By 2012, Tim Huels was at a turning point. He’d spent 11 years working his way up from intern to area manager at Enterprise Rent-A-Car in northwest Arkansas, but, he says, “I always said that when I turned 30 I would reevaluate my situation and if I was able to take a risk, I would.” So after his 30th birthday, he found a risk he was willing to take: buying a franchise with Sculpture Hospitality, which helps bars and restaurants run more efficiently via its proprietary inventory-management system and sales and training programs.
But it was a calculated risk. The average startup cost of Sculpture’s home-based business is $50,500; that low overhead made Huels’ decision easier. “If I had to worry about being $500,000 in debt right off the bat from building out and outfitting a store, that would probably make me question myself every day,” he says.
He also talked extensively to both current and former franchisees, regional directors and clients of the company as well as Sculpture’s CEO, Dan Smith, and COO, Vanessa De Caria. And when he found out Smith and De Caria would be in Miami rewarding their top-performing franchisees with a cruise, he flew down to meet them all in person. “To meet the top performers and hear about what they’d accomplished was very exciting to me,” Huels says, “because then I could see myself in their place.”
In October 2013, he bought in, selling his house in Arkansas and relocating to Dallas to start his franchise. “The customer base was greater in a larger city, and Texas also gave me space to expand,” Huels explains. And expand he did. By the time Sculpture’s next annual convention rolled around, he and business partner Ashley West -- who co-owns one of his four Dallas territories -- received an award for the fastest start of any franchisee in the company’s 29-year history. Then, just as he had imagined, Huels found himself on his own company-sponsored trip for top performers, this one to Jamaica.
In 2015, Huels and West purchased two territories in Houston, doubled their client base and saw triple-digit revenue growth. This year they hope to build that base from an already impressive 50-plus to at least 100 and clear $1 million in revenue. They now manage a team of nine people across the state, who perform inventory audits and help clients put systems in place to track and improve their operations. To keep their own disparate team running efficiently, they rent meeting rooms from their clients every two months for a staff meeting -- and always follow it up with a bit of company bonding, such as a trip to the local shooting range.
To anyone who finds themselves at the same crossroads as he did at age 30, Huels says, “Life’s about taking risks. It would be harder for me to look back and wonder where I’d be right now if I hadn’t decided to start my own business than it was to actually take the leap. Just do your homework, trust your gut and do it.”