The mission of Wild Birds Unlimited is to bring people and nature together. They offer a variety of birdseed, bird feeders, birdbaths, nature gifts and a wealth of information on this subject of everything birds. Wild Birds Unlimited may be found at 950 County Road 64, Elmira, NY 14903 (Panera Bread, Target, etc.), and Chris Keelty may be reached at (607) 739-8157, through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Facebook and LinkedIn. You may also visit the website at www.wbu.com/BigFlats.
How long have you been in business and what are the main points of your business and what you do?
Wild Birds Unlimited has been in business with Chris Keelty for over four years at the Big Flats location. In addition to the many products they sell, there are any number of books and pamphlets on specific birds and bird gardens. Included in that is the new book by its Founder and CEO: Jim Carpenter.
How has your business evolved?
I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, but about 15 years ago, my son bought me a birdfeeder for Christmas and that really got me started. I am a member of the Audubon Society too, and a corporate sponsor for Tanglewood Nature Center.
I am originally from Long Island. I had a career in healthcare sales that brought me to this area. I was a Medical technologist originally. My last job was with a smaller company that was acquired by a much larger company, and it was becoming more and more stressful and the business was changing. I began to look for something else to do. The Wild Birds Unlimited store in Corning had been there for 10 years and liquidated. The owner wanted to retire. I had been a customer of the Johnson City store and asked them about their experience with the business and the company. The more I thought about it, the more I realized this would be a good fit for me.
You have previous business experience. Has that given you any skills you use now?
In sales you have quotas to meet, expectations and customers to satisfy. Being in Medical Sales definitely prepared me for this business.
Are there any misconceptions about you and your business?
Not really. Many people walk in the door as beginners, not knowing where to begin with feeders and seed. Periodically, we have seminars in the store, and Tanglewood has helped me a lot with those. Also, Rick Marci (a naturalist in the Vestal area) has worked with me on presentations to outside groups (Kiwanis, Garden Clubs, etc.).
What are your greatest achievements?
The continued growth of the business. This has been a challenge at times and much more than I had anticipated. People don’t need to feed the birds. It’s not generally at the top of their ‘to do’ list. We rely on a lot of word-of-mouth, advertising and marketing. The newspaper has been pretty successful for our business as well as TV.
What have been your greatest stumbling blocks?
Part-time help has been an issue for sure. It has been a challenge to find people who are passionate about this hobby with the flexible time for scheduling. Retired folks with this passion have been the best candidates for part-time help.
If you could have a Do Over, is there anything you would want to change?
I don’t think so.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopeful, we will continue to grow and gain more customers. I would like to be able to have more time to watch the birds myself and take some trips.