“Kids grow like beanstalks,” Sharon Munroe likes to say. The owner of children’s consignment shop Little Green Beans should know: She is the mother of two—soon to be three in September.
Seeking help through SCORE
SCORE, a national nonprofit organization with an Austin chapter, was an integral part of getting Little Green Beans off the ground, owner Sharon Munroe said. Since 1964, SCORE volunteers have provided free advice to business owners and entrepreneurs.
Celia Bell, who spent much of her career at BusinessSuites, a shared office space company, counseled Munroe on the launch of her shop.
“We think of ourselves and talk of ourselves as mentors. We will be there from the beginning of the process until as long as we’re needed,” Bell said.
Bell is one of 45 volunteers at the Austin SCORE, which worked with 2,000 businesses last year. For more information, go to www.scoreaustin.org.
Still wearing heels in her ninth month of pregnancy, Munroe moves carefully though racks of pint-sized T-shirts, pants and dresses, size newborn to a children’s size 16.
The remaining space is filled with toys, books, maternity wear and equipment, such as diaper-changing tables, highchairs and strollers.
Even filled to capacity, the store appears orderly with clothing organized by type—play, dress-up, school uniforms and dance apparel—and toys categorized by the age or size they are intended for.
Munroe said her items are typically 50 percent to 70 percent off the original retail price. For instance, a Graco Pack ‘n Play that retails for about $130 costs $55 at Little Green Beans. But what she thinks draws customers to her store is not so much affordability; rather, it is the store’s atmosphere and her attention to customer preference.
In the past six months, Munroe has posted four surveys on the Little Green Beans website to gauge customer satisfaction with their store experience and test new product and service concepts.
“Getting regular, structured feedback really helps me run Little Green Beans and improve the customer experience,” she said.
Even the name Little Green Beans came from gathering input. Munroe emailed “100 of her closest friends” asking them to come up with a store name based on her concept. The winner would get a gift certificate to his or her favorite store. “Green Beans” was a favorite, and Munroe simply added the “Little.”
For Munroe, seeking feedback is just part of the job. Before opening Little Green Beans, she worked in market research, first at Dell Inc. and then remotely for large, global market research firms.
Her choice to switch to the resale sector was inspired by her volunteer work with the Assistance League of Austin. For 10 years, Munroe was a day manager on Saturdays at the organization’s thrift shop, one of its main fundraising sources. That experience taught her how to curate and manage inventory, but more importantly, it allowed her to interact with customers throughout the day, which is what drew her to start her own store.
“I love being around children and families with children,” she said.
Little Green Beans
9070 Research Blvd., Ste. 103