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From Radio Sales to Resale Retail: What Inspired this North Carolina Franchisee to Open a Plato's Closet

After spending more than 15 years working for some of the biggest companies in the radio industry in both Los Angeles and The Big Apple, Grady Farmer was ready for a change of pace.

"It was a fairly easy industry to break into, and it just took off," Grady said.

He lived in New York City and worked for KROQ selling commercials for Howard Stern Radio while living in a small, 500-square-foot apartment.

After his stint in New York City, Grady ditched the skyscrapers for the beach and mountains and moved to Los Angeles. While there, he worked as an account executive for CBS Radio for seven years.

"I loved the radio industry because it allowed me to travel to different areas," he said.

But, the constant traveling began to take its toll. Eager to stay in one place and be closer to family, Grady felt it was time for a change, both in his scenery and career. So he decided to relocate back to North Carolina to be closer to his family.

Family Business

While searching for new career endeavors, Grady was inspired by his parents, David and Nancy Farmer, who were one of the first franchisees of children-focused resale retail brand Once Upon A Child.

"I watched my parents and was motivated by what they could share with me," Grady explained.

David had previously worked in the corporate world for 25 years and understood the difference between working for someone else and working for himself.

"I saw everything the business did for them and what they gave back to the business," Grady added.

Continuing the Legacy

Despite always wanting to get into the world of entrepreneurship, Grady knew that without a background in business that he'd likely need the support of what a franchise offers — a playbook of sorts.

"I looked into other business opportunities, but I kept coming back to Plato's Closet and what it offered in terms of being resale. I enjoyed watching the success my parents had," he said. “Their success enticed me.”

Inspired by his parents, Grady was intrigued to enter the world of franchising. Thankfully for Grady, his parents had a plan to get him prepared for franchise ownership.

"They knew I wanted to be a franchise owner and eventually take over their stores one day," he added.

After assisting his parents with their stores for some time and attending a discovery day, Grady was well on his way.

From negotiations with the shopping center, finding a location, store design, hiring and training staff and more, the Winmark franchise team, along with his parents, helped Grady open his first retail franchise location in Pineville, North Carolina in 2012.

After successfully opening his first location, Grady achieved his goal of taking over his parents’ stores. From there, it was like clockwork, and Grady took over a new store each year in the three years that followed: Matthews, NC in 2013, Winston-Salem, NC in 2014 and Charlotte, NC in 2014.

Drawing on His Former Experience

Grady’s knowledge of sales and marketing greatly helped him during the process of getting his resale retail franchise up and running.

"A big part of my job in radio was sales and marketing. I had to help businesses like Plato's Closet and help them grow, find out what their challenges were, what their needs were, and create marketing campaigns around that," he said.

Now, Grady draws on his former experience by thinking of ways to use radio campaigns to fit the Plato's Closet brand and get in front of his demographic.

In addition to his sales and marketing skills, Grady learned and developed leadership skills while working in the radio industry, which has proved to help him as he hires staff and managers at his resale retail franchises.

"I'm a people person," he said. "A big part of our life is at work, so I strive to make it a fun environment and take care of my staff."

Building a Strong Team and Community

To Grady’s credit, much of his staff have stayed with him for over ten years.

"I've seen a lot of growth and success within my management team," he said.

Many of his managers didn't have a college degree when they started; many were just 16 years old.

"I like the fact that they've grown with me within the organization," he said.

Outside of developing a close-knit team, Grady is passionate about giving back to his community and local children's hospitals.

When COVID struck last spring, Grady and his staff wanted to give back, so they partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to create a charity for those in need.

"We started collecting change and donations at checkout, and we vowed to match every penny donated to us," he said.

Since last September, Grady's stores have raised over $15,000 in donations.

"It's really important to me that we give back to the community," Grady said.

While the path to franchise ownership poses its challenges, Grady knows the reward is too great to skip out on.

"If you're willing to work harder than you've ever worked, you will reap the benefits," Grady said.

"Now, I'm in control of my own destiny."

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