It has come to my attention that it's not always easy to figure out what we're up to. Not in a horrid secretive way but because we don't really broadcast it that much. We figured you would rather shop and trade somewhere with lovely things and fabulous makers rather than listen to my political beliefs all day! So, if you don't do politics or mission statements look away now and coo over some of Silver Ether's bunting (which I have to admit is rather gorgeous).
Firstly - we aim to make a profit. Profit in community ventures is not an evil thing, however what you do with that profit potentially is. Any profit made goes straight back into the shop, events, or advertising for everyone. Like me paying for a website to show off everyone, or getting new banners done to say 'craft fair here today' as they all cost and need paying for. No one person ever profits from someone else's work or takes a wage.
This is a grass roots group - our main target group is the start up artist or crafter. The ones that have made a few things for their friends who have said 'you ought to sell that' and thought err how do I do that? We run low cost events so that everyone can have a go, and even if it doesn't work for them at least they got the chance to try.
We intend to grow and stay around for a while - we know it's starting to work. We get a lot of interest from other community groups such as WaveLength in Telford who asked us along to their event to show how disabled people might start working for themselves if that's their choice.
Choice - it's all about your choice. We don't tell you how much to sell for, we don't tell you what to make or how. That's down to the makers themselves - we have absolutely no right to challenge their creativity or desires, just as they don't have the right to tell me not to watch Emmerdale!
Makers - we don't really care about your background or what drives you to create. We just like working with creative people who have a passion for what they do and want to improve and meet like minded. We have a wide mix of self employed artists including artists who use it to top up pensions, crafters who use it to bolster self esteem after mental illness, crafters that need an extra income on top of disability benefits. Your background is your story, if you choose to share it that's fine but we would never judge or discriminate. Some of our most talented crafters have had a varied life journey with many bumps along the way, but they found us somehow and we love working with them. Also, we don't believe in putting up signs saying this person is disabled - why would we? What does that achieve? The customer is looking for a present for Margaret's birthday, not a back story.
Support - one of the over-riding things coming back to us constantly is the support we offer. So many of our crafters arrive with hugs and presents saying 'thank you for all your help'. Truthfully we just see it as helping someone be the best they can be, and if tweaking branding or saying maybe that would be better in yellow helps then we will. We don't have all the answers, but we certainly have a growing communuity that might!
Community - the Hippos are growing fast and solicitors are working with us to become a legal Community Interest Company which is where we ultimately want to be. We like the challenge we place on the High Street, we like the speed that we can change at because we are grass roots and a bunch of small makers. We like the community spirit we're building which was brought home today from an event where the venue said 'we tried this before, but obviously having the right people running it makes it work - thank you'.
If you think you could get involved, or have something to share then get in touch - and as many of the crafters already know bribery with cake will always get you an excellent first hug! Hippo x