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Apricot Lane Boutiques Franchise - Interview with Ken Petersen, Founder and Founding Chair, CEO

KenPetersen is the founder and CEO of Country Visions, Inc. the franchisor forApricot Lane Boutique, a women's fashion retail concept with stores in malls andlifestyle centers across the country. A serial entrepreneur and retired fire captain,Ken has been involved in many business startups in the areas of retail,wholesale, distribution, real estate, consulting, franchising, internationalmanufacturing and non-profit. As a member of Convene, a trusted community ofhigh performing Christian CEOs and business leaders, Ken enjoys accountabilitywith like-minded business men and women across the country.

Kenfounded 3Strands a non-profit 501c3 with a mission of ending sex traffickingand a focus on business initiatives to create jobs both as prevention andrestoration for sex trafficking victims. 3Strands also strives to mobilize acommunity of "Freedom Fighters" who bring strength in numbers.

Ahusband and father of four, Ken treats money, power, fame and status asresources and plans to devote the rest of his life to helping others with hisexperience, knowledge and gifts.

Franchise Expo: Tell us about the Apricot Lane Boutiques concept.
Ken Petersen: Apricot Lane Boutiques are a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, uniquely designed and merchandised with the latest Fashion Apparel, Jewelry, Handbags, Accessories and Gifts in trend setting styles and fashion forward looks catered to its clientele.

Each of our boutiques and their individual e-commerce sites create a unique adventure and shopping experience that captures the look and vibe of their local area. They feature today’s most sought after styles and must have pieces to embrace anyone’s individual taste from mother to daughter. Offered in limited quantities with new arrivals almost daily, shopping at Apricot Lane is truly an affordable "unique boutique" experience.

FE: How and when did you become involved with Apricot Lane ?
KP: We launched Apricot Lane in 2007. Apricot Lane grew out of a vision of taking our previous franchising experience in home decor and collectibles and transforming it to fill a HUGE void in the fashion industry. You had independent boutique operators all over the country and then you had the big national retailers - but nobody in the middle. We brought franchising to the fashion industry and now our franchisees have some of the resources that the big nationals enjoy such as: leveraged buying, marketing resources, customer service and training modules including training videos, store assessments & customer surveys, automated employee training program, PR, state of the art cloud based POS systems with customized dashboards and most important - a network of franchisees who share what is working and not working - the real strength comes from learning from each other. We have a system wide conference call each month to talk about what's working in our stores and sharing information on all pertinent business aspects.

FE: What was your background prior to joining Apricot Lane franchise?
KP: I was a Fire Captain for the City of Vacaville, CA and got into retail in the 80’s with a furniture retail concept that we grew to four stores and a distribution center. We sold that and started a gift and collectible franchise concept in 1993 as I was retiring from the Fire Department. Apricot Lane began in 2007.

FE: What are some of the advantages in being a Apricot Lane franchisee?
KP: We give you flexibility to manage your inventory to cater to your local demographic – it really is our strength. We have buyers all over the country, they are called, “franchisees”. We have a monthly conference call to talk about what is working and what is not. We all learn from each other and our best finds can come from our franchisees. We also allow our franchisees to grow their business via internet sales through social media and e-commerce. We are the leading women’s boutique franchise with 24 years of franchise experience and the support infrastructure is mature and in place already to help our franchisees be successful. Our stores are known for “giving back” to our local communities and collectively we fight the issue of Human Trafficking around the world through a non-profit we established called “3StrandsGlobal”.

FE: Who is your ideal franchisee?
KP: We look for someone who has an affinity for fashion, someone who wants to use the store to connect with and “give back” to their local community and someone who desires to be in business for themselves, just not by themselves. Business or retail experience is a plus, but not required.

FE: Tell us a little about the Fashion Boutique Market?
KP: Just as fashion trends change quickly, not all trends relate to all parts of the country. Our stores have the flexibility to buy their own products curated to their local customer base. It takes just one visit to fall in love but repeat visits always give our customers a chance to discover something new! The best part about Apricot Lane is that we base ourselves on affordable fashion yet while still offering a boutique type atmosphere. The reason why boutiques work so well is because people like to know they are buying something not everyone else will have. We offer a limited quantity of every item on the floor so when someone's size is sold out, it's sold out. With no back-room and extra stock we won't replace the same item on the floor. This ensures everyone’s purchase to be more unique and individualized. We combine this with replicating the high end fashion looks seen in today’s style scene and offer them at very attainable prices.

FE: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
KP: That the franchisor doesn’t have all the answers and the power of franchising is the strength that comes from everyone. You need a culture that is open to input. We are motivated to always “Do the right thing” which keeps us on track and full of integrity.

FE: Do you have a mentor and is their someone you use for inspiration?
KP: I belong to a Christian CEO group called, Convene. We meet monthly for inspiration, training and conduct “Opportunity Challenges” among our peers to get input and wisdom on issues that affect us all. It is like an awesome advisory board.

FE: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
KP: Make sure it is a right fit for you. Do your homework and due diligence. Look for healthy barometers such as: Multiple store owners; growing franchise numbers; aligned values and franchisees are happy with their decision.

FE: In your opinion, why do you think that Apricot Lane would be a great opportunity for someone?
KP: We exist to the support and success of our franchisee. Our success depends on it. Our experience, culture, support infrastructure, flexibility and dedication to our franchisees combined with a model that is unique, tested and developed makes for a great opportunity for someone interested in a fashion boutique franchise.

Dan Steward of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors

Dan Steward joined Pillar To Post as President in 2004. The success of every Pillar To Post franchisee lies at the core of the past, present and future for Pillar To Post.