Most kids looking to pick up some pocket change peddling candy do it door to door, trudging from house to house. When Sam Francis decided to sell candy, he opened his own store.
Sam, 13, has operated Sam's Candies in the Pages Lane shopping center in Centerville for about six months and now has one steady part-time employee to run the store while he's in school during the day and several others to help him during busy times and with promotional work.Having his own candy store is, of course, every kid's dream. But Sam's is based on a rock-solid business principle.
"We did a business survey and found there was no retail candy store between Centerville and Layton. The potential was there," Sam said, leaning back in his overstuffed chair behind a contemporary desk in his business office.
"Plus, it's a childhood memory every kid should have coming in to get a quarter's worth of candy."
Sam gets much of his business from the students of a nearby elementary and a junior high school but found early on that one adult customer has the buying power of 10 or 12 young ones.
He started by putting penny candy on display in the window, looking to attract the younger set, figuring to build a clientele of devoted kids who would in turn bring in their parents.
It didn't work.
"That was our first business mistake," Sam said. "We thought kids would drag their parents in. We now realize that parents direct where their kids go, so we put our finer stock our upscale and novelty items in the window to appeal to the adults."
Sam also had problems initially getting the rest of the business community to take him seriously.
"A lot of people have a problem believing a 13-year-old can operate a business. Suppliers thought I was kidding when I called them to order stock, and I had a hard time getting bins and display cases and office furniture."
His business has its own checking account, Sam said, and while other nearby stores at first balked about accepting one of his checks, he has established a firm reputation now and is treated like any other businessman.
Sam said he's working at filling a niche that other candy stores missed. He stocks a lot of specialty, novelty items, custom making many of them, and stays away from the boxed chocolates available from his competition.
"We opened in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, did very well at Christmas, and by Valentine's Day we had a definite idea of what to stock and what doesn't move, what we'll never carry again.
"We've gone from an $8 opening day to the point where we can pay the rent, the utilities, the salaries, order for our next season, and have a little bit left over," said Sam, who added he's paid off about half the money he borrowed from his mother to open the shop.
He's also learned a lot about his customers. "These are very conservative people who have a hometown attitude. They want to know who you are and get to know your store before they buy from you."
Sam estimates he puts in 35 to 38 hours a week at the shop, coming in after 3 p.m. when he's finished his school day at St. Olaf's in Bountiful. He does all the bookkeeping, stock work, employee supervision and the majority of the ordering.
What he envisioned as a one- or two-hour after-school job has nearly turned into a career. While enjoying the challenge, Sam admits it has cut into some of his study time, although he still gets As and Bs, but it has cut even more deeply into his extracurricular activities.
Is it worth it?
"That's a hard question," Sam ponders. "Sometimes, when I feel real good about how things are going, when I'm doing well in school and the business is doing well with money in the bank to pay the bills, it feels good.
"But when I've had a bad day at school, things aren't going well here and after all of this I have to go home and do my homework, well, it's not always worth it."