If you told a young Chelsea Sloan that as a grown up she’d be working day in and day out with her older brother, Scott, she probably would have kicked you in the shins and locked herself in her room.
“He was very mean to me,” says Sloan, now 27 and sanguine about the sibling with whom she launched the used-fashion franchise Uptown Cheapskate in 2009. “We’ve become good friends with complementary talents.”
They also have a good set of entrepreneurial genes. In 1992, their parents moved to Utah to start Kid to Kid, a franchise for used children’s clothing and baby gear that now has 85 units in the US and Portugal. That inspired Chelsea to think about a store for teens and young adults, but she shelved the concept when she started college and similar ideas like Plato’s Closet took over the market.
In 2008, while in Alaska taking a year off from school, Chelsea batted the idea around again with Scott. They developed a business plan and spent the next year preparing to launch. At the same time, Chelsea was a full-time student pursuing a business degree.
The Uptown Cheapskate concept – reselling trendy, name-brand clothing brought in by customers who receive cash or credit for their cast-offs – was a hit. The little sis and big bro have opened 15 units in 12 states and are developing nine more. We caught up with the Sloan sibs after Chelsea’s graduation to find out how they’ve kept franchising in the family.
Q: What differentiates Uptown Cheapskate?
Scott: Our propriety IMAP inventory-management software. It took more than eight months to develop, and it recognises more than 4 000 brands and gives recommended price defaults that distinguish between things like whether Guess boots are leather or suede. We’re constantly updating and modifying the brands database, and it automatically updates our franchisees. No one else has anything like it.
Chelsea: It’s especially helpful for male franchisees, who might not know women’s fashion.
Q: What’s it like running a start-up while attending college?
Chelsea: The biggest struggle was going to classes and being paired with people who don’t have any real-world experience. It was frustrating. I was busy 80 or 90 hours a week, and it was hard to have everyone on the support team working around my school schedule.
I took a class on social media and used Uptown Cheapskate as a case study and was able to apply what I learnt while I was taking the class. At college I learnt about Google advertising, how to handle personnel and a lot of things that benefited the store.
Q: Do you two really get along?
Scott: There are times when we don’t get along as well as we should. We get frustrated, and it spills over the normal business line, and we argue the way you do in a family, not the way you argue with a co-worker.
Chelsea: We don’t disagree very often on the direction the company needs to go or our franchise standards. We share a common view of where our stores need to be.
Q: Have your parents learnt anything from the two of you?
Chelsea: Oh yeah. We taught our parents how to build a flex system for their merchandise, how to use Facebook and social media, and we taught them about loss prevention.
Q: Have they given you advice?
Chelsea: The first time our mom came into a store, she told us we needed more mirrors.
Q: Do they have hip wardrobes?
Chelsea: You should have seen our dad in William Rast premium denim.
Franchise: Uptown Cheapskate
Founders: Chelsea and Scott Sloan
Footprint: Across 12 US States