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Fall 2006
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The Piedmont Retail Business Challenge

It’s easy to feel the excitement. “I WON!!!” reads the website of FlounderN, one of three winners of The Piedmont Retail Business Challenge, a contest designed to generate economic growth and development for innovative retail concepts in the North Carolina Piedmont Triad area. “I can’t believe it,” closely follows.

FlounderN’s creator, Keith Gallimore, has reason to be ecstatic. CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., the contest’s creator, had just awarded him a package worth more than $100,000, including: free rent for one year, free initial construction, free radio advertising, free visual merchandising services and free office supplies for an in-line space at the Oak Hollow Mall in High Point, NC. The company awarded similar prizes to two other winners, for RMU locations in Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, NC and Randolph Mall in Asheboro, NC. The value of winnings totals a whopping $200,000.

How did these three budding entrepreneurs encounter such good fortune? With a lot of hard work. They carefully followed the rules of the Challenge, wrote business plans—highly detailed business plans—describing their imaginative and creative retail concepts, and in the end won out over 220 other contestants.

The mastermind behind the Challenge is Jerry Jones, CBL’s district specialty retail manager in Winston-Salem, NC. He caught wind of the idea at a retail trade show and was inspired to start his own contest. A steering committee was formed consisting of members of the management teams from Hanes Mall, Oak Hollow Mall and Randolph Mall, as well as three members from the Small Business Center Network of North Carolina, a network of Small Business Centers. The rules of the contest were formulated and sponsors were obtained, such as the presenting sponsor, Southern Community Bank & Trust, headquartered in Winston-Salem, as well as local businesses and media.

The contest was announced in January of 2006 and participants had to register online by February 19th. All participants were required to attend an informational business seminar held in March. “We wanted to make sure everyone had as much information as possible,” so they could have the best chance of success, says Jones. The informational seminar was free, but for contestants wanting to go the extra mile, the Small Business Center Network offered (for a nominal fee) a four-week course on how to write a business plan. “Six of the ten finalists were people who went through that class,” Jones says. The deadline for completed business plans was April 29th, but the competition was far from over.

Ten finalists were required to give a public presentation of their plans at Oak Hollow Mall, before a panel of judges, the public and the media. Two didn’t make the cut; the remaining eight were each given a 10′ x 10′ window space at Oak Hollow Mall to tell their story through visual merchandising. Again, two didn’t make the cut. The six remaining finalists then appeared on a local Fox TV station’s morning show for live interviews, which were taped and sent to the judges. The judges—a team of seven respected business professionals and college professors from all three counties in the North Carolina Piedmont Triad region—viewed the presentations, and the public was invited to place their votes online. The final three winners were announced on June 23rd at a press conference led by Scott Bauer, CEO of Southern Community Bank & Trust, who also provided each winner with a complementary small-business banking package.

Drum roll, please! And the winners are…

FlounderN In-line

Keith Gallimore, owner of FlounderN in High Point, NC recalls, “There were several times I said to my wife, ‘There’s no way I’m gonna make it.'” But make it he did, all the while holding down a full time job as a graphic artist. Before entering the contest, he already had a product, a website and customers, but what he didn’t have was a store.

Gallimore explains that his concept started as a joke among friends, who “used to call each other flounder, as in laying around, flounderin’.” Being a graphic artist, Gallimore decided to create a painting of the flounderin’ joke. He liked the image so much that he put it on some shirts and in the fall of 2001, he took the shirts to an art festival in Holden Beach, NC, where they sold out in no time. In fact, many customers would ask him where the store was, and he would confess he didn’t have a store—yet.

Flash forward to 2006, and with years of brisk festival sales under his belt, he heard about the Challenge on TV and decided to enter. To keep himself on track Gallimore established a timetable and specific deadlines so he wouldn’t be tempted to procrastinate. And he enlisted support: a writer to help with the business plan and a CPA to crunch the numbers. All the while, he clocked in at his day job. “I would basically do this stuff at night, from about 8 pm—after the kids went to sleep—to midnight,” he says.

FlounderN’s line of inactive wear comes in a variety of styles—T-shirts, caps, visors, sweatshirts and tote bags, with T-shirt sizes for men, women, children and even newborns. The main draw of this apparel, he says, is its feel—soft and well-worn—that fits perfectly with the FlounderN message: Take it easy, flounder, it’s OK to kick back and relax.

Gallimore’s long-range plan is to include artwork and novelty products with his flounder-themed apparel. He also dreams of opening the FlounderN Lounge, Bar and Restaurant. With plans like that, there’s little chance he’ll be doing much flounderin’ in the future.

Winning Package Value: $108,350

  • In-line rent (including all fees) for one year, CBL (value $30,000)
  • Initial construction, CBL ($25,000)
  • Construction-improvements labor, Atwood Construction, ($5,000)
  • Construction-improvement materials, CBL ($5,000)
  • Storefront sign, Sign-A-Rama, ($1,300)
  • Visual merchandising services, Design Occasions ($1,200)
  • In-mall advertising and promotion, CBL ($12,000)
  • TV advertising, Fox 8 WGHP TV ($4,000)
  • Radio advertising, Hitz 94 FM WTHZ ($5,550)
  • Newspaper advertising, High Point Enterprise ($11,200)
  • Newspaper advertising, The News & Record ($3,200)
  • Webpage banner ad on Oak Hollow Mall website, KMT Creative ($1,500)
  • Tax preparation services, Sharrard, McGee & Co., P.A. ($1,000)
  • Graphic design, CES Graphic Media ($1,000)
  • Printing services, Printing Professionals ($500)
  • Office supplies, Staples ($500)
  • Chamber of Commerce membership, High Point Chamber of Commerce ($400)

Butter Up RMU

Dana Suggs, owner of Butter Up, never dreamed of being a specialty retailer in the Hanes Mall—until recently. “You think of the mall as something almost unattainable when you’re a small entrepreneur,” she says. But when she read about the contest in a local business journal, “That’s what got us up and going,” she says, including her husband Michael as part of the Butter Up team. Suggs entered the contest with plenty of experience behind her: not only in retail—she’s owned a cultural gift store for the past three years called Body & Soul—but in advertising as well, where she’s worked for big players like Young & Rubicam, one of the world’s leading marketing companies.

To win the contest, Suggs tapped into her advertising background and left nothing to chance. She worked with a graphic designer to do all of “the creative,” she says, referring to the various advertising aspects of her presentation. “The judges didn’t have to guess what we would look like,” she says. Instead, they were able to view a mock website, business cards, bag labels, RMU signage and direct mail pieces. Her efforts “did make a difference,” she says. “Nothing beats a graphic artist who can lay these things out.”

Her product, a skin care line from Nubian Heritage, is already a proven success, selling well in her Body & Soul location along with jewelry and accessories, Putumayo music, books and a gallery of home furnishings from Africa. “This is the type of product that transcends all races and ages,” she says. After discovering no competitors in the area—not even Wal-Mart or Victoria’s Secret—carrying a complete line of skin care products with shea butter as the principal ingredient, Suggs says she knew her products were what the mall needed. There are three different categories in the line—skin care, facial care and hair care. Products include salt scrubs, lip balms, body mists and hair pomades, in as many as 10 different flavors, like the newly introduced coconut-papaya. “All of the products are 100 percent natural, which makes them really appealing,” says Suggs. “It’s just part of the whole lifestyle of trying to do things more healthy.”

Customers entering her store today will see the prominently placed, larger-than-life mock check for the contest winnings. “Everyone claims the victory, as well,” says Suggs. “It’s such a huge opportunity for an entrepreneur to have their dream come true.”

Winning Package Value $49,650

  • RMU rent (all fees included) for six months, CBL ($12,000)
  • Visual merchandising services, Design Occasions ($600)
  • In-mall advertising and promotion, CBL ($10,000)
  • TV advertising, Fox 8 WGHP TV ($4,000)
  • Radio advertising, Hitz 94 FM WTHZ Radio ($2,150)
  • Newspaper advertising, The Winston-Salem Journal ($17,500)
  • Website banner ad on Hanes Mall website, KMT Creative ($1,500)
  • Graphic design, CES Graphic Media ($500)
  • Printing services, Immedia Print ($500)
  • Office supplies, Staples ($500)
  • Chamber of Commerce membership, Winston- Salem Chamber of Commerce ($400)

Kitchens & Candles RMU/in-line

Deborah Bain is filled with ideas. Retailing in the mall wasn’t one of them, at least until early last year. When she heard about the Challenge, she knew she had to think of an exciting retail concept and enter. After all, she had recently come up with her current business concept: a mobile tax service. “Mobile” meaning she goes to individuals’ workplaces and does their taxes on-site while they work.

She quickly signed up for the Challenge and started asking questions to virtually anyone she met, trying to find out what types of products they would like to see at the mall. One morning, she woke-up thinking about candles and when she asked her hair stylist what she would like to see at the mall, her answer was candles. Later that day, when she took her computer in to be worked on, she saw an advertisement for a fundraising opportunity with soy candles. “That was three signals in one day,” says Bain. “I knew then that candles would be one of my products.”

Her research revealed that no one in town sold candles, so that reinforced her belief that the idea had potential. She started noticing how consumers were showing more preference for “green,” or eco-friendly products than ever before. The soy candles tapped into that trend. The candles she zeroed in on had “all-natural cotton wicks, do not release toxins into the air… [are] made with genetically unaltered soybeans—a renewable resource,” she says. Bain also “thought green” when it came to the operation of Kitchens & Candles. She aims to have a limited impact on the environment by recycling, being conscious of water usage and partnering with other environment-friendly groups.

But Bain’s plan was for more than just soy candles and environment-friendly business practices; she also included unique kitchen gadgets—another item no other retailers in her area were carrying. Bain had spent 10 years in Greensboro, NC, and knew of plenty of kitchen stores there, but not a one in Asheboro. After talking to vendors and securing good pricing, she decided this was the next piece of the puzzle. “I’m bringing products selling successfully in other places here to Asheboro. I’m not reinventing them, just bringing them” to a previously underserved market, she says.

As Bain’s retail concept began to fall into place, she knew an in-line would be a better space for her offerings than an RMU. Taking a big risk, Bain made an agreement with the Randolph Mall and upgraded to an in-line, agreeing to pay the difference in rent between the cost of an RMU and the cost of an in-line. With the rent at least partially taken care of for a year, she can “use this opportunity to learn and grow and be a sponge for retail,” she says. As with the other two winners, Bain will be retailing in her first-choice mall, which is particularly important to her. “I wanted to do something for my community,” she says. Now she can.

Winning Package Value $38,650

  • RMU rent (all fees included) for one year, CBL ($18,000)
  • Visual merchandising services, Design Occasions ($600)
  • In-mall advertising and promotion, CBL ($7,100)
  • TV advertising, Fox 8 WGHP TV ($4,000)
  • Radio advertising, Hitz 94 FM WTHZ Radio ($2,550)
  • Newspaper advertising, Courier-Tribune Newspaper of Asheboro ($3,300)
  • Website banner ad on Randolph Mall website, KMT Creative ($1,300)
  • Graphic design, CES Graphic Media ($500)
  • Printing services, PIP Printing ($500)
  • Office supplies, Staples ($500)
  • Chamber of Commerce membership, Asheboro/Randolph Chamber of Commerce ($300)

Emily Lambert

Lambert, a senior writer for SRR, resides in Philadelphia. She can be reached at

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