For Brooklyn, New York-based Butterﬂy 7 CEO Rick Shorter, change, transformation, and growth have become his hallmark, in an ever-changing retail experience centered on smart play for kids. Today, Shorter sells toys, books, art, and school supplies, as the head of one the few remaining black-owned children’s toy stores in the country.
After spending over 20 years in leadership roles in the fashion industry, Shorter decided to try his hand at entrepreneurship. Back in 2007, Butterﬂy 7 was initially slated to be a café and wine bar, to tap into the growing market, but “that didn’t work out so well,” says Shorter. “Our ﬁrst [official] rendition [of Butterfly 7] was a personal care boutique, which specialized in artisan soaps, lotions, and body products,” Shorter continues.
But, what happened? Two short words—the recession.
“In 2008, we shuttered our wings, chalked it up to an experience, and moved on,” he explains.
Butterfly 7 Spreads Its Wings
Determined to try again, Shorter eventually reopened Butterfly 7, during the summer of 2013. For its third time around, the shop reopened as a children’s clothing and consignment boutique.
“I had the good fortune of meeting someone who was closing a similar [type of] store, and they gave me a piece of advice, ‘Have a little shelf with a few toys.’ We ﬁgured, what the heck? It’s only a couple of shelves. But, the toys would consistently outperform other items in the store,” Shorter explains.
In response to this demand, Shorter added more shelves of toys. “The neighborhood came and voted with their purchases for toys, over and over again. I believe that the success of any business is its ability to listen to its customer,” he says.
After investing over $20,000 from of his personal savings in startup costs, Shorter was finally on to something.
Finding Your Niche
In June of 2014, Shorter made the decision to transform the business from consignment shop to a toy store. In doing so, he stumbled upon an unmet need. “Starting at around the ages of two to three, kids are invited to their friends’ and schoolmates’ birthday parties. Stressed and short of time, parents need an easy solution to the birthday party woes,” he says. People were looking for an alternative to large retailers to make quick and simple purchases.“In short, we found our niche–birthday presents,” he says.
But for Shorter, it’s not just about offering convenience; it’s about providing quality goods. The toy store stocks both domestic and international toys, with brands from Germany and France, along with mainstream toys from U.S. manufacturers, such as Crayola crayons, Mattel Barbie dolls, and Razor scooters. The age range for the target audience intended to utilize Butterfly 7’s merchandise stretches from toddlers to children around 10-years-old.
Understanding the market and appealing to the common thread of the consumer base in the market continues to be challenging. However, direct mail has proven to be successful, and up next are local television ads.
“People love having the boutique experience and [a personal touch] when buying toys for gifts,” Shorter exclaims. Thanks to a vibrant community of customers, Shorter has plans to expand the business in upcoming years.