March 29, 2023

E108: Shannon Wilburn: From Struggles To Success - The Journey Of Co-Founding Just Between Friends.

E108: Shannon Wilburn: From Struggles To Success - The Journey Of Co-Founding Just Between Friends.

Shannon Wilburn and Ron Skelton discussed how she started Just Between Friends, a consignment sale business. She began it in 1997 when she was pregnant with her son was 2 years old. Just Between Friends is a franchise system with over 150 locations...

Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Castro podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge
Amazon Music podcast player badge

Shannon Wilburn and Ron Skelton discussed how she started Just Between Friends, a consignment sale business. She began it in 1997 when she was pregnant with her son was 2 years old. Just Between Friends is a franchise system with over 150 locations that generated almost $42 million in system-wide sales in 2022. Franchising has helped Wilburn share the model and give people the opportunity to become business owners and bring the model to their communities. Wilburn is a big proponent of franchising.

Shannon Wilburn, Certified Franchise Executive (CFE), entrepreneur and business owner who loves helping others succeed in their goals through mentorship and accountability coaching. Experienced Franchisor, Brand Ambassador and former Chief Executive Officer. She's been featured on various national programs including CNN, The Today Show, The CBS Early Show, Fox News and Good Morning America.

Watch it on Youtube:
Contact Shannon on
How2Exit Joins ITX's Channel Partner Network!

-Why ITX?
Since 1998, ITX has created $5 billion in value by selling more than 225 IT businesses in 20 countries. ITX works exclusively with IT-enabled businesses generating between $5M and $30M who are ready to be sold, and M&A decision-makers who are ready to buy. For over 25 years ITX has developed industry knowledge that helps them determine whether a seller is a good fit for their buyers before making a match.

"Out of all of the brokers I've met, this team has the most experience and I believe the best ability to get IT service businesses sold at the best price" - Ron Skelton

The ITX M&A Marketplace we partnered with has a proprietary database of 50,000+ global buyers seeking IT Services firms, MSPs, MSSPs, Software-as-a-Service platforms, and channel partners in the Microsoft, Oracle, ServiceNow, and Salesforce space.

If you are interested in learning more about the process and current market valuations, complete the contact form and we’ll respond within one business day. Everything is kept confidential.

Are you interested in what your business may be worth? Unlock the value of your IT Services firm, visit and complete the contact form.

Our partnership with ITX focuses on deals above $5M in value. If you are looking to buy or sell a tech business below the $5M mark, we recommend Flippa.

Flippa - Real Buyers, Real Sellers - Where the Real Deals Are Made

Visit Flippa -
💰If you’d like additional ways to support this podcast, you can become a patron here:

►Visit Our Website:

📧For Business Inquiries:

If you are new to the How2Exit channel, We're happy you clicked on our video! Hopefully, this video made you stay for good!

Don't Forget to SUBSCRIBE to the How2Exit channel and press (🔔) to join the Notification Squad and stay updated with new uploads.✨

𝐖𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐞𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬...? ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
👍 Like the video (it helps a ton!)
💬 Comment below to share your opinion!
🔗 Share the video with anyone you think might help :) ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
📱Stay Tuned On Our Social Media :
» Linkedin -
» Twitter -
» Facebook -
» Newsletter -

Ronald P. Skelton - Host -

Reach me to sell me your business, connect for a JV or other business use LinkedIn:
Ronald Skelton:

Have suggestions, comments, or want to tell us about a business for sale
call our hotline and leave a message:  918-641-4150



[00:00:00] Ron Skelton: Hello and welcome to the How2Exit Podcast. Today I'm here with Shannon Wilburn. She's a certified franchise executive, and from the people from my hometown probably know her better as the co-founder of Just Between Friends. Thank you for being on the show today, Shannon. 

[00:00:14] Shannon Wilburn: Yeah, thank you for having me on. I'm excited to talk about this. 

[00:00:17] Ron Skelton: Yeah, this is gonna be fun. I already kind of, told you ahead of the show what my ongoing joke is, you were born and now you ended up on a show about, podcast, or a podcast about mergers and acquisitions. Could you just give us an origin story? What got you started to be an entrepreneur? How did you, to move into that space? And then we'll talk a little bit later about, how did you do your exit and what are you up to now? 

[00:00:37] Shannon Wilburn: Okay, that's awesome. And I tell this story to franchisees about once a quarter and it takes me 45 minutes just to tell the story. So I'm gonna try and , I'm gonna try and do it in a short span of time. But when, when I was 12 years old, I have an identical twin sister and, my dad was CFO of an oil and gas company in [00:01:00] Midland, Texas, and he was the breadwinner of our family. And my mom had put him through school and at the age of 33, he, developed multiple sclerosis. And he had, the MS that was the rare kind, which is progressive.

[00:01:14] And so he went from a cane to a walker to a wheelchair in the span of six weeks. And that job that he had, he went on disability. And so our life changed significantly. We had just built a brand new custom home around an atrium and my mom and dad had two brand new cars in the driveway and they sold the brand new cars, and got a used car, one car cuz my dad couldn't drive at that point. And we moved into a rent house and our life changed significantly. And that CFO was still in my dad. And so he took, he said, okay, we are living on this very, very limited budget, fraction of what was going on. And he said, here's your [00:02:00] clothing budget to teenage girls. Here's your clothing budget.

[00:02:03] You can spend it all in January or you can divvy it up among the months and, but once it's gone, it's gone. And so don't come to me in May if you want a prom dress and you spent all of your clothing budget in January through April. So that was the beginning of my sister and I, learning about consignment and how to shop on a budget. And so we would go to the consignment stores and if we didn't love it, we didn't get it cuz we didn't have the money. I look back on that and, the budgeting portion of that. It was really probably really good for me to learn at that early age. But fast forward to college, I met and married my husband of now 32 years.

[00:02:45] And he was a youth minister. So he got a youth ministry position. We moved from Abilene, Texas to, Tulsa, Oklahoma and did youth ministry. And we, started thinking about having kids and I knew, that as an elementary education, [00:03:00] teacher that I really would like to stay home. But also youth ministers don't make a lot of money. And so how was I gonna do this? And so I told my mom, Hey, if you ever hear of anything where I can make any money to stay home with the kids, I said, tell me about it. And she, had some friends that went to an event in Fort Worth, and she called me and said, Hey, there's this consignment event, it's like a pop-up event where families come together and sell their unused items.

[00:03:29] And it's not a storefront, it's not a shop. It just comes one day and then it's gone, a couple of days later. And so she gave me the idea. So I pitched it to a friend of mine named Devin Tackett, who was the co-founder of Just Between Friends in Tulsa. And I said, here's the idea. What do you think about this? It sounded like a lot of work, cuz it is. And that's where our partnership formed. So we planned our very first, Just Between Friends event, in my living room was 17 consignors, where our friends brought their gently used children's and maternity [00:04:00] item, children's and maternity items and dropped them off.

[00:04:05] And we had a two day sale in my living room. Someone tried to buy my couch. We used the kitchen drawers as cash drawers. And that was the beginning of Just Between Friends. We didn't know that we were going to turn it into a franchise system later. It was really just a meet a need that we had. I had a two year old and a one-year-old, and she had a three-year-old and a five-year-old. We're like, we have got to figure out a way to, make some money and help our friends save money and make money. So that's what we did. That event, we had, the sellers asked us, when are you doing this again?

[00:04:39] The shopper said, when are you doing this again? And we looked at each other and we're like, okay, I guess we're doing this again. So six months later we moved from my small living room to a three car garage in South Tulsa, because that was the big house, and we would have more room in a three car garage than my living room. We did an event there, and then every six months was a cadence. In 2000, [00:05:00] we moved to the Tulsa fairgrounds, which was a huge leap of faith because it was very expensive. We knew we weren't gonna make any money, but we knew that once we started going there, people would start, attending the events. And they did.

[00:05:12] And they came out in droves. And Tulsa was a great, spot to start a business just cuz people really supported it. Three years later we started franchising the business because we had friends and family asking us, Hey, can we do this in our town? And so that was kind of where it started. But I exited in December of 2022.

[00:05:32] Ron Skelton: So, I moved back to Oklahoma from California. In I think 2000, I wanna say seven. And, got married. We had our first child in 2010. While my wife was pregnant, we walked through the Tulsa fairgrounds and we got like our stroller. We got a lot of stuff from friends and family, but we got a few items from there. 

[00:05:52] Shannon Wilburn: I was there because I, the first exit I had was, I exited from that, the Tulsa franchise in June of 2011. But [00:06:00] I was there as, and that was, when we started franchising honestly, Ron, I thought okay, the Tulsa sale was doing maybe $150,000 for an event. And I thought, okay, we're gonna tap out here pretty at this point. This was in 2000, 2003. And I thought, we're not really gonna grow more than 150,000 per event. And that event that you came to, we probably did 700 

[00:06:28] Ron Skelton: I say that the one I went to, like I said it was probably 2000. He was born in 2010, so it was probably a couple months before she had him. So cuz she was still pregnant. It was probably September, October, somewhere in that October, November. August.

[00:06:44] Shannon Wilburn: We do it in March and August. Yeah. 

[00:06:46] Ron Skelton: So it would've been August. Yeah. Cuz it was, I'm trying to think how, cuz she seemed pretty pregnant, but August would've been, about six months. Yeah. Anyway, we walked through there and it was big. You guys were occupying pretty much the whole [00:07:00] lower level of the Tulsa State Fairgrounds, like main pavilion building, which is thousands of feet, square feet.

[00:07:06] Shannon Wilburn: So I think we were, I think we took, about probably 60,000 square feet at that point. Yeah. 

[00:07:12] Ron Skelton: That's cool. So let's talk about where it is now. So, like now as being like you sold and exited, but like how big is Just Between Friends? 

[00:07:22] Shannon Wilburn: So, when I took an exit last year, we did almost 42 million in system-wide sales for the 150 something franchises that we have. So we have, franchises that are just starting out that are having small events. And then this last week we had an event that did $840,000. So it is, it's all across the gamut, but, the franchising space has been good to us. It's helped us really share the model and helped people become business owners and take this awesome business that is [00:08:00] great for families to communities around. Cuz there I didn't have money to do corporate locations. That was just never gonna happen. And so franchising was a great way. I'm a big proponent of franchising for sure. 

[00:08:15] Ron Skelton: Let's talk about the structure of the business. You guys, you came up with an idea, you started in your, living room. How did it mature? Like, what was the growing pains? Did you guys ever try, like, you grew up going to Plato's Closet type of places where you were doing consignment close, like for your shopping. Did you guys ever try to venture out of the children's clothes as your kids got older? Did you guys stick with the model from day one? What was the, the learning process and how did you guys like define that model? 

[00:08:43] Shannon Wilburn: Well, Ron, that's a great question. There's so much learning, because when you take, my business partner at the time was a journalism major. I was an elementary education major. Neither of us had business backgrounds. But what we learned honestly from the beginning is if you [00:09:00] surround yourself with smart people, so you can't expect that you are going to have all of the strengths needed to grow the business. But if you can connect with people who are good at what they do, they can help guide you and help you, stay away from some of those traps that new business owners get in.

[00:09:24] Not that we didn't get in, we have had plenty. In fact, when I do my, I call it my spiel to franchise owners about the history of the brand, I will mention many of the challenges that we had. We had a federal legislative issue that we went through. We had, we almost wouldn't bankrupt, in 2010. We've had franchise leave because they're unhappy. I'm telling you, I think there are many, many failure stories in within our own story. But if you can learn from them so you don't do 'em again, that's what we try to do. [00:10:00] But I am not sitting up here as an expert who's never had issues. Cuz we've had many. But, 

[00:10:05] Ron Skelton: Let's dive in to some of the lessons learned. Looks like, we learn a lot through our own, as much as it sounds mean or whatever. We learned a lot through our own pain in anguished. Right. We won't, you learn best from the things, I'll never do that again. So what are some of the things that led to almost going bankrupt or, franchisees leaving? 

[00:10:22] Shannon Wilburn: In franchising the goal of a franchisor, so if you have a business out there that is doing well in one location and you think, oh, I wanna franchise this. First off, I have lots of, advice and expertise for you, but the main goal of a franchisor, and I'm not sure I really knew this when we went into franchising, but the main goal of a franchisor is to have highly satisfied profitable franchisees. So that was our goal, and we did not always make that happen. I think in [00:11:00] 2010, what happened was, just the learning curve of small business is I wasn't great at budgeting.

[00:11:07] And so honestly, we didn't have a budget and until about this time we were just, we have money in the bank. This is our money and so we can spend it. And we just weren't great at managing cash flow. And, in 2009, 2008, where the rest of the country was going through a really hard time. We were growing like crazy. We had been on a couple of media appearances nationally, and the country is going through a hard time. People were leaving corporate America and droves, and they were flocking to franchising. And our business is recession proof. So right now our franchise owners are going gangbusters. And what I contribute that to is inflation and people are being laid off and they, this is a way for families to save money.

[00:11:58] So they're coming our way,[00:12:00] to sell their children's items to make and save money. But at that time, we sold 30 franchises in 2009, which was our biggest year still to date. I think the next highest year is like 15 or 16. So we sold 30 franchises in 2009. We didn't have a staff, we didn't have processes in place. We didn't have a lot of the stuff that just, you should have in place when you're a small business owner. And, so taking franchisees from the sale, selling it and taking in a franchise fee cuz that's how franchisee works. You pay a lump sum initially. We had that revenue, but it went right back out the door very quickly.

[00:12:42] Because franchising, especially our brand, because you're not opening up a location, it's not like a brick and mortar location. Well, even with a brick and mortar, but it, a service-based businesses up and running in 45 days, that's not us. It takes a little while to kind of ramp up to the event. And your [00:13:00] first and second events are smaller and the revenue, coming back to corporate at that time was minuscule, like a couple hundred bucks, something like that. And so here we were in 2010, we had these 30 brand new franchises, plus the ones we had sold before. And we're trying to support that many franchises. So the infrastructure was not in place financially, the infrastructure was not in place. And, the resource of people was not in place.

[00:13:28] And we had the year of austerity in 2010. Don't spend a dollar, don't buy a paperclip, don't do anything, on the franchise side, because we had separate PNLs for the, for the Tulsa business and then for the franchise system. But don't buy anything unless you absolutely have to. And that was really, I think that was really a turning point for me, and my business partner. So we realized in 2010 that, Devin and I would go to the, and this was [00:14:00] your, this was in your time, you said 2010. We would go to the Tulsa event and we would focus, focus, focus on the Tulsa sale cuz we were also a franchisee of our brand.

[00:14:10] And we had the largest sale, at the time in the franchise system. And we would go focus, focus, focus, 12 weeks leading up to the event and then maybe a couple weeks after the event. And at that time we were kind of ignoring the franchise owners. And they're over there, Hey, we need help. We paid, we need help. And we were ignoring them. So in 2011, March of 2011, we had the discussion about we need to reorganize the company. And so Devin took the Tulsa business as her a hundred percent business. And I took the franchise system as my a hundred percent business. And it allowed us to focus, on what we needed to focus on. 

[00:14:57] She could focus on the Tulsa business [00:15:00] and I could focus on the franchisees and that goal of highly satisfied, profitable franchisees. And so that was kind of the beginning of, how can I do this? So that was one issue. I mean, I could sit here and tell you 10 different stories like this.

[00:15:19] Ron Skelton: I'm interested in, this might be a little off topic, but the logistics behind setting up 60 to 70,000 square foot. You're gonna run this show for seven days. How many days before that were you collecting material, putting it in there, like putting, because everything was organized, semi-organized. It wasn't like chaotic, but it was on display racks and like, there was some infrastructure. 

[00:15:42] Shannon Wilburn: All is like all the strollers are together. All boys, Spider-Man toys are together. All the, um, Polly Pocket or, you know, whatever's popular today. Every, all of that is and then Halloween costumes are together and bikes are together. So it's easy to shop. It's kind of set up like a department store, so. 

[00:15:59] Ron Skelton: It [00:16:00] is. But so there's gotta be some logistics behind setting up 70,000 square foot of material. In which to have a seven day event. And then what happens to all the stuff that doesn't sell. So what is the logis like, did you have to rent that pavilion out for two weeks to do a one week show? Or what did that look like? The logistic side? 

[00:16:18] Shannon Wilburn: It was, we would rent the Tulsa fairgrounds for 14 days, not inexpensively, by the way. Because people will hear me say, oh, that sale did $600,000. And they don't, they're like, wow, they're making all this money. But the goal of this is that, that money goes back into the community. So they can, have it for their own families. But the logistics, we rented it for 14 days. There are things called drop off days. So where families, cuz we don't house this inventory anywhere. It comes from families. And so we have drop off days. So you sign up to come drop off your inventory, it goes through an inspection process. We don't take anything ripped, no holes, no stains, nothing that has been recalled. All of that, take that home with you. [00:17:00] And, so it goes through an inspection process, and then it goes out on the floor based on where the signage is and the racks and the tables are.

[00:17:07] So, sellers put their own merchandise out and then, that happens for, I can only speak for the Tulsa sale right now, and I can speak for anyone, but typically how it works is you have one or two drop off days, then you have what we call pre-sale, which is anyone who is participating in the sale as a consignor or a team member, they can shop early. And then lots of the events will have primetime shopping. So the public, if you wanna pay a fee, to shop first, you can do that because of course you may have, you may have 10 Peg Pergo strollers at your event. And one is marked $30 and one is marked 200. It's because the sellers do their own pricing.

[00:17:51] Ron Skelton: Okay. That was gonna be one of my questions. How do you value all that stuff? Right. The seller, 

[00:17:56] Shannon Wilburn: We have pricing guides on our website. So we help our [00:18:00] customers try to figure that out. But honestly it's what do you think it will sell for? And so that's why you have this gap is some people are like, I am done with this, I don't want it back. And some people are like, I'll take that back if it doesn't sell. So all of the consignors on every item, they get to choose whether, they want to donate it at the end of the event to a local charity or if they want to come and pick it up. And it can be per item. So you can say, donate all this stuff if it doesn't sell.

[00:18:28] But if this one item doesn't sell, I want this back because I'll try and sell it somewhere else. I'll give it to a friend or save it for another child. But then, so the event is with a pre-sale day, then open to the public. We were open to the public I think six or seven days. And then you have what is called breakdown, and that is where you take all the unsold items. We don't call it leftovers because it's still great stuff that just, the right person didn't come out. The unsold items get, put back into consignor number order [00:19:00] and they can choose to come pick up their unsold items or they get donated to the charity and that's it. 

[00:19:06] Ron Skelton: So I can imagine at the Tulsa location, like I say, we're talking 60, 70,000 square feet. Tens of thousands of items. Maybe even a hundred thousand items. The logistics, how many people it take to sort that stuff out, get it into place and then sort it out at the end and get it back into some sense of order so that people could come pick it up. You guys run a crew of what, a dozen or two or how many people were in there?

[00:19:29] Shannon Wilburn: I wish.

[00:19:30] Ron Skelton: I knew I was wrong.

[00:19:32] Shannon Wilburn: Okay. So, I honestly, I cannot remember how many, and we ran it differently back then. So now we run, on team members. And I know our, our COO actually is the, the owner of the Tacoma franchise in Washington State. And we were talking to a PEO company recently and trying to figure out cost for, the employment stuff that she was looking at.

[00:19:58] And she said she has [00:20:00] 90 team members and she did over half a million dollars. So it was probably somewhere around a hundred. But, the smaller you are, the lesser days you're open, all of that plays into, how many people you need. And there are team leads and, I mean, it's pretty, if you do it right, it can run very efficiently.

[00:20:22] Ron Skelton: So you're saying the Tulsa event had a close to a hundred people running that in there? 

[00:20:25] Shannon Wilburn: Oh, I think, I think we had more. Cuz we were not, we've learned a lot in the last 12 or 13 years on how to be more process oriented and how to utilize less people working for longer hours. 

[00:20:41] Ron Skelton: I'm just thinking for two weeks out of every six months, a hundred people converging onto a single, 120, 30, whatever it was, people converging on a single location to sort out 60 to 70,000 square foot of baby merchandise. Sell it and get it back either [00:21:00] to a charity or to the owner if it doesn't sell. The logistics of that in itself. 

[00:21:05] Shannon Wilburn: That's why you need to buy a franchise, Ron, cuz we have it figured out. I think event planning. It's funny cuz I'm planning another event for one of my other businesses and had a two hour meeting yesterday and my employee for that business, has not done a lot of event planning and I was with a professional event planner who like, knows exactly. And I would call myself an event planner, but she's a certified event planner and she was helping me think about stuff.

[00:21:34] And my employee said, wow, you don't think about all the logistics behind, an event. And it was two hours for us just to kind of get the calendar in order. When we had to start doing all of these tasks and, being a part of a franchise I think is, it's so helpful. Any franchise, I mean, our franchise of course, but any franchise that's been around for any length of time they have, you're buying [00:22:00] basically a business in a box and you're, you don't have to figure out the marketing because it's figured out for you. And here's the collateral material and here's the email campaigns and this is when you need to send them. And so you have all of this help where your goal is to be in business, for yourself, but not by yourself. 

[00:22:21] Ron Skelton: Now you're, you have me curious, what's this other event business you got?

[00:22:25] Shannon Wilburn: So, my husband and I live on 15 acres in Jenks, Oklahoma. And it feels, Jenks is the, uh precious town. It's awesome. It is growing. And it feels really, honestly, it feels really bougie to have 15 acres in the middle of Jenks. And it totally a God story of how we got this property. I mean, totally God story. We should not own this property. There were like 10 people in line for this property, and the Lord allowed us to have it. But we opened up the property in 2018. This is my, I still get to call myself a business owner because I'm doing this, and, but we opened up the property in 2018 to [00:23:00] allow photographers, it's picturesque for Oklahoma.

[00:23:03] It would not be picturesque for, a lot of places, but for Oklahoma, the property that we live on is beautiful. Lots of, 200 year old pecan trees. We have a beautiful Clearwater Creek over a rock bed that's running through it. Wild flowers. And so we have put up Arbor's and, four foot live edge swings from these big tall pecan trees. And so photographers come out here and use it as an outdoor venue to take pictures. And the event, I haven't even announced this to anyone. In fact, at some point today I was going to crowdsource it with my photographers. I'm 99% sure we're doing it, but I wanted to just get one more. I wanted to vet it with a few more people, before we spend the money.

[00:23:49] But it's basically a family friendly event where, so we have daylight hours where the photographers are here. And [00:24:00] this resource of this property is not taken advantage of during the nighttime hours. And so we've been kind of brainstorming about how can we, how can we leverage what we already have in the nighttime hours? And so we're gonna do a Halloween event and I think we're gonna call it, the boneyard at Cole Creek. And it's gonna be, where families can bring their littles for a family friendly event. It's basically dressed up skeleton. Sponsors in the community that wanna sponsor skeleton and do like a scavenger hunt and that type of thing in the evening hours. So I'll let you know how it goes. 

[00:24:34] Ron Skelton: I'm interested. That's cool. I always love people who come up with creative, ideas and stuff. Just the entrepreneurial spirit of it, like you were saying, most people don't ask the question about logistics. Well, that's exactly where my mind went is like, if I was to create this, what would be the roadblock? What would be, what's the. 

[00:24:48] Shannon Wilburn: Here's my story brand of how we're gonna do this and how we're gonna communicate it. 

[00:24:52] Ron Skelton: Awesome. It's just the way our gears turn differently, I think. Honestly think that, is it a natural entrepreneur. Your gears just turned differently. [00:25:00] I can't, I can walk into a barber shop and, like to, well, I don't do that much anymore. But, if I walk into any business, I'll walk into a coffee shop. I'll notice, okay, well I've been here for two hours. I've only seen 35 people walk in the door. They are average spending $8. And the next thing I know, my, my gears are like, how do they even survive? They're like, the rent, here's gotta be eight grand. Like, I'm doing the numbers and it's not.

[00:25:19] Shannon Wilburn: That's what I do it too. I do it too. I think that's, cause once you have the idea and the, and know the process of what it takes, someone who's been do, who's been an entrepreneur or been doing business for any length of time, you can say, oh, that marketing, oh, ooh, that customer service and, it's horrible because I want to give advice to people all the time. Just ask my kids. It's anytime I see something like, wow, if we just did it this way, you could probably, get a few more customers. 

[00:25:53] Ron Skelton: That's a good segway into what I was about to ask you. I've noticed, and I've worked in the tech industry mostly before I went out on my own and [00:26:00] did the thing. I noticed when we had remote offices or we picked up a remote office or something, a lot of times they would teach us, we've been doing something for a long time. We'd bring somebody on to help us a next thing, they're teaching us better ways to do things. How often is that true in franchises where you guys got a franchise that you either just rocking it and you're like, you start analyzing what they're doing that's slightly different than what you're telling them to do and then bring that back for other people to use. Does that actually happen in the franchise?

[00:26:23] Shannon Wilburn: That happens all the time. And it's amazing because we get to stay innovative because you're, you are getting all of this brain power, the brain trust, and, we have, one of our core values is we are better together. And it's true cuz we are better together. When we have an issue, it's not just the CEO solving the issue. It is 150 franchise owners that come together, during Covid, we were an event-based business where you gathered. We have to really, gather the franchise owners. I think 26 franchise owners came together and we formed a [00:27:00] task force and people were like, what do we need to do with our marketing? Oh my gosh.

[00:27:05] We need to get rid of the word event. We cannot call ourselves an event because that is taboo. We're gonna get slaughtered. And, we need to figure out how do we space people in line? Usually we have really long lines. Oh, okay, we're gonna use this technology to do this. And we also have a, my co-founder's no longer in the business. She retired in 2020 and so we created a, a scholarship in her name and the scholarship is called the Devin Tackett Founder Spark Scholarship. It is for ideas that you come up with. We have a panel of judges that vote on, and you get, I mean, you get $750 to try your idea. It may cost 1500 for you to try your idea, but you get $750 from the franchise support center to do that innovation in your location for the process and for the purpose of if it goes well, it can be system-wide. And so that's [00:28:00] just part of our research and development of, trying it out at other locations. 

[00:28:04] Ron Skelton: You mentioned Hivemind and Mastermind. Do you guys actually do masterminds, like group your franchisees into groups and say, I want you to meet on a monthly basis and set, accountability partners or any of that type of stuff?

[00:28:15] Shannon Wilburn: Yep. They're peer groups. 

[00:28:17] Ron Skelton: Awesome. That's actually a, I don't know, maybe other franchise do. I've interviewed at least 120 people in the buying, selling, growing business space. Out of that, I can probably count on a single hand how many of them are in the franchise space. Right. 

[00:28:29] Shannon Wilburn: Well, I can introduce you to some people because I'm very involved with the International Franchise Association. So, and lots of buying and selling going on there. The kind of the trend right now in franchising and probably in any private equity world is, um, Platform companies. So you get, if you've heard of the concept called Urban Air. Urban Air was, is like a adventure park, indoor adventure park. And they have created, something called Unleashed Brands and they are [00:29:00] buying up other franchises that are, they're strategic partners to that unleashed, to Urban Air. So you have like Snapology, you have Little Gym, you have, or is it Little Gym?

[00:29:12] I know Snapology, I know Class 1 0 1, premier Martial Arts. And there's, I think there's, I think they have six under their brand and they leverage legal, marketing,. Really operations is very different at the brand level, but they can leverage some of the CFOs. Leverage those costs. Yeah, so that's kind of lots and lots of acquisitions happening in franchising and really has been, the private equity space really took note of franchising because of the recurring revenue of royalties. It's very, less risky for private equity to go in and have something where you have recurring revenue. 

[00:29:56] Ron Skelton: Oh yeah. I'm a big fan of recurring revenue. That's why I did the real estate [00:30:00] world. That's why I do, I run, media, I buy and sell the media companies now and, and I have , like that's what I like. Newsletters, podcasts, websites that do software review, that type of stuff. 

[00:30:11] I will wanna hear more about this. Yeah. So the, it's recurring revenue. It's just like, the only thing that scares me is like a lot of it's content based. Let's circle back around cuz we, we went on a rabbit hole. I think it's gonna impact, the reason I wanted to go down that is this gonna impact you is, one of the cool things is inside of the franchise model is now you can feed all that content, your standard operating procedure.

[00:30:31] Even now with ChatGPT, you could feed it. Here's my standard operating procedure. Here's what we do, ask and you treat it like you're treat an employee, right? It's like you train it, like you train an employee. Your job title is, you're an advisor on standard operating procedures and improve, operational improvements. Yeah. And that's your job. I'm gonna give you my standard operating procedure. I'm gonna give you our industry, your job is to ask me questions that will help you better produce the result we're looking for, [00:31:00] to improve, improve efficiency, and then rewrite my standard operating procedure.

[00:31:04] And they will ask you a series of 7, 8, 10 questions. Who's your target market? It'll ask you questions you never thought it would ask you, and then it'll rewrite it for you. In 35 seconds. It's insane. You should get in and play with her. If you're ever bored and you want to, let me know and I'll actually, we'll fire up a zoom chat.

[00:31:20] Shannon Wilburn: Thank you. 

[00:31:20] Ron Skelton: I'll actually walk you through it, with my, I have a paid version. I'll walk you through it with mine and we'll do a marketing plan for one of your ideas or something and watch how fast this thing can do it. 

[00:31:30] Shannon Wilburn: How about the boneyard at Cole Creek Marketing Ideas? 

[00:31:33] Ron Skelton: I'll, I'll help you. I got a, probably won't be today. I've got three, three shows are recorded today. But yeah, absolutely. We're at a state right now where I really kind of want to get to, what are you doing now? Like let's talk about the exit real quick. Cause I don't think we've really covered the significance of what you were able to do with the, exit of, that, like, you, you sold it to a PE firm or something.

[00:31:52] Shannon Wilburn: I didn't, I sold it to my largest performing franchisee. 

[00:31:57] Ron Skelton: Ah, cool. So tell me about that and then we [00:32:00] will, talk about what you're doing now. 

[00:32:01] Shannon Wilburn: Yeah. Gosh. And this again is, takes a long story cuz it took place over several months. But the gist of it is, I knew, in 2011 when I took over as a hundred percent owner, I knew at some level I needed to replace myself. But specifically in 2016, I made the decision through a series of failures, right? That, okay, my accountability chart, my organizational chart is flat. I need to start adding some depth and some expertise. And so, in 2017, we added an advisory board, just phenomenal people in franchising to, help guide me, on some of the decisions that I was making.

[00:32:43] And so over from, from 2016 to 2021, as resources would allow, we started adding more people to our team. And then we went through, a process called Traction. I don't know if you've ever heard of. 

[00:32:55] Ron Skelton: I've had him on here. I've had the CEO of the company on the show. 

[00:32:58] Shannon Wilburn: You have? Oh my gosh. [00:33:00] That was a game changer for us going through and it's kind of a two year process where you have an integrator and the premises, you have a, I'm sorry, an implementer. You have an integrator and you have a visionary. And in 2021, I hired a president, just really promoted someone from within up to the president level, and I became the visionary and she became the integrator. And, this was, this came earlier than I thought it would because my husband during Covid, he had, he got covid and he has, previously had one type of cancer, has another type of cancer.

[00:33:36] Now he has four autoimmune diseases. And so we knew if he got covid it would not go well. And, he did in October of 2020 before vaccinations or anything like that, he developed Covid. And in three days he was in the hospital and he stayed there for 48 days. He was intubated two different times, for eight days, the first time, nine days the second time. And then, he [00:34:00] flatlined, he had a pacemaker put, I mean, it was like, like he's a walking, talking, living, breathing miracle. But what that did for me, is I had a little bit of P T S D of going through that with him. Not during, during I was a rockstar. He's a senior pastor at our church and I basically took the communication role of Mitch's communication manager, which was a full-time job just getting out all of the information about him.

[00:34:25] But once he came home, learned to walk again and started the process of getting better. I think I, that trauma, I guess, that I had gone through with almost losing my husband and me thinking about myself living here by myself. All of the stuff we do and the stories we tell ourselves, I was, not feeling like I was being a good leader. I felt like I am, I need to get past this. And so that was a little bit of the process of what I was going through. And so I recognized, had some self-awareness of [00:35:00] I am not doing the job I need to be doing as a leader to my franchisees. And this is unfair. It's very unfair. So I need to get a president in here.

[00:35:08] And Diane took the presidential role. Really on paper in June, if you were to go back and say, when did she start this position? June of 2021. But honestly, she started at the day my husband went in the hospital. Because I was there for him and that's where I was gonna be, which was in 2020. So anyway, um, probably, in August of 2021, I did something with about five or six of my franchisees where I just kind of kept them on a month or a six week conversation. Like we would have an hour call every, month or six weeks. And, one of them is my number one franchise owner. And at the end of one of those calls, I think it was in August of 20 21, she said, Shannon, I don't know how to ask this, but if you're ever willing to sell Just Between [00:36:00] Friends, I would be interested.

[00:36:01] And I said, well, thank you so much for having the courage to even bring this up. We do get approached regularly by PE and, competitors, and other people who would like to, acquire us and or buy us. But I said, let's start talking. And so it was a process of several months of us, neither one of us really having gone through this negotiation process, to this level. My largest franchisee she had sold, at one time she had owned four locations and so she had, sold one of her locations at that time. So she had been through it. She was a franchisee and another brand 15 years ago, and they had sold those locations.

[00:36:40] Her husband was a franchisee and another brand, they had sold that location. So they had that, understanding, but coming in and buying a business, they had not been on that side of it. And so I think we both learned a lot through this process. And I was very, very thankful because I had an advisory board that I had put in place in [00:37:00] 2017. Which, J Duke with BDO he does m and a, that's his job. Then Mary Thompson with a brand called Neighborly, she's the COO they have like 30, they've acquired 30 companies over, it used to be the Dwyer Group. So what she does and so she does that, Josh Wall with Unleashed Brands.

[00:37:19] I told you about Unleashed Brands earlier in the podcast. And, a couple of others, John Francis and Ryan. Now I just had this dream team of people who really could speak into me and help be my guide really through something that, was new. Anyway, we signed a LOI, then we went on to sign a purchase agreement, and we had the transaction happen in December 29th, 2022. So I'm, we're 90 days into this. And so it's not, 

[00:37:47] Ron Skelton: Can you disclose a ballpark? Okay if you say no, but can you disclose, Okay. Sometimes I know sometimes you're under contract, you can't, and sometimes it's just not comfortable. But I have to ask everybody on the show, everybody that watches the show, like, why didn't you ask her if I don't, that'd be the number one [00:38:00] emails. Like, why didn't you ask her? 

[00:38:01] Shannon Wilburn: Yes. Yeah. I will say that we both walked away feeling like we won. And that part of the process was good. We had evaluation done and it, I knew what I needed to walk away. And I think that's a, that was an important learning lesson to me, is have someone who is guiding you so you don't make a, a lifelong mistake. And so I had done that and just lots of people spoken to me and I had great advisors. 

[00:38:36] Ron Skelton: So I know, especially for, for guys cuz of our male ego that gets in our way. But I have to imagine even for, for a woman on, CEO so much of our identity of who we are as human beings is tied into our business. How did you deal with, what happens when I sell this? What will I do next? Did you have a definite plan for that? Because I see so many deals dying because the [00:39:00] owner trying to sell it, just doesn't know what they're gonna do next and gets kind of cold feet. So did you start thinking, when did that click in? It's like, man, what am I gonna do when this is gone? 

[00:39:09] Shannon Wilburn: I started thinking about it. I don't think it's only a male ego thing. I think it's also, a leader. I really loved the CEO title and I don't know if you think poorly of me from that, but, I would like to stand in front of people and say, oh, that doesn't matter. But when I found myself at a community event after the transaction and they said, what do you do? And I, what do I do, I was like, I have for 20 years, I've said, I'm a business owner and I'm the CEO of Just Between Friends. And, 

[00:39:44] Ron Skelton: You've said it on Fox, you've said it on CEN, I mean, you've said it to the world, right? You've been on national media and presented yourself as CEO of this national brand. 

[00:39:54] Shannon Wilburn: I think what people want to do, Ron, is they wanna say, well, now you can be a grandmother. And I'm like, yeah, I mean, I can be a [00:40:00] grandmother and a CEO. And I have two grandkids, another on the way, and the next, couple of weeks, neither of them live here locally. And so, yes, I'm a grandmother and I will want to spend as much time as possible with them, but they're not here locally, so I'm not gonna sit at home. That's what how I would answer. What are you gonna do next? And I'm saying, I don't know. I am waiting on revelation from the Lord about that, but I know what I'm not gonna do. I'm not gonna sit at home and twiddle my thumbs, and I'm not gonna be a full-time grandmother at this point. I'm 52 and,

[00:40:28] Ron Skelton: I didn't ready to tell you I'm not old enough to be a grandmother. And then I realized I've had my kids, I have a, a seven year old and a 12 year old. I started late, right? So I was like, you gotta be about my age. I'm, I just turned 51, so like, you gotta be close to my age or younger. There's no way in the world you're old enough, you needed graduate. Then I'm like, wait a second. 

[00:40:44] Shannon Wilburn: My kids are 27 and 28 right now. So they both have children and, yeah. So, but I think, I told my husband this, I said, I'm so thankful, because our, again, I would like to stand in front of people and say, my identity is not in Just Between Friends, [00:41:00] but it is, it is. I've done it since I was 27 years old. I'm thankful the new owner is, letting me have a position for the next three years as brand ambassador and co-founder. I'll never get rid of that title, but, I get to, I'm advising the leadership right now. They don't need a lot of advising, honestly.

[00:41:19] They're doing a fabulous job and I'm, I serve a lot, kind of as historian to come in and say, okay, this is why we made that decision. Make a new decision if you want to. This is a little bit of history to why the decision was made to do it that way, and That's been fun to be able to not work 50 to 60 hours a week, but still get to have, their ear a little bit. And that was really kind, of her to let me be able to stay in the brand in that way. And then I told my husband that I'm glad I'm a business owner still with the Coal Creek Farm business, the photography business is a small business. But it is, I, what I love about it is what I loved about J B F in the [00:42:00] beginning, it's community based.

[00:42:01] You get to be with people in your community, affect their lives in a good, positive way, and then have that good feeling. But I've, I decided, I had been coaching clients for the, I mean, honestly, as long as I can remember when someone has said, Hey, you know, can I pick your brain? Can I, and I Yes. Let me, help you in any way I can. So, when I appointed a president, that freed up a lot of my time after about six months of her being in that position. I found myself, with a lot more time to, I wasn't in the down and end stuff. I was in the up and out stuff. And, so when people would say, when I went to speak at like the emerging franchise or conference or any conferences, you'll have people come up after you and they want help in some area. 

[00:42:50] And so some of those people and some local, uh, business owners here in Tulsa, I was just coaching kind of on the side cuz I had time to do it. [00:43:00] And so I, if someone has told me I should be a coach, they've, if one person has told me a hundred of said, you need to be a coach. And I'm like, well, I don't know if that's what I wanna do, but I'm already doing it. And so to legitimize the business I'm in the process of doing the website, it's called Shine Executive Coaching. And it's really for people I think, I think being a business owner, it's lonely.

[00:43:24] And if you can have someone come alongside you in maybe areas where you have weakness or just even for accountability, like that is why I loved having this advisory board because I could go and say, these are the things we're doing great, we're like rocking it in these areas, but here's what keeps me up at night. And so I would just get on the phone with them and say, okay, ah, we really screwed this up. What do I do? And you can't say that to your franchisees. 

[00:43:53] Ron Skelton: You can't say that to your employees half the time, right. 

[00:43:54] Shannon Wilburn: Until you can say it. But unless, if you have a, until you figured out what [00:44:00] you're gonna do. You need to have kind of some guidance. And I will tell you, it really helps the business owner focus. If I've used a coaching Just Between Friends for years, and I just save my issues for 'em. And we're able, we spend an hour, an hour and a half on the phone, and I leave with, three pages of notes on what my next step are to solve. So it's basically a good way to kind of, I would love to help other people, navigate their business so they don't have to hit some of the landmines that I hit. And I have this great, I don't know, this circle of influence of just wonderful business owners in my life and, in my circle of influence that if I don't know the answer to the question, probably we can find someone to help. So I'm like, I'm gonna do this until I find my next thing. 

[00:44:54] Ron Skelton: So define your ideal client. If you could pick a single human being off the [00:45:00] planet and say, this is the person I would love to help. Who is that? 

[00:45:06] Shannon Wilburn: Franchising, executives. 

[00:45:07] Ron Skelton: Franchising exec in particular market or? 

[00:45:10] Shannon Wilburn: No. But maybe, founders. Because that's where I feel like I can give the most expertise. Founders of small business.

[00:45:18] Ron Skelton: What stage? Like, okay, I've got a business I've already paid for the franchise, paperwork or whatever, or, I've got a business, and I'm 99% sure I think I should franchise it. What stage do you wanna work with them? 

[00:45:31] Shannon Wilburn: I would think where I feel, I mean, I could help any one at any stage, but again, ideal, they have, five or 10 units open. And they're just starting to ramp up. I wish someone would've told me years ago, and that when you decide to franchise, you are getting out of the business you're in, which is children's consignment. And you were getting into the business of franchising. [00:46:00] And completely different business models. Consignment, I need to find people to sell and I need to find people to buy children's consignment items. Franchising your job is to support people doing that, right? And you support them with legal, legislative, marketing, operations, development. 

[00:46:21] I mean, that's your role, is you support them so that they can go run the model that you have for them. But there's all of these things that you just, are not necessarily intuitive to business ownership, that when's the right time to set up a franchise advisory council?

[00:46:39] Ron Skelton: Is there anybody you don't wanna coach or like in the industry or something like, you know how to just, I'm not. 

[00:46:45] Shannon Wilburn: Well, what I've asked my graphic artist to put on the website is that I will have a 30 minute discovery call with people because I absolutely, if I can't help you, let's not, let's not work together. And so I just need to hear like, what are the problems and the issues that you're having, and I need [00:47:00] to be able to see is, can I help with this? And I'm sure if I can't help with it, I probably know I can point someone in the right direction. But it's funny because I have, there's a business owner who's, I think he's 32 years old.

[00:47:14] I help with the young couple's class at my church. And this is engaged new, newly married, we have about 35 couples in this, engaged or newly married class. And he is a general contractor and so smart, so personable, knows how to lead, genuine. Just a good person. And he approached me probably about a year ago and said, Hey, would you be open to coaching me? And I was like, I don't know anything about construction. I was like, I don't think you want me. And this, this, of course was, before I thought about doing a coaching business or anything like that. And he said, yeah, but Shannon, you know, business and I'm like, okay, well fire me at any point.

[00:47:59] I mean, he wasn't paying [00:48:00] me, but he said, I'll pay you, but I said, fire me at any point. This is not a lifetime commitment. And that's kind of how I think, because if my advice has served its purpose and there is, and I've gotten you from here to here, you might need someone else to take you from here to here. And so, I just, I think I've got this knowledge in my head that I want to be able to come alongside people and business owners and help them. So anyway, I didn't think I could help someone in that was a general contractor, but turns out I can. 

[00:48:35] Ron Skelton: Awesome. We're at the hour. Let's do this real quick. If somebody could remember one or two things or three things from the show, what would be the key takeaways that you'd want them to remember?

[00:48:46] Shannon Wilburn: Probably surround yourself with smart people. That is why I got to make an exit. Why I got to have that transaction is because I had people speaking into [00:49:00] me. Man, for 25 years. When you take a teacher and you become a business owner, there's this huge learning curve. I think another piece of advice would be to know your strengths. Know what you're good at, and know where your weaknesses are as well. And if you can hire people to do the tasks where it's not necessarily your strength. That will, that was probably a really hard thing that I learned, um, probably more recent than I want to admit was in regards to technology. We, technology, Shannon Wilburn's weakness. Yet we didn't have a C T O.

[00:49:49] And so who makes these decisions? Well, me. And when you don't have the level of expertise or knowledge, it got us into a lot of trouble. So I [00:50:00] would say know your weaknesses and, know your strengths for sure. And work in those strengths. So, and then I think I always, of course, give people the advice to find a way to give back in their business, just for it being a purpose filled business.

[00:50:19] Ron Skelton: Awesome. Awesome. If somebody wants to work with you or whatever, what's the best way for them to reach out and contact you? 

[00:50:26] Shannon Wilburn: Uh, probably on LinkedIn. That's a good way. Or my new email, for the Shine Executive Coaching is Shannon spelled how it sounds, s h a n n o That could be an but LinkedIn is, 

[00:50:41] Ron Skelton: I'll make sure we include your LinkedIn link inside of the, show notes for those you guys that are listening. And, appreciate you being on the show today. Hang out for a few seconds and we'll call that a show.