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Small Business Spotlight: My Small World

Small Business Spotlight: My Small World

We chatted with Dawn Burden, the owner of My Small World. Small yet perfectly formed, My Small World was established in 2005 in the centre of Bath. For over 15 years, My Small World has been packed with exciting toys, games, and books for newborns all the way to older children.

my small world bath

How did you get started with My Small World?

My children – of course! They were 1½ and 2½ when I embarked on creating My Small World. I’ve always preferred natural and wooden toys. We were a little ahead of the curve back in 2005, and although I could find the odd really amazing toy in toy shops, there wasn’t really anywhere where I could find a wide choice of really beautiful toys all in one place. So I figured it was time to make that place myself.

I also was really determined that the environment in the shop should be utterly magical – I wanted a shop that felt like a treasure trove of joy, and where children and parents felt completely welcome. I put my previous life as an actor and theatre set designer to full use, and I think the shop has always really reflected our understanding of what it’s like to be a child, a parent and a grandparent.

What’s different about My Small World?

We are powered by kindness. Everything we have ever done over the last 17 years has been inspired by our customers, and a desire to make sure that shopping here - either in the shop or online - as easy and stress-free as possible.

Thinking about what it’s like to be a parent, and how seemingly easy tasks are exponentially more difficult when you have small people in tow have made us super aware of how important all our choices are… from having a shop filled to the brim with really well thought out curated products so there is something for everyone, to having a team who are really knowledgeable and passionate about what they do, to making shopping online easy, personal and speedy…

Lottie Doll Mia

What’s your proudest My Small World moment?

We have always been fiercely proud of our commitment to inclusivity and diversity. Our senior sales assistant, Romilly, is autistic; last summer, she created a sign outside the store so parents of autistic children would know (before they worried about coming into the shop) that we are autistic friendly shop.

The sign detailed some of the things we can do to make a visit easy and stress-free. We were blown away by the response. Images of the sign were seen over 2 million times and widely shared across all social media platforms in all corners of the world. It opened up a conversation about the power of inclusion in retail and has enabled me personally to share my experiences of employing a neurodivergent team and the massive benefits this brings to our workplace.

What was the biggest challenge My Small World faced? How did you overcome it?

As with every single business in the UK, the pandemic has been the single biggest challenge in the 17 years since we opened. When we shut our doors on March 17th 2020 it’s the only time I’ve ever cried at work. We were super lucky that our website was already up and running, but up until that moment, the shop floor had always been the strongest part of our business.

But in true My Small World style, we just wanted to make sure that we were making life easier for all the families with small children who were stuck at home. We thought carefully about what you might need as a parent to stay sane, to inspire, and to inject some joy into a lockdown world. It was also an amazing lesson for me personally – I have always adored the face-to-face interactions of the shop, so learning how to translate our passion for really personal customer service in a new virtual world was fantastic and has set the tone for everything we have done online since.

Our website sales increased by 5400%, and show no signs of slowing down, so now I feel we have become the local toy shop for the UK (when we set up My Small World in 2005, Facebook was a mere 1 year old and social media wasn’t even a thing!). Our biggest breakthrough was partnering with Three Bags Full, our local electric bike delivery company, which meant that we could achieve same-day delivery for all our local customers – better than Amazon!

My Small World toy shop

What product categories do you stock and what are your bestsellers?

We cater to every element of joyful play – from newborn and christening gifts, all classic wooden toys, incredible arts and crafts, and an award-winning book selection. It’s impossible to pick bestsellers, but classic wooden toys never go out of fashion.

What are your favourite toys and why?

I’m always looking for toys that have that extra play value… so they’ll either have lots of potential to keep up with a child’s development (for example, bricks are great for attempting your first ever stack at 11 months old, but they are also amazing when a five-year-old is building a whole city on the carpet), or they will be able to perform in lots of different ways. Green Toys is a great example… amazing as toddler toys, but incredible in the garden or the sandpit, and especially in the bath. The submarine is an absolute classic, and the flat spout means it’s fantastic for rinsing the shampoo out of hair.

crafts at My Small World

What’s next for My Small World?

We are going to carry on making and creating wonderful memories and experiences for families. We are a tiny team, who are full of creativity and joy, and I feel as long as we carry on discovering and partnering with beautiful toymakers who are also passionate about what they do then we can’t go far wrong!

Shop at My Small World

You can find My Small World at 19-21 St Lawrence Street, Bath, BA1 1AN. Or, you can shop online here.

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