Thanks to Wild Birds Unlimited’s support system, many store managers are finding their calling as the brand’s franchisees.
Ben Dickson’s journey to becoming a Wild Birds Unlimited franchisee began 15 years ago.
Dickson was 18-years-old and in need of work in his hometown of Bedford Hills, New York. After thinking long and hard about what kind of store he’d be happy working at, he came across his local Wild Birds Unlimited. Intrigued, he visited the store—but he quickly saw that it was bustling with employees. It appeared the owners weren’t in need of any help.
Fortunately, he found out the store was in the midst of a big bird seed sale, and they needed someone to don a chickadee suit to attract passersby’s outside. He went out there and gave it his best effort, and it convinced the owner to bring Dickson on to the Wild Birds Unlimited team in a part-time role.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for that opportunity. I started working in the back room as a stock person, and slowly took on more responsibility,” Dickson said. “The great part about working in such a small shop is that the owner allowed me to have more input into the day-to-day operations, and it gave me the chance to make an impact on this store even at such a young age.”
Over the years, Dickson’s role in the company became more and more significant—he worked his way up to sales associate, and later to assistant manager and manager. Eventually, Dickson had become so ingrained in the daily operations of Wild Birds Unlimited that the owner suggested he take over the store. Today, he’s proud to say that he’s the new owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Bedford Hills.
“Things came full circle for me. I know shortly after I started 15 years ago that I could really excel with this brand for a very long time. It’s an incredible franchise, and I fell in love with the passion and excitement that each customer had the second they walked through our doors,” Dickson said. “I was lucky to have the old owner as my mentor. He was very open and sharing about every aspect of running a store. That owner truly changed my life in so many ways over the years.”
Dickson isn’t the only Wild Birds franchisee who first started as a store manager. Danielle Motley of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina started working with the brand when she was just 19 years old. She, too, came on board looking for a part-time job.
“As soon as I started, I fell in love with the store—everything about it was awesome. I was always a nature person, and Wild Birds Unlimited was right up my alley,” Motley said.
Motley was fortunate in that the store owner at the time gave her the leeway to do things that she envisioned—this meant that if she had an idea in mind for product displays, she was given the greenlight to run with it. That freedom only fueled her desire to one day own a store of her own.
“Growing up, my dad owned his own business, and I always thought it’d be the route I wanted to take, too. I just wasn’t sure how I’d make that happen,” Motley said. “Then I came across Wild Birds Unlimited, and the more I worked with customers, I saw how genuinely excited and happy they were about their hobby. That rubbed off on me, too. Over the years, I watched the store evolve, and I saw an opportunity to grow with it.”
That opportunity came when the old owner purchased a second location and recommended that Motley take over the initial store. She undoubtedly jumped at the chance to finally have a Wild Birds Unlimited that she could call her own.
“It’s crazy to look back over the past 10 years—it’s amazing how quickly life changes. I went from working in a store to owning it. I had two wonderful children. And my husband was able to quit his corporate job to work at Wild Birds Unlimited, where we can be with our kids at the same time,” Motley said. “I can’t imagine what life would be like without this opportunity.”