Interview with Sian Thomas, founder of Hipster Hampers

Read how Sian Thomas Founder and Head Curator of Hampers was inspired to launch Hipster Hampers from her childhood bedroom during lockdown.

What’s your background? 

I have over a decade of experience within the hospitality industry in London, Spain and Sydney. I had brief career change just before starting Hipster Hamper as I had always volunteered with refugees on the side of my hospitality job.

I moved to Leeds to work with victims of trafficking and modern slavery. This is why when I set up Hipster Hamper it had to have a charity aspect of it. We gave 5% of our profits to Hospitality Acton’s invisible chips campaign, who support people in the industry who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. 

Trethowans
Trethowans

I have worked in cafes like the breakfast club, look mum no hands, crosstown doughnuts in their early days, streetfest, festivals, restaurant and pubs, I’ve done the whole lot in London. (You can read more on our story page of the website.) 

How did struggling for money as a child shape you as an adult?

I have read many business books and listened to loads of podcasts about making money work for you, not you work for money. This is crazy concept for me, and I am sure many other people who have come from single parent families would say the same.

It is still something I am still getting to grips with. I think it’s very easy to come from money because it’s always worked for you, and just used as a tool. My mum always worked a lot since I was young, so I think this has really influenced me to be a hard worker. I spent a lot of time being looked after my grandparents which I loved. I would say its defiantly made me a hard worker, with Hipster Hamper it has taught be to be a smarter worker.  

What gave you the idea for your business?

Coming from the hospitality industry, I wanted to bring the cafe bar experience to people’s homes. something that I missed working in and people missed going to. Since starting it though we have found a real niche in the market and our mission is to revamp the hamper market. 63% of people in the UK last year said they want to support independents and our hampers do just that. 

How did you get Hipster Hampers off the ground?

My mum gave me a small amount of money (that she was saving for a new boiler) to get my first order of stock in. I had a small amount of savings but not enough to start a business. My friend helped me set up my website. That was lots of long nights. Then I got a start-up loan.

When you apply for a start-up loan you get allocated a business mentor. He though the idea was great and really supported me with my forecasting etc. It went through virgin start-ups who have a lot of networking events and mentor programs. I try to network everywhere I can. I now have linked in and love it! I now have an investment mentor and i am currently trying to raise SEIS investment. 

How did lockdown affect you personally and professionally?

At the start of the pandemic, I was living with my ex-boyfriend in Leeds and my dog Dave (Sri Lankan Rescue). I was working with the trafficking charity. The vicitims mental health support was cut during the pandemic, so the people I was supporting where really struggling. I was working 8am-10pm and my mental health started to suffer. 

Lockdown made me realise I wanted to be closer to my friends and family down south, so I left my job and my life in Leeds. The first night back at my mums I thought what am I going to do for money? The hospitality industry that I wanted to get back into is dead right now.

While trying to sleep that first night I came but with Hipster hamper. I thought of all the suppliers I have worked with before. I worked with Good and Proper tea at festivals before, so I had random connection with most of the first suppliers I stocked. I started it all from my childhood bedroom.

And how have you managed to turn it around?

I quickly realised I wouldn’t be able to run it from home when I asked my Mum if I could put a fridge in the lounge. We are now located at The Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey. Farm drop started here, so we are following good footsteps.

We are based very close to the Bermondsey beer mile, spa terminus and our amazing Bermondsey suppliers. I have two members of staff, one that helps with admin and another that helps with packing of the hampers. We have gained a number of large contracted with corporates.

We now sell through our website, Drop 24, Deliveroo, Just eat, Etsy and soon Amazon. We are now looing for SEIS investment to grow Hipster Hamper. We have many exciting plans for the future, so look out for us. 

You’ve struggled with depression and anxiety. How have you coped with it?

In my mid 20s I would say I behaved a little reckless at times to deal with it. I refused to go on pills for my anxiety, but in the pandemic I though what the hell, and the doctor prescribed me propranolol. They really helped. I don’t take them very much anymore.

Our office is located near the river now, so I run every morning, meditate on my lunch break, journal every night, stay away from alcohol and I have a great therapist that I got through NHS. I wanted to make my business work so I knew putting these things in place and self-care was the only way I would succeed. Having a great support network is also essential. 

How have you rebuilt your relationship with money?

Making money work for me. Trying not to get stressed about it and using it as a tool to make my business work.  

What tips do you have to help other entrepreneurs deal with overwhelm?

Starting a business, the easy and fun bit, keeping it going is hard. You won’t be able to do everything, it’s impossible so delegate as much as you can only if you have the budget. I’ve got a close circle of friends and family who really support me. Keep them close.  

Starting a business on your own is super lonely and not something people talk much. I would say self-care is non negatable (stay away from alcohol, journal a lot, exercise daily) schedule your days, write to do lists a stick to them, meditation has been the key to me not getting overwhelmed. I do a lot of going for walk and reflecting.

Find out more about Hipster Hampers.