Sarah-Gall1The Runner’s Flat, Cedar Falls

Sarah Gall is a passionate runner. Graduating from the University of Colorado on a cross-country scholarship, Sarah was invited to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team on two occasions. Taking what she learned in college and combining it with her passion (running), Sarah ventured out to see if the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area could support a specialized runners’ shoe retail store.

Sarah came to the UNI Small Business Development Center for help. First she enrolled in their FastTrac training education class. She also met one-on-one with Regional Director Mike Hahn to determine market feasibility. Initial research validated that the area could support such a venture, but barely; the company’s first year projected sales were only $150,000.

Sarah launched her new venture —The Runner’s Flat—in downtown Cedar Falls. This part of the Waterloo/ Cedar Falls area is easily accessible by an 80+ mile recreational trail system that attracts running enthusiasts from across the region.

In establishing formal working relationships with various cross country programs in high schools, colleges and universities, Sarah also connected with running and walking clubs in hosting a variety of training and fitness workshops at her store. This networked potential new customers with the resources available at The Runner’s Flat, which includes a Sports Motion program that videotapes customers working out on treadmills, to assist them in refining their running motion and in selecting the best shoes for their individual running style.

After the first year, The Runner’s Flat surpassed its projected first year sales by five percent. In branching out with various other organizations that represent professionals (police, fire, health care, etc.) who spend long hours on their feet, Sarah found a niche within a different market of people who were looking for relief in their feet, legs and back because of wearing improper shoes. This niche market alone allowed Sarah’s company to increase sales by over 200 percent and add one new full-time employee and three new part-time employees.

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Above are Sarah Gall and SBDC Counselor Mike Hahn.

Sarah has been instrumental in the growth and popularity of walking and running as a viable outdoor fitness program in her region, and she continues to be involved with the UNI SBDC, helping to train micro-enterprise women entrepreneurs on effective techniques in utilizing alternative and low cost marketing approaches. She’s giving back to her business community.

Sarah says, “The UNI SBDC was helpful to our business in a variety of ways. Mike Hahn was instrumental in showing me the meaning behind all of the numbers in our business projections. We attended one of the classes offered at the center and not only was the content of great benefit, but the ability to meet and talk with other business owners was just as valuable. We were able to make many long-term friends with our classmates and we even found an accountant who we work with to this day. I would very highly recommend the services at the UNI SBDC to anyone thinking about starting a business or expanding their current operation.”

Be sure to check out all the store has to offer at http://therunnersflat.com. In addition to a great selection of running shoes, The Runner’s Flat carries an extensive selection of apparel, watches, hydration systems, snowshoes, energy supplements and much more.