Can siblings without rivalry merrily run a family business? Sounds too good to be true.
But brother and sister Richard and Hilary Kraft do run their specialty store, Sticker Planet (633 West 3rd Street #220), with a sense of shared responsibility and mutual respect.
Hilary admits that her relationship with her brother – both personal and professional – can sound a little sugary. “People always say how rare it is to see a brother and sister work so well together,” she explains. “But we have always been close, even as kids. When we had the opportunity to work together, we jumped at it. The store has elevated our relationship to another level. I can’t imagine running the business with anyone else. We trust each other implicitly.”
Richard and Hilary were both feeling burnt out in their respective jobs in 1991, so when their parents, Bernie and Selma, suggested they join the family business during a relocation, it was a no-brainer. Though the original location did not survive the renovation of the Santa Monica Place Mall, Sticker Planet became one of only two or three merchants from “the other side of the lot” invited to reopen in the historic part of Los Angeles’ famed Farmer’s Market at Third and Fairfax following its major overhaul in the early 90’s.
“The historic Farmer’s Market is a great location that draws both locals and tourists. It’s wonderful being part of a place that’s been an institution in Los Angeles for nearly 80 years,” says Richard. “If there is any downside to the location, it is that, being in an open-air market, we are subject to the weather.”
Though the Farmer’s Market may be central to Sticker Planet’s success, it comes with some unexpected responsibilities that make it essential for Hilary and Richard to keep the lines of communication wide open, especially considering both have jobs outside the store. (Richard is a substitute high school teacher. Hilary does consulting work in the areas of change management and human resources. They occasionally do document writing and editing work together for other businesses and organizations on a freelance basis.)
“We don’t keep regular hours,” notes Richard. “Our workload ebbs and flows. There are family fun days and other events that we participate in,” he says.
“Just a few weeks ago the Farmer’s Market hosted a birthday party for 50 children,” Hilary chimes in. “We provided the arts and crafts. Other merchants provided food and drinks. There are no typical days here. We have to be flexible.”
Because they both do other work, Richard and Hilary constantly strive to make Sticker Planet’s day-to-day operations run more efficiently. They replaced their old-school cash register with a modern POS system that has drastically improved the management of their just-in-time inventory. They outsource their payroll to a PEO (Professional Employer Organization) that also provides HR services, like benefits for their full-time employees. And ten years ago, they completely rebuilt the store with three walls made entirely of glass. “The best way to advertise and market our product is for people to actually see our product,” says Richard.
Their mother, Selma, is still actively involved in the store. She works the floor twice a week, attends trade shows, and continues to seek out new and interesting sticker projects, which are displayed throughout the store.
Sadly, ten years ago, Richard and Hilary lost their father to Lou Gehrig’s disease. Though Bernie is gone, his spirit lives on. Over the past ten years, employees at Sticker Planet have raised tens of thousands of dollars for ALS research by walking together as the “Sticker Planet Bunch for Bernie” in Los Angeles’ annual Walk to Defeat ALS®. “It was our dad’s vision to open a sticker store here in the first place,” says Richard.