Inside Peek with Shannon Wilburn Co-Founder and President of Just Between Friends Franchise Systems, Inc
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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
Shannon Wilburn is many things, an identical twin, wife of 20 years to an amazing man and mom to two wonderful teenagers. She is also the Co-Founder and President of Just Between Friends Franchise Systems, Inc (JBF). Just Between Friends is the nation’s leading children’s and maternity consignment sales event and, if you have children (or will have soon), JBF is one BFF you want to have. Established in 2004, JBF has grown from eleven franchises its first year to over 100 franchises in more than 20 states, with several more currently under development across the US.
It is called Just Between Friends because that is how it all began: between friends. Shannon and her business partner, Daven Tackett coordinated and hosted their first sale in 1997. Both mompreneurs were young, stay-at-home moms with small children, simply trying to find a way to save money on children’s items. Starting only with an idea and what they had between them, Shannon and Daven set up a “consignment” event in Shannon’s living room with 17 women selling their children’s and maternity clothes, toys and baby equipment. Those who shopped found some great deals for their children and their very first sale grossed $2000.
Then, their simple idea grew. Shannon and Daven began having two sales a year. In 2010, they had 3,000 consignors at their two sales events in Tulsa. Moms who consign or sell their new and gently-used children’s items at the event, will make more than at traditional consignment stores or other self-sell options like garage sales, eBay or Craigs List without the hassle or haggling that goes with them. Moms who shop can expect to find countless name brand items at up to 90% off retail, all well-organized by gender, size and category.
And then JBF really grew. Last year, in Tulsa alone, 28,000 moms shopped at the two semi-annual sales events and found countless name brand children’s items at up to 90% off of retail pricing. How do Shannon and Daven run these grand scale sales you ask? Volunteers! The more a mom volunteers, the earlier she gets to shop before the public.
Yes, at Just Between Friends, business is booming. Last year, the spring and fall Tulsa events grossed almost 1.5 million. The JBF franchise, as a whole, grossed more than $15 million in 2010. Each year, JBF reaches hundreds of thousands of families across the country, with new sales started every season.
What did you do before launching your own business ?
Shannon knows kids and holds a degree in Elementary Education. In fact, she worked as an elementary school teacher before she had her own children. She also had a successful advertising sales career, which is where she met many of the amazing women who she still calls “mentors.”
Tell us about the Just Between Friends Franchise opportunity.
Just Between Friends is unique in its franchise offering in that it is not a 365 days a year, bricks and mortar store, but a sales event franchise that provides growth opportunities, within a given territory based on specific family demographics. Typically, JBF holds its semi-annual community children’s consignment events during one week in the spring and one week in the fall.
Because of the Internet-driven “front door” of Just Between Friends, it appeals to a wide variety of franchisees including: stay-at-home mothers who still want to contribute to the family income, fulltime professional women who are looking for a business that they can build around their schedules and women in the workforce who want to transition to a home-based business environment.
JBF is #42 on the Franchise Business Review’s list of Top Low Cost Franchises for 2011, as well as being recognized two years in a row with FBR’s Top 50 award for Franchisee Satisfaction. Just Between Friends is also been awarded the Military-Friendly Franchise designation.
Just Between Friends has received national coverage from ABC News, Good Morning America, CNN, Headline News, Inside Edition and CNBC’s The Big Idea. They have also been featured in The Seattle Times, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Sacramento Bee, LA Times, Daily Oklahoman and broadcast outlets in more than 100 major cities across the country including Dallas, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Denver, Washington DC, Miami and Seattle
How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent is your home office?
My office is at home, so that is where I work from every day. Each of our franchisees also work from home, as well as our staff. We love “virtual” offices!
Most JBF franchisees work less than 10 hours/week or less during the off-season. The few weeks preceding and following a sale are significantly more, depending upon the size of your sale.
The more you work, the more potential for growth. JBF is not a secret sauce where you make money in your sleep. However, it does have a high growth rate if you are willing to work hard and hustle…there is no limit to your success.
How would you rate your success?
I think Just Between Friends is a success because it has seen significant growth every year since its inception. This concept just makes sense to moms, who need to make money on their children’s items, so they can turn around and reinvest that money in the next phase of their children’s’ lives.
JBF is only a success after each mom is successful. Our business model is unique in that we focus first on helping each mom make the most on the items she sells. We are also trying to help each mom who shops find the best bargains. We must be doing something right because more than 350,000 American families are participating in JBF events and that number grows every day. We hope to grow to every city and state in America in the next 5 years!
What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?
Being so passionate about what I do that it overshadows some of the decisions I make. I love Just Between Friends and what it means to families across the US…the single, teenage mom who had no idea how she was going to clothe her baby until she found JBF…the mom whose home burned to the ground and needed EVERYTHING for her kids…the mother of multiples who needed to outfit three.
These are the things that get me so excited, but I have had to learn to balance that passion with positive influences in my life. Mentors who will bring me back down to earth and remind me about quarterly sales taxes, reordering checks and managing bounced emails. It’s easy to focus on the things you love to do and I let that be the fuel that helps me to manage the necessary tasks that I’d rather forget about.
What advice would you give to an individual who is considering purchasing a franchise?
Make sure that you absolutely, unequivocally LOVE helping moms, technology, people and organization. Just Between Friends combines these things into a wonderfully blessed organization that can benefit a community and its families in countless ways.
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
I purpose to do so. You have to plan to do well, then plan how you are going to manage all of your tasks. Waiting for a daughter to get out of tennis lessons? Answer emails. Too busy to clean and work? Hire a housekeeper. Need to get some one-on-one time with the hubby? Hire well and train them even better.
Connect with Shannon Wilburn and Just Between Friends…
Website: JBF Sales
Blog: JBF Sales Blog
Shannon on Facebook: Shannon McKnight Wilburn
Facebook Fan Page: JBF Sale