This summer, Jan Hatch, who opened her Wild Birds Unlimited franchise in Greenwood, Indiana in early 2015, was awarded the franchise’s annual High-Flying Fledgling Award for the highest 1st year retail sales.
Hatch attributes the success of her store to a strong brand and an easily applied operational system, which allowed her to get her store up and running quickly, largely bypassing the learning curve that most new business owners experience.
“The work was already done for us before we got here,” said Hatch. “Jim Carpenter [founder, president, and CEO of Wild Birds Unlimited] and his team created a brand and concept that is so unique and so appealing. All we had to do was follow the system and open the doors.”
Hatch, whose interest in owning a WBU store grew out of her passion for the brand as a customer, said that the company’s rock-solid foundation allows her to stay focused on her customers.
“We can stay 100% guest-focused,” said Hatch. “In that first year, I had to prove to people that they could trust me and I’d be there for the long haul. Now I have more than 2,000 customers and I feel like I know 80 percent of them on a personal level. I yell ‘hi’ to them when I hear their voice without even turning around.”
Hatch’s store is one of five WBU locations in the Indianapolis, IN market, where the brand’s flagship store and Franchise Support Center are located. That close proximity to other Wild Birds Unlimited stores has presented a number of benefits, including increased brand awareness among customers and a strong support system between franchisees.
“We partner with other stores in this area,” Hatch said. “We’ll loan each other inventory, call each other with questions, and we invest in advertising opportunities together.”
In addition to the support she receives from other stores, Hatch, like nearly all WBU owners, is engaged with one of the brand’s four franchisee coaching programs, which provides guidance on every facet of the business’s operations.
“My coach will do anything for me,” Hatch said. “She’ll take my midyear report and help me look at it from all different angles. We’ll figure out exactly where I’m doing well and where I can I can make improvements, or we’ll look at what other stores are doing differently and figure out which of those differences I could successfully apply in my store.”
When pushed to identify what makes her store in particular so successful, Hatch pointed to her adherence to the brand’s original focus of selling top-of-the-line bird food and feeders.
“WBU owners have a lot of leeway not only in how they run their stores but also in the inventory they invest in,” said Hatch. “We try to keep our scope narrow in that respect. We want to concentrate on the hobby itself and not get distracted with other peripherals. I’ve seen other stores have success with additional gift items, but sales on those items are a little less predictable. People know the brand for food and feeders, so you know there will always be a strong demand for that. We’ve added some things like fountains and birdbaths, but ultimately those gift items are about one percent of our sales.”
That strategy continues to pay off for Hatch, whose store has been even more successful in its second year than its award-winning first year.
“We’ve had so much more success in our second year,” Hatch said. “We’d set goals coming out of our first year, and we’ve exceeded all of them. Now that we are really established in the community, we’ve got so many regular customers who are telling their friends about us, all we have to do is keep applying the system and taking care of our customers.”