In an interview with 1851 Franchise, the Founder and CEO of Tot Squad shares her thoughts
1. What do you see as the biggest change that is going to impact the franchise industry going forward?
Franchises are vital to the business world, but I think we will see more franchises that are oriented towards women and families. Women hold the purchasing power in most households and I think more businesses that cater to women, families and improving their quality of life will emerge in the franchise industry. Also, I think franchising is going to have to rebrand itself a bit and demonstrate its relevance to Millennials as a true form of entrepreneurship.
2. What do you do to help your brand stand out from the competition?
Tot Squad is in a unique position because there are no national competitors and very few on a regional level. Our challenge is not only building a brand, but creating an industry. Raising our target customers’ awareness that a solution to their baby gear problems even exist is one of our greatest challenges. We built this brand locally (in Los Angeles) and placed ourselves in other strategic markets (New York City, Washington DC, San Diego) to build awareness. Although we don’t employ a PR agency, we have been very fortunate to have been featured in several high profile publications that have helped us gain brand awareness. Rather than rely on the uniqueness of our business model alone, we have highlighted my ascent as a female entrepreneur, as a young franchisor and as an expert in the car seat safety industry, in various pitches and stories. And, I never, ever stop hustling (for my business) - you never know who you will meet or the connections you will make through them.
3. What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell myself to take a little more time for self-care: the burning desire to “do it all” yourself is a recipe for disaster. I would also tell myself that it’s worth investing in the right people - sometimes this comes at a greater expense, but in the long run, it pays for itself in spades. Lastly, celebrate (and document!) every small milestone because one day you will look back and want to remember the journey.
4. What advice would you give to someone deciding to own a franchise?
Although you are given the tools and the model for a business, you are still starting your own business and that takes guts, determination and patience. Because the benefit of a franchise is having that support system, take advantage of it and then make it your own. Understand your market, your customer and what appeals to them. The franchise model isn’t as much a prescription as it is a blueprint. Know your strengths and weaknesses, so you can hire for the areas that you aren’t as confident about. Lastly, remember that your business is part of a bigger community that you have to constantly nurture. Partnerships and referrals are essential in your business circle.
5. What’s an innovative company (that’s not in franchise space) that you like and you think franchising can learn from?
I really admire Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx - here is this bootstrapping entrepreneur who started with nothing and is now a billionaire who has committed half her wealth to empowering other women. Her idea for Spanx was completely innovative, although there is absolutely nothing high tech about it. I love the idea of finding solutions to everyday problems. Sometimes it’s the small things that can really empower women!
6. What are some things you like to do in your spare time?
I watch a lot of movies, because my husband is an up-and-coming director, but we also love to entertain friends and family. I have a lot of energy and need a lot of outlets! I am also very involved with the Junior League - it’s rewarding to be part of a community of amazing women aspiring to do good things in the world. Lastly, I have a secret love of going to water parks because they are one of the few places where you have to put your phone away and disconnect from your email, texting and social media for a little while!!!