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Key Idea: Look for Neglected Customers

Blair Taylor owns and Athlete's Foot Store in Compton (near Los Angeles).  He says no retailer or business owner should shy away from any neighborhood if he has a product that the people in that neighborhood want or need. Blair is now the CEO of the LA Urban League.

Key Question:

A: 

Blair Taylor is making money by going where others don't think of going.

Q: Why don't we consider starting a business or adding a location in an urban area?

A: Blair, in a very nice way, says it's simply a blind spot for most entrepreneurs. He reminds us to use our analytical powers and not to react emotionally to the media's idea that urban areas are dangerous.

Yes, urban areas are different from the suburbs. But, people live in urban areas and we all need people to both be customers and employees. Blair says that urban areas are undervalued. This is another way to say if you invest $1 in an urban area, you'll get a faster and higher return on your money than if you invest in the more obvious.

Consider this: Young African-American men spend more on athletic shoes than any other market segment. So, it makes sense for Blair to have an Athlete's Foot franchise in Watts where there are plenty of young men with money to buy shoes. It's that simple.

Drop the old thinking. Harvard professor, Michael Porter, is writing about this very topic right now.

Think about it

Is there an opportunity for your business in a urban area? If yes, what action can you take to create jobs in an urban area?

Clip from: FastSigns: A study of Franchisor & Franchisee

Carrollton, Texas: This business began on the back of a paper napkin around a discussion over breakfast. That was 1985 .  Gary Salomon saw how a computer could make high-quality signs in hours instead of days. He jumped at the opportunity to build a business offering this service internationally. Today his company, FastSigns, is America’s leading sign company with over 500 locations worldwide.

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COI/ICD The Athlete's Foot now LA Urban League

Blair H. Taylor, President & CEO

Los Angeles Urban League
3450 Mount Vernon Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90008
323.299.9660

Visit our web site: http://www.laul.org/pres_bio.htm

Office: 323.299.9660

Business Classification:
Franchisor (and now in Education & HRM)

Year Founded: 1925

Look for Neglected Customers

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Gary's just one of thousands involved in franchising. Blair Taylor, who owns one of The Athlete's Foot store in Los Angeles, is committed both to franchising and to urban development.

BLAIR TAYLOR (Owner, The Athlete's Foot): I came from a background of sales and marketing. And when I wanted to make the transition into entrepreneurship, there was no better vehicle than to utilize a franchise concept, particularly one that was well-established and had a track record of success, because that helped us to get off the ground very quickly, especially when you're going into a new market like an urban market. The urban marketplace has typically been a little underdeveloped. We saw that as an opportunity, and we wanted to marry ourselves to a leading-edge franchise concept so that we could get into that market with a name brand concept and have all the success that's associated with that.

HATTIE: Why do you think so many folks are afraid to do business, or to come into--bring their businesses into urban areas?

BLAIR: Well, you know, I think there's a lot of misconceptions about the urban marketplace on the part of major retailers and on the part of small-business people as well. Sometimes I think there's a misconception that folks believe there's not enough business to be had in the urban marketplace, which if you look at, for example, the consumer of athletic footwear, a large percentage of athletic footwear consumers and a large percentage of the dollars spent are coming from individuals who live in communities like Compton.

Typically, what's happened, though, is that those individuals are going out of their community to buy those goods and services, and so our concept was really to bring those goods and services right back to the home location. And when you get into the question of why do major corporations have some issues with urban development, I think there's still a lot of stigmas attached, there's still a lot of misunderstandings about what the urban marketplace is, and what it can be. And I think one of the things that we have positioned ourselves to be is a vehicle to help some of those companies really understand, `Hey, there is a viable business opportunity here.' It is a wonderful growing community and with the right model and approach to store development, there's some great things that can happen in those partnerships.

HATTIE: OK. Does this store make money for you guys?

BLAIR: Absolutely. This is probably going to turn out to be our most profitable store, and it already is well en route, even after six months, to being just that.

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