This New Mom Never 'Expected' to Find the Perfect Business Model
Franchise: Once Upon A Child and Style Encore, sister brands that sell gently used baby clothing and gear, and stylish resale clothing.
Franchise Location(s): Mandeville, La.
Number of years in business/No. of employees: Tracie Grubb helped her mother, Cyndi Seruntine, open a Once Upon A Child store six years ago; the two partnered on a store with its sister brand, Style Encore, in 2013. There are 16 employees at Once Upon a Child and 10 at Style Encore.
Initial investment: $300,000
Seven years ago, Grubb had a new baby, and was on the hunt for two large baby gates. "Baby gates were pretty pricey at the time," Grubb shared by email, "so I was trying to find a good deal. My mom and I had been to many different stores that day, but I wasn’t finding anything." On a store clerk's recommendation, Grubb drove the two of them a considerable distance to a Once Upon A Child.
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"When we walked inside, we were in complete awe," Grubb recollected in the email. "It was a resale store, but it was organized and clean … and smelled good. When we left the store, my mom said, 'We need to do this. We need a store like this back home.' The next thing I know, she was scheduled for a Discovery Day and we were looking for space to open a store."
Upon doing their due diligence, the mother-daughter duo discovered that the parent company, Winmark Corp., had more than 1,130 stores (up to 1,154 today) throughout North America and had been franchising resale concepts -- five, to date-- for almost three decades. "They know what they’re doing," Grubb wrote. "We both knew the cost of keeping up with growing kids, but we knew people are always looking to buy and sell things as their kids grow up."
Because neither woman had ever opened a retail store before, they found the franchise model attractive, and Once Upon A Child the perfect community fit. The franchisor, Grubb also found, was very helpful with build-out and technical support, freeing her to focus on hiring and answering customer needs. She especially liked Winmark's proprietary point of sale software that is customized for each brand.
But just one store wasn't enough for the mother/daughter partnership. That's why, in 2013, they opened a sister brand, Style Encore, a resale store for stylish clothing. The two women found that their two brands enabled them to work together well; Grubb's two sisters have also begun working in the stores.
As for working with her mother: "We clearly define each other's roles by focusing on each of our strengths," Grubb says. "I handle operations; one sister takes care of administration work, and my other sister does our marketing. Our mom works hard on the back end of the business, making sure we are reaching our goals.
"We work as a team; working together as a family has been key to our success."
Also key to their success is customer service. Grubb is a former Southwest Airlines flight attendant, and, she boasts, "They are clearly the number-one customer service company in the world. They know exactly how to 'wow' a customer, more than any other business I've encountered.
"Their training was pretty intense, so I took a lot of what I learned there and implemented it into our stores. We encourage our employees to create an experience that our customers will enjoy, so they want to come back and shop again."