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Not Just Fun and Games

Play N Trade's franchise model incorporates a business-like devotion to fun and games.

It takes a certain kind of person to start a Play N Trade franchise. Jimmy Kindred, executive vice president of franchise development for the retail videogame franchise, is exactly that person. But he's not what you might imagine; he hasn't spent his life's waking hours glued to a TV or a computer screen, refusing food or water for fear that it might interrupt Link's quest to rescue Princess Zelda. No, Kindred is first and foremost a businessman, and, despite his franchise company's devotion to the hardcore gaming set, he admits it is entrepreneurial spirit that gets the most points in this game. "Early on, our franchisees were gamers; now they're definitely more businesspeople," says Kindred, 37. "We happen to sell games, but it's the business of gaming that we're in."

So if it wasn't an ardent love of gaming that inspired him to start franchising the now 250-unit Play N Trade, what was it? Years earlier, in a land far, far away (Mesa, Ari., approximately 400 miles from his current headquarters in Newport Beach, Calif.), Kindred founded wireless communications franchise Yakety Yak Wireless with a college buddy. Their success spurred them to look for new ventures they could develop through T-Street, the umbrella company they created to house the Yakety Yak brand. That's when they discovered Play N Trade, a small Colorado chain of videogame stores, and decided its similarly techie consumers would make it a perfect franchising partner.

Today, it's that same love of business that takes Play N Trade franchisees to the next level of an $18 billion gaming world, Kindred says. "Having a franchise owner [in the stores] really makes a difference. A lot of the videogame purchases are made by mothers and fathers who may not have a clue. We need them to feel comfortable in our stores."

As it turned out, franchising Play N Trade was, indeed, a winning move: With more than 500 franchisees waiting to get started, a new store design that doubles inventory and franchise-wide sales projected at $85 million for 2009, Kindred's game is far from over.

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This article was originally published in the March 2009 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Not Just Fun and Games.

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