My daughter is a very loyal customer of American Girl. She has 7 dolls plus their outfits, furniture and accessories. For example, one doll has a horse and when she is ready to ride she is dressed in a red jacket, white jodhpurs, black boots and a riding helmet. Another doll likes to go camping so she has a large platform tent. Another one likes to go skiing, and has the entire ski outfit, plus skis, polls and boots. After she broke her leg and got a cast put on, she got wheeled around in a wheel chair.
It has been my daughter’s dream to work at her favorite store, American Girl. (Actually it is her second choice since her real ambition is to sing at the Disney World Magic Kingdom performance on the stage at the castle). So, our first business under my new non-profit will be an American Girl resale shop. This has been something I had been thinking about for 5 years.
From a demand side, I know this brand has loyal customers (ages 3 to 12) and that since the price points of the new merchandise are relatively high, there is demand for more affordable but authentic merchandise. From the supply side, there are 80,000 to 100,000 results on eBay on any given day for “American Girl”, let alone Craig’s List. Then there are attics and basements all over the US where college girls who have left home have their stash.
The beauty of this business concept is in the employment opportunities. There are so many jobs that need to be done. “Gently used” merchandise needs to be cleaned or repaired; the doll clothes and furniture need to be tagged by doll (Samantha’s dress, Molly’s bed, Kaya’s horse); merchandise needs to be priced; outfits need to be put on hangers. Inventory needs to be documented. Store displays need to be created. Customer data needs to be collected and organized. And then we need enthusiastic sales people who can demonstrate (aka play) with the product.
There are may job skills that can be taught, along with workplace social skills, and these can be transferable to other retail settings. One day, after beginning her career at our resale shop, our employees could move on to work at The Gap, Claire’s or Build-A-Bear (or any other retailer).
Given that my employees won’t be the most efficient workers, our resale business will have even tighter margins. That means I need to find space with really low overhead. Retail lease space in Westchester County is going for something like $40 a square foot. So for for a very small shop of 500 square feet that means a rent of $20,000! After talking to lots of real estate brokers, I got a great tip. One broker had just leased 3000 square feet for a spa for girls (yes, every 9 year old needs a good facial and mani-pedi). He suggested I talk with the owner of the new business and see if she had any suggestions.
The owners of Sweet Heaven Spa loved my concept and had a tiny 125 square foot room they would rent to me. They saw the synergy between our businesses and appreciated the mission of our venture. They want to open the day after Thanksgiving!
Today I started working on my certificate of incorporation as a not-for-profit corporation. I don’t speak legal but I thought I could fill out the form and file it myself, saving $350. (I need to be very efficient on how I spend money, since I don’t have any.) But then I got to the last question about seeking tax exempt status. Call in the lawyers (still looking for pro bono).
It will get done, but if you wish to donate gently used American Girl dolls, clothes, furniture, accessories, books, and original boxes, you can still do that and I will send you a receipt for your tax filings once I get the corporation ID, I will also pay the cost of shipping if you make an in-kind donation.
Download this donation form from Google Drive: Donation form
and let me know if you want to donate – I will arrange to cover your shipment!