Little Caravan of Dreams

TUCKED down a side street off a busy, main road in Melbourne’s southeast is a hidden treasure popular with the young, old and everyone in between.
Our Little Caravan: the collective store, is a vintage and craft boutique shop with an abundance of handmade goods from over 50 local designers and craftspeople.
Craft classes are held in-store and in Mabel, the vintage caravan, which is parked in the back garden.
The unique business began in the backyard of Christina and Anthony Douglas’s family home less than two years ago,
The couple bought the caravan, named Mabel after Christina’s nana, with the intention of turning it into a creative studio in the backyard, but plans changed quickly.
“It was to be my ‘girl cave’ as we have three energetic young sons,’ Christina said.
“It wasn’t long before my friend’s daughters began asking if they could get inside the cute caravan, and as a primary school teacher, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to spend time creating with them. I decided to allow children who wanted to join me, to come in once a month. We would create something together and then enjoy afternoon tea. A friend asked about using it for her daughter’s birthday party and we realised it was the perfect location for birthday parties! I named the business, My Little Caravan and I have enjoyed hosting every party held in Mabel since.”
Christina was also a member of a handmade craft group with local school mums, and with their help, a new business venture was formed.
“As like-minded women, we got together regularly over lunch and our various handmade projects. But it was more than just that. There was a great connection within the group, and amazing talent,” she said.
“We decided to find a local shop to relocate Mabel, and allow a space that would enable creatives to showcase their products as well as enable the party business to grow. In July 2015 we found the perfect place for us, and, in August 2015, opened ‘Our Little Caravan: the collective store.’”
Our Little Caravan is a social enterprise, with about 50 local people – each with their own ‘micro- business’ – renting a shelf in the store for the cost of a small stall-holder’s fee per month. As well as showcasing local talent, Christina said there is also a focus on creating employment opportunities, teaching valuable skills and forging friendships and support.
“We continue to look for ways we can facilitate employment in the community. We have teens (Junior Helpers) that help us in our parties. A lot of time and effort goes into our Junior Helpers. We are keen to ensure that they learn a lot, gain confidence and experience, and enjoy their time with us. In return, they gain valuable skills that will assist them with future employment,” Christina said.
“We also mentor our stall-holders that teach workshops in the shop, as experts in their craft. This in turn helps them grow their business.
“We enjoy watching women connect with one another over a cup of coffee and a couple of hours spent creating something beautiful in our casual, yet regular craft classes.
To continue to grow, we plan to open a small cafe at the front of the shop from September. This will enable another small business owner, with a dream of her own, to begin her journey, and continue to build on our vision, which is to provide community, connection and employment, for both children and adults, in My Little Caravan.”
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