Karen Soeffker Talks about All Things Kids
Where are you from originally?
I’m from Leicester in the United Kingdom originally but have spent most of my life in Germany.
What university did you go to?
Beauchamp College in the UK
What is the idea behind your startup?
Provide an alternative to toy stores that are stuffed with mass produced, plastic, battery driven, whirring, mind numbing toys.
What need does it fulfill?
Children today have very limited access to high quality educational toys, particularly European toys. Our concept includes a Play Zone where all our toys and games are out of the box - children can interact with our toys and games in a beautiful setting.
What exactly does it do?
All Things Kids offers Exceptional toys, books and events. Each aspect of our concept has been designed to provide an exceptional experience whether it be product, service or event. The focus is always on educational, not just the toys and books but also the Play Zone which hosts toy themed birthday parties, after school and summer classes, workshops for parents and foreign language play groups.
Who is it for?
With our flagship location on Main Street Georgetown and our 2nd location at The Domain in Austin, our future franchisees will be able to select from 2 models – Downtown and Uptown. Although the look and feel are similar, the Downtown concept has been designed to have a more classic look and the stores marketing and communications plan is based on working closely with local businesses, schools, churches and non-profits.
The Uptown concept has a modern, upscale finish and gravitates more towards retailing of the toys and books than the Play Zone services. Both stores are fitted out with solid wooden shelves and floors, the best possible staging for our beautiful toys. The toy islands are all on wheels and can be moved aside in a matter of minutes to allow room for magic shows, balloon artists and even talent shows! Yes, we’ve done that before.
We have been careful to design the stores to be an experience for both children and adults. Classic toys and books remind Grandparents and parents of their childhood and are eager to share them with their little ones.
What was the most challenging aspect of starting up?
We started out with a little inventory and in a location with little foot traffic. It took us a year to fix both issues – now both locations are fully stocked and enjoy strong traffic.
What is the next step for you and your business?
We are currently working on franchising our concept. The plan is to roll out 40 stores within the next 5 years both in downtown communities and high end Malls. Our Domain location is a Simon Property Mall, they have recently used our store as ‘Best Practice’ at their national convention. We are working with the Simon Property Group to identify similar malls to place our franchises.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
- Surround yourself with brilliant people.
- Ask for help and take it!
- Passion is contagious and will always get you to your goal
What resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?
The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce has been very helpful, they provide many workshops and even SCORE sessions. They have been able to connect us to business leaders as well as financial and marketing resources that we have needed. We received the Small Business of The Year in 2012 so that was a real honor to be recognized by our peers so early in our journey.
The Texas Downtown Association has also been instrumental. Last year, we were awarded the Best Downtown Business in Texas – this has opened the door to other downtown contacts throughout the State.