Scout & Molly’s

Scout

Scout & Molly’s is a women’s clothing boutique franchise

whose founder wants clients to feel like they’re shopping in their best friend’s closet.

By Stephanie Crets

Shopping for clothes can sometimes feel impersonal, but Scout & Molly’s franchisees go out of their way to make every shopper feel special with a great experience. “We take our clients seriously and want them to feel like they’re shopping in their best friend’s closet,” founder and Creative Director Lisa Kornstein Kaufman says. “They become like family, stopping in to see what’s new and to catch up with their favorite stylist. We really focus on the experience. We want clients, not just customers – people who come back time and again. It’s about so much more than just the clothes.”

Kornstein Kaufman founded the company 15 years ago, but opening a clothing boutique had never been her plan. In fact, she says boutiques intimidated her and she’d had some not so great shopping experiences. But when she was in graduate school, she would go jogging past a store with her dog in tow. The owner would come out and chat with her, eventually inviting Kornstein Kaufman to work there part time.Scout Fact Box

“I realized quickly that I loved selling and was actually really good at it,” she says. “I had the ability to have someone come in feeling nervous or intimidated by the boutique scene and have them leave feeling like they’d made a new friend, feeling better about themselves and having an overall fun and positive experience and that was intoxicating to me.”

After finishing graduate school, she moved back home to North Carolina and mused about opening her own store someday.  She decided to take the plunge and go for it and three months later in 2002, Scout & Molly’s – named after her first “babies,” her Labrador Retrievers – was opened. “I have never looked back,” Kornstein Kaufman says. “I learned a tremendous amount and made a lot of mistakes. I really liked the idea of franchising because franchisees can open their stores with the benefit of the lessons learned from mistakes I’ve already made. I wish something like this had been available to me 15 years ago.”

Full Support

Scout & Molly’s has 30 stores open with about 70 more sold. The company plans to open 35 to 40 stores this year, with the ultimate goal being 1,000 to 1,500 in the next several years. Kornstein Kaufman says the company is well on its way, selling a lot of multi-units. “Ideally, we’d like 1,000 stores, but not necessarily 1,000 franchisees,” she explains. “We’re not trying to sell it as a hobby; it’s a business. Our ideal candidate is someone who’s looking at it as a business. Some people will buy for fun because it’s a fun job, but it’s a business and we want people to make money and buy it for the right reasons.”

Originally, Kornstein Kaufman was licensing the stores, but after so many people wanted to open their own locations, she decided it was time to become a franchise. “I liked the idea of growing it as much as we can, but in the right way. It was a natural evolution,” she adds. Scout & Molly’s can now be found in California, Montana, Arizona, Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, New York, South Carolina, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, just to name a few – with more states to come.

For new franchisees, Scout & Molly’s offers much operational support and structure. The company helps them out with everything from site selection and build-out to negotiating the lease and purchasing fixtures and equipment. Additionally, there is a lot of software Scout & Molly’s has invested in to get franchisees up to speed, including budgeting, buying, managing and inventory platforms.

“We don’t just train the franchisees, we also train the store managers so they feel like they too have a vested interest in the success of the business,” Kornstein Kaufman says. “We’ve really made it so that you can come from any background and, as long as you’re wiling to follow the program, you can be successful.”

Now, Scout & Molly’s is focused on developing its online store, which will be up and running soon. Every franchise will have the option of selling its products online as well. But the biggest thing for the company is ensuring every franchisee is treating the customers as long-term clients.

“We want clients to leave the store with a smile on their face, excited to come back, knowing you’re going to reach out to them,” Kornstein Kaufman says. “It’s more than just selling; it’s about building relationships. We pay attention to how each store’s feeling and performing along the way. We strive to give them the most support we can because we want everyone to feel how much we care about their individual success.”

Personal Outreach

About eight years ago, Kornstein Kaufman was diagnosed with MS, which she says was a huge turning point in her business. She wrestled with how much of her personal life she should divulge, concerned it might affect the business or stigmatize her and the business. “It ended up being such a blessing once I decided to tell people, and I felt like I was also in a unique position and could educate people,” she says. “It was a way to show people that just because you have a disease, that disease doesn’t become you. You can still have a successful career, be a great mom and live a life of purpose”

It made Kornstein Kaufman realize that she couldn’t do everything herself anymore. She allowed herself to delegate certain aspects such as bookkeeping and merchandising, which actually allowed the business to become more successful. “When I started franchising, I realized I could do it on a semi-absentee basis,” she notes. “My business was able to flourish and I could focus on being an owner.”

Now, Kornstein Kaufman is deeply involved in the North Carolina and Florida philanthropic communities in which she and her husband Michael Kaufman live. Charity events and fundraisers are often held at Scout & Molly’s locations, including pet rescue events and other opportunities to Shop for a Cause. Community outreach is now a significant part of Scout & Molly’s culture, and Kornstein Kaufman encourages franchisees to get involved in their communities as well. 

“I’m helping people fulfill a dream of owning their own business and that’s the most rewarding part of this for me,” Kornstein Kaufman says. “I’m really excited to see our continued growth, and I’d love to see us in every state. We’re getting there. When I travel somewhere, it’s exciting to know there’s a Scout & Molly’s there. What a great thing to know that I started this when I was 25 and one day it could be a recognized name throughout the country.”

 

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