We're Mormon. We're in Utah. It matters that in business we do the right thing for people … the biggest thing is how we try to be disciples of Christ. —Chelsea Sloan
SALT LAKE CITY — Chelsea Sloan could hardly believe her success when she won the Global Student Entrepreneur Award in November 2012.
Winning the award — given to a student running a revenue-generating business while carrying a full college course load — was not an easy feat for the 28-year-old co-founder of Uptown Cheapskate, a high-fashion consignment store franchise.
Sloan competed on a local, regional and national level against roughly 1,100 applicants from 42 countries on six continents. After winning rounds in Utah and then Seattle, Sloan headed to the final round of the competition in New York, which had 30 finalists.
"It was a super intimidating process,” Sloan said. “There were 75 judges and the majority owned $50 million companies.”
No one was more stunned than Sloan when she won. "I was so surprised because I went first. I presented for 30 minutes in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria in New York. I heard everyone after me and I thought I lost," Sloan said.
She is the competition's first female winner and she received $150,000 in cash, and in-kind business services from the Entrepreneurs Organization to help propel her business.
As a result of her win, Sloan was invited to participate in the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance Summit in Moscow. The summit — which was in June and included 400 entrepreneurs from around the world — was a gathering of young entrepreneurs ages 18 to 40 that met to “exchange ideas, discuss driving sustainable global economic growth and foster international partnerships and collaboration,” according to Entrepreneurs’ Organization website.
Winning the Global Student Entrepreneur competition was more than simply presenting her business — it was building it.
Uptown Cheapskate launched in 2009, but the idea was created before Sloan served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Alaska Anchorage Mission from 2006-08. Thanks to planning between Sloan and her brother and co-founder Scott Sloan about the business, they started it when she was released.
"Uptown Cheapskate started the day I came back," Sloan said.
The franchise — which buys, sells, trades and consigns new and gently used clothing and accessories at discounted prices to the 18- to 25-year-old demographic — had two locations by the end of 2009.
Within eight months of operation, the franchise had turned a profit and generated enough revenue to rank No. 3 among the top student-launched businesses in the Utah Student 25 competition in 2010.
Brigham Young University professor John Richards organizes the competition and seeks to recognize the top student-founded businesses in Utah.
Today, Uptown Cheapskate has expanded to 26 locations (three in Utah) in 15 states with 14 more stores expected to open by the end of the year.
While Chelsea Sloan and her brother, Scott, built their business, she graduated cum laude in business from the University of Utah in April 2012 and was listed as one of Inc. magazine's 30 under 30 for 2013.
When she was young, her parents opened Kid to Kid, a franchise that buys and sells gently used and new children's clothing to thrifty parents. Both Chelsea and Scott Sloan worked at Kid to Kid.
"I'm really lucky to have two very exceptional parents. My father has wisdom, and my mother's the perfect example of what someone can do if they're working on improving their lives," Sloan said.
Working with her family is great, she said. In addition to working with her brother, Scott, their younger sister, Brighton Sloan, also works at Uptown Cheapskate.
"Our family is just very entrepreneurial,” Chelsea Sloan said. "We're always thinking of how we can improve things. We learned it from our parents.”
Being a Mormon in business
A number of things she learned on her LDS mission have helped her in building Uptown Cheapskate, Sloan said.
"It helped mold my character and taught me to take raw core power and harness it towards a goal, which is really important in a business because things don't always go well," Sloan said.
One of her mottos for business is to always be the person walking the higher moral ground, even if it's not in your favor.
"We're Mormon. We're in Utah. It matters that in business we do the right thing for people the biggest thing is how we try to be disciples of Christ," Sloan said.
Uptown Cheapskate doesn't do any training on Sundays. Instead, they take their clients to Temple Square. "It's a good way to spread the word that Mormons aren't weird," Sloan said.
Uptown Cheapskate also provides a lot of additional help to their franchise owners beyond the necessary requirements. "It's so easy for us to be selfish. It's nice to have something like this where I'm working on a system to support my franchisees to take care of their families," Sloan said.
Ultimately, the Salt Lake City resident enjoys the success of being in a down economy with a growing business. "It's definitely a company I really believe in," Sloan said.
For more information about Uptown Cheapskate, visit uptowncheapskate.com.