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Former Anti-Franchise Entrepreneur Has a Change of Heart Because of Garage Living

Despite being reluctant to operate in the franchise space, construction expert Chase Schmidt took a chance and opened his own Garage Living franchise in Richmond, Virginia.

By Jeff DwyerStaff Writer
Updated 10:10AM 09/15/23

Chase Schmidt is no stranger to entrepreneurship. He spent the majority of his professional career in the construction industry and has started two successful small businesses from scratch. However, when it came to expanding, Schmidt had always been “anti-franchise” due to a misconception about the industry. That is, until he discovered Garage Living, a garage remodeling franchise, which changed his perspective entirely.

1851 Franchise recently spoke to Schmidt to learn more about his journey and why he now boasts the benefits of franchising.

Journey Into Franchising

As soon as Schmidt was out of college, he went to work for a small home-building company in North Carolina. Through this opportunity, he realized his passion for the construction industry and quickly developed big aspirations. While he loved the job, he wanted to be his own boss one day. So, when a new opportunity arose to be a self-employed contractor and consultant, he took it. Over the next several years, Schmidt worked long hours and eventually landed another job that allowed him a greater work-life balance.

Throughout these experiences, Schmidt developed quite the resume. With more than 20 years of industry experience, he built homes from the ground up, executed renovations for residential and commercial properties, and even built his own real estate investment and property management company, as well as a furniture resale business. Despite all this, he wanted to do more.

“I was not satisfied with the internal feeling of knowing I worked for someone else’s dream,” said Schmidt.

With that in mind, Schmidt met with a friend, who happened to be a franchise owner. The pair discussed franchising, and Schmidt, who admits he was hesitant at first, became inspired to look into it.

“Early on, I didn’t understand why anyone would choose a franchise,” said Schmidt. “As a self-starter and confident in my ability to build a business and complete the work, it didn’t make sense to pay a large franchise fee and royalties.” 

Regardless, he “couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks.”

Throughout his research and due diligence, he discovered Garage Living, which aligned with his checklist of requirements. He decided to attend a Discovery Day at the brand’s headquarters in Toronto, Canada. It was this meeting that pushed Schmidt to open his very own Garage Living franchise in Richmond, Virginia.

While being introduced to the brand and its leadership team, Schmidt didn’t feel like the garage remodeling franchise was overly selling itself. Instead, he believed he was organically drawn to and ultimately sold on the brand’s products and services. Schmidt came to understand that being a franchise owner entails more than just financial commitments like fees and royalties; it provides access to vital support and backing typically unavailable to independent businesses.

“They want us to succeed and support our efforts,” he said. “How else can you have full teams in marketing, logistics, finance, IT and product development on day one? You can’t without the franchise system. They are there to answer questions, help you set up your systems and strategize for growth.”

Advice and Lessons Learned

Before pulling the trigger on his own franchise, Schmidt wanted everything to be “perfectly ready and in place” before he took his first step. However, reflecting on that mindset, he wished he had taken a different approach and understands now that there’s no better time than the present to embark on such a journey.

“Looking back, if I had waited for everything to be ‘perfect,’ there would have been so many changes along the way and/or I would still be waiting to take the first step,” he noted.

For aspiring first-time franchise owners, Schmidt advised understanding your interests and selecting a franchise that aligns with your goals and values. If you don’t choose something that you’re passionate about, he believes you could be at risk of eventual burnout.

“Once you find one and the market will support it, don’t hold back,” he advised. “Take the first step, and keep on going.”

He also believes it’s vital to have a support group to guide you through the process. For Schmidt, his wife serves as his support system. Schmidt confirmed she has been fully on board with his decision to franchise from the beginning, and as such, has proven to be “invaluable” throughout his journey.

Plans for the Future

Looking to the future, Schmidt’s dream is to own multiple Garage Living locations and build out a few successful locations that service multiple markets. But in the short term, he’s just focused on achieving his dream of business ownership with a healthy work-life balance and spreading the word about the benefits of franchising. 

“If you’re within 20 feet of me, you’ll hear my list of benefits of going with a franchise instead of ‘bootstrapping’ on your own,” he said. “I can’t stop telling family and friends about the benefits of franchising.”