Andy Pittman was running his own appliance store with 13 employees in Raleigh, North Carolina, when he found an article about ShelfGenie in a national business magazine. He was so taken by the product that, within a month, he purchased the rights to the Raleigh franchise territory. After a few years, he had expanded to six territories across the state and earned the system’s highest volume group designation multiple times.
That rapid success is par for the course for ShelfGenie. The company, now based in Atlanta, was started in 2000 when Andrew Kerwin, then a college dropout, installed custom glide-in, glide-out shelving in cabinets for his parents and neighbors. When he saw their excitement and their fanatic use of his shelving product, he realized he had something special, and the business took off.
The company made it onto Inc. Magazine’s annual list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in 2009 and stayed there for three straight years, despite the national recession. In 2010, Inc. Magazine recognized ShelfGenie as the third-fastest growing franchise in the country. By 2017, Entrepreneur magazine had named the company to its Franchise 500 list for the seventh consecutive year.
Pittman’s rapid growth and success with ShelfGenie continued, and in 2018 he was named the company’s CEO. Now, with new market expansion on the horizon, the home improvement brand is on the hunt for the next wave of new franchise partners.
“We’re looking for people that can recruit, manage and train people,” says Pittman. “You don’t necessarily have to have any previous experience with carpentry or home improvement. Our in-depth training program, held at the company’s Home Office in Atlanta, teaches new franchise partners everything they need to know about our products, systems and best practices. So, we really look for people that are comfortable with recruiting, training, managing, and ultimately building a team. If you can do that, your chances of success with ShelfGenie are very good.”
And now, ShelfGenie has introduced an owner-operator model to its franchise offering, meant to make starting a new ShelfGenie franchise simple to establish, affordable to run and a great fit for smaller markets.
The opportunity for growth at ShelfGenie can really be attributed to affordability and longevity.
The U.S. economy is in the midst of one of the longest-running expansions in modern national history. There’s been a gradual, and now steady, recovery in the home-buying market, which has powered the growth of the rest of the economy. As more and more Americans realize their dreams of home-ownership, the U.S. as a whole has seen high levels of consumer confidence.
And though the housing market has softened somewhat, which is more of an inevitability than anything else, it leads to an important fact. The tremendous turnover in the U.S. housing stock over the last decade has created virtually unlimited opportunities for home-improvement franchises, as Americans will seek to remain in their current home, choosing to remodel instead of selling.
And ShelfGenie’s products and solutions lend itself to those looking to remodel. ShelfGenie can transform the storage and convenience factor of key areas of the home for an average price of $3,500 — a much lower cost than the $20,000 to $40,000 to completely replace kitchen cabinets.
Beyond affordability, there’s a huge untapped market for kitchen renovation that ShelfGenie’s franchisees can key into.
Home improvement spending set a new high in 2017, reaching $424 billion, according to a recent study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, which attributed the upward trend to a steady increase in home prices and an aging population.
That same Harvard report also revealed that households of those 55 and older account for half of all current home improvement spending.
In addition, nearly three million homeowners, of which more than 72 percent were at least 55 years old, said they were taking on one or more projects that would improve accessibility.
Kitchen renovations are among the most popular home remodeling projects, according to the research department of the National Association of Realtors, and among those that bring the highest financial return in resale on every dollar spent by the homeowner. It’s no wonder the kitchen is always the heart of the home!
It’s the perfect formula for success: A large market to tap into, and one that’s ready and willing to spend. Through March of 2019, according to a Harvard estimate, Americans spent more than $340 billion on value-adding home improvements. Combine that with a demographic that requires accessibility in their home, and there will be a lot of money spent on the organization and accessibility products ShelfGenie offers via customized shelving solutions.
ShelfGenie weathered the recession and came out stronger, thanks in large part to its robust franchising model. Franchise partners have low startup costs, product manufacturing and warehousing is done at ShelfGenie’s plant in Alabama, and the Brand’s Support Center handles many administrative tasks such as appointment scheduling and client follow-up. An investment is also being made in ShelfGenie’s manufacturing capabilities to allow for more customized solutions for different types of spaces, including commercial businesses.
ShelfGenie has franchises in more than 160 territories in the U.S. and Canada, and there’s still room for expansion. The economics and demographics favor success and ShelfGenie’s support makes it easy for the right franchise partners to build a thriving business that is both simple and scalable.
As Pittman likes to say, a little wooden box changed his life.
Maybe the next life it can change is yours.