They say every cloud has a silver lining. While that may be a bit of a cliché, for Kim Kuhnle, owner of Balderson Kidz, it holds an element of truth.
“When the pandemic arrived and the first lockdown hit, we were looking for a way to stay connected with our customers,” recalls Kim. “That’s when we started our book club.”
“It was an opportunity for families to sign up and receive 3 – 5 books each month, delivered free to their home,” explains Kim. “Every two weeks I load up the car and head out.”
With many youngsters at home and parents looking to keep them occupied, the club became an instant hit. Before long, Kim’s arrival at the various homes became a much anticipated event. “It’s so cute. In many cases, the kids are sitting in the window waiting for us to arrive,” saysKim.
Kids love clubs. As a result, along with her book club, Kim began a Boredom Buster Club, a surprise pack containing a range of products for children again delivered to the door each month. The pack could include everything from activity books, crafts and how-to-guides and. Kim also has a Sticker Club.
Kim knows all too well what it’s like to be looking for something to do. She originally came from Osgoode a place she says is smaller than Perth.
“It’s so small, they don’t even have street lights,” she laughs. Looking to move somewhere bigger, without having to relocate to the city, Kim arrived in Perth in 2006. Prior to that she had worked in the retail industry since she was 14.
“I eventually went to college in the business administration program and got a job in an office, but it wasn’t for me,” she says. She left after less than a year.
Her heart belonged in retail and so she became the franchise owner of the Mac’s Milk on the corner of Gore & Craig Streets in Perth.
“That was hard. With a young family, it was tough to be on call 24/7 so I gave that up,” she says.
By this time she and her husband Brett had three children – Josie age 10, Sophia age 9 and Blake who is 1 1/2. Their middle child Sofia has severe autism.
With a young family at her side, Kim decided that whatever she did next would have to involve her kids.
“I knew that whatever it was I did, I wanted to be able to bring the children to work. So when Balderson KIdz became available it just seemed like a good fit,” she reflects.
Having a retail outlet dealing in merchandise for children was the perfect fit for Kim and her family with her kids quickly becoming her quality control department.
“We test everything that comes into store,” says Kim who explains why the pandemic has been especially difficult for her business. “It’s hard to buy children’s things on line. People like to come in and try things out. It’s just easier for them to do exchanges and returns.”
While she missed her walk-in customers, Kim used her time during the lockdowns to strengthen her online presence through such programs as the Digital Main Street. She also looked to add to her line of children’s clothing. “I’ve really wanted to expand my selection of footwear since there isn’t really anywhere else that carries that.”
Having a child with special needs has allowed Kim to expand her inventory in different ways with items specifically designed for children who are developmentally delayed.
“These items are also tested by Sofia and her other children,” points out Kim “and have become extremely popular. We just started stocking them in June and since then we’ve had to re-order multiple times.”
With her children taking an active part in the business, it keeps everything in the family, just the way Kim wanted it.
“We have fun,” she says. And when work is fun, it hardly seems like work at all.