Leith Walk Police Box: “Even the story behind it is a little bit wacky,” with Monty Roy

12 Feb, 2020 | Podcast, Season 2

Meet Monty Roy who owns and runs the Leith Walk Police Box. Monty told us all about her journey with the police box, and how it became the wonderful community pop up space that it is now. She also shared how she uses Facebook and Instagram. And I shared some ideas about how to create exciting new content on social media – even when you’re talking about the same subjects over and over again!

Today’s episode is sponsored by the All-in-Whin Marketing Method. I’ve been working hard at updating my signature course for 2020, and it’s now open for registration! Click the big yellow button below to get all the details.

What goes on at the Leith WalkPolice Box

The Leith Walk Police Box has been used for a variety of different things. One of their longest standing pop up customers is a group called Edinburgh Tool Library. You join up, pay what you can and you borrow tools instead of buying them. It’s a really fantastic idea because you save money. You don’t have to buy a drill. You don’t have to buy a workbench. They’ve got everything from sewing machines to gardening equipment and you don’t have to worry about storing them either. The average drill is used for 13 minutes in its lifetime so Monty loves that “It’s a really great way of saving money and also saving the planet as well.”

Another regular customer is a man from Sicily, and his company is called Tipico Sicilian Confectioners. He sells nuts and dried fruits imported from Sicily, but he makes them into the most amazing sweets. It’s fantastic, the nuts are addictive They also have had a wide range of charities, for example The Woodland Trust. They’ve had local campaign groups like Save Leith Walk, which successfully managed to stop the demolition of a 1930s building on Leith walk and creatives such as artists like Stuart Bremner. He did some fantastic artwork on the side of the police box and he also sold some of his merchandise from the box. Other artists have done exhibitions in the police box and they’ve taken part in Leith Late, which is a grassroots arts festival.

 Monty’s in a little club of police box owners and compares it to owning a caravan. One of the other owners worked in the film industry previously. He helped set up a projector in the box so they could take part in some film festivals.

“One of the things that I really love about my business is that it’s very flexible. We’re absolutely open to all manner of ideas. Yeah, sometimes the crazier the better.”

How the Leith Walk Police Box started 

Having a police box and turning it into a community space is such an unusual concept, I was keen to ask how she got started. She spotted one for sale and thought “wouldn’t that be a great thing to own?” Initially she had no idea what she was going to do with it.

Monty’s family are from India and she considered selling Indian street food. After trialling it for a weekend the response was a bit mixed some people were really enthusiastic and other people were really not very receptive at all. She also wasn’t certain if she wanted to commit to this idea. There were two perfectly decent Indian restaurants on the same block, and she was aware she was competing with them. Monty felt it would be better to bring something fresh and new to the street. Not competing with local businesses, but hopefully bringing new customers to the area, increasing the footfall from outside. She decided it would be good to do different things all the time, but wasn’t sure how to make that work.

Monty started by putting a sign on the police box saying that it was a pop up space and it was available for rent and it’s flexible and affordable. Quite a lot of people are now finding them through the Leith Walk Police Box Facebook Page. She also loves going around markets to see what people are doing. She finds people who fit well with the ethos of the police box, then approaches them to see if they’re interested. They also have some charity spaces where they offer the pop up space for free because it’s something she feels really strongly about. They’re also trying to be more environmentally friendly and do business in a way that’s sustainable. I also think that’s really important; businesses have a responsibility to make sure that they are using their influence in a responsible way.

“I was really reluctant even to get onto Facebook, but now I’ve embraced it. I’ve had to embrace it, really, because that’s kind of the way the world works..”

Marketing The Leith Walk Police Box 

Building a community and connecting with existing communities is an important part of marketing and raising awareness for the police box. Monty has also made an effort on Facebook to try and find out what are other things are happening locally and promotes them. She says it’s really helped sharing posts and updates for other people, then they hopefully reciprocate for her. It’s an effective way of marketing because it doesn’t have to cost very much but also you’re reaching people that are local to you. There’s no point spending money, time and effort on targeting people that are not going to be able to use your services.

She admits struggling a lot with social media and asked for my advice on new ways to engage people when talking about the same subjects over and over. This is definitely a challenge I’ve faced too, particularly when teaching people about Instagram. Over the last couple of years, Instagram hasn’t changed very much except for the launch of Instagram TV (IGTV). My approach is to find new ways to say and teach people the same things. Maybe they haven’t heard it before, maybe it didn’t sink in, or maybe they just need a reminder. You don’t always have to have something that’s super shiny and different than everything you’ve posted before because sometimes the continuation of a theme or a topic is relevant to community.

Monty’s content can focus on the people, the relationships and the stories that happen within the community and the people using the box. That’s what’s going to be interesting. It will help potential customers to understand who goes to the box.

As well as the Facebook page, there’s a Leith Walk Police Box Instagram account, and they’re on TwitterI would say that Facebook and Instagram are where they’re going to find the businesses that are doing the things that make the most sense for what they have to offer. Instagram’s Monty’s favourite platform at the moment because you don’t have to say very much. The picture can sometimes say it all, it’s quite nice and easy. She likes using Canva as well, because there are lots of different photo templates and you can just add your text to top of it. This helps for someone scrolling through Instagram, they can very quickly see what your message is.

Monty wanted to know a bit more about IGTV. The main things to note are that videos need to be more than a minute in order for long, so the biggest barrier to using IGTV well is having the time to create more polished content, compared with what you might put up on Instagram Stories. Storytelling content works really well on IGTV and this would be ideal for the Leith Walk Police Box.

Get connected

If you would like to get in touch with Monty you can contact with her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Visit the Leith Walk Police Box website for details on how you could use this wonderful community space.

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