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Wild Birds Unlimited

MASSACHUSETTS

Nature lover Ellen Davis bet on Wild Birds Unlimited after discovering that consumers spend nearly $7B annually on bird-feeding and watching wildlife.
Source: Wild Birds Unlimited
Nature lover Ellen Davis bet on Wild Birds Unlimited after discovering that consumers spend nearly $7B annually on bird-feeding and watching wildlife.
Description: Retail stores selling supplies to feed and observe birds
Owner: Ellen Davis
Years in business: 20
No. of franchises owned: 1
Start-up costs: $123,000 to $192,000; $30,000 to $40,000 cash
Franchisor fees: Royalties 4% of sales; local advertising 2% of sales
2015 revenue, 2016 projection: $814,406; $871,414
2016 projected annual growth rate: 7%

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.

Additional franchisee resources

She liked the chain's focus on nature and education, its private-label merchandise, marketing program and support staff for new franchisees. "I'm very comfortable with retail and retail management, so ultimately I decided this was the best fit for me," she said. Today she has eight employees, and her business is on track to do more than $871,000 in sales this year. The parent company provides her with a yearly marketing plan to run her store, along with a business coach that can help with any questions or problems she has.

A yearly Enterprise Leadership Conference hosted by the franchisor allows Davis to meet other franchisees and includes learning modules about current topics and issues in the industry. As with many retail businesses, Davis said her biggest challenge is finding motivated salespeople that can provide the kind of customer service she requires. She likes to remind potential franchisees that "running a business is not as glamorous as it may seem. It can be long hours, lots of paperwork and includes many snags along the way. However, if you can tough it through all that, you will be rewarded with loyal vendors, friendships within the franchise and great customers."

"Running a business is not as glamorous as it may seem. It can be long hours, lots of paperwork and includes many snags along the way. However, if you can tough it through all that, you will be rewarded with loyal vendors, friendships within the franchise and great customers." -Ellen Davis

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