Originally from Seattle and Wisconsin, Tim and Cynthia Holliday, husband and wife and owners of Children’s World Uniform Supply, took over and revitalized a well-known business in need of a modern facelift. Tim shared the story behind their journey, including the challenges they faced, the changes they made and how they built on the legacy of the previous owners to create a one-of-a-kind retail experience for kids, adults, business owners and more.
“I was a late child, so when my parents retired to Florida, I came with them,” Tim said. “After high school, I decided to take what most people nowadays call a ‘gap year’. An uncle from Chicago was in banking and encouraged me to check it out, so I did. Working for a local bank, I also took classes with the American Institute of Banking, which also counted as credits with Manatee Community College (now State College of Florida). I eventually went on and got my Bachelor’s degree from Eckerd College and continued working with the bank, mainly with entrepreneurs and small business owners.”
Tim continued, “When the bank got bought out, I joined a tech company that was a customer of the bank. The company was successful, but unfortunately, after the young leadership got a taste of money, things kind of fell apart. That’s around the time when our accountant introduced Cynthia and I to a local family with a business called Children’s World. They wanted to retire and their kids weren’t interested in taking over the business. A year after we first met them, and after doing our due diligence on the business, we took over on June 1st, 2001.”
At the time, Cynthia was working for herself as a nail technician and for a cosmetics manufacturer in sales and product demonstrations. When they bought the business, she left both jobs to exclusively focus on their new venture. Tim continued with the bank for about a year, while handling the financials of the new business in his spare time. As Tim shared, when they first bought the business, they had a lot of work to do to modernize the store and to rethink their products and services.
“Going back to 1964, the previous owners started by renting and selling cribs and cradles,” Tim said. “Then they morphed into selling church type clothes and shoes for kids. They eventually got into selling school uniforms, were also the local supplier of uniforms for Boy Scouts in the area and had a small section of toys. The original location, at the corner of Bahia Vista and 41, needed a lot of work. The paint was pretty dingy and the carpet was really old. We freshened everything up, computerized the store, and started going after more school uniform business. Over time, we signed up many more schools and also expanded our toy selection. We also outgrew our space and knew that if we were going to continue on the same track that we would need more room.”
Tim continued, “We were nervous about moving such an established business, but we had no choice. The space we eventually found is the one we’re in now. We went from 2,400 sqft to nearly 7,000 sqft.”
The original business owners decided to outsource their embroidery services. After Tim and Cynthia purchased the business, and as time went on, it became clear to them that it made more sense to bring those services in-house.
“Because of long wait times and the need for odd sizes, we stopped outsourcing that service,” Tim said. “We learned all about commercial embroidery, bought some equipment and eventually started producing stuff that was nicer than what we used to send out. Then we started offering monogram gifts, which led to business uniforms and eventually promotional products for schools and businesses.”
At this point, Tim and Cynthia decided to create two separate DBAs – Children’s World and Business World. At their new location, they also completed the steps to allow them to operate a U.S. Post office inside their building. As Tim shared, the process was long, but it was well worth it.
“We were familiar with the concept of running a post office out of a business,” he said. “One of these post offices was located inside of a gift shop near our new location. When the gift shop shut down, one of our neighboring tenants took on the responsibility, but it didn’t last long. Within six months they shut down, which left us with a great opportunity. After completing the paperwork and waiting for about a year and a half, they awarded us the contract. We now have clientele who don’t own a business or need the products and services we sell, but come in to use the post office. It’s not a big source of revenue, but the traffic it brings in is great. We’re now looking at ways to take advantage of that traffic.”
With an average payroll of about 15 employees, with fluctuations during the seasons, and an ever-increasing list of products and services, Children’s World and Business World have both seen substantial growth over the years. Working through a handful of challenges, including personnel and technical challenges associated with growing the business’ digital presence, Tim and Cynthia have created something they’re truly proud of.
“For all the headaches, the fact that the buck stops with you and how you sometimes feels like it’s you against the world, you’re given an opportunity to create something special,” Tim said. “We get to employ a bunch of people, give them a better life and supply our customers with some really cool things. We also get to work on projects for non-profits. It’s exciting and rewarding.”
Looking ahead, Tim and Cynthia are focused on growing the number of businesses they work with and continuing to work with more schools. They’re a little nervous about how COVID-19 will impact that part of their business, but they’re optimistic and confident that their business as a whole will be fine.
What advice does Tim have for aspiring entrepreneurs hesitating to take the ‘plunge’? “It’s terrifying,” he said. “However much work you think it is, you’ve underestimated it – by a lot. It’s also not what most people think. You see shows like Shark Tank and most people love the glamour of it all and the idea of working for yourself. The truth is that it’s a lot of work. It’s also important to have people like bankers, accountants and payroll specialists to help you. Ultimately, if you have a dream or an idea for a great service or product, and you’re willing to work hard, you should take the leap.”