I have to admit, it wasn’t that easy finding bellies to babies on Penn Ave. in Richfield, MN. Amid construction and sharing a building with another business, I found it by the address.
I had never met owner, Dan Canfield, before. I had seen a LinkedIn article about the value of quitting that he wrote and discovered that he calls himself a business owner, consultant, and employee. I had an idea that this guy wasn’t your average shop owner.
Turns out that Dan grew up around his family’s sporting goods store in Omaha and then went on the University of Arizona for their entrepreneurship program. There, he developed a software program that tracked student’s behavior when taking electronic tests. Following what seems like Mark Zuckerberg’s footsteps, Dan moved to San Francisco with a college buddy to be in the startup culture and form their own software business. Next, with a partner, he created a small import company selling items online from China. And then he met his partner’s sister, Rachel, and the rest is history. He left San Francisco to come to Minnesota to start a new life with her. “I moved here for love.”
Once Dan arrived here in Minnesota, he worked with business advisors to find a company that “had a bad website and good marketing potential.” bellies to babies, a maternity and baby clothing resale store that started in 2008 and grew to two, was one of the first companies they approached him with. Dan saw opportunity in the fact that Minnesota is the US resale headquarters home to both Winmark (Play It Again Sports, Once Upon A Child and Plato’s Closet) and NTY Clothing Exchange, both founded in-part by Ron Olson.
It was in September of 2014 that Dan received the keys to bellies to babies in Richfield. Thinking that the store came with a manager and staff, he quickly learned that he had neither. The original owner worked with him for the first 4 or 5 days and the next 3 and a half months he worked it solo. “It was a great way to learn everything.”
Since then, Dan approached building bellies to babies by using tactics from other industries. He started with a list of norms for the clothing resale industry and then wrote down the opposite in the next column. This is where he got the idea for his maternity pickup program. That’s right- in a 50-mile radius of either store (there is one in Osseo now, too), bellies to babies offers a pickup service- complete with a cup of the new mother’s favorite coffee- for their “previously loved” maternity clothes. Dan says that is the main reason why the business grew threefold since he’s owned it. He also has an in-store magazine for customers with articles like “Dental Health During Pregnancy” and “3 Myths About Water Births”. bellies to babies has an online store and its own line of new maternity wear. He likened his approach to “taking a broken down car and rebuilding it to drive.”
Remember that girl, Rachel? Well, Dan married that girl and she is currently 7 months pregnant with their first child. Dan has his perfect market study. When asked what he was learning he stated: “I am learning a lot about our ‘perfect customer’”. When asked what that was, he said a woman in the 24-35 age group who likes a bargain and large selection.
So, what’s next for Dan Canfield and bellies to babies? In the vein of fellow local Ron Olson: franchising. He wants to make a “larger, bigger impact”. Dan has done all of the legwork for the franchise agreements and has some potential franchisees in the pipeline.
Not bad for three years of ownership. Dan is definitely one to watch.
· Thinking Differently From The Industry
· Trying New Things
· Cutting Things That Don’t Work
· Cannibalizing His Own Business (In-store vs. Online) “I hope we put ourselves out of business. I don’t care which one wins.”
· Getting As Close As He Can To The Customer