BY HELEN ELFER (GUEST WRITER)
Hello mamas! I’m Helen, the founder of Stork, an online marketplace for pre-loved kids and babies’ stuff. So happy to be guest posting on That Mama Club to tell you all a bit about how I got hooked on pre-loved shopping….
Last year, I was obsessed with finding a pair of yellow wellies for my daughter. They had to be completely plain, no handles, no logos, and an iconic, daffodil shade of yellow. Sound familiar? Of course they do. It’ll be no surprise to many mamas reading this that I was on the hunt for Peppa Pig’s boots. Peppa, or ‘Pe-PIG!’ as my daughter calls her, is, let’s say, an extremely influential figure in our household (Screen time limits vs Peppa addiction is a topic for another day). I was hopeful that my little girl would be so thrilled to have the same boots as her favourite TV character that there would be no fuss about wearing them on muddy puddle days.
I had no luck on the usual kids clothes sites or in high street shops, but after a lot of social media-ing and asking around, I found a second-hand pair another mum was selling that were 100% perfect. I was already thrilled when they arrived, and then I read the handwritten note that came with them.
‘These boots have jumped in puddles, splashed in the sea and walked along the Breton coast. Here’s hoping they have more adventures with their new little feet!’
And err, well there must have been something in my eye… sniff! Before that moment, I don’t think in a million years I would ever have described shopping as a beautiful experience. But to feel that connection with another proud mum and another adventurous toddler was really, really special.
I first got hooked on shopping pre-loved when I was pregnant with my first child. Classic maternity wear didn’t suit me at all, plus I didn’t fancy spending much on clothes that I’d only wear for a month or so. I got into the habit of picking up oversized shirts or loose dresses from thrift shops every so often, donating them back once I was too big for them. It was fun and easy.
But prepping for the arrival of our baby was another story altogether. Like most other parents, I felt overwhelming pressure to buy, buy, buy to make sure she had everything she needed. Everything had to be perfect, everything had to be the most expensive I could afford, everything had to be brand-new. Pram, crib, Moses basket, bouncy chair, baby clothes, car seat, breast pump, nappy bin, nightlight, bedroom furniture, activity mat… it was a small fortune.
I wish I knew then what I know now. Firstly, to ignore all those department stores ‘must-have’ lists and check with other parents what products are actually essential. So much of what’s on the market is overpriced and unnecessary, marketed to play on our fear of not being the perfect mother.
Secondly, after having my daughter, I found I actually preferred her to have clothes and toys that came packed with stories, love and memories, whether that was from friends passing on their children’s outgrown things, or buying pre-loved from other parents.
A soft blanket another baby had been wrapped in was just as cosy as a store-bought one. She would have sweet dreams (and sleepless nights) in a crib lent by an old friend, just the same as if we’d forked out for a new one. A second-hand car seat was just as safe, plus came with the trusted recommendation that it was comfortable and easy to use. All these items had been used, were in great condition, didn’t cost us a fortune and were pre-loaded with the love of other families.
From then on I was hooked – I loved chatting with other mums when I bought things, asking advice and sharing tips. I really appreciated the lower cost, especially after maternity leave pay dried up. It was important to me that my money supported other families, instead of just being poured back into the same old chain stores. And I started to feel great about wasting less, as I’d resell, donate or recycle as much as possible once we were finished with it.
Gradually I started to realise that with the amount of people out there doing the same, the pre-loved community was actually a pretty incredible movement. There was a whole network of (mostly) mamas on social media who were managing to earn extra cash, support each other and keep their kids dressed in gorgeous little outfits at the same time. In and around naptimes/mealtimes/home schooling/all the rest of it, they’d somehow managed to create this wonderful, sustainable, circular economy. I felt totally inspired!
Fast forward 14 months, I was pregnant again and determined to carry on shopping pre-loved. But I knew what I was looking for this time, and it was often hard to find exactly what I needed. I didn’t want to rush or order things I wasn’t completely happy with, nor did I want to go back to using faceless chain stores, or impersonal and complicated selling sites. So in a welcome burst of second trimester energy, I decided to launch Stork for parents in the same position as me. It’s an online marketplace just for kids’ and babies’ things, and it’s full of kind, thoughtful, supportive, eco-conscious, thrifty, positive, entrepreneurial, and generally wonderful sellers and buyers.
You don’t need a lot of stuff or a huge Instagram following to join up, and you don’t need to sell instantly because listings don’t disappear down a feed. Everything is categorised by size, colour, brand and condition, so it’s really easy for people to find what they want. Plus if you have any questions about the products, or general advice about what you need, you can always just ask someone! So if you fancy being part of a real community of Pre-lovelies, come and visit us, have a browse or set up your own store. Everyone’s welcome!
YOU CAN FIND HELEN ON;
INSTAGRAM: THE STORK SHOP
WEBSITE: THE STORK SHOP