Monkee’s, the upscale women’s boutique franchise with an unusual name and rich history, is ready to expand its reach across the United States.
With its eye-catching logo, Monkee’s has been a Southern staple for more than 20 years — withstanding the test of time and technology. The franchise brand is synonymous with personalized customer service and cutting-edge designer fashion making it a perfect fit for entrepreneurs with an eye for style and success.
Fashioning a Franchise
In 1995, the original Monkee’s store opened for business as a small shoe store, offering designer footwear to the fashion-starved city of Wilmington, North Carolina. Founder DeeDee Shaw affectionately named the business after the phrase her mother called her children — her “bunch of monkeys.” Girly, inviting, and cozy — Shaw designed the boutique store to feel like a well-appointed living room.
“I would love to have one of these,” Brenda Maready, then a loyal friend and customer, recalls saying to Shaw.
Less than a year later, Maready, now co-owner of Monkee’s Franchising LLC., opened her own Monkee’s boutique in Winston-Salem. Together, the two took Monkee’s from a shoe store to a full-blown boutique carrying designer clothes, accessories, bags and shoes. Instead of shopping at big department stores or online, customers traveled to Monkee’s for an intimate shopping experience like no other. Some out-of-town customers to the store even planned vacations to allow for a future visit to Monkee’s.
After realizing the growing potential of the store, the pair began to franchise the concept. The Monkee’s footprint has now extended beyond the Tar Heel State with 27 stores in nine states.
“The drive to expand comes from the interest of other people,” explains Shaw. “There is a demand to meet.”
The growth plan calls for at least 10 new franchise locations per year nationwide.
The Monkee’s Franchising, LLC team has a full staff at the corporate headquarters in Winston-Salem, North Carolina — from operations to marketing — to meet the needs of franchisees. Additionally, the team partners with an interior design firm and real estate company to assist franchisees.
Leading the expansion launch is Troy Taylor, Vice President of Franchise Development, who brings more than 30 years of experience as a franchisor and franchise developer.
“We have everything we need to quickly expand across the country,” adds Taylor. “For Monkee’s, this is a healthy growth rate, which allows the company to focus on quality franchisees who are committed to following Monkee’s highly successful proven system.”
The all-in startup investment for a Monkee’s location starts at $200,550. Individual stores are generally between 1,500 to 1,800 square feet, which are much easier to manage and operate, and require less build-out cost, fewer employees and less rent. A typical Monkee’s boutique shop can be operated with only 3-5 employees.
Style of Support
“Monkee’s has perfected operations and support systems to provide all the ingredients that would lead our candidates to profitability,” says Perry Ludy, Vice President of Operations for Monkee’s. “Our franchisees are able to work within their passion. They get the challenge of running a complete business at a relatively low cost of entry as compared to other concepts.”
The Monkee’s system assists franchisees in starting up their boutique from the grand opening and beyond. Corporate provides on-going operational support to help each owner reach their business goals. Marketing and advertising services are also a mainstay of the Monkee’s system and include social media, email marketing and website services. One of the most important aspects of the Monkee’s secret to success is the training franchisees receive on how to implement the brand’s signature customer service.
Monkee’s also has an established Franchise Advisory Council which allows for owners to present changes and improvements for corporate to consider for the stores.
The company sets itself apart from other retail concepts by giving franchisees flexibility to customize their store to what speaks to them. Cookie cutter is out of the question.
“We break the franchise mold when it comes to individuality,” explains Maready, who, aside from the signature “M” and the Monkee’s color scheme and shopping bags, doesn’t expect or want every boutique to look the same on the inside.
Even store locations can vary, from a shopping center to the unexpected. One store recently opened in a historic fire station; another set up shop in an old bank. The Monkee’s real estate team guides owners through the entire process, including market research and area demographics, in selecting a protected area and site for stores, negotiation, as well as store design.
Inventory is another aspect where owners are allowed to let their individuality shine. Every Monkee’s store does not have the exact same items in it. Monkee’s understands that buying trends vary by market and encourages franchisees to purchase merchandise that will sell successfully within their market. Monkee’s corporate buyer accompanies new franchisees on trips to market to assist with inventory buys. The corporate team also leverages sales data across the system to identify brands and items that are best sellers.
What remains consistent throughout the Monkee’s franchise system is the highly personalized service on which Shaw and Maready have built their reputation.
“When I first opened Monkee’s, I fulfilled my dream of owning a business,” says Shaw. “Now what thrills me even more is the ability to turn others with a goal of owning a chic and trendy boutique into entrepreneurs in their own right.”
Each year DeeDee and Brenda meet with people, from full-time mothers to corporate executives, who have one common dream: to own a retail business. Current franchisees include young mothers, empty nesters, men, husband/wife teams, mother/daughter teams, and best friends.
“Millennials and baby boomers have both been successful franchise owners; if they find the right location, have a great sense of style and love connecting with others,” adds Maready.
No matter the level of experience in retail or entrepreneurship, the brand is ready to welcome the next bunch of Monkee’s to swing from the branches of success.