Michell Pooler has lots of things she likes to do, and she possesses multiple skill sets. So when Pooler started her own business several years ago, she decided to meld her skills and training with her passions.
What did she come up with? A Touch of Fun.
The retailer, located on the north side of Town Center Shopping Center in Leawood, is a children’s boutique and birthday party destination, an art studio, a spa and photo studio — all in one.
Q: What is A Touch of Fun?
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“We don’t fit in a box,” Pooler said. “We are not your typical store...it all fits in together.”
Everything the store carries is hand-made, either by Pooler or friends. Pooler makes all of the customized clothing items herself.
While most of the inventory is geared to children, “big kids” aren’t left out.
“We do make adult custom dresses,” Pooler said. “We do everything from play tutus to 10,000 bows on our walls. We have children’s and adult jewelry...and we have launched homemade doggie treats and homeopathic dog soaps.”
Pooler said all of Touch of Fun’s offerings weave together through customized packages. “A lot of it ties into birthday parties or photo shoots,” she said.
For example, a parent orders a customized outfit for the child to wear for a birthday party in the store. Before the party, the child can come in for a manicure/pedicure followed by a photo shoot. Children attending the party can use the photo booth to take fun pictures with costume pieces. And Pooler will also lead the kids through an art activity.
Pooler said a complete birthday party package, without food, ranges from $200 to $300.
“Being a mom, I knew what was important to me,” said Pooler, the mother of two. “ E-vites are included, we take photos of the cake, the child opening each gift, photo booth pictures, some kind of makeover, prizes for games and all the paper goods.”
Q: How did you start the business?
Pooler and her husband Logan Parker are both involved with Touch of Fun.
“I wanted to adopt a child so my husband gave me the store instead,” said Pooler with a laugh. “I have always been a very artistic person...He is the official owner and I am the manager and creator. I make all the decisions and he pays the bills.”
Pooler’s creative streak goes back to her college days when she worked for a birthday party company. Pooler holds degrees in business, multi-media communication and hotel-restaurant management. She was involved with a production company and Nickelodeon Studios. While living in Florida, she worked as a character performer at Disney World for four years.
“I was Gonzo and I was Ursula,” she said.
After moving to the Kansas City area, Pooler did special events before officially hanging out a shingle and going into business.
“I put all of the parts of my life together and came up with this craziness,” she said. “I am using all different aspects of what I have done, from being a clown and doing birthday parties I know how to deal with kids. I used to make balloon bouquets and now I make candy grams.”
Pooler first opened Touch of Fun at the Great Mall in Olathe about three years ago. The business was primarily focused on birthday parties at that time.
Q: Why the relocation?
Earlier this year, Pooler had to suddenly move out of the mall when it announced plans to shut down.
“That was terrifying,” she said. “We had 70 days to make a decision on whether to close up or what we should do.”
Wanting to remain in Johnson County, the shop owner checked out Town Center’s leasing information and completed a leasing application.
“I filled it out at 11 at night and the manager was back to me by 9 a.m. the next morning,” Pooler said. “He came out to my store, looked around and loved it and worked with me to make this happen.”
Pooler said she got a favorable lease arrangement on about 3,000-square-feet at Town Center. Touch of Fun opened in the new space in April.
“Because of the location, we have been able to take aspects of what we were doing and make it bigger,” Pooler said. “We are also able to do more adult events and fundraisers.”
Touch of Fun has a staff of six to eight part-timers.
Q: How do you handle inventory?
Pooler’s clothing inventory is comprised of a number of one-of-a-kind pieces.
“We have very little back stock,” she said. “Our backroom is for supplies. Almost everything that is made is out on the floor.”
While Pooler doesn’t use an automated system to track her inventory, she does have a method of making the boutique’s clothing items.
“I make a schedule of what needs to be made and I knock it out,” Pooler said. “I get my staff to do a lot of cutting, trimming or making the bows.”
Mondays are reserved for making baby dresses.
“The next day I might make all of one layer of tutus and then the next all fairy and character dresses,” she said. “I’ve made about 50,000 ‘Frozen’ dresses.”
Pooler offers four basic styles of dresses and several designs for area sports teams as well as popular characters including Minnie Mouse and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Pricing on outfits is based on size and the complexity of the garment, beginning at $15 up to $60.
Because clothing items are customized, Pooler has been able to fill a growing niche in children’s clothing – plus sizes.
“Parents can’t go to the store and buy what they want, they don’t make them to fit them,” she said. “I don’t know how many parents come in and thank me for helping build their child’s self confidence so their child feels like everybody else.”
Q: How do you market all of Touch of Fun’s products and services?
“That has been my toughest thing because of my budget,” Pooler said. “We do a lot of Facebook and some Groupon promotions. You don’t get a lot (of money) up front but I get a lot of repeat business from it. It’s is extremely helpful.”
Pooler has done limited advertising in local parent publications and event calendars as well as creating flyers for distribution.
“And we do a lot of festivals,” she said. “It’s amazing how many people will come in and say ‘I saw you at Old Shawnee Days’.”
Touch of Fun also hosts special events for adults to spread the word.
“We offer everything from make-up events to cooking demos and self-defense,” she said. “We try to do ladies nights out every other month.”
Q: What is in Touch of Fun’s future?
“I would love to franchise this out to other moms,” Pooler said. “It is a perfect job for any mom that wants to go back to work and own their own business.”
In a nutshell
COMPANY: Touch of Fun
ADDRESS: 4809 W. 117th St.
No web site but Touch of Fun has several Facebook pages.