Today’s interview is with Heather Mohorn. Heather is the Owner of Momo’s Tree House. Momo’s is a Philadelphia kids toy store that only stocks unique and educational toys of all varieties.
Heather purchased a clear window decal for her storefront in order to display the store hours of her toy store in Old City.
Tell Us About Yourself
I grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. I’ve always loved working with kids. I started teaching swim lessons when I was 14, and I kept teaching and coaching swimming through high school and college. I graduated from Yale in 2009, and took a job as an options trader outside of Philadelphia. I worked in finance for four years, and left in 2013. I got married and opened Momo’s in 2014.
What does your company do?
Open since November of 2014, we sell toys for curious kids in Old City, Philadelphia. I wanted Momo’s to be a destination for families. Our 2000 square foot space has plenty of room for little ones to run around and explore. We welcome families to stay and play as long as they like. We have a play area with a kitchen, train table, and some ride-on toys, as well as a craft table where kids can try our art supplies. We were recognized by Philadelphia Family Magazine as the city’s best toy store after only 4 months in business.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I lived in Old City for four years before opening Momo’s Tree House. The neighborhood attracts a lot of visiting families because of the historical sites like the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin’s house, and Independence Hall. There’s also thriving independent boutique scene. I noticed that despite plenty of children and plenty of great shopping, there were no stores for children. Now Old City has Momo’s!
What sets you apart from your competition OR what is your unique selling proposition?
We understand that children learn through play. Our staff can help customers find the perfect gift for any kid, and we provide complimentary gift-wrap. Our selection is curated. We don’t sell anything with licensed characters or a screen. It’s a relief for parents to shop in a kid-friendly environment without video games and Disney characters everywhere.
Does sourcing unique/hard to find toys mean you have to pass the cost onto your customers? If so, how do you overcome this?
Everyone knows that wooden blocks handmade in Michigan cost more than plastic ones made in China. We carry a variety of price points so that there is something for everyone.
What is one strategy for gaining customers that you have been successful with?
We get lots of tourist food traffic, so we try to draw them inside. Our most fun method is our Joke of the Day. We write a little riddle on a sandwich board with “ask inside” underneath. That gets people in the door. We’ve also had success with events like story time and our Easter egg hunt. The kids have fun, and the parents spread the word.
Is there an area that you’ve struggled with in acquiring new customers that you believe is critical to future success? If so, how are you overcoming that?
We’re still trying to figure out what works. I’ve tried Facebook advertising, but I don’t have much evidence that it’s worth it. Ask me after a few more months in business.
How do you compete with the bigger toy stores that have brand recognition and large marketing budgets?
Customers actually like coming to Momo’s Tree House. We’re happy to help, and we’re also happy to let customers play. People have fun discovering new products. We have demos displayed all over the store for anyone to enjoy.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have had with your business and how did you overcome it?
Winter was tough. No one visits Philly in February.
How did you overcome this? Or how do you think you will overcome seasonality in the future to ensure your business continues to grow?
Holiday sales were strong enough to help us through the winter doldrums. Slow winters are expected- the median specialty toy store does 24% of its sales in December and only 5% in Jan. I used the slow season to evaluate what worked and what needed to change. My husband and I went on vacation. I spent three days in February at Toy Fair in New York. It wasn’t bad to have a break.
Did you write a formal business plan? Regardless of yes or no, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the “business plan” phase?
Yes, I have a business plan. I used data from the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association to get started. It helped to have numbers from similar stores.
Did you take on money to start your business? Regardless of yes or no, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs on bootstrap vs. funding?
I took the start-up money from my savings, so I don’t have any advice about that topic.
If you could rewind time is there anything you’d do differently? If so, what?
I would have spent more time on marketing before we opened. I got the keys to the store on October 2nd, and I was determined to open by a big neighborhood event on November 7th. I was so focused on the necessary physical tasks- painting, unpacking toys, assembling displays- that marketing went on the back burner. I should have let my employees start earlier because I needed the extra hands.
If you had advice for other SMB owners, regardless of the industry, what would it be?
Hire to delegate. Show repeat customers that you recognize and appreciate them.
How do you “WOW” your customers?
Our products help. For example, we sell a bubble wand that blows bubbles the size of a 4-year-old. The best part of my job is taking kids outside and having a bubble party. Momo’s Tree House carries products that delight, and our customers love coming to the store to discover them.
What do you think the future holds for your business?
Let’s get through the first 6 months first! I would love to open a few more locations. I’d also like to host parties, but we would need additional space for that.
Without sharing detailed financials can you speak to your growth to this point and why you think it will continue?
That’s hard to answer since we’ve only been open for 5 months.
Where can you be found on the internet?
Website – http://www.momostreehouse.com/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/momostreehouse
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/momostreehouse/
Instagram – https://instagram.com/momostreehouse/
Editor’s Note: We appreciate Heather taking a few minutes to interview with us. Heather’s success is at least in part a credit to her ability to spot a need. She recognized that the area of Philadelphia was full of kids from visiting tourists but lacked entertainment options for kids. Starting a business that fills a legitimate need is arguably the best thing any small business owner can do for long term success. Heather has also successfully created a unique store by encouraging kids and parents to stay and play, sample and have fun. Thanks for sharing Heather!