Tot Squad began as an idea that Jennifer Beall Saxton had while attending business school at Northwestern University. She was looking for ideas that would help improve the work/life balance for busy parents. Saxton’s business plan went on to win first place in the Kellogg Cup Business Plan Competition and she was recognized with the Student of the Year Award in Entrepreneurship. She officially started the company in 2010 and today, Tot Squad is a trusted partner of retailers, stroller and car seat brands, has served thousands of happy parents, and continues to bring new and enhanced services to the forefront.
Why do you love franchising?
I love how franchising is not just about my own success, but that it is the direct result of fulfilling other people’s dreams for success. I created Tot Squad with the purpose of giving moms (and dads) a family-friendly, flexible career opportunity that has true potential for wealth creation. I love the idea of partnership with our franchisees and expanding this concept through the passion and energy of others, like me, who genuinely want to help busy parents in their communities.
What is the top challenge facing young people in franchising?
Franchising has a branding problem among millennials. A lot of my MBA peers want to start, invest in, or work for more “sexy” or high-tech start ups, whereas franchising seems to be regarded as an old-fashioned way of doing business. In fact, I have found it to be challenging to find investors and angel groups who are even willing to look at a deal in the franchising space. Fortunately, David McKinnon, a great franchise industry guru, is leading my current round of funding from his venture firm TriniD. It's amazing he was willing to take a chance on an emerging brand.
The International Franchise Association is also taking the rights steps to combat this image problem by recently establishing the NextGen program to recruit the next generation of franchise leaders and help put them on the map. The reality is that franchising was and is a phenomenal business model that allows you to build and scale a national brand with minimal capital investment.
A last challenge worth mentioning is that the insurance industry has been trailing the pace of change within the franchise world. Insurance companies were forced to try to classify our stroller cleaning business within pre-existing categories: a dry cleaner, a car wash, a carpet cleaner, etc. Fortunately, we were able to find a great provider who could create a policy customized to our needs and will also support our franchisees. I’m happy to say, we have been claim free for 5 years (knock on wood!), but it took me far too long to solve that puzzle.
What is your dream goal/position?
My dream is to build Tot Squad into a global brand, to employ the largest team of car seat safety professionals in the world, and become the undisputed leader in child gear safety, cleaning and repairs. I am working on developing a national partnership with a “big box” baby store to create in-store Tot Squad service centers, similar to Geek Squad in Best Buy. My hope is that such a partnership would position us for a successful exit in the future.I envision my “I’ve made it!” moment as standing on stage in front of hundreds of Tot Squad franchisees, telling them stories of how I, too, started out cleaning car seats covered in vomit! Success for me is being able to give back to the community by motivating and energizing those who share my passion for helping busy parents.
To connect with Jennifer Beall on LinkedIn, click here.