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