All-Star Franchisees: Silvia Slemmer of Wild Birds Unlimited
All-Star Franchisees: Silvia Slemmer of Wild Birds Unlimited

Backed by the strong support of Wild Birds Unlimited, Silvia Slemmer proves that you don’t need retail experience to thrive as a franchisee.

Like a lot of people, Silvia Slemmer had always dreamed about being a business owner one day—but it was a goal that always seemed just out of reach.

For most of her life, Slemmer worked as an executive assistant, handling the meetings, schedules and travel plans for top-level leadership. Slemmer says her core responsibility was to keep their lives in order. It was a rewarding—albeit busy—career.

But yet, Slemmer often found herself wondering what else life might have in store for her. On the weekends, she’d regularly visit the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Carlsbad, California to buy supplies for her backyard birdfeeders. She says that’s where her dream to become a business owner began.

Today, Slemmer is the proud owner of a Wild Birds Unlimited—proving that with the right support, the right concept and the right drive, turning a dream into reality is always within reach. 1851 Franchise spoke with Slemmer to learn more about her transition into franchising and why she chose Wild Birds Unlimited.

What was your perspective about franchising prior to joining?

It was always something I never realistically considered for myself. I had always dreamed of owning a store liked Wild Birds Unlimited, but I knew I could never do it because I had no retail experience, and I didn’t have the support from the people in my life at the time. What I wish I knew then was that with the right franchise model, you can break out into a new industry. This is a model that exists to make the American dream possible—never get discouraged because you don’t have enough experience. The folks at Wild Birds Unlimited, for example, are here to help you. They want to see you thrive in the biggest way possible.

How has being a franchisee changed your life?

I remember visiting my local Wild Birds Unlimited every chance I had. I’d walk through the aisles and say to myself, ‘When I have a store like this…’ Then everything changed for me. The company I had been with for years had been acquired, and rounds of layoffs started sweeping through the office. I knew it was only a matter of time before I was next, and it forced me to take a hard look at my life. I knew it was time to do some rearranging.

My husband had never been supportive of my dream to own my own business, so I decided it was time to take control of my own life. We got a divorce, and I knew I had to finally act on my dream. That’s when I visited the Wild Birds Unlimited location in Carlsbad again. I started talking with the owner, mentioning that one day I’d like to have a store like his. He told me it was for sale. That moment started a whole new world for me.

Why did you pick Wild Birds Unlimited?

Wild Birds Unlimited had been a part of my life for decades. Every week I would drive to my local store, perusing the aisles for hours looking for the next great thing to add to my backyard. It had become an escape for me—a hobby that was my own. It was Wild Birds Unlimited that inspired me to become a business owner. From their proprietary products and customer service to their incredibly supportive corporate team, I knew that this was the one and only business for me. I never doubted that for a second.

Why should someone buy a Wild Birds Unlimited?

Without a doubt, it’s the support Wild Birds Unlimited provides its franchisees. I really wanted a Wild Birds Unlimited of my own, but with no retail experience, I didn’t know if I could do it alone. Looking for guidance, I turned to Paul Pickett, the brand’s chief development officer. He provided me with a list of important books to buy and walked me through the brand’s business planning. This process includes an in-depth look at Wild Birds Unlimited’s comprehensive support services for all elements of the franchise operation, an example Business Plan to work off of and a Financial Projection worksheet. Having this detailed information on hand ultimately helped me secure the business loan I needed to transfer the Wild Birds Unlimited location over to my name. I got a loan because Wild Birds Unlimited was so thorough and organized.

I went from a place of having very little retail experience to opening the doors of my very own business. Since I didn’t have much experience, I realized it’s important to surround yourself with someone who does. That was Wild Birds Unlimited.

What advice would you have for someone looking to become a franchisee?

Every day I walk into my store, I can’t believe this is mine—that I’ve come this far. I’m right back where my dreams started. If it wasn’t for Wild Birds Unlimited, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Through all of this, I’ve learned that sometimes we get held back from going down our own path. I’m glad I didn’t listen when people told me it couldn’t be done. We’re all responsible for determining our own happiness. I was able to find that with Wild Birds Unlimited.

Visit the International Franchise Association's @Our Franchise website for more stories of passionate local franchise owners, employees and their communities. 

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