Brother and sister duo Laila Ruzika and Shereef Hammad are no strangers to the world of business ownership. Growing up, the siblings watched their parents run a restaurant for 15 years and were introduced into the world of franchising when their mother bought a frozen dessert franchise location.
Today, Laila and Shereef have become a true entrepreneurial dream team, owning a multi-unit portfolio that includes Winmark’s Once Upon A Child® and Plato’s Closet®.
Adding a Family-Focused Franchise to Their Portfolio
Laila and Shereef joined the Winmark franchise family in December 2013 when they opened up their first Once Upon A Child location in Edison, New Jersey.
With the late nights they encountered operating a quick-service franchise and the birth of Laila’s first child, the two decided to look into a franchise opportunity that was more consistent with its hours and brought sustainable shopping to their community.
As a part of the Winmark franchise family, our franchisees get to not only positively impact the environment, but also get to create an economic cycle of buy-and-sell to all their consumers. Instead of just discarding clothing they don’t wear anymore, consumers can bring them into our locations and receive cash for them – while consumers who are under a financially stringent budget can access high-quality, gently used clothes that will last longer than buying fast fashion that will just end up in a landfill.
Once they dove into owning their first Winmark franchise, Laila and Shereef divided up their roles in order to smoothly run their business together. While Shereef takes on more of the day-to-day administrative tasks, Laila is charged with running their marketing and training operations.
Adapting to Running a Business During a Global Pandemic
Several years later, Laila and Shereef decided they wanted to continue to diversify their franchise portfolio while staying within the Winmark family and resale industry. They decided to open a Plato’s Closet location in Middletown, New Jersey, in March 2020 but had to put a pause on their plans when COVID-19 struck the United States – which also affected how they had to run their Once Upon A Child location.
Luckily, the two quickly adapted to a challenging situation. Since they had to temporarily shut their doors, they immediately pivoted to online sales, strategizing how to accommodate their shoppers and did the best they could to keep their staff employed.
They were able to open their doors to the public again on May 15, and reverted to their normal store hours on Aug. 3. In order to drive in-store traffic, Laila and Shereef took to connecting with their community through their Facebook and Instagram pages. From discounts on specific products to informing selling customers of their most-wanted items and offering Fall Boxes, as well connecting with moms through their New Moms Club – Laila and Shereef have been capitalizing on their social media presence in order to continue providing their products to all members of the community.
While Laila and Shereef have had plenty of experience within the franchising industry, they, along with many other franchisees, have learned to quickly adapt to the challenges imposed by COVID-19 on the business industry. Laila and Shereef now also have a Plato’s Closet in Middletown, New Jersey that opened up at the end of August and are continuing to help their communities access quality resale items.
Looking to join a franchise that makes a difference in the local community and can withstand the challenges of tough economic situations? Contact us today!