A sighting of Elmo at a local playland led a Killeen mom on a journey to start her own business. The mom, Renecia HarrisRuffin, opened TootyTot, an entertainment company, in May.
“I saw someone in one of the character costumes when I was out with my kids, and I saw how everyone flocked to it. I thought I could do that,” she said.
“I wanted to bring something different to Killeen. As adults, we know the characters are not real, but the kids are enamored telling their friends that Elmo was at their birthday parties. We are offering memories for years to come.”
HarrisRuffin spent six to 12 months drawing up her business plan. She had a family meeting to ensure
everyone was in agreement and then came up with a name for her business.
“I was looking for something catchy and different, something not too long,” she said. “A co-worker and I started singing songs and sang along to the words of the song ‘Tooty-Ta’ and the name, TootyTot, was created.”
HarrisRuffin, who has four children ages 2-15, bought two costumes that resembled Elmo and Dora the Explorer and held an end-of-school extravaganza June 1 at Lions Club Park, with free food, face painting, costumed characters, games and prizes.
Since that first day, TootyTot has donated thousands of dollars in services to community events. Providing free services is something HarrisRuffin is determined to do, but it also affects the family’s income.
HarrisRuffin works as a para-professional at Saegert Elementary School and her husband, Rashaun Ruffin, works as an aircraft electrician.
“I was a little skeptical about the whole thing. I wanted to look at finances, and I was worried how it would turn out,” said Rashaun Ruffin, a full partner in TootyTot.
“We had no experience running a business. We had a (financial) cushion keeping our current jobs. But I wondered how we could manage our time to get ourselves out there and maintain the lifestyle we had enjoyed.”
TootyTot is definitely a family business. You will often find Rashaun Ruffin face painting at events and their daughter, Armoni, 15, dressed in costume.
“I want to be a pediatrician, so this helps me get used to working with kids,” Armoni said. “I still get to hang out with my friends afterwards, but work comes first. It’s pretty cool.”
With four children and two full-time jobs, the Ruffin parents have to manage their time. The couple work together covering the events that are scheduled and usually bring the younger children with them to enjoy the festivities at community events.
TootyTot is already making plans for its second annual end-of-school extravaganza in June. The event will once again be free.
“It is important to us that we give back to the community,” said HarrisRuffin, a Killeen native. “Even when we are making millions of dollars, we are still going to give back.”