Buying a business isn’t something most people do on a gut feeling, but a pair of Aurora-area franchisees did just that and turned their love of resale shopping into a thriving business.
Miriam and Todd Frick own three resale clothing franchises including two Kid to Kid franchises and an Uptown Cheapskate franchise. At Kid to Kid, parents buy and sell gently used children’s things at discounted prices, while creating strong profit margins for the franchise owner. At Uptown Cheapskate, teens and adults can find name brand clothing, including the hottest brands, at a fraction of retail prices.
The Fricks began their entrepreneurial journey almost eight years ago by purchasing an existing Kid to Kid franchise that had been operating for more than 17 years. They expanded by opening a second Kid to Kid location five years later, and this year diversified into the Uptown Cheapskate brand by purchasing a third store to serve the growing number of teens, college students, and adults looking for bargains.
Trusting an Instinct
The Frick’s foray into the children’s clothing business came about because they needed a change in their lives. Like many people across the United States, they felt the squeeze of the recession back in 2008. Todd had been a youth pastor who had left to try to earn a better living for his family in sales. Miriam, meanwhile, was a hairdresser by trade.
But with nobody making purchases of what Todd was selling – things like cars, real estate, and windows – and nobody doing any hiring at the time, things were looking bleak for the couple and their four children. The Fricks struggled financially as Todd tried to make his way in a new career at the worst possible time.
“I kind of felt like we needed to go into business for ourselves and work together,” Miriam said during a recent phone call from the family’s home in Aurora.
With no real business experience, the Fricks were drawn to franchising. She started researching various franchise opportunities, none of which included retail, when fate intervened. One day, while shopping at her local Kid to Kid store, a store employee slipped a flyer into her bag.
“The flyer said ‘Our store needs a new mommy.’ “So that’s how I found out the store was for sale,” she recalled.
Miriam had been a long-time customer of Kid to Kid and loved being able to buy good-as-new clothing for her kids at big discounts. “It made a lot of sense to sell the clothes the kids had grown out of and buy new things another kid had worn a few times,” Miriam said.
Because she already loved the concept of the store, Miriam brought the flyer home to discuss with Todd. “Saving money was very important to us, so it made sense that it would be important to other people too,” Todd said. “It just felt right in our gut to buy this business,” said Miriam. That instinct proved to be a life-changing one for the Frick family.
A Growing System of Support
Before making an offer to buy the store, the Fricks consulted with BaseCamp Franchising, parent company of Kid to Kidand Uptown Cheapskate. After speaking with the BaseCamp team and talking to existing franchise owners, the Fricks were convinced they had stumbled onto a unique opportunity. “Everyone we talked to raved about the support provided by the franchisor and the camaraderie among the other franchisees. I knew going in that we would get the training and support we needed to make it a success,” said Todd.
After completing the purchase of their first Kid to Kid store in 2008, the Fricks went through two weeks of intensive New Owner Training to learn the systems and processes of running a Kid to Kid. They were trained on all aspects of management, including front-end and back-end operations.
A few months ago, the Fricks attended New Owner Training for the second time – this time for their Uptown Cheapskate franchise.
“We learned everything we’d need to know, and I couldn’t believe how organized everything was,” said Miriam, “The training courses now, as compared to eight years ago, have evolved and improved so much.”
As first-time entrepreneurs, the Fricks felt grateful to have so much training and support at their fingertips. “It would be very difficult to figure this business out on our own,” Miriam admitted, “It’s so reassuring to have a franchise office that provides best practices and helps us to continually improve.”
“From the beginning, the Basecamp team was just a phone call away. We had a lot of questions, especially in our first year, and they were always happy to help us. Being able to pick up the phone and call other franchise owners, people who are going through the exact same thing you are, and who are happy to assist you, was also extremely helpful,”Miriam said. “We have a great network of communication with the other owners and we’re like a giant family.”
The Fricks agreed: “This is a franchise that is really driven by the owners.”
Managing the Managers
Franchising has helped the Fricks leave their financial struggles behind, but it took a lot of hard work to get there. We put in some long hours the first year, but they were fun hours and we were together,” said Miriam.
“There were new challenges almost every day, but I liked what I was doing a lot more than working for someone else,” said Todd. Miriam credits the franchise systems, like the Management Tools and the Basecamp Training Portal, with making training great staff members easier and more consistent. With the Training Portal, for example, she is able to teach a new hire the fundamentals of the computers, store layout, and job expectations through interactive videos and quizzes – a benefit she attributes to saving her and her store managers significant amounts of precious time.
Like most retail businesses, the Fricks have busy seasons where they put a lot of time in their stores. Other times of the year, they are able to pull back, work from home, or even take time off and let their managers run the day-to-day operations of the stores. With four children at home, ranging from a first grader to a recent high school graduate, the Fricks have had to work to find a balance between owning multiple successful businesses and a busy family life.
“We love having the flexibility to go to the kids’ games and events,” Miriam offered, and Todd agreed. “I would never go back to working for someone else, that’s for sure.”
A balanced family life is a big part of the reason the Fricks have been diligent about developing good managers and staff. Having multiple stores means they can’t be involved too heavily in the daily operations of the stores, Miriam said. She likens herself and Todd to conductors, where they manage the store managers who manage the staff.
“We follow the Kid to Kid system, hire good people and teach them how to use the franchise tools,” Miriam said. “In turn our managers do a great job of providing structure, management and support for our team members in all three stores. This has made our lives much easier and has allowed us to expand our business and income, while continuing to make our family the top priority.”
Recession Proof Growth
Above all else, the Fricks are happy to be in an industry they term ‘recession proof.’
“Now that the economy is rebounding, our business continues to succeed,” said Miriam. “I’m not going to lie to you—when the economy tanked, we were really scared. But we found that children will always be growing and always be in need of new clothing.” T
he trend toward cutting down on waste has helped propel store sales and the Fricks believe they have just broken the surface of the growth and profit that is ahead for their business. “We haven’t even reached near the potential of what our stores are capable of,” Miriam said.
When asked about their secrets of success, the Fricks are quick to give credit to their ‘fantastic franchise family’. “If you follow the system and ask for help, the support staff at Basecamp is tremendous and has been absolutely vital to our success,” said Miriam.
Miriam and Todd often think about what could have been, “We just feel so lucky to have stumbled onto this opportunity and to have had this once-in-a-lifetime chance to build a successful business and change the future of our family so much.”