“If I had to describe VistaCreate in one word it’d be – powerful. It really enables you to connect to the core of your content, and for the people to be able to see your brand as you want it to be.”Charlotte Polley
Charlotte sits at her desk as we are chatting and spins her monitor around to show me her screen. Her permanently hovering tab is “VistaCreate” and I can see that she’s been working on dozens of projects. There are visuals of all kinds – Instagram posts, Facebook covers, event invitations…she scrolls and the ideas pour from her screen.
I thought to myself that the story of Charlotte’s small business is an incredible one worth sharing. Appealing to many small business owners, we discussed how it’s not always smooth sailing. Not everything always works out as you expect, but the returns of your efforts always end up paying off in the end.
Along the way, you find people that are willing to help you, and irreplaceable tools that make your job so much easier. For a small business owner, sometimes, one tool is enough to be a bit of a life changer.
This is one of the first articles in our series of shining the spotlight on small business owners. Read on to find out more about one family business that managed to make it work despite many downfalls. An inspiring story of Charlotte Polley, the owner of “Boo’s Toy Shop” in Dorset, and how VistaCreate has been there along the way to help her small business look as good online as it does in store.
Boo’s Toy Shop: What’s in the name?
Finding a name for a business is probably one of the hardest things. When my daughter was little, she was always called Boo. Boo came from Monsters Inc., it’s what the little girl was called. My daughter absolutely loved it and she ended up getting the nickname. That’s how we came up with the name. My middle son is like “Well, why didn’t you name it after me?” But it was about timing and working out the right name back then.
A business idea born out of a gap in the market
I started Boo’s Toy Shop back in 2009 after the company I was working for relocated the buying and merchandising function to London from Dorset. At the time, I had 2 small children and I always struggled to find the perfect toys for my children. And gifts too! I was very much for fair trade and sustainability – wooden toys and things that would last. I wanted toys that you could put away and get them out for generations to come.
I decided to research opening a children’s online shop. It was really hard at first as the market is so tough to get into. So many businesses do it so well. After about 3 years of selling online we needed to take a step further, so we decided to open a shop in Poundbury.
Lots of things happened personally and I lost my way. The market became tough with some big supermarkets in the UK focusing on wooden toys, just not by the same principles we follow in the store.
It’s certainly been a journey! In the beginning, it was amazing; then, for a couple of years due to my marriage breaking down and life changes, I lost my way a bit. After having my 3rd Child, Harry, something changed in me again and that passion and fight came back. Then, Covid-19 hit us and I thought “This is it, it’s going to break us.”
“It’s a big scary world when you’re going out to open your business for the very first time.”
But then, the most amazing thing happened. The online business went from strength to strength, new customers were finding us, and it was amazing.
Having your own business is a bit of a rollercoaster
You know, if everything was easy – everyone would do it. You know you’re going to have hard times, but it’s what drives you then. You tell yourself “You know what? I’m going to make it work, I’m determined to make this work, and we’ll just kept going at it”.
One day, we decided we needed a bigger shop; we wanted to do more for the community. On Saturday, the 9th of April, we opened a new shop in Poundbury Crown Square. Everyone has been amazing. We have created an incredible space for children to explore and have fun. It’s been a journey and we will still have ups and downs, but this is one rollercoaster I adore.
Networking and simply making it work
I keep up to date with educating myself on social media and new apps, trying to stay ahead of the game. Sometimes, it can just get daunting when you don’t feel like you have a lot of support because you’re a small business. And the one thing I have learned is that by reaching out and talking to new people, no one will ever say “No” or refuse to give you advice. So, I’m going to networking events, following people on YouTube, just talking to people, and that’s how that passion just came back.
“I think everyone sometimes will get into that place, the crossroads of what to do, and they think it’ll be easier to work for someone else. But at the end of the day, I love doing what we do, love what we do for the community, and I hope that in the next 5 years we’ll grow even more.”
Sustainability and community work
We do a lot around sensory play and children’s development. One of the reasons for expanding the shop and having a bigger space is because of what happened during Covid. We had this period where our babies missed out on so much interaction with other people, and missed out on early sensory skills that they pick up going to baby clubs.
It’s important that we have that connection. I believe in sustainability. I think that in the world that we live in, we have to be focused on that.
We do the best that we can to remain sustainable in store. If it’s by reducing the amount of plastic we use or ethical suppliers. It’s important to us.
We’re big on community in terms of working with local schools supporting children. Having that positive attitude to play is really important. We live in a world where children are becoming younger at using things like the switch and iPad.
Our community work is about bringing back the importance of play and pretend play. Children learn so much from doing those skills! This is something we’re great believers in – those skills set us up for when we’re older. Having messy play as well! Being fun, being creative, and just trying to bring children back into the environment of taking a cardboard box and turning it into a rocket, or spaceship, or castle. Those kinds of things are free, we have those materials lying around all the time. It’s about enhancing a child’s imagination.
Working out a balance between life and work
I would say that the hardest part about running your own business is the balance. Being able to cut off from work, never being able to say at 5 o’clock “That’s it, emails down”. When you’re a small business there’s more pressure on you from customers sometimes, because you want to be able to retain those customers and get back to them as quick as possible.
There are times when it becomes overwhelming and you need to be able to switch off. It’s the one thing I haven’t cracked, that ability to be able to switch off and say, “It’s fine, it’s 5, it’s my time now, time to switch off”.
“Everything is going on, you’ll think of something, start researching, and the next thing you know – it’s midnight.”
Discovering VistaCreate changed things for me
I use VistaCreata for posts, stories, highlights, Facebook events and Facebook posts. I’ve been using it recently from a marketing perspective for my business. I’m making postcards to go out with orders like the “Thank you for shopping with us” cards. Recently, I used it to create a flyer, and at the moment I’m in the process of working on parties, so materials for our in-store parties and postcards with all the details.
The one thing I’ve always been slightly envious of is people that can create great content using editors like VistaCreate. But it’s incredible, because I can easily change the colors so they fit in with my branding. I can be adventurous, I can add something in, and easily take it away if it’s not right.
I’ve been able to upload my own fonts that we use in terms of the branding profile we have for the business. It’s opened up more opportunities for me because I don’t have to pay someone else to do these things for me. Now, I’m actually able to create my own event covers or social media posts, and add more content to it.
“And most importantly, with VistaCreate, I can add the right look and feel that I want my visuals to have. It’s always been something I wasn’t very good at, but my confidence has grown so much in using VistaCreate over the last couple of months. I absolutely love it and I tell everyone about it.”
A blank canvas is scary, but good thing there are templates!
I recently created some visuals for Easter. I amend the colors, or maybe take some of the graphics out and add things in. I find it easier to start with a template that is nearly 90% where I want it to be, and then it’s about modifying it.
An idea will pop into my head and I’ll go in and create a moodboard in VistaCreate, so I know I’ve got all my ideas there. VistaCreate is always open on my desktop, and if I have an event coming up, it’s there for me to start playing with and making sure I have plenty of time to create that content.
Better design = more interaction with my brand
I get more interaction from people when the content is good. An image can say 1000 words and if you add other elements to it, your interactions and likes start to go up. If it’s a basic post people won’t take much notice. What’s really great about it is that you can really gauge how responsive people will be – from the posts I was doing before to the ones I’m doing now.
“And the materials I’m printing! I did a flyer with VistaCreate and VistaPrint, and I can see that people are really interacting with us more.”
One thing I’d share with the world about VistaCreate…
I think it simplifies things.
Sometimes, when we have to use multiple resources to create content, you might use different people to help you. But you have to be able to finish a project from start to finish, make it consistent. With VistaCreate, it’s your own, it’s yours, you own it, and you have your handwriting on it.
If anyone was out there looking to invest time into learning or moving away from a different platform to VistaCreate, just take a couple of hours exploring, playing around with different templates. You will find that it can change your life in terms of:
1. Confidence with design.
2. Cost saving, because you’re able to do most of the work yourself.
3. Consistency. You can have that consistent branding message so that everything fits into place. You can work out how you want people to perceive you. You can be versatile with what you do with it. It’s just brilliant.
All around, VistaCreate is an effective, powerful platform. It’s powerful in the sense that you’re portraying that image of your business, and you’re getting positive statements back from the people.
Using VistaCreate has enabled me to grow my marketing and content skills. It’s given me the opportunity to be able to take my ideas and transform them into something wonderful and eye-catching. People have noticed that my content has changed across social media, and I am loving the comments.
Read more stories about our power users from the series:
- Content Perfection, a content marketing business by Lisa Harvey
- Rick Blyth, the founder of his own brand that helps software developers get started building their own profitable Micro SaaS apps
- Bonjour Quilts, a quilt pattern business by Kirsty Cleverly
- DIYvinci, an online arts and crafts business by Jennifer Parr