How one Kid to Kid and Uptown Cheapskate franchisee manages multiple locations and a family.
When you first meet Shannon Unger, you immediately feel her positive energy and excitement for life. As a franchise owner of multiple stores and a mother of five children, ages nine thru 24, Unger is truly an inspiration. Her great attitude and strong dedication to both business and family have been staples at every stage of her professional and personal life.
Originally from Southern California, Unger and her husband moved to Evans, Georgia in 1996 for her husband’s work with John Deere. Unger was working full-time in Corporate Sales and Marketing, frequently putting in more than 80 hours per week. After the birth of her fifth child, Unger wanted to slow down and leave the corporate world forever. She dreamed of having a business of her own with freedom to manage the way she wanted, on her own schedule, and with the ability to make money for herself rather than for someone else. That’s when she began to consider franchising.
The franchise model interested Unger because of the support available to franchisees. Unger’s corporate background of over 20 years provided a lot of sales and marketing knowledge but she felt she lacked experience in running a business and managing back office tasks such as accounting. She then began her search for a franchise opportunity that suited her best.
In 2005, Unger began researching franchises geared toward children. “As a mom of five, I felt I had a lot of experience in that area,” joked Unger. She discovered Kid to Kid, an international franchise that buys and resells new and gently used children’s clothes, toys, baby gear, and maternity wear and became interested in the resale concept. “There was only one Kid to Kid in Georgia at the time. I stopped by and spoke with the owner. I told him I was interested in opening a franchise location and asked if I could work in his store for free over the weekend to get a feel for the place. He agreed, after all, it was free labor! Working in the store and witnessing first-hand what owning a Kid to Kid store was all about was a truly invaluable experience. I knew from that moment that this was what I wanted to do,” she said.
Within two months she had signed up to open her first Kid to Kid store in Evans, Georgia. In February of 2006, Unger officially opened her doors.
Unger put in many long hours during that first year. She remembers telling her husband to give her 18 months to get her store up and running profitably, and then she would scale back her time to working ‘mommy hours’ while her children were in school. It ended up only taking her nine months. “I put in long hours getting the store established and making sure my staff was fully trained,” said Unger. “My store is successful because of the dedication of my staff and the way they care about our customers.”
Happy with the success of her Kid to Kid store, Unger wasn’t thinking about opening more than one franchise location. However, a discussion three years later altered that thought. “In 2009, I was at the franchise’s annual meeting and speaking with Shauna Sloan, Founder of Kid to Kid. She was talking about their new franchise concept, Uptown Cheapskate, which buys and resells name brand, fashionable clothes and accessories for teens and young adults. I instantly became interested.”
Unger decided she wanted to open an Uptown Cheapskate and became the second franchisee to sign up. Then on an early morning in February 2010, everything changed for Unger and her family. Unger’s husband of 13 years suddenly passed away from a heart attack. “When my husband died, everything just stopped. I ended up taking almost an entire year off to be with my family and to get back on my feet.”
Toward the end of 2010, Unger re-emerged with renewed energy and focus, and began the search for a location for her second store, Uptown Cheapskate.
“I found a great location that was fairly inexpensive that would accommodate both Kid to Kid and Uptown Cheapskate, side by side. I really felt that having both stores next to each other would be beneficial even though the clientele is different. Kid to Kid focuses on moms with young children and Uptown Cheapskate caters to fashion-conscious teens and adults, yet there is significant cross-over. We have found that many mothers who buy and sell at Kid to Kid end up shopping at Uptown Cheapskate for themselves or for their older children.”
In February 2011, Unger eventually moved her Kid to Kid store to the new Evans, Georgia location and opened her first Uptown Cheapskate next to it two months later. Her theory about the synergy of side-by-side stores proved correct. Sales for Kid to Kid increased and there was a huge amount of cross-shopping. This strategic move helped Unger take home the coveted 2013 Store of the Year award for Uptown Cheapskate, and the 2013 Top Performer for Used Sales award for Kid to Kid.
Falling in love with the high energy and cool vibe of Uptown Cheapskate, Unger wanted to only focus on opening more Uptown Cheapskate locations. However, because of Unger’s success with her current stores, she received a call from BaseCamp Franchising, parent company of Kid to Kid and Uptown Cheapskate, asking if she would be interested in taking over ownership of a struggling Kid to Kid store in Aiken, South Carolina. Unable to turn down the offer, Unger agreed and opened her second Kid to Kid location, third store total, in January 2013.
Later in 2013, Unger spotted another great location in Augusta, Georgia that could house both an Uptown Cheapskate and a Kid to Kid store. She went on to open her third Kid to Kid in December 2013 and her second Uptown Cheapskate in January 2014, making her a franchise owner of five stores all together. Not one to slow down, Unger is now looking at opening two more Uptown Cheapskate stores in 2014.
Along with all the successes experienced with owning five stores, Unger says the best part of being a Kid to Kid and Uptown Cheapskate franchise owner is she gets to do what she loves, while being there for her family. “I love my life! I get to work with great people and help out the community at the same time. It’s fun to provide a service for families and individuals who are looking for a great deal on fashionable clothes. And the items we don’t sell we donate to local charities. It just feels good. As a franchise owner, I get to set my own hours. If I have to leave early to attend my daughter’s school performance, I can. When I was in the corporate world, I was a workaholic. Now, I still work hard but rarely do I work more than 30 hours a week, allowing me to spend more time with my family and fiancé,” Unger proudly admitted.
For those thinking about opening a Kid to Kid or Uptown Cheapskate franchise, Unger says one must be willing to put in the time and effort at the beginning, and be present in their stores training and supporting their staff. Only after a store is established and the staff is fully trained can an owner scale back a bit.
BaseCamp Franchising has assisted Unger from finding her first location to providing ongoing operational support to all her stores. “When I was new to franchising the BaseCamp Franchising staff helped find my first location, provided bookkeeping assistance, offered extensive training, and assisted with funding, which can sometimes be the toughest part when you are first starting out,” she explains.
BaseCamp Franchising provides storeowners access to comparative reports so owners can see how well other stores are performing. “The BaseCamp reports are very transparent and open. We all know how the other stores are doing, which helps us benchmark our own store as well as cheer each other on or offer support. There is definitely some good-natured competition going on and I think it helps us all.”
Owning several stores comes with its own set of benefits and challenges. “The systems set by BaseCamp make owning multiple stores feasible,” says Unger. “Plus, by owning several locations, I’m providing many jobs to those in my community and that’s really important to me.”
One of the biggest challenges in owning multiple franchise locations is time management. “My biggest challenge is making sure I give each store the time and attention they need,” Unger confided. “I feel that my strengths as a business owner include my ability to calm everyone down and prioritize what’s important. I’m a very positive person by nature and act as a cheerleader for my stores. I notice that when I don’t spend enough time in each store, our sales suffer. My goal this year is to spend more time with each of my stores, giving them the attention they deserve.”
“Overall the thing that I enjoy the most about being a Kid to Kid and Uptown Cheapskate owner is the friendship and support from the other store owners. These owners are great people who are just trying to do what’s best for them and their family. It’s so important to have that connection because you never feel alone. You just can’t put a price on that.”
– Jenny Burgess
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