Little Mashers, Hastings - Smashingly Creative

Designers and Screen Printers of Children’s Clothing, Little Mashers, in St Leonard’s on Sea, discusses how the business has evolved and developed through the last few years of turmoil, and what lies ahead for the creative brand, including supplying products to the Tate Modern Gallery in London.

Partners Andrew Davies and Claire Tomlinson, have always been everlastingly creative. Both working in artistic job roles, with Claire as a designer/illustrator and Andrew as a product designer, and even coming together though their love of art in their school print room, they both share a passion and a desire to inspire and facilitate creativity.

“Creative thinking is important for everyday life not just for creating beautiful objects. You can creatively think your way out of most problems”

Andrew DaviesOwner
Little Mashers
Case Study
Little Mashers
September 2022

Claire had always wanted to start up her own creative business, and in 2010 it became official and the ’Little Mashers’ brand was born. Initially utilising some equipment they had access to through a friend, but then building a shed in their back garden in London, Claire and Andrew used what funds they had available to get the best equipment they could to fulfil their dream. The name ‘Little Mashers’ and slogan ‘Home grown for your little one’ was a nod to potato printing and a reflection of their original range of products created to support a healthy eating message to children. Vegetable characters and witty phrases printed onto children’s clothing, were the seed of the business that grew into what it is today.

Creating space for growth

Feeling restricted in London, Andrew and Claire took the decision to uproot and take the business down to St Leonard’s on Sea, near Hastings, East Sussex.

“We knew we couldn’t grow in London, the cost of expansion there was so prohibitive. We would be doing all these jobs, working so hard, just to stand still. St Leonard’s was a creative, vibrant place, that provided more opportunity for us.”

Andrew Davies, Owner, Little Mashers

When searching for their new retail space, they discovered a building that would provide everything they needed for their venture. Set on Kings Road, St Leonard’s, where they have now been for 6 years, was a space that could be truly utlised to it’s full potential: as a home, manufacturing space, fulfillment, and shop.

Now selling its range of printed t-shirts and gifts, alongside kits and materials to replicate the techniques at home, both in the shop, online via their website, and wholesale to stockists, Little Mashers has evolved and adapted as the market has changed. It recognises that buyers are more conscientious now of the environmental impact of consumer goods, so prides itself on using paper packaging, biodegradable stencils and vegan, food friendly inks, as well as buying its materials from UK Suppliers.

Little Mashers, Hastings
Owners of the fantastic children's store
Little Mashers, Hastings
Little Mashers, Hastings
Children's store, Hastings

Going like hot potatoes

When the pandemic started back in 2020, Andrew and Claire had concerns over what it would mean for their business. Previously attending several European trade shows, and doing a decent amount of business over there, the combination of Brexit and COVID-19 put an end to that, leaving a gap in their profit. But with one ending came a new beginning, following the launch of the ‘Creator Kit’.

The ‘Creator Kit’ puts you in the designer seat, providing a t-shirt, stencils and inks to unleash your creativity and create your own masterpiece. Starting at £25.00, these kits really took off, as customers were looking for something fun and arty, that could easily be sent in the post to loved ones.

“We launched Creator Kits in Feb 2020, and then covid hit. We were really concerned what would happen, but the kits quickly became our biggest seller. It was like sending a hug in the post; an activity and present in one. Demand was great, and because we use UK suppliers, we could still access everything we needed, which really saved us.”

Andrew Davies, Owner, Little Mashers

These kits were not only a big hit with the retail customers, but also wholesale too. Perfect for institutions like Galleries and Museums, Little Masher peaked the interest not only of local galleries but also larger London Galleries, including Tate Modern.

Little Masher had fostered a relationship with Tate Modern several years prior, selling some of their chalkboard t-shirts, but in April 2022 that relationship was reignited and reinforced, with them taking on a much larger range of kits, stencils, inks and stamps. Now Little Mashers has their own section within the Tate Modern shop, giving them a much wider exposure to budding enthusiasts.

Little Mashers Cultivating Creativity

At Little Mashers they develop everything in-house from scratch, from developing an idea, to producing it, and then designing the packaging to house it. Something incredibly important to the team is facilitating creativity in others, and they do this through the workshops they run throughout the year. These 3 hour workshops provide the opportunity for children 7+ to learn about printing and design techniques, and explore their imagination to create their own masterpieces.

“It’s not about money for us, it’s a passion for creativity, and giving others an outlet to explore theirs. Our workshops are something that we hope to develop and expand for the future.”

Claire Tomlinson, Owner, Little Mashers

Noticing a reduction in creative subjects in the school curriculum, Claire is passionate about developing programmes that could be delivered externally from the shop in schools and community centres, that can help individuals to stimulate their creative natures.

“We have always run workshops alongside what we do. We had a really strong education in the arts at school, and now it feels like kids won’t have as much access to this. It seems schools are focused on STEM rather than STEAM but everyone is creative in some way, and should be able to express it.”

Claire Tomlinson, Owner, Little Mashers

In order to support the creativity of children who may not have access to creative sessions, Little Mashers reached out to Let’s Do Business Group for support in accessing funding to provide their own programme. Let’s Do Business Group deliver business support service ‘Locate East Sussex’ – helping businesses in and moving into East Sussex advice, access to funding, and support finding commercial property. Locate East Sussex is fully funded by East Sussex County Council, the five district and borough councils and the European Regional Development Fund. Working with Business Manager Emily Wright, they are in the process of seeing what support there might be to help them achieve their goal.

“Emily has been great, helping us to try and access funding, to see what’s out there and what we would need to do to get it, she has been a gem. We are designers, it’s who we are, and we want to continue the work we have started. We don’t know where we are headed, but we are setting off.”

Andrew Davies, Owner, Little Mashers

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