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How Jennifer Runyon and Michael Keeley Turned a Stumpy’s Gift Card Into a Career as Franchisees

The franchisees exclusively sought out Stumpy’s Hatchet House owners to get the most relevant information possible to validate the brand.

By Emily ClouseStaff Writer
8:08AM 02/12/19

For years, Jennifer Runyon and Michael Keeley were just friends with similar interests. Today, they’re much more than that. The pair currently lives together—and in December, they officially became business partners, opening a Stumpy’s Hatchet House franchise in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

“Both with different strengths, we balance each other out and make for a great partnership in all aspects of life,” they said.

Like many first-time franchisees, Runyon and Keeley weren’t satisfied with the idea of run-of-the-mill nine-to-five desk jobs. They began looking for a way to create a career they could have “a more personal, vested interest in.” Having no previous business ownership experience, the franchise model piqued their interest.

When it came to deciding on a brand, it all started with a few memorable hours of hurling small axes at the original Stumpy’s Hatchet House in New Jersey.

“A year later, we went online to get a gift card for a friend and saw that they were just starting to franchise,” they said. They contacted Stumpy’s immediately.

They were both active and competitive in nature, and they were past customers who had a great experience. It was the perfect fit. “We now have a copy of that friend’s gift certificate framed on the wall of our store to remind us of how we got started on this adventure,” they said.

Stumpy’s Hatchet House was founded by two couples in 2016, so it makes sense that the brand’s history spoke to Runyon and Keeley. But what stood out to them most to them was, of course, the hatchets—and the conversations they had with Stumpy’s franchisees.

“We were looking for something fun with a different edge,” the couple said. “It wasn’t your typical cookie-cutter franchise. We also loved that we were going to be part of something that was just at its beginning stages and have an input into it as it developed.”

That sense of community helped them take the leap. While doing their research, Runyon and Keeley sought out other franchisees to pick their brains. Since they already knew that Stumpy’s was the perfect brand for them and didn’t want to compare apples to hatchets when it came to products, they exclusively contacted existing Stumpy’s franchisees for advice.

“We have built a great relationship with the two first franchises of Stumpy’s,” they said. “They helped us greatly with many different stages of our venture,” adding their strong relationship has been mutually beneficial as the brand becomes more recognizable and continues to grow and open new locations.

Runyon and Keeley have paid the Stumpy’s community’s support forward, too. They said prospective franchisees frequently reach out to them because of how quickly the brand is growing.

“Each location has a different edge, and it’s exciting to hear what they have planned for their location buildout,” they said. “Our biggest advice is to always get your name out there and be part of the community,” they continued, noting that franchisees can take advantage of social media as a great way to get the word out about the brand.

Who else do Runyon and Keeley credit for helping them succeed as franchisees? “We balance each other,” they said. Keeley has a background in engineering, analytics and management, and he also enjoys hands-on projects like creating the woodwork in their Stumpy’s lobby and upcoming private woodshed room. Runyon has experience in customer service and marketing, so she deploys her knowledge of team building events and group functions.

The pair also credits their success to their shared interest in running and competing in triathlons. “That seems to trickle into the business side of us by never giving up and keeping that finish line always in sight,” they said.

Since opening their Stumpy’s, Runyon and Keeley have enjoyed tackling each new challenge with gusto. “From picking out the perfect location for us to figuring out where to put the final Stumpy’s logo in the store, [each aspect] has been fun. In the end, though, finally seeing the store up and running on a day-to-day basis has been the biggest enjoyment for us.”

Now, the pair is concentrating on getting customers into their location and raising brand awareness around Pennsylvania. “After that, we are hoping another great adventure such as Stumpy’s will come by!” they said.