Clinton — Sisters Annette Purvis and Dianne Tripp, new owners of The Chubby Cubby educational supply store, say their main advice to those on the verge of opening a small business is to do the homework.
With the aid of the Hinds Community College Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Purvis and Tripp developed a written plan for their store, which included everything from research results and industry trends, to financial need and record keeping.
“They helped us put it all together so we could convince the banks that there was a real need for this type of business,” said Purvis, a former teacher for Jackson Public Schools.
Jim Harper, director of Hinds SBDC, said the main part of the plan development was helping these women figure out how much they would have to borrow to put stock on the shelves.
“Educational supplies is a really good product line because everything that teachers need for their classes is available at this type of store,” Harper said.
During the research phase of the plan preparation, these siblings discovered some important facts that convinced them they were doing the right thing to supply not only teachers in West-Central Mississippi, but parents, children and grandparents — people of all ages needing educational materials.
Tripp, a retired federal employee, said, “We realized that customers will drive at least 20 miles for educational supplies and that there’s nothing like our store west of Jackson until you get to Vicksburg.”
“Through our survey, we asked people what they would like in a store of this kind,” Purvis said, “and we found out they wanted discounts and other incentives to shop our store.”
So, with a goal of opening their doors June 13, the two sisters set out in May to deliver 10% discount coupons to teachers in West Jackson, Clinton, Byram, Raymond, Bolton, Edwards and Flora during Teacher Appreciation Week.
Purvis and Tripp admit that the incentives didn’t create a rush into their store in June, but that business steadily increased through July and is now booming with the beginning of the school year.
A ‘little scary,’ but then…
“June was a little scary. Our friends kept telling us that teachers weren’t thinking about school yet, and that turned out to be true. Recently, they’ve been buying things up, and it’s been scary trying to keep the stock that they need,” Purvis said.
The initial anxiety associated with opening a small business has been less stressful for these two since they have known each other all their lives.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to do this with anyone else,” Tripp said. “We discuss each situation and make the decisions together.”
Purvis chimed in, “It wasn’t as scary when thinking that I was making the commitment with someone else. But of course, as sisters, we can get on each other’s nerves a little.”
One of the biggest decisions the two had to make was giving their business a name. Originally, they considered “Creative Collections” as a possibility because they didn’t want shoppers to think they only catered to teachers. However, while doing some research, they realized that there were too many store names in the area with these two words in them. Jokingly, Purvis suggested “The Chubby Cubby” as the name, and they didn’t take it seriously until Tripp dreamed about it one night.
“I dreamed we were moving boxes into the store, and I could see “The Chubby Cubby” on the store front,” Tripp explained, also saying that she believes it was divine intervention.
The sisters looked all over Clinton for retail space that fit into what they had estimated in their business plan, and considered several spots before being baffled when they came across a location that already had a wall with built in cubby holes.
“And they were chubby too,” Purvis said of the site at 311 U.S. 80 East, next to Mazzio’s Pizza. The owners also ended up with 3,000 square feet of space for what they expected to pay for 1,800 square feet. The additional room has allowed them to set up a consignment shop featuring arts and crafts of nine local vendors.
Both women said they haven’t considered large chain stores such as Wal-Mart and Office Depot as competitors.
Purvis added, “They can’t offer the specialized types of supplies we carry, and they can’t give the personal service we can.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Harriet S. Vickers at email@example.com.