Having pushy parents and an academic aptitude aren’t necessarily guarantees you’ll find yourself straight on to a perfect professional path to profit and glory.
Magda Snowden is certainly proof of that – having moved from Sydney to Suffolk, via Singapore, before creating her dream business.

It was while she was rather high on a cocktail of pain-killing drugs, and nursing a heavily dislocated shoulder in the A&E department of an East Anglian hospital, that Magda declared the bombshell.

To her husband of seven years – the father of her three young children – she announced ‘I’m never going to teach again. In fact, I’m going to make hats for a living’.

Those who knew her less well, might have wondered whether she ought to let the impact of the medication wear away a little before drawing a line under her 12 year teaching career so abruptly.

Others, who’d watched the secret craft-yearnings, were merely relieved a new journey was about to start.
Daughter of strong-minded Greek migrants, Magda Snowden had grown up in Australia and had felt the weight of expectation to pursue an academic career for some time.

In keeping with that pressure, she pursued architecture at university, and might perhaps have followed that path forever more.

“Truth be told, the only bit I really loved during that course was when we were doing performance nights in our student years, and I just loved throwing myself into making costumes,” she recalls.

“I’d always doodled and made clothes for my dollies in my younger years, but I knew that the expectation was there to have me go to university, so I duly did it, and went straight into that career in a government role.”

Desperate to flee Sydney – ‘it just wasn’t me and I wanted out’, she says – Magda took the first overseas role she could post-graduation, and spent a pretty dismal six months in Singapore.

Keen to cut short that professional obligation, she returned to Australia and soon after turned to education, beginning a role as a Design and Technology Teacher.

“It was a way of incorporating my design skills but being slightly more free in how I could work and create,” she says.

“I then took the teaching element with me to Greece, because I wanted to be in Europe, and that’s where my parents had come from.”

What happened next, it transpires, were an awful lot of timely coincidences, which ultimately meant Magda’s life was destined to be enjoyed in Suffolk.

“I honestly couldn’t have ‘pre planned’ any of this,” she says, smiling, “it just happened that my sister had met a guy online and moved from Australia to Shotley Gate, so I came over to visit.

“The very week I was coming over, my sister’s boss mentioned the local authority was looking for a design and technology specialist – so by the time I arrived I’d got a job interview lined up with Sudbury Upper School.

“They offered me the role on the spot, and I started there in 2001….meeting my husband on my first day in the role.”

Teaching has certainly served Magda well. It’s wedded her to the county, allowed her to pursue her creative flair, and has been a period in which she’s brought three children into the world, but, something remained missing.

“As nothing more than a hobby pursuit, I once put myself on a millinery course back in Australia, and the joy I felt during that craft-making was incredible,” she remembers fondly.

“I suppose it just wasn’t the right time or I wasn’t ready to ‘listen’ to my calling, but I tapped into it again when I was on maternity leave, doing a course at Central St Martin’s in London, and another at Otley College.

“Even then I still hadn’t discussed ever giving up my teaching career altogether, but then there was the day I declared I had to go back to work and bring my last maternity leave to a close. I knew I had to work again, and I respected that this was just ‘the career I’d chosen’.”

The date of that announcement was 11th September 2013 – a day Magda will never forget.

It was the same day she then slipped over, dislocated her shoulder, found herself in hospital and made the bold statement that she would finally pursue her dream.

“I was motivated to make it a serious business from the outset,” she says. “I didn’t want this to be a play-thing or something where I still relied on my husband’s income.“I wanted this to be a business that served my passion for millinery, but which could bring great joy to other people, be profitable, and make me a known brand in the arena, even though I was now well into my 40s.

“The shoulder took three months to heal, but I used that time productively to research, work out what the trends were, discover what my best audience would be, how much to charge, and what kind of ‘shop front’ I would actually need to sell my designs.

“The beauty of everything being so online based these days is that you can develop things like an Etsy site (an online platform for craft creators) and show your pieces off to the world.

“I also booked myself on all sorts of craft events and fayres, determined I would get the word out as quickly as I could.”

Four years on, Magda’s business – Madge Hatter – sees a constant stream of wedding guests, prom princesses, and all sorts of hat fanatics.

She makes every headpiece – be it a top hat or a tiara – as a bespoke creation, and can even craft accessories to match.

Everything is made from her home in Grundisburgh, Suffolk, and she travels the region on a constant round of events and networking occasions.
“The artistic satisfaction that comes with what I am doing now, is just unrivalled, compared with anything else I’ve ever done,” she says.

“It feels in many ways like I’ve taken an awful long time to get to a point where I’m doing what I love, but I believe the journey has made me appreciate even more that I am running a business which is true to me.”

And is there an ambition to hit the ‘big time’ such that she’s not only creating for authors, artists, wedding guests and local dignitaries (all of which she’s done to date) but perhaps for our very own British royalty too?

“Am I likely to be the next Philip Treacy?” she queries, with a note of sarcasm in her ever-evident Australian accent.

“Hmmm. I’m not sure about that. I’m open to it. I’m open to whatever this business will evolve into, and I’m grateful that right now it’s receiving a whole lot of support and appreciation.

“Being the owner of my own business, using the skills I have and that I love, feels exactly what I was meant to do.”

To see more of Magda’s creations, to make an appointment, or to find out about her latest creations, check out Madge Hatter on etsy.