Gillette girl spearheads family online clothing business

Nine-year-old Zoey Friedly packages a shirt for her online business The Naughty Unicorn, which specializes in "tween" clothing. (Photo by August Frank, Gillette News Record)

By Jonathan Gallardo

Gillette News Record

Via Wyoming News Exchange

GILLETTE — Zoey Friedly sat in her office Tuesday afternoon, fulfilling orders for her online business, The Naughty Unicorn Shop. Someone in Gillette had just ordered a couple of shirts.

After a couple of clicks, she looked away from the computer for a second. Her gaze fell upon a Form 41-1, a document that deals with sales and use tax returns for licensed vendors and has to be filed with the state Department of Revenue every three months.

Friedly picked it up, read through it, turned it over a couple of times, then placed it back onto her desk.

“I don’t even know what this is,” she said.

You’d think most entrepreneurs would have at least an idea of how to file state taxes, but not Friedly. She has a good reason for not knowing, though.

She’s 9 years old, and, an online store that sells T-shirts and leggings for girls, has only been up for a month.

Luckily, Zoey isn’t running the business by herself. She has the help of Toni Friedly, the shop’s marketing manager, chief financial officer and — most importantly — Zoey’s mom.

Together, Zoey and Toni make up The Naughty Unicorn, and the 9-year-old is learning some valuable lessons while spending time with her mom.

The idea for The Naughty Unicorn was born in December because Toni and Zoey saw a need in the community.

“There’s really no shopping places in Gillette, plus you can’t get kid’s clothing for affordable prices,” Zoey said.

Toni was tired of spending a lot of money on new clothes to replace her kids’ “lost” clothes.

“I don’t know how they lose 15 pairs of leggings,” she said.

“They’re all in the dirty laundry,” Zoey explained.

The original plan was for Zoey and her sisters, 14-year-old Jayden and 6-year-old Vivienne, to run the business together.

“We decided this would be a fun thing for us to do as a family,” Toni said. “I’ve done network marketing the last seven years and the kids grew up watching me do it, but it was always things they couldn’t do with me.”

Then Jayden decided she wasn’t interested anymore and Vivienne realized she cared more about packaging items.

“Zoey decided she cared about it all,” Toni said. “She puts herself into everything she does, full-bore.”

The Naughty Unicorn is no exception, even as there’s been quite a bit of a learning curve for the pair.

“Programming, customer service, packaging, inventory — there’s a lot to it that we didn’t realize when we got into it,” Toni said.

Zoey said she came up with the name at lunch one day, “because Vivienne, my little sister, she loves unicorns, and she is a little bit naughty.”

Children’s fashion has changed a lot since Toni was young and wearing “rolled jeans and side ponytails.”

“Kids, they just want to be comfortable, they don’t want to feel confined or restricted, so leggings and T-shirts are where it’s at,” Toni said.

There was nowhere in Gillette to buy “fun leggings,” Toni said. Parents can “go to Walmart, stock up on the leggings there, but they’re all generic.”

That’s why The Naughty Unicorn sells leggings with prints of pineapples, dragonflies or planets.

There also is a section on the website for moms, “because moms love leggings too,” Zoey said, as well as T-shirts that might not be appropriate for kids to wear.

“She owns, like, every shirt in that category,” Zoey said.

“That’s not true,” Toni said. “I own two shirts.”

“Oh no,” Zoey said. “You own like three or four.”

Toni said she wanted to make sure “every single T-shirt had two pairs of leggings that matched” so moms could essentially get four outfits for $40 instead of one.

Both Toni and Zoey lamented the fact that “kids don’t care” whether their clothes match.

“You know how Vivienne wears blue with yellow and red?” Zoey asked.

“She does not care, but neither do you,” Toni said.

“I do wear my leggings sometimes that match,” Zoey replied.

“On a lucky day,” Toni finished.

The website launched March 6 and so far has done about $1,800 in gross sales and people have ordered from as far away as Texas and California.

Toni is marketing on social media, since Zoey is still too young for Facebook and Instagram. And Zoey is getting word out the old-fashioned way, telling her friends and classmates at Pronghorn Elementary.

Zoey and Toni were at the Northeast Wyoming Contractors Association Home Show at the Cam-plex Wyoming Center in mid-March. Of the 120-plus vendors at the show, Zoey was by far the youngest.

She said she wants to do it again, and what she enjoyed most was “hanging out with my mom and helping people.”

“Every hour we set a goal, to how many outfits or pieces of clothing we’re going to sell,” Zoey said.

Toni said she was “pretty stoked about” how Zoey handled herself. Toni even walked away from the booth a few times and let her daughter run things without her help.

She did a great job of upselling, Toni said, showing people that a pair of leggings would match with not one, but two T-shirts.

“I don’t think she knew she had that in her,” Toni said, “but she started really enjoying talking to people.”

Zoey is still learning the ropes, and with school and soccer occupying much of her time, Toni is doing a lot of the work. But Toni hopes that by this summer, Zoey will have a good enough handle to run things on her own.

“She doesn’t realize it yet, but it’s really going to help her as an adult,” Toni said. “I’m really hoping that she will just get into the groove … without me standing behind her.”

The goal is to generate enough business so that Zoey can eventually give herself a paycheck, Toni said.

As far as long term, Zoey’s dreams lie elsewhere.

“She wants to be a Food Network star,” Toni said.

Zoey corrected her mom.

“No, I want to be a chef.”

Maybe she’ll open up her own restaurant, Toni said, or become a fashion mogul or a soccer player. But Zoey is “easily bored if she’s not constantly doing something,” so maybe she’ll do more than one, just to mix it up.

Just like her outfits.