close together in age – Thomas is almost three and Emily just turned one.
Although her husband was always generous with money, Samantha struggled with the fact that she no longer earned her own and spent her days tending to the needs of others.
“I realised that I really needed a bit of ‘me’ time. I like to craft and I wanted to start making things so I went on a dressmaking course which I really enjoyed,” said Samantha, pictured above with daughter Emily both enjoying a WI afternoon tea.
“What I have found really interesting is how many other mothers have said that they find their time spent crafting as a ‘therapy’. It is so important for mothers to be happy and content and fulfilled in order to be good mums. We are judged from every angle these days. Having been raised to be independent and self financing to then have no income of your own. It’s hard.”
Samantha has tailored the business model she’d used to attract visitors to museums to her innovative new craft fairs. Stallholders have to apply to be in with a chance of selling so Samantha can handpick the best mummypreneurs the region has to offer.
The 10 talented stallholders selling at the first Made by Mummy Markets
- Christina Raffle – Whilst Iris Naps: Sewing, decor, handpainted goods
- Katie Smith – Favourite Things: Sewing, soft furnishings, decorative
- Laura Coan – Auntie Mary’s fudge: fudge sweets
- Anne Allmark – Jocaandu: Clothing design and alternations
- Amie Parrington – Amie’s Signs: Signwriting/Painting
- Ruth Hawkes – Ruth’s Arty Experience: Process art for children
- Harriet Ward – The Sewing Ward: Sewing – children’s craft packs and workshops
- Jo Garlick – Jo Garlick Art: Soft pastels fine art
- Julia Bell – Kitty Krocket: Crochet and knitted items
- Catherine Jackson – Knit Sew Rosie: Textile, embroidery hoop art
She has also individually promoted each of the forthcoming sellers on Facebook to give them maximum exposure before the event and she offers them marketing and logo design services, in collaboration with her illustrator husband.
“Craft fairs can often be expensive to exhibit at and are not well advertised so to try and go to one and make any money seemed really hard,” she explained. “I went to a couple and just felt a bit short-changed and remember thinking that I could do better job. The more I talked to people the more I realised there was a gap and we had the skills to fill it.”
She moved to Romanby after having her first child and would often walk past its WI hall with a pushchair. “I’d been to some playgroups but they were all about being a mum so I rang up the WI. One of the members offered to accompany me to the first meeting knowing how daunting it can be to walk into somewhere new on your own. I haven’t missed a meeting in two years,” she laughed.
“It’s a women’s organisation and, although not everyone there has had children, they totally get that you are a mum but you are still you. Ages range from 30 to 90 – a lot of the people there joined for exactly the same reasons as me. It’s non-political, non religious and has led on national campaigns such as Keep Britain Tidy. It’s fantastic.”
“I am now on the committee as Hall Treasurer and set up a Romanby WI’s Facebook as well Twitter pages. I only wish I had found the WI sooner. It is a truly inspiring place.”
She is also using social media to promote the first Made by Mummy Markets event on Sunday, which naturally is being held in her local WI hall.
“I wanted to be able to showcase the people taking part, some have never done a craft fair before but I wanted them to all have their 15 minutes of fame and help make them feel special so they’ve each had an individual post on Facebook explaining who they are and what they do.
“My sellers are all amazing ladies. All kinds of motherhood embodied. And all kinds of craft. From embroidery, dress making, painting, process art for children, and even fudge making. Customers want to buy things from someone they know and buy into them and their story.”
Samantha added: “Since having my second child and taking on a committee role at the WI my confidence has increased so I have decided to be brave and set up my own business from home. The craft market and website themselves are just the start. Alongside the selling of lovely things I am running a training programme to support the mums to grow their own businesses. I dream of an empire of mummypreneurs!”
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