Downsizing, Death, Divorce and Debt Are the 4 'D's' of This Estate-Sales Franchise
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.
Franchise owned: Blue Moon Estate Sales of Chatham, Durham and Pittsboro, NC
How long have you owned a franchise?
[Morgan responding] We had our first sale in the spring of 2014 and will be celebrating our second anniversary this May.
We knew we wanted to break away from traditional jobs and do something that we both loved. Growing up, our parents had a passion for finding treasures, trinkets, and the perfect piece. After they passed their love of collecting to us, we spent our early 20s attending estate sales as resellers. Estate sales are a great spot to pick up things that you can make a little bit of money on, if you have some time to devote to listing items and waiting for them to sell.
Like most business owners, we had that moment when everything just clicked for us, and we realized that following our hobby would allow us to be successful business owners while also being very active in the lives of our children.
What were you doing before you became franchise owners?
Mariah previously worked in retail management and banking. When her oldest daughter was born, she transitioned into a stay-at-home mom and focused on home-schooling and raising her four children. Fresh out of college, I joined corporate America in the communications and marketing world, where I quickly discovered that being tied down in a cubicle wasn’t for me. I worked in a cube for about two weeks before Mariah and I opened our Blue Moon location.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
When we were still collecting and reselling items on the side, the two of us were frequent customers of sales hosted by the Blue Moon in Raleigh, which is the company’s flagship location, so we were able to see an accurate representation of what the franchise had to offer.
After buying our franchise, we learned from the first day how to replicate the business model. They shared everything with us: how to land clients and set up sales, advertising and pricing. When you start your own business, you typically have to tackle a huge learning curve and find answers to questions that aren’t the easiest to find. Franchising allowed us to find a group that already did the initial leg work, of finding the best ways to do things.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Our buy-in to the franchise was $25,000, and we probably spent about another $1,000 dollars before we were ready to officially open. The monetary cost of opening this business isn’t very expensive because there’s not a lot of overhead cost. We don’t need a building space, special vehicles or expensive equipment.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
There are several Blue Moon franchise groups now, and we all have our own niche areas -- whether it’s furniture, jewelry, toys, clothes or clocks. When we find items that are odd or just different from what’s in any house we’ve ever been in, we have a whole forum available to us to ask questions and seek advice. The Blues are also very responsive, and we talk regularly with them about whatever we have questions about.
In addition to that, we really do field research. We go to auction and flea markets and scope out Craigslist and retail stores to see if are selling high-end furniture places or vintage boutiques. Getting an idea of pricing in those settings gives us a real feel for how much we can realistically price things for in an estate-sale setting.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
As with any small business, a lot of time and energy needs to be poured into it to make sure your business grows and flourishes the way you envisioned it doing when you signed the paperwork making you a business owner. The time that we put into our business was probably the most challenging aspect, especially because both of us had to find a balance between being full-time mothers and full-time business owners.
Luckily for us, we have a business that allows us to balance the two areas of our lives. Mariah and I often joke about our kids taking over our business someday because we are able to bring them with us to sales and they get to learn from a very young age the behind-the-scenes [aspects] of our jobs and have an understanding of business ownership.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Do it! But make sure you do the research first and make sure it’s a good fit. When you own a business, you have to eat, sleep and breathe it. It’s not a small commitment, so making sure that you will be happy doing what you do is very important. For us, we are very passionate about what we do. We help people going through a major life transition, whether it’s downsizing, divorce or the death of a family member. This gives us “warm-fuzzy feelings” while we are spending time with each other and continuing to learn.
What’s next for you and your business?
We are continuing to grow and have the sales numbers to show it. We pride ourselves in hosting the best sales in our area, and we will continue to do that for years to come.