Bellingham's Launching Success under new ownership

Posted on September 6, 2013 

Here's a news release from Launching Success, a Bellingham education supply store:

After 10 years directing the growth of Launching Success Learning Store, owners Dan and Barbara Sanford are passing ownership to two of their employees.

The Sanfords recently announced the move to their staff noting that, to the public, not much will look different. The new buyers, general store manager Jen Zimmermann and business manager Kristen Krumdiack, have had major roles in the 12-person organization for the past three years.

Following the tradition of using educators in the company, Zimmermann is a former school teacher with broad experience in many levels of classroom and church school education. Co-owner Kristen Krumdiack is also very active in church and community organizations and is in the process of getting her certification as a public accountant.

Barbara and Dan co-founded Launching Success with other teachers on Northwest Avenue in 2003 and led the move of the store to its present location to the north Meridian district on Prince Avenue in 2006. In 2009 they stepped into full ownership when two other partners retired. Barbara Sanford is a former elementary teacher and librarian who enjoyed the books part of store operations. Her husband, Dan Sanford, recently retired from university teaching in the fields of international education and business management at Whitworth University, Western Washington University and Trinity Western University.

Using a unique business model, Launching Success has had remarkable growth, averaging an annual jump in volume of 20 percent, while many similar stores across the country have struggled. The move of the store in 2006 to their new building at 133 Prince Avenue was a huge boost according to the Sanfords, as it more than tripled the total space and allowed for big changes. Besides teacher materials, the store could now sell specialty educational toys and games and could host many more professional, parent and children events.

The company owners cite several key strategies for surviving tough environments such as Amazon.com competition and the severe recession. A shift to products for parents to use with their children, including learning toys, has boosted sales dramatically. “Parents are now our major market with teachers, schools and homeschoolers coming in second,” explained Dan Sanford, who previously directed the store’s marketing.

Another key to beat the threat posed by Internet giants, besides the store’s own growing online business, has been the store’s decision to take the store to the customer. For several years it has employed field representatives to engage with community educators in a tri-county area including Skagit and Island Counties. The store is present at several dozen conventions and professional events in the region each year. Its sales to school districts and private schools, accordingly, have jumped.

“Alliances have also been crucial for us,” Sanford explains. “Locally, we have partnered with a variety of organizations such as Bricks and Beyond, LLC (Lego® robotics), early education specialist David Matteson, and Spark Museum. National links with Dallas Pen Company, Send The Light Distribution and The Good Toy Group have been amazingly productive. These groups guarantee reasonable prices, effective inventory decisions and product quality control.”

The Sanfords continue to help at the store and remain on the Learning Store’s board. As they reduce their role, they hope to continue helping with service to community groups. Barbara Sanford has been active with early learning associations in Whatcom and Skagit Counties, Northwest Reading Council, Whatcom Women in Business, the Elder Services Providers and Birchwood Presbyterian Church. Dan Sanford will continue his work with the store’s philanthropy, work with Kiwanis kids’ programs and support groups such as The Firs children’s camps.

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