Mrs., Mom, and CEO: Vickie Clark runs a thriving home-based transportation business for kids – Guts & Glory – Kids ‘R’ Travelin’
Monique R. Brown
In 1995, when Vickie Clark voiced her desire to start a business transporting kids back and forth to various activities, some family and friends looked at her as if she had three eyes. Clark went on to prove that having a vision no one else shares doesn’t make you crazy. Clark, the founder of Kids “R” Travelin’, now runs a thriving family business out of her home in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Her business plan earned her $20,000 as one of five national winners of the 2001 Making It Real Business Grant Competition sponsored by Olde English 800.
Clark, 29, was convinced that her entrepreneurial idea was God’s answer to her prayer for an opportunity that could get her out of a mailroom job at Wachovia Bank At the time, she worked the third shift, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., so her baby wouldn’t have to go to day care. “My original goal was to take the position for a year and move into customer service for a higher position and more pay,” she recalls. “But I knew I couldn’t last that long. Then I read an article in a local magazine about a lady transporting children in another state. That led me to researching the same idea here.
“Unlike school buses, my company would provide door-to-door service for kids to karate, piano, cheerleading practice, and school,” she states. “I’d make sure the kids were in the house safely, the door was locked, and parents could reach me anytime on my cell phone.”
Initially, Clark provided parents with a copy of her driver’s license and had them fill out enrollment forms and information sheets, and had them review her company agreement–a form she developed by borrowing language used on forms at day care centers. “I went to day care centers and pretended that I wanted to enroll my daughter in their programs,” she admits. “That’s how I got the wording to include in my policy and agreement…. Two weeks before school started, I had 30 children registered for my program.”
With registration up, she was in search of a van, but the $25 registration fee that the company charged wasn’t nearly enough to cover the cost of a new vehicle. Their credit rating was low, so they opted for a used van. “I found a 15-passenger van with no tires or seats and in need of a paint job at a Buy Here, Pay Here lot,” Clark laughs. “When I first saw it, I thought `no way.’ But I couldn’t afford anything else; the company allowed us to finance the van with a $500 down payment and school was about to start.”
To turn her eyesore into a fully operating business vehicle, she drove 50 miles to a junkyard to locate some mismatched seats, Clark and her husband found some used tires and her father painted the van. Clark was in business–or so she thought.
“A lot of insurance companies wouldn’t even touch me [because of my business idea]; some quotes were as high as $10,000 a year for commercial insurance for a 1982 van,” Clark recalls. Instead of getting quotes over the telephone, she started making personal visits to insurance agents to plead her case. Finally, she got a bite from an insurance company that covered her business for only a $500 down payment. Next, she got her business license. “Then I was really in business,” she says. “Come the first day of school, I put my daughter in her car seat and was ready to roll.”
But working nights and driving a bus during the day instantly took a toll. After only two days of officially running her own business, she quit her job at Wachovia. Then there was the challenge of trying to run her business through two more pregnancies that were fairly close together. The second time she got pregnant, four months after launching Kids `R’ Travelin’, she opted to take off the following school year so she could raise her two daughters, take a free 13-week course in self employment called Business NOW, and more closely define her customer base. “Initially, I was taking everyone that called. But in my second year of business, I had to limit my customers and only pick up children from selected schools; that made life a lot easier.”
Now Clark’s business is self-sufficient. Her husband Carl quit his job and serves as her partner. Her mother, sister, and sister-in-law are subcontractors. “We have a total of 85 children who we transport among the five of us,” she marvels.
Clark plans to expand the $85,000-a-year business by starting a service for older kids called Teen Taxi. She also plans to start after-school mentoring programs to host a variety of children’s activities, including tutoring, karate, dance, art, and field trips. This may sound ambitious, but Clark has a track record of seeing things that others do not. “I knew this was something I was destined to do,” she beams.
B.E.’s Successpert Speaks:
Edward Brown, a principal of The Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute Inc in Atlanta, says, “You really begin living when your vision takes over your life.” He says Clark’s journey is a blueprint for successful entrepreneurship. Brown identifies success strategies employed by Clark that you can adopt to achieve your objectives:
* Be open for opportunities. Your internal compass will lead you to opportunities for fulfilling your vision. You should not have preconceived notions going in, but allow opportunities to naturally unfold.
* Create a niche market. To be a successful entrepreneur, your passion should fulfill a need within society. Clark’s passion made the lives of others more manageable and, as a result, they rewarded her in kind.
* Success breeds success, Once you have done the seemingly impossible in meeting your business objectives, other ideas and opportunities seem to miraculously appear. Your mind becomes permanently conditioned for limitless possibilities.
Making It Real Business Grant Winners
Launched in 2000, the Olde English 800 Making It Real Business Series and Grant Competition provides current and aspiring entrepreneurs with a chance to win one of several $20,000 business grants. In addition to Kids “R” Travelin’, the following businesses won grants in the 2001 competition:
Brides Noir (www.bridesnoir.com) The Chicago-based winner is a national bridal magazine aimed at upscale, professional African American women. Founders Dana M. Powell and Shannon Bonnet plan to launch the publication as a quarterly in the fall of 2002.
K.A. Kitties The New York-based winner is a fashion-consulting firm positioned as a one-stop shop of expertise in design, graphic art, illustration, merchandising, styling, and production. The result of a partnership of award-winning fashion industry veterans Dorothy Antoine, Zareth Edghill, Kianga Peterson, and Jazmine Ruotolo, K.A. Kitties counts urban fashion brands such as FUBU and Rocawear among their clients.
Unified Modular The Houston-based winner is a business aimed at the design and manufacture of portable speakers for small- to medium-space venues with a special focus on the needs of deejays, founded by Josh Zulu and Ben Um.
Juice-C-Juice The California-based winner is a smoothie bar that offers fresh blends of juices, fruits, and yogurts as a healthy alternative to conventional fast-food beverages. The company is headed by Lori Carter.
For more information about the competition, log on to www.millerbrewing.com.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group