Franchise Players is Entrepreneur's Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2009, when the stock market went south, David and Kathie Weishaar decided it was time to roll up their sleeves and dive back into the working world. Purchasing a DirectBuy franchise seemed like the perfect opportunity. As members of DirectBuy, the couple was sold on the concept, which allows members to buy home and lifestyle products without retail markups. Here's what they have learned.
Name: David and Kathie Weishaar
Franchise owned: DirectBuy of Tucson, Ariz.
How long have you owned a franchise?
We have owned DirectBuy of Tucson, a buying club that provides home and lifestyles products without hidden retail markup, since March 2010.
- David: In 2009, the stock market went south. Kathie and I knew if we wanted to live a comfortable lifestyle, we needed to roll up our sleeves and dive back into the working world. At the time, we had been retired for nearly a decade and were already jaded by the run-of-the-mill retirement routine. Embarking on a new business adventure together was exciting, but we didn’t know our journey would steer us toward the franchising path.
- Kathie: The idea of helping people through the opportunities DirectBuy presented was a huge draw for us. David and I had been members of DirectBuy since 2004 and knew the concept was a winning idea. When the opportunity came for us to purchase DirectBuy of Tucson, we saw it as a perfect match at the right time. In a way, we didn’t choose franchising; franchising chose us.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
- David: Prior to working at DirectBuy, Kathie and I were retired. My entire career was spent in high tech with senior leadership roles held in the areas of manufacturing, service and operations for global companies.
- Kathie: I was a medical surgical nurse, which also included work in pediatrics, oncology and emergency care. I have a passion for helping people, so being a nurse came very natural to me.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
- David: You need to believe in the product or service behind a franchise, or else you will find little enjoyment in the day-to-day operations. DirectBuy is a brand we have advocated for since witnessing its life-enhancing benefits firsthand as members. When we were building our new home in 2004, we came across DirectBuy by chance. We spent more than $125,000 through DirectBuy, which allowed us to customize our home in a way that would have never been possible without our unique access to confidential dealer prices with no hidden retail markup.
- Kathie: DirectBuy’s unique business model also presented us with the opportunity to receive a huge return on investment. Once the house was finished, it was appraised at 20 percent more than construction costs, despite being in a down market.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
- David: Since DirectBuy of Tucson was an existing franchise, our $300,000 purchase came with employees, assets, a revenue stream, and more. We also allocated $10,000 to hire a business consultant that could provide us with proper guidance in regards to finances and operations.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
- David: As active members, we had a firm grasp on the concept of the organization. In addition to talking with many owners of DirectBuy franchises, we also were fortunate to have the opportunity to work in the club and get acquainted with the business side before fully taking on the ownership.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
- David: Every business, no matter the industry, is going to come face-to-face with challenges. With a slow-to-recover economy being our reality from the 2008 fallout, we were faced with some setbacks that we weren’t expecting. Disposable income was no longer a luxury for many homeowners, but smart business moves allowed us to survive. We focused on upping our online presence while minimizing our showroom square footage to adapt to the business conditions we were facing.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
- David: It is very important to begin with a conservative business plan. Don’t focus on a big building or go overboard with unnecessary expenditures. Once you have a consistent flow of revenue, the doors for expansion will open.
What’s next for you and your business?
- David: Right now, we are focused on marketing our business to both new and younger demographics who we know can benefit tremendously from DirectBuy. One way we are accomplishing this is by securing new partnerships with builders that can help relay DirectBuy’s offering to those who are ready to leap into the homebuilding process. These partnerships can be great first steps to educate homeowners on how they can save thousands while building or restoring their home. The elusive and demanding millennial generation remains a challenge, and we’ll continue to innovate our processes and outreach in hopes of achieving a heightened brand awareness amongst their demographic.