ShelfGenie - CEO & Co-Founder, P. Allan Young

Date: MAR 26th, 2014

Topic: Interview with a CEO

An Army ROTC cadet at the University of Richmond, Young, 43, graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He attended artillery training at Fort Bragg and spent five years at Hawaii’s Schofield Barracks, during which time he earned a master’s degree in administration from Central Michigan University.

After leaving active duty for the reserve in 1998, Young started a business-consulting firm before being sent to Kuwait in 2005. When Young returned from his Reserve duty, Shelf Conversions asked him to help grow their business in Richmond. He assisted them in creating a network of exclusive dealers. The model was so successful that Young became a partner in 2006. He and a group of investors soon bought Shelf Conversions and in 2008 unveiled the ShelfGenie franchise system where he continues to serve as CEO and Co-Founder.

BeTheBoss: Tell us about the ShelfGenie concept?

P. Allan Young: Atlanta, Georgia-based ShelfGenie is a franchise concept that designs, builds and installs storage solutions that are custom-built to fit into existing cabinets and pantries throughout the home. ShelfGenie is the nation's only franchised provider of custom storage solutions and is well positioned for growth and to become the predominant brand in its industry, which is highly fragmented and comprised of many “mom and pop” competitors and online retailers

BTB: How and when did you become involved with ShelfGenie?

P.Y: I became involved with ShelfGenie in 2003 when it was a small business known as Shelf Conversions operating in the Richmond, Virginia market. The company founder, Andrew Kerwin, hired me as a business consultant to determine how to grow the company. I helped Andrew build a dealer model that expanded Shelf Conversions across the U.S. and into Canada. In 2006, I became a partner in the business with the intent of developing the concept as a franchise.

BTB: What was your background prior to joining ShelfGenie?

P.Y: Prior to joining ShelfGenie, I served in the U.S. Army and Army Reserve. During my years in the Reserve and between deployments, I learned the ropes of launching and running small businesses through an audio/video company I started in Atlanta, Georgia and an indoor air purifying dealership I launched in Richmond, Virginia. These experiences gave me the know-how to embark on the business consulting practice that led me to co-found ShelfGenie.

BTB: What are some of the advantages in being a ShelfGenie franchisee?

P.Y: There are many advantages to being a ShelfGenie franchisee. Since our franchisees have ranked us in the Top 50 Franchise Satisfaction Awards for the past three years, I believe they would agree with this statement.

The top three benefits are:

  • Our scalable business model means minimal overhead costs
  • Our WishPortal system helps franchisees effectively manage their business from any location
  • Our business support center is the front office for every franchisee

BTB: Who is your ideal franchisee?

P.Y: Our ideal franchisee is somebody who enjoys building relationships and transforming the lives of their clients. Typically, a background in marketing and sales is beneficial although we have several engineers in the mix. We have tools that help determine if ShelfGenie is a good fit for the franchise prospect.

BTB: Tell us a little about the Home Improvement Market?

P.Y: While we are in the home improvement industry ($280 billion and growing), we are building our own unique niche. Our vision is to be the leading designer of innovative custom storage solutions that transform everyday life. Our core target audience is the 77 million-strong Baby Boomer set.

BTB: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?

P.Y: The greatest lesson I’ve learned in growing this franchise is that franchisees’ own fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) can cripple their ability to succeed. Franchisors can help alleviate the FUD felt by their franchisees during stressful times by making sure the franchisees know we’re there to look out for their best interests and will be cheering them on to success every step of the way. Their success is our success.

BTB: Do you have a mentor and is their someone you use for inspiration?

P.Y: I have had a business mentor for many years. In fact, he is on the board for ShelfGenie. I look to him for inspiration and clarity on the opportunities I face growing this brand and franchise system.

BTB: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?

P.Y: My advice to someone looking to acquire a Franchise, is to carefully consider what a typical day in the life is like for the particular Franchise you are considering. It’s like a marriage. If you think it’s going to be only romantic evenings, you’re bound to be disappointed.