I’ve been asked a pair of questions recently that I thought would be good to share here. The first I’ve been asked just once and I was surprised by my answer. The second question I’ve been asked several times since beginning this adventure, and I expect I will be asked it many more times in the days ahead. So, maybe writing my answers here will be useful to those would-be askers.
Question 1+: Are you proud of yourself for what you have done and where you are going?
My outplacement services coach (more on my need for outplacement coming) asked me this as we were closing our sessions together and as I was deep into preparing the boutique for opening. She said after observing my path from newly laid off to building out our store that she was proud of me, and she wanted to know if I was proud of myself. In that moment I allowed myself some time for self-assessment and realized that I had never stopped to think of how I viewed what I was doing. It all just felt so natural and like a destiny I was relieved to finally be able to pursue.
More than anything the predominant emotion I can identify with is gratitude.
I am grateful for my amazing husband Chris and my family, our friends and all the contacts and future customers we’ve met and who all are supportive, encouraging and filled with contagious enthusiasm. It’s so exciting to be on this journey with all of you.
Question 2+: How did you choose to open a boutique and why the Scout & Molly’s family?
These questions are about the details of the journey, and along the way there were many events and people within them that deserve my direct or indirect gratitude. Warning: shout-outs ahead!
For 18 years, I worked at a nonprofit group of student lending and higher education services organizations. Moving through sales, product development, communications, business development and marketing roles, my time at this group provided opportunities to gain a lot of skills and perspective, and the additional benefits of some very generous retirement contributions and a fully-paid MBA from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
When Congress and the President passed and signed legislation that eliminated the federal program driving its core business, ECMC Group made significant organizational changes, and the marketing department I was leading as Director of Marketing was also eliminated, along with my position. I was very invested in the group’s mission and its aspirations so it was a disappointment to be removed from its future, but I understood the decision and so was well-positioned to move on in my own fate. (Still, I joke that if I ever welcome a shop dog into the boutique I’ll name him or her RIF for the acronym used in the business world for lay offs or “Reduction In Force”.)
ECMC Group’s executive team and Board of Directors were gracious in their support and provided as part of my severance package a subscription to outplacement services at national firm Lee Hecht Harrison. Since I had in the last year of my employment relocated from Minnesota to a telecommuting role (and once-or twice-monthly returns to headquarters) from our new home in Orlando, Florida, I was now looking at professionally re-establishing myself in a community where I had very few connections and a career that no longer had a growing industry with which to identify. My coach and the team at Lee Hecht Harrison provided a lot of wisdom and opportunity to network and re-learn how to meet new people.
At one of our Lee Hecht Harrison networking meetings, an invited speaker presented information about franchise opportunities. I had never considered looking into this possibility. What would that mean? A fast food outlet? A car wash? But because I was finding few leads for candidates without experience in time-share, hospitality, defense or other local-industry heavyweights, the FranNet broker made sense and a franchise looked like an efficient route to envisioning a new future.
With FranNet’s tools and help, my husband and I assessed our risk tolerance, entrepreneurial aptitude and operational preferences. Our broker discussed with us seven or eight franchise systems that were available in the Orlando area and that favorably matched with our profile. We narrowed this list to three (a children’s gym, a staffing firm and an in-home elder care service) and conducted some superficial due diligence. In the meantime, our broker became aware of the Scout & Molly’s system and presented it to us. Love at first sight is a worthy cliché for our feelings, but we proceeded with care and depth in our research of the concept, the company and its potential for success in Orlando.
I loved and admired Scout & Molly’s founder Lisa Kornstein’s story and identified with her passion for sharing style with customers in a welcoming environment. My sales background instilled in me an appreciation for finding solutions that matter to everyone I serve, and my marketing background fostered my drive to understand and provide the experience and brand that make these solutions possible.
Upon selecting Scout & Molly’s, FranNet connected us to the franchise system’s brand development agency, Rhino7 Franchise Development Corporation, who asked us for some qualifying information (some personal financial data and professional history) and then provided us access to materials about the system. Critical among that information was the Franchise Disclosure Document (referred to in the business by its acronym, FDD), which is required by law to be made available to potential franchisees and outlines typical startup costs.
Soon after receiving the FDD and reviewing it as well as the included copy of the Franchise Agreement (FA) (the contract a franchisee signs with the franchisor to define the legal terms, rights and obligations of both parties under the relationship), Chris and I traveled to Raleigh, NC for an event called Discovery Day to meet with founder Lisa and a team from Rhino7 so that we could see Lisa’s store and spend a very full day learning about the system and answering our questions about the FDD and FA.
While awaiting our Discovery Day trip, we continued meeting with Rhino7 representatives to hear about various aspects of the Scout & Molly’s brand such as the operational systems they have developed to support their franchisees and the marketing resources they make available and intend to build.
After Discovery Day, the Scout & Molly’s corporate team met to decide whether to offer us a Franchise Agreement. We heard back very quickly that they were “in” and after collecting all of our research we replied that we were also ready to move forward. This led to our need for focused and thorough scrutiny of the Franchise Agreement. Through trusted friends and their network, we connected with the law firm Dady & Gardner P.A., whose attorneys focus solely on franchise law. They returned to us a review and legal opinion of the Franchise Agreement that my entrepreneurial, exceptional father affirmed to be “one of the best” he’s seen. This set of recommendations guided us in our negotiations with Scout & Molly’s via Rhino7 and their attorneys to come to a final set of terms that provided both sides our acceptable degree of protection and agreeable contract provisions.
After a few discussions that proved valuable for both sides and our future working relationship, we signed the agreement and in the months following, the Scout & Molly’s team has coordinated through an extremely organized and involved brand manager (hey, Leah!) a series of introductions and trainings with third-party hired experts to ensure the quality and compliance of all aspects of the franchise. It really is awesome to have all of the help and to not need to become an expert on everything myself. It is also much, much faster to get the business up and running I would imagine.
This post is becoming much longer than I had expected, so I intend to follow up with more details on the other pieces needed to open our doors at Scout & Molly’s of Park Avenue in future posts. Maybe you’ll be inspired to look into a similar path of your own!