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Kitchen Solvers Franchise Review: Q&A with Eric Mueller of Madison, WI

Kitchen Solvers Franchise Owner Eric Mueller, a Former Rowing Coach, Talks About His First Experience Owning His Own Business

Eric Mueller bought his Kitchen Solvers franchise in Madison, Wisc., in March 2012.

Eric Mueller bought his Kitchen Solvers franchise in Madison, Wisc., in March 2012.

Stepping out into the world of entrepreneurship can be exhilarating — and maybe a little intimidating, too. But owning a franchise such as Kitchen Solvers, where there’s built-in, ongoing support, can smooth out a lot of bumps on the path to success. We sat down for a Q-and-A with new Kitchen Solvers franchise owner Eric Mueller, of Madison, Wis., about his experience so far.

What were you doing before Kitchen Solvers? Why did you want to own a franchise?
My last salaried position was assistant rowing coach for the University of Wisconsin. While I was coaching, I was also restoring houses. I was talking to an accountant about doing more of that and making it more of a business. He mentioned this (Kitchen Solvers) business was for sale. I bought a pre-existing franchise; it was running here in Madison for close to 20 years.

When did you buy the franchise?
In March of 2012

What do you like about the job?
I like that I own a business, so it’s more of a lifestyle than a job, really. As far as the business itself, I like it because it’s a defined niche. We specialize in refacing cabinets. A lot of people don’t really understand what that means. A lot of the responsibility in doing business is to educate the consumer on the different options that are available. That educational process can be fun.

What sets Kitchen Solvers apart?
There are a lot of mom-and-pop refacing businesses, while Kitchen Solvers is definitely a nationally recognized brand within the niche of refacing. Basically, what sets us apart is our dedication to educate the consumer and really allowing them to understand the process.

What attracted you to Kitchen Solvers?
No. 1, I wanted to have my own business;  No. 2, I wanted something whose start-up would be easier than starting from scratch. With Kitchen Solvers, I’ve got brand recognition in the area and a fairly healthy past customer list. That helps as far as being able to tap that resource for referrals. As far as what attracted me to purchasing this business, before I bought the business I was a rowing coach, so it’s kind of a massive, dramatic change of profession. Having corporate support for everything from support in marketing to branding to sales coaching to running the business was important. It kind of just made sense after I considered other options. Honestly, I wasn’t looking into becoming a contractor in the remodeling industry. I was looking more on the investment side. What I wanted more was to run my own business and have that experience.

How large is the Kitchen Solvers opportunity?
I think it’s substantial, absolutely. I think one of the major hurdles is educating the consumer, and that’s something we do best. I feel like if everyone understood that this option existed in a kitchen remodeling — refacing — it would be a little bit easier, but at the same time it has the same issues any business has.

Who are your main customers?
Of course, I’m talking after only nine months of experience, but lately it’s been married couples between 40 and 65 that own their house, middle-income to upper-middle income. I’m also working on a couple in their early 30s, and I’ve done income property as well, which I’d like to do more of.

Did you have craftsman experience before owning the franchise?
I have a degree in mechanical engineering. As far as being a craftsman, I did a lot of my own work when I did my home rehabs. I’m basically self-taught… Having an understanding of how everything is installed is important, but to run the business you don’t need to actually do it. I’m just starting to explore contracting out; I’ve actually been installing myself. I know plenty of other franchisers who contract out everything or they have enough business that they can hire direct. That’s something I’m going to try.

What types of work are you getting more of?
My marketing has been towards refacing because I feel I can be the most competitive in that area. As far as full kitchen remodeling, I think that’s just a matter of time.

How long do most jobs take?
Three to five days, just for installation.

What would be a big and a small job for Kitchen Solvers, in terms of the bill?
I’ve bid out jobs that were as high as $14,000 for cabinet refacing — that doesn’t include any kind of countertop or backsplash or anything — and as low as $2,600 just to replace the cabinet doors of a condo kitchen. If you get down to just refacing the vanity, that could be as low as $720. It’s a fraction of what new would cost, and there’s a lot of things you have to take into consideration. The slam dunk is where you have an expensive countertop that you like that you don’t necessarily want to get rid of, but you have old cabinets that were installed 12 years ago, for instance.

What does your typical day look like?
It’s completely up in the air. If it’s during a time I’m doing installation, I’m up and out the door by 6:30 or 7 to get my materials or get ready for the day and go to the site. Usually, a day of installation is 8-10 hours. Within that, a lot of times I need to return calls, make appointments. If I have a day when I’m doing a sales call, I’ll try to schedule 2-3 in a day. A sales call takes an hour to two hours depending on interest and reception of the customer. Right now, I’m still building the business. I do a lot of networking; I’m a member of multiple networking groups and I’ll go out and meet with other business owners. And I’m also meeting up with possible contractors. That can be over the phone as well. … There lots of preparation work. Honesty, I’m still getting that whole process down. That’s one of my goals for 2013, to get that process a little more streamlined.

What is a secret to your success?
Putting together a solid marketing plan and following it. I had some experience in marketing in recruiting for my rowing team, and it’s a similar sales job. But the stakes are a  little different.

What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn’t before?
It allows me to network with other owners in the franchise, which I think is over and above the best. To tap the knowledge base, having access to the entire network of Kitchen Solvers, is a huge, huge advantage. There’s no reason for any of our franchises to hold anything back from anyone else, so communication is exceptional.

Would you recommend a Kitchen Solvers franchise to someone else?
Absolutely. It’s a terrific business. You already have a built-in niche with the refacing. Depending on what your background is, the franchise is flexible enough to do with it what you want. I think for anybody with any experience in home remodeling or construction, it’s a terrific option, but even for anybody who has design experience, it would be a terrific business.

Learn More about Kitchen Solvers Franchise Opportunities

Kitchen Solvers franchisees benefit from proven systems, extensive training and business coaching, buying cooperatives and a network of other franchisees — a support system that has helped franchisees succeed for 30 years. If you’re interested in starting a kitchen remodeling business, visit www.KitchenSolversFranchise.com where you will find research pages to learn more about the remodeling industry, why Kitchen Solvers is a good business and can read interviews with franchise owners. You can also fill out a form to download our free franchise report. Let’s start a conversation!

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