News, People

The Last Word – Jackie McLaren, Little Shop Of company

 Born in Forest Hill, Jackie initially worked as a landscape designer, until she was inspired to use her creative skills and insights to design a product to make everyday life easier. With her husband Simon, she set up the hugely successful Little Shop Of company, with their trademark jewellery “Little Books”, stocked in over 250 stores in the UK, sold through their website, as well as in stores in Canada, Singapore and Australia.

How long have you lived in the area?

I was brought up in Forest Hill. When I married 33 years ago, we liked the area so much we didn’t consider leaving!

What do you most value about the area/street you live in?

I love how green and leafy this part of London is, with the bonus of the great views. It has been a great base for us to set up a business, with an office in Dulwich and even our very first customer was a local business, The Dulwich Trader. That first customer then helped give us the confidence to continue to grow the business.

What’s the one thing you couldn’t do without?

I’ve always been interested in great design, but for me that has to go beyond the aesthetics and be practical too. I always want to feel organised – I say “Find it, use it and get on with your day!”. This mentality led me to start my own business –jewellery ended up in a tangled mess and it was frustrating; I wanted to be able to put jewellery in a suitcase too. My husband and I designed our trademark Little Books, and as Simon worked in TV production he asked a contact in the industry to produce a prototype. We sourced materials, adapted the design and expanded the line. I love hearing customers say our product is the one they can’t live without!

Describe your perfect weekend

A perfect weekend would involve mooching around garden centres. One of my favourites combines beautiful plants, coffee and a shot of shopping – the Alexandra Nurseries in Penge. I highly recommend their cheese scones!

What’s your favourite place for a night out?

We love to go to the theatre, not necessarily the West End – we have seen some great productions in Bromley. Another love is country music. There is an underground line dancing movement across South London!

Coffee or tea? Where?

Being married to a coffee-holic means trips usually include a stop-off for coffee – we quite often find ourselves in the Horniman café and enjoy the gardens. 

The best kept secret…

The little leafy alleyways are like hidden gems – all sorts of different styles of architecture and lovely views that you would otherwise miss.

When I want to relax…

I love gardening, painting and drawing. I can happily relax reading a Nigel Slater or Anna Olson cookery book from start to finish, in the same way as most people read a novel.

The book I’m reading at the moment…

A book about the founder of Lexington, an interiors company, who worked as a teacher before setting up her business. “Living with Lexington” describes how she combines her love for practical design and style, without compromising on luxury.

My perfect holiday…

Simon would love touring medieval sites in France, so it would make the perfect holiday.

What one thing would you change?

I sometimes wish there were more sympathetic restrictions on modifying architecture, to stay true to the original design and materials.

The best bargain you’ve ever landed…

A beautiful necklace featuring a sycamore leaf, from a shop in the Cotswolds. It was not long after we started the company and the owner liked our jewellery books – he has stocked them ever since.

Visit www.littleshopof.co.uk