Once Upon A Child in Abbotsford, British Columbia, is known as much for being a good neighbor as it is for being a resale store for children’s gently-used clothing. Store owners Kevin and Sara Allan have helped fill every closet in transitional homes of the Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley with children’s clothing through inventory donations. They’ve also won hearts by:
- Donating clothing to refugee families
- Providing job shadowing for individuals through Abbotsford Works Employment Center
- Sponsoring galas for the Mission Association for Community Living, an organization supporting people with intellectual disabilities
- Providing deeper discounts to foster families to help them clothe their foster kids
At the same time, endearing your store and yourselves to the community is good business. Although Kevin and Sara get involved in charitable causes for purely altruistic reasons, their involvement has had a positive effect on the bottom line of their Once Upon A Child store. According to Entrepreneur, this kind of participation shows genuine interest in community and the local economy. Naturally, local consumers are more likely to frequent businesses who show love for their community.
“Connecting to local organizations and charities has been a huge part of our success,” Kevin said.
Meeting Community Needs
The parents of three young children, Kevin and Sara realized they could put their entrepreneurial spirits and big hearts to good use as Once Upon A Child franchisees. When they discovered Once Upon A Child, they knew it would fit well in Abbotsford, where nothing like it existed. Abbotsford is an ethnically diverse community of 143,000 people and a wide range of income levels. Because real estate is relatively cheap in the Fraser Valley, many families are moving there from Vancouver.
“We both felt there was a need for something like this, but it wasn’t here,” Sara said. “I was spending a lot of time on online swap sites and finding them really inconvenient.”
Kevin and Sara opened their Once Upon A Child in 2014 and have hosted in-store events occasionally, such as a story time and costume party for kids, but they prefer to participate in events around the community.
“Our focus has been more on charitable, non-profit connections in the community,” Kevin said. “That was always, for me personally, one of my main focuses for starting the business.”
Community Also Means Business
Kevin and Sara understand they can’t rely solely on philanthropic involvement. Sometimes being a part of the community includes being involved in business events and promotions. For example, Once Upon A Child of Abbotsford was the anchor at a baby and toddler trade show at the local Tradex Center, where they set up a mini Once Upon A Child store. It generated a lot of revenue at the show and at the store. Trade show attendees left the exhibition center to visit the brick and mortar location, and many of the visitors turned into new customers.
The Abbotsford store’s staff helps new customers become repeat customers by consistently going the extra mile for shoppers and sellers because they feel valued. Kevin and Sara impart their love for community to their employees by taking them out to dinner, taking them bowling or going for manicures and pedicures together. Employees who feel appreciated often contribute significantly to the business’ success by taking the business’ interests to heart.
Endearing Yourself Leads to Success
Just two years after opening Once Upon A Child, Kevin and Sara opened a Plato’s Closet in October 2016 thanks to the success they experienced through their community involvement.
“It absolutely boosts our bottom line,” Kevin said. “There are people who’ve heard about us that come in because of our connection to these organizations.”
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