Karen Dorn, who is the owner of The Forgotten Toy Shop and who has a market stall in Melton every Tuesday, was recently awarded the online retailer of the month for January by The Good Toy Guide. She told the Melton Times about her achievement and what it takes to run a successful business.
Q What is your background and how did you get into toys?
A I’ve had many different jobs before I started The Forgotten Toy Shop. I worked in hospitality, retail, graphic design and computer support. All of which have helped me learn skills in providing excellent customer service.
I was born in Northampton but moved around the country with my family. We eventually settled in Melton 22 years ago and I now live in a village on the outskirts of Nottingham.
I got into toys after arriving back from a year’s travelling. Struggling to find work I knew I needed to find some thing to do. A friend of mine is an agent for some toys and gift suppliers so with a loan from my family I bought my first stock, a mix of toys and gifts set up my stall on Melton market on a Tuesday and at local gift fairs. I called my business Kooky Gifts.
I did this on and off for a couple of years alongside part and full time jobs but I knew then that I wanted to work for myself and build the business that I had started. I decided that I had real passion for the toy side of the business more than the gifts. I sold off the gift stock and invested in more toys and so The Forgotten Toy Shop was created in 2012.
Q What was the inspiration for the business and how did you come up with the name?
A I have a real interest in history and past times. When I’m at the markets and fairs, hearing the stories from people about their child hood memories of toys it really fascinates me. I believe that children get more out of playing with traditional toys than sitting in front of game consoles.
When I decided to concentrate on selling toys rather than gifts, the name I had, Kooky Gifts, didn’t really say traditional toys so I had to find something new. One day on the market some people who were at my stall looking kept saying “Oh I forgot about that toy” and that’s when it came to me to call it The Forgotten Toy Shop.
Q Where are you based and what do you like about trading in Melton?
A I don’t have my own bricks and mortar shop as yet but I do stock a range of toys at a children’s clothes shop, ‘Isobel&Henry’, in West Bridgford, Nottingham. I also run my own online store where people can browse through and purchase my products.
In Melton I have a stall on the Tuesday market, which is located outside Costa Coffee. I occasionally stand on the Saturday market also, and my pitch is usually outside Greenwoods. I like standing on Melton market as I get to meet some great people and it’s a good market to stand at, with lots of banter and friendly people.
Q What items do you sell and what is your best seller?
A I sell a range of high quality traditional toys and games. These range from the old favourites such as jacks, dominoes, cup and ball and retro space hoppers along with a range of wooden toys including push along toys, train sets and abacus that help children to learn and unleash their imagination. My best seller in 2014 was the traditional wooden push along animals.
All my stock is sourced from design-led manufacturers including House of Marbles, Melissa & Doug and The Puppet Company.
Q What was you reaction to hearing the news you’d been awarded online retailer of the month for January by The Good Toy Guide?
A I was told just before Christmas that I was to be retailer of the month for January 2015, which was a great early present. I was shocked when I heard this and had to read the email I was sent over a few times to believe what I was reading.
I am overwhelmed to be given this award, being a small independent retailer, building up from scratch.
Q What are some the challenges you face being self-employed?
A Some people may think being self-employed is easy but it’s not. Ok it’s great not being in a mundane nine to five routine but you are pretty much working seven days to make sure that your business is running smoothly.
Last year was a challenging year for me due to ill health. When being self-employed you don’t get sick pay so missing any time to run the business means you are not earning.
l To view Karen’s selection of traditional toys visit her website at: www.theforgottentoyshop.co.uk or www.facebook.com/theforgottentoyshop