Kid to Kid Franchise Owner Amy Gustin Shares Her Story
Resale clothing franchise helps former financial analyst fulfill dream of owning a trusted community business and achieving work/life balance
Kid to Kid Store of the Year franchisee Amy Gustin dreamed of owning a local ice cream shop as a little girl. Childhood dreams sometimes fall to the back burner as we grow up, however, and Amy spent the bulk of her career thus far as a financial analyst. When she became a mom, her dreams of entrepreneurship returned, and she knew she wanted to open a business that the local community would love, as well as provide her with work/life balance.
After researching several business ideas and franchise opportunities, Amy discovered Kid to Kid. A fan of shopping resale herself, the corporate and business side of Amy also found the solid business model and strong support from Basecamp to be very appealing.
Kid to Kid is approaching three decades of buying and selling the best things that kids outgrow, attracting consumers from all economic levels, because most parents would love the opportunity to save money on clothing for their kids. It’s a concept that does well in all sorts of economies and one that helps establish us as a go-to resource for families.
We recently sat down with Amy to discuss her journey to becoming a successful Kid to Kid owner.
What were you doing before you became a Kid to Kid franchisee, and what led you to explore ownership?
I had a corporate job as a financial analyst. It was a team environment and a lot of analytical type work.
Since a young age, I was interested in a business that had something to do with the local community. My initial dream was to own an ice cream shop like the one I grew up going to. As I grew up, I realized that an ice cream shop on the lake was seasonal and not profitable. I focused on going to school and getting my degree and master’s degree with a focus on finance. It was just the right thing for my mindset. What steered the train differently for me was having a child. My husband also worked all sorts of times, even on the weekends. So, there was a lot on me taking care of the family and getting my daughter from daycare, making dinner and getting her to bed. That’s when I started questioning, do I want to do that for the rest of my life? Even though I liked my job, I couldn’t see doing that for another 20, 25, 35 years. I started thinking about my daughter going to an after-school care and me not getting home until dinner time every night and I didn’t want that. What did I want to do? Did I want to work part time in my corporate job? By talking to other moms I realized I wanted more flexibility. I decided I needed to make that happen.
At that time, I was loving garage sales and resales and the hunt of the find. It’s amazing. Why would I buy full price for something? And the person that’s selling benefits as well. I wanted to focus on reselling kids stuff. I naturally thought mom and pop, going back to that idea of the mom and pop ice cream shop from when I was a kid. I began to research the resale market in Ft. Wayne. There weren’t many mom and pops, and I knew that was for a reason. It’s actually hard to do a mom and pop resale business and gain the community’s trust. I went into a local resale chain store. I wasn’t a heavy shopper there. It was an OK place, but it just wasn’t for me. But they were getting a lot of foot traffic, and I started crunching the numbers and I knew they were doing well. They’ve been in town about 20 years, and they always have long lines of people selling to them. It made sense to me that I had to invest in a franchise…it’s proven and it’s trusted. That’s when I found Kid to Kid.
I talked to Kid to Kid and everything was perfect. It felt right. They have great fixtures, great flooring…just a great feel to the store which was what I was looking for. I wanted somewhere that didn’t just make money, but somewhere that I felt good about and somewhere customers would feel good and happy about. Kid to Kid is known for being an upscale resale place. It has a very nice atmosphere with nice products and is about being the best. And I grilled them extensively. It really made sense and hit the spot. It was the right thing.
I did take a step back and look at other franchises in other areas, from house cleaning to gyms, etc. I didn’t feel the potential. I felt it was more they were just trying to push the franchise as many people as they could rather than it being the right fit. And there was more risk with those businesses. I ended up deciding that Kid to Kid was the right place for me. It was actually a pretty easy decision, even though it was such a big decision.
What does Kid to Kid provide for your community? How does it help parents?
There are a lot of happy, appreciative customers that come in to Kid to Kid every day and they tell us that. It’s very heartwarming to know that we are making a difference for people within the community. It provides them with options. They get a lot of different brands all in one place and a lot of different styles and price points. It’s easy for them to shop. In our market we have different big box stores and maybe some small boutiques, but if it were me, I wouldn’t want to go from place to place looking around. With Kid to Kid they can get all that in one place. We’ve got boutique names and big names. We’ve got low prices and high prices. It just depends on what comes in and what they want. For customers there is the ease of shopping and the nice, clean environment. I take a lot of pride in the store making it the best I can make it. We keep it clean and organized and full of things, including new products, which gives them an upscale feel. They are also saving a lot of money on clothing, shoes and toys.
My goal is for them to shop us first and see if we have it. I’ve asked customers on social media to tell us what they are looking for and I’ve gotten hundreds of responses. We’ve got 80 to 90 percent of what they are looking for. Kid to Kid is also a great place to sell to, so if they don’t want to have a garage sale or give it away they can make a little extra money or use it for store credit. For most of them they also like the thrill of the hunt. We have many people come in frequently because they want to see our changing inventory.
A lot of franchise owners donate unwanted items to charity. Do you do that as well at your store?
Yes. We donate any times that we cannot take from the customer. We have multiple fostering organizations that come to pick those up and have also worked with a women’s center. We also have a Salvation Army that will pick up items from us.
Even though you had significant business experience, you had never run a business before? How important is the support of Basecamp and how do they help you?
The support of Kid to Kid is huge. They are very caring and I certainly appreciate that. It’s also about the skills that you bring and how hard you are willing to work.
When I was opening the store, it was especially important to have a representative from Kid to Kid help me out. They worked with the contractor to make sure that the buildout fit the Kid to Kid specs and answered questions that the local contractor had…everything from outlets to local codes which I would have struggled with. But with the support of Kid to Kid they were able to work through those things quickly. They also helped pair me up with a realtor so I was able to find just the right place. They constantly let me bounce ideas back and forth. They also have a manual that makes it super easy to get everything we needed to open the store. Kid to Kid also provides guidelines on inventory and when we should be doing markdowns. There is no way I could have made my own store as nice a store as Kid to Kid. There are also monthly support calls. In addition to that, the owners are really close knit. We have multiple Facebook groups where we can talk to other owners and corporate.
Has owning a Kid to Kid allowed you to have the work/life balance you were seeking?
The ultimate dreams of being a business owner are not going to happen in the first year. I put in a lot of hard work up front. I take pride in my store and my work. At first, I didn’t bring that money back home, but I was ok with that. My store just kept taking off with all the hard work the staff and I put into it. Over time, my staff has gotten into the swing of things and I am able to step back. Now I can focus more on behind-the-scenes things. I have a lot of flexibility now. For instance, this summer my kids were at home with me instead of at daycare. So, I had lots of summer days where I just worked part time mostly from home. Everything is set up where you can work from afar. From my cell phone I can see what our sales are for the day, who’s working, how busy it is and if they need help. I can also check emails coming in from vendors or marketing or Kid to Kid. Now that it is a busier time, my staff is stretched a little thinner, and it’s really good for me to be in store to help out and to ease the burden from them. It is a balance.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I see myself continuing to have flexibility in my life and to be able to balance my store and my family. So, to work as needed to get the task done and keep my store growing. There is always more that could be done, but I want to get to a point where I feel very satisfied with the store so that I can pick up my kids from school at 2:30 and work as needed remotely. I’m always available to my staff and they know and appreciate that, so at any time they can reach out to me. I expect the store to be a well-known trusted brand for the community. And I want to be able to live out my dreams of not just family time, but more time for myself, which I believe is important to be in a good place.
Why would you recommend Kid to Kid looking to an entrepreneur looking for a company to own?
Kid to Kid is so much more solid than a lot of businesses. Everyone needs shoes and toys, and if you can create the store to be something the community goes to and trusts, they are going to keep coming back and tell their friends about it. Also, the support of Kid to Kid is really helpful for anyone who hasn’t owned a business before. It is priceless to get so much guidance and support, whether it’s in marketing or processes or the hardware and fixtures of the store or software and technical support. And the people at Kid to Kid care. They really do. They want to know how you are doing. They want you to succeed. At Kid to Kid we count on each other and it really is nice.