Mollie Schell took a leap of faith in 2002. At 29 years old, she left her job as a pension administrator to go out on her own and buy the Kid to Kid resale store on Tyler just north of 21st Street.
Eight years later, she has taken another leap. Earlier this month, Schell opened Uptown Cheapskate, a resale shop for teens and young adults. The store is next door to Kid to Kid. Both are franchises of BaseCamp Franchising.
"I am working with the same franchise people, utilizing employees that have supported me for years, and having fun learning something new at a store right next door to my existing location," she said.
Schell has eight part-time employees at Kid to Kid and seven at Uptown Cheapskate.
The 37-year-old is a lifelong Kansan. She grew up in Sedan and has a finance degree from Kansas State. She lives in El Dorado and is married with two young sons.
What were your emotions when you left a job with a steady paycheck to become a business owner?
"I think terrified and excited all in the same moment. You just have a knowledge that you have to believe in yourself that you're going to get it done.
"I had gone through three differing corporate buyouts when I was in pension administration, and it was time for me to call the shots."
And it sounds like family played a big part in you going out on your own?
"I'm a huge sports fan, and having two boys I don't want to miss a thing. So far there have been very few things I've had to miss out on. School events, I can go help with those. I can be the soccer mom when I need to be the soccer mom and still run a successful business."
How do you define a successful business?
"In my mind it's one that doesn't necessarily need me constantly. I have some staff that has been with me five years that can help me maintain my business."
So you don't find yourself in the store every day?
"With the new store I do. With Kid to Kid, prior to opening the new store, I was there two days a week."
Why open a new store when the economy is what it is?
"I see the need for it. Consignment stores have actually done pretty well in this economy. And I've seen similar stores do well, and I think the opportunity for the west side of Wichita was there."
How are things different for your businesses when the economy is down?
"It's making you a stronger business, because it's making you really look at the details. Things you should be looking at anyway, like managing cash flow and finding places to cut costs."
What is the most important thing you have learned as a business owner?
"I think the biggest thing I have learned in business is that you must constantly grow and embrace change, which goes against most people's human nature. This has been the benefit of owning a franchise for me, as the franchise pushes me to try new things in all aspects of my businesses."
Has anything caught you by surprise opening the new business?
"The whole process has been an experience to me because I had purchased Kid to Kid as an existing business.... Everything that goes with starting a new business was new to me."
Anything stand out?
"Because I had the franchise helping along the way, there weren't really any major surprises for me.... With an existing business, I knew where the project needed to end up. The biggest surprise was the length of time negotiating leases and the actual construction time."
What are your expectations for the new store?
"We're getting great feedback already.... But I think being within a franchise system, you can compare yourself with existing stores. I do have a measuring stick. So when I'm in the middle of the pack of the existing franchises, I'll feel like I'm there."
What's one thing about you that people might not know?
"That I'm petrified of public speaking... and I enjoy scuba diving."