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Why 90% of Wild Birds Unlimited Franchisees Started Off as Customers: Kathy and Lisa Massey-Williams are the Latest to Make the Switch

The married couple and former educators were interested in a career change—and were thrilled to discover their beloved bird-feeding brand was a franchise.

It’s not unusual for Wild Birds Unlimited franchise candidates to come from the brand’s loyal and enthusiastic consumer customer base. If anything, it is more novel for a prospective franchisee to not come from the customer base. 

Kathy and Lisa Massey-Williams, who have been together for 30 years and got married five years ago, are a perfect example of this. Today, the couple is getting ready for the opening of their own Wild Birds Unlimited franchise, which will be located in Odessa, Florida. Their soft opening is scheduled for late January and their grand opening is scheduled for Feb. 7. 

The Massey-Williamses have been fans of the brand for almost as long as they’ve been together. 

“I would say it’s been almost 20 years,” Lisa said. “My mother was a customer of the Tampa store when she was alive and she would always go in to buy bird feeders and nature gifts. We started going in with her because she loved the store. Then, we moved to a home with two acres of land and we decided to start feeding the birds so we became customers ourselves. Plus, we have a son, who, from the time he was 3 years old, loved nature and the outdoors.” 

The Wild Birds Unlimited leadership team is thrilled to have another round of customers make the switch to franchise owners. 

"Right around 90% of the new people who come in and join the Wild Birds Unlimited team have already engaged with our brand,” Wild Birds Unlimited Chief Development Officer Paul Pickett said. “They're customers of an existing store or they have a friend or relative who takes them to the store.”

Prior to franchising with Wild Birds Unlimited, the Massey-Williamses worked for Hillsborough County Public Schools. Kathy taught math and science at the elementary and middle school levels and Lisa was an elementary school teacher who spent the last eight years of her career training and mentoring new teachers. They decided it was time for a career change and looked into franchising. At first, they pursued a different franchise opportunity, but they were not passionate about it, nor did they get any good feelings, Kathy said. 

Then their lives truly changed. 

One day in October 2018, when Kathy was walking out of a Wild Birds Unlimited store, she learned that the brand was a franchise. She called Lisa. 

“They’re a franchise! They’re a franchise!” she told her. 

The Massey-Williamses proceeded to go through the discovery process and attended the brand’s discovery day, which is referred to as Meet the Flock. The whole process was extremely positive.  

“Everyone at headquarters has been so phenomenal to work with,” Lisa said. “They are passionate and dedicated. Kathy and I came from a non-business background and the leadership team has made it so easy to learn about the business.”

The fact that the Massey-Williamses did not have a traditional business background was not a hindrance to their becoming franchisees. 

“We told the leadership team ‘You realize we don’t have a business background?’ and they said ‘That’s fine, you have everything else we want. Just focus on your relationships with customers,’” Kathy said. 

They also met with Wild Birds Unlimited Founder and CEO Jim Carpenter. 

“He is a wonderful, genuine person,” Kathy said. “He has so much knowledge and passion for Wild Birds Unlimited and everybody who works there. When we returned to headquarters to do our training, he’d sit and talk with us during breaks. He encourages franchisees to reach out to him if they need anything. It’s amazing to have that kind of support.” 

Odessa is an excellent location for the Massey-Williamses Wild Birds Unlimited store. There are plenty of environmental activities going on in the area, and their store will be just a short drive away from nature hubs such as the Brooker Creek Preserve and the Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park. What’s more, the Massey-Williamses have lived in the area for 19 years and are very familiar with the community. 

“We’d like our store to be a hub for younger families,” Lisa said. “We want to connect everybody with the theme of nature.” 

Pickett is confident the Massey-Williamses will represent the brand well in Odessa. The brand is thrilled when customers become franchisees, in part, because those customers are already well-acquainted with their neighborhoods and regions. They know where to promote their stores for maximum visibility. 

“Our stores are individually owned and operated and we love that,” Pickett said. “It allows our franchisees the ability to make the store local and to promote local events and even the marketing strategies have to be localized and we like that. There's a sense of ownership that may be different than a lot of other brands are able to offer.”

The Massey-Williamses are thrilled they decided to take the plunge and franchise with Wild Birds Unlimited. They are already considering opening more stores in the future. 

“This is our next adventure and the next phase of our lives,” Kathy said. “We just know we are doing the right thing because we’ve felt this peace about it every step of the way. It’s wonderful and we can’t wait for the business to open.” 

Wild Birds Unlimited is the original and largest franchise system of backyard bird feeding and nature specialty stores with more than 340 locations throughout the United States and Canada. The investment level to open a Wild Birds Unlimited location is $150,837 to $260,991. To learn about franchising opportunities with Wild Birds Unlimited, please visit https://franchise.wbu.com/.

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.

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