Ellen Davis spent 14 years as the manager of retail operations for the New England Aquarium in Boston. In 1996, when the executive leadership at the aquarium changed, she decided it was time for a change herself. As a self-described "great lover of nature," Davis was drawn to Wild Birds Unlimited, a franchise chain of stores in the United States and Canada selling supplies to feed and observe backyard birds.
She did her homework on the company and was amazed to learn that $6.9 billion is spent annually on bird-feeding and watching wildlife. That's why, in 1996, she decided to purchase a Wild Birds Unlimited franchise. The total cost was about $100,000, which included the right to her territory in Medway, Massachusetts, the cost to lease retail space and the inventory needed to stock her store.