Toyella’s head honcho and dad-of-three Carl Shaw talks to Rebecca Moore about why children’s toys make him tick
After spending 10 years as a graphic designer, followed by 15 years running a web design company, to say Carl Shaw has an eye for detail is an understatement. But it was in 2009 that Carl’s love of detail really took off. His wife, Clare, showed him a magazine cutting of a Bilibo – for those not yet fluent in Swiss toys, it’s an ingenious multifunctional product promising hours of play – and he wanted a couple for the kids. He finally found the toy online, but tentatively entered his card details with a considerable level of uncertainty.
“I felt there had to be a better outlet for shopping for family toys. I didn’t want your typical plastic merchandise, I wanted somewhere I could enjoy browsing and feel confident to buy from.” Carl soon came to the conclusion that he was on a mission impossible, so set up his online toy shopping emporium Toyella (toyella.com), naming the company after his first child, Ella.
Nowadays Carl’s work consists of a lot of playing from his office and home in Worcestershire. All within good reason though. “These toys need assessing, purchasing, pricing, photographing, loading to the website, marketing, suitable packaging and I’m still personally involved in the strategy for each of these steps.”
And of course his three offspring – Ella, 12, Charlie, nine, and Ollie, six – make the perfect toy testers. “Selecting toys for our range is a joy. It’s like shopping and, unlike many men, I actually like shopping,” laughs Carl. “When you become a parent you’re essentially re-exposed to child’s play after a 20-year gap. My re-introduction to toys through my children was a depressing experience until Toyella came along”.
As a child, Carl was never far away from LEGO bricks. “It was an age when the pieces were less sophisticated and results relied on children pushing their creative and imaginative boundaries.” Toyella introduced something similar to the UK called Plus-Plus. It has a single piece design and, like LEGO, originates from Denmark.
And when it comes to playing as a family, the Shaws are suckers for a card game. “We have a pairs matching game called Roundabout which Toyella sourced from Germany. The imagery is really cool and witty,” says Carl. “It always amazes me how good the kids are at remembering the positions of pieces. It reminds you how children’s brains are primed for soaking up information.”
Last year Carl also launched Ace Media (ace.media). “We have created an online service that helps exchange news between PR experts, the media and companies, like Toyella, who want to get their message out there,” explains Carl. But his latest venture is a toy distribution company, Four Toys (four.toys). “Still in its early days, Four Toys adopts the same principles as Toyella except it supplies other toy shops and children’s boutiques. Creating a wider market and brand awareness for these great toy brands will ultimately benefit everyone,” Carl highlights. “I aim to reinvent how the toy industry works!”
And on that note, a dad that loves toys as much as kids do is, to me, the definition of “Daddy Cool”.
toyella.com | Photography: Laura Mott