It’s a glorious moment - and strong validation - when a franchisee decides to expand with their brand and open additional units.
Such is the case with Wild Birds Unlimited franchisees Christina Fifer and husband-and-wife team David and Hanna Goss.
Fifer’s Wild Birds Unlimited franchise is located in Charleston, South Carolina. She is opening another Wild Birds Unlimited franchise in Summerville, South Carolina, about 20 miles from her current location. That location is currently under construction and is scheduled to open in May or June of this year.
Fifer’s passion for the brand goes back to when she used to live in Hickory, North Carolina and worked at a Wild Birds Unlimited store there.
“That’s where I got the bug,” Fifer said.
When she started her investigation about joining the Wild Birds Unlimited franchise, she learned that the existing Charleston franchise was up for sale. She had never even been to the Charleston area, nor did she know anyone there, but she decided to take a chance, did her due diligence and purchase the store, which officially opened for business under her ownership in February 2013. From the beginning of her time franchising with the brand, Fifer has received multiple inquiries as to whether a Summerville store was in the works.
“It’s been in the back of my mind since then, and we have a huge customer base there that travels to my Charleston location, so I get tears of joy for opening in that area because now the customers won’t have to travel so far,” Fifer said.
Fifer is pumped for the opening of her second store. The local Chamber of Commerce has already reached out to her and her upcoming store has already received some local press. The new store will be located in an area that sees a lot of traffic from the new communities being built.
“There is a lot of development going on and lots of nice communities going up within a mile of where this new location is going to be,” Fifer said. “Employment opportunities are really blowing up out there and my second location could even be more successful than my current one.”
She also appreciates the support she’s received from the Wild Birds Unlimited franchise support team, including when Chief Development Officer Paul Pickett helped her scout possible locations.
“He was opening a store in nearby Myrtle Beach, and he took the time to come here to Charleston to actually go out on site selections with me for my second store,” Fifer said. “The year before that, when my lease was up at my Charleston store, he came to town specifically to help me look around at other options.”
Fifer also has high praise for her Wild Birds Unlimited business coach.
“She regularly reviews my operations, demographics and competition for me, so it’s been great to have someone from the franchise who has my back,” Fifer said. “Wild Birds Unlimited is always ahead of the curve with launching programs and making sure we succeed the volatile retail environment and the Amazons of the world. They’re always forward-thinkers and make sure we have what we need to be successful in the long run.”
Wild Birds Unlimited offers different levels of franchisee coaching models, and Fifer opted for the Enterprise Level, the most intense coaching option. She has received support on a variety of matters, from media selection to computer support.
“I don’t know how anyone can say anything negative about Wild Birds Unlimited because they do so much for their franchisees,” Fifer said. “I just can’t imagine a more fulfilling job. Most of my customers feel like family. I’ve never owned another franchise, but I believe the fact that Wild Birds Unlimited is always rated a number one or number two franchise stands for itself.”
The community feedback in her area has also been strong.
“I think the people who have been my long-term customers who drive here are committed to the brand and the service we provide,” Fifer said. “I can’t tell you how many customers who are retired and have applied for part-time work at my stores.”
David and Hanna Goss’ first Wild Birds Unlimited store -- which is located in Richland, Washington, was built from scratch and opened for business in October 2017. David, who took early retirement after a long career in higher education, was looking for his second career when a friend of his called and mentioned Wild Birds Unlimited.
“David started Googling it even before we got off of the phone,” said Hanna, who works in communications for a government facility in addition to helping run the franchise. “We got really excited because connecting with nature is one of our passions. We began a pretty lengthy vetting process on their side and our side. We also did our homework and the more we saw it the more we got excited. We looked at the site map of where the stores were and there was nothing on the east side of Washington state, whereas there were 11 stores on the west side.”
Opening multiple stores was on the Goss’ agenda from the beginning.
“We had always been focused on having multiple stores and made it clear with the franchise that was our goal,” Hanna said. “One of the things that is wonderful about Wild Birds Unlimited is they hold your hand through the process. We never would have done a retail venture like this without the support Wild Birds Unlimited has given us. We had a coach. There’s a lot of guidance. Additionally, the Pacific Northwest stores work together and have regional meetings. We had a mentor store where we trained. We really connected with the owners of a Billings, Montana store. We also followed the brands best practices. The brand is really clear that if you follow the guidelines you will be successful.”
David echoes this sentiment.
“It was always part of our bigger goal and our bigger plan to start with Richland and expand to Spokane because that’s a great market for Wild Birds Unlimited,” he said. “We knew once we decided to franchise with the first store that expanding with more stores was the best possible move for us. The support is fantastic from top to bottom. You can call the CEO, Jim Carpenter, and have a conversation. Everybody across the board is really looking for ways to make you successful rather than wonder ‘How can we milk these franchisees?’” They recognize that our success is their success. It’s really kind of a unique environment to be in and we enjoy the people and couldn’t ask for a better fit.”
Hanna and David also believe that their new location will be an excellent fit for the Spokane area, much like it is for Richland.
“We have wonderful people here in Richland who really connect with nature,” Hanna said. “They’re smart. They’re compassionate. They’re thoughtful. They’re doing a lot to feed the birds and support us and they’re looking for quality. They’re not looking for cheaper. They’re really looking for that value and we we feel confident that Spokane will be that same kind of market.”
David and Hanna also gave high praise to their Richland staff members, who will help train the Spokane staff and be instrumental in the store’s first few months.
“We could not be expanding without our team,” Hanna said. “We have an exceptional team and they have been with us since before we opened. We are so grateful to them and they’ve all become bird feeding experts and they really just bring so much and customers really resonate with them and come in specifically to see them.”
The startup costs for a Wild Birds Unlimited franchise range from $146,516 to $249,956, which includes the franchise fee. The franchise fee is $30,000 per location. To learn more about franchising with Wild Birds Unlimited, visit https://franchise.wbu.com/.