Wild Birds Unlimited’s mission is to connect people with nature, something that Julia Woodcock Dennis and her husband Sean are passionate about. Focusing on following the Wild Birds Unlimited system and by making each customer’s experience a positive one, the couple is bringing this mission to Hilton Head, South Carolina in a new and improved way. And the community is responding with record-breaking sales.
After years of working in higher education, Julia decided that it was time to change direction in her career and do something that gave her more control. With her grandfather and father both having owned car dealerships, she grew up with the entrepreneurial spirit. However, she knew she did not want to sell cars.
Julia and Sean had some near misses in their pursuit of finding the right business for their personal and lifestyle goals. They explored a few different opportunities but something always felt "off," until they came upon Wild Birds Unlimited’s offering.
Julia and her husband are both animal lovers. They rescue animals and live a vegetarian lifestyle. Protecting the environment is also something they feel passionate about. One day Sean went into the local Hilton Head, South Carolina Wild Birds Unlimited and discovered it was closing. He became inspired. Sean immediately went home and presented the idea of opening their own Wild Birds Unlimited to Julia. “Something just clicked. We knew we had to look into it.” Julia says.
“We were very impressed with the franchise selection process. It wasn’t a hard sell. They really want to make sure this was the right fit. You have to do your due diligence. We talked to about 11 other owners. All of them were very happy with their decision to franchise with Wild Birds Unlimited. We knew this was a network we wanted to be a part of.”
In fact, this high level of franchisee satisfaction is so noteworthy that Wild Birds Unlimited has been recognized by Franchise Business Review as a Franchisee Satisfaction Award Winner for 10 years in a row.
After signing on to be Wild Birds Unlimited franchisees, the Dennis’ decided to renovate the existing store rather than move to a new location. “The location was familiar and had been open for 21 years but very little in the way of updates had been made in that time," Julia notes. "We went in and gutted the space and added upgrades.”
Since their reopening in March of this year, the store has been a huge success, breaking previous sales records for the location. By bringing the store’s visual presentation up to date, following the brand’s best practices and focusing on the customer experience, the once underperforming store is now thriving.
“Relationship building is important to what we do. We make it a point to acknowledge everyone who walks through those doors. And with our state-of-the-art point of sale system, we have a record of what each customer orders. If a customer walks in and can’t remember what they ordered their last visit, we can look it up. It helps our customers feel valued.”
Through word of mouth; community involvement, such as joining the local Audubon society; and marketing to local organizations, Julia spread the word about the new and improved store. And once in the doors, customers keep coming back. It's the product of following the company’s formula of managing people, product and presentation.
“People noticed a difference in their experience right away. The community welcomed us with open arms.”
The support systems have been an important element in the success of Julia’s store. “There is no need to worry about the learning curve. Wild Birds Unlimited is so incredibly supportive. They’ve given us all the tools we need. We have weekly meetings with our business coach. The company is always available to lend their expertise, offer guidance and suggestions.”
When asked what advice she has for a franchisee starting out, Julia says, “Do your research. Listen to your coaches. They have years and years of experience. And most importantly, trust the process because it will work.”
By being engaged and following Wild Birds Unlimited’s award-winning system and best practices, franchisees Julia and Sean Dennis have taken a recently closed and underperforming location to experiencing the strongest sales the Hilton Head, South Carolina store has ever seen in just a few short months. Leaning into the brand’s system, and focusing on the energized formula of managing people, product and presentation has been a key element in the turnaround and to their continued success.