Prairie Wife of the Week, January 24, 2014
Posted January 24, 2014 by Prairie Wife -
I first met Lindsey and Ryan when Cowgirl G started preschool. As our girls ran off to play together on the playground, we casually bonded over our shared experiences. The more I grew to know Lindsey and Ryan, the more I thought of them as “Lindsey and Ryan”. They were always together; dropping off or picking up their daughter or out and about town, I rarely saw them apart. As a single mom most days of the week, I not only found it sweet, but I was a little jealous too! It was obvious that they had a deep bond and love for each other that is a rarity in many of today’s marriages. Lindsey and I have since become close friends (being pregnant together and trying to lose baby weight forms a strong bond) and I have learned that there is so much more to admire about her, than her devotion to her husband and their relationship. Lindsey is one of the hardest workers I know, and is always striving to improve herself. Whether it’s motherhood or her professional life, Lindsey is always putting in the extra hours needed to do the job right. Lindsey’s strong devotion to her family and passion for life, along with her admirable work ethic, make her the perfect Prairie Wife of the Week.
PW: Tell us about your relationship with your husband.
L: Ryan and I actually met through my mom; she kept on telling him to call me and was constantly trying to set us up. Ryan finally gave in to her and asked me (in a not very smooth way) out on a date. I was 19 and we have been together ever since. We have always been close, and began a business relationship soon after we started to date. He is my husband, best friend, soul mate, and business partner. Our relationship works the best when we are focused and working together in all areas of our lives.
PW: What was your first experience working with your husband?
L: The summer after we met, Ryan had the opportunity to purchase a local outdoor business, where he was currently an employee. It was a hard decision, because he also had the opportunity to travel to Belgium as a professional road bike racer. We knew that our relationship was more than just dating, and Ryan decided to take the leap and purchase the outdoor business, and stay in Wyoming with me. I was still going to college so I was only able to work in a part time capacity. With Ryan’s hard work and business savvy the business grew. We got engaged in 2004 and that same year decided to open a Cold Stone Creamery. Between Cold Stone Creamery, the outdoor store and my hours in Dental Hygiene school, we were getting stretched pretty thin. We decided to sell the outdoor business in 2006, right after we got married.
PW: What was the process in deciding what franchise you wanted to start here in Casper, Wyoming? What did you need to do to prepare?
L: When my husband and I went to Denver, Colorado I always insisted that we stop at Cold Stone Creamery. Every single time I had the same thing, Birthday Cake Remix in the Love It size. On one of our trips back home I looked at Ryan and said “We should open a Cold Stone in Casper!” We drove the rest of the way home, and that night we went online and put in an application to Cold Stone Creamery.
To purchase the franchise rights for your location you have to apply to the Cold Stone Corporation and be approved. As part of the application process we had to travel to Denver (more ice cream!) to meet with the area developer to learn more about the franchise and what the corporation’s expectations were. Once we were approved, we received our franchise agreement in the mail. I remember Ryan sitting on the floor of our house, all night, reading through the massive stack of paperwork. We had to get our finances in order and set up an incorporation that would own our Cold Stone franchise. Figuring out the financial part of it was obviously stressful, especially when you add to it planning a wedding!
When everything was approved by the cooperation we had to schedule a rigorous two week training in Arizona. This involved working in local stores and opening and operating a store on our own. We attended classes on decorating cakes, making ice cream and waffle cones, how to manage employees, accounting, completing a store inventory and purchasing inventory. On the very last day you had to take a test and if you didn’t pass it you had to redo the entire course, no pressure! Then came the hard part; which was trying to find a contractor to build our store. At that time Casper was booming and we couldn’t find a general contractor so, Ryan put on yet another hat, and handled all the contracting for remolding our space. We opened in July of 2006, two years after I first said to Ryan “We should open a Cold Stone in Casper!”
PW: Tell me about some of the ups and downs you have had?
L: One of the major positives of owning our own business is the flexibility in our schedules. We are able to travel to California often, and when my daughters are sick both Ryan and I can be there. Obviously I love the fact that I get to spend time working alongside my husband to build a future for our family. We have met some amazing people through this journey, and the relationships we have created with our employees over the years are something we greatly value. As for the negatives, there are sacrifices you have to make when you own your own business. At first we had a lot of 90 hour work weeks. When an employee doesn’t show up it is the owner’s responsibility to cover for them. Because of this we have had more than one Sunday spent as a family working at the store! I am sure that all business owners can relate to this one, we are always the last to get a paycheck.
PW: What led you to your decision to open another franchise along with Cold Stone?
L: The opportunity to open up a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (RMCF) became available when the corporation that owns Cold Stone made an agreement for the two stores to be together. There are only a handful of these “combination” stores. Ryan and I felt that it would be a good fit for our store because RMCF Factory would offer a different kind of treat to our customers that may not want ice cream. RMCF makes all of their handmade chocolates in Colorado and ships them directly to us. We make all of the caramel apples and chocolate dipped strawberries by hand in our store. This allows us to customize these luxury treats depending on our customers’ needs. RMCF has added a new kind of inventory (gift baskets, holiday treats and personalized goodies, just to name a few) that we can offer to our customers.
PW: How do you keep the balance between work and home in your marriage?
L: Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t! We have found that we just have to do the best we can. We have definitely learned that we need to guard our family time, and stay firm on our boundaries. It’s a process and we are getting better and better at it. We have learned to recognize that sometimes the business does need to come first; after all it is what pays the bills.
PW: What are the benefits you have seen for your family?
L: Just this week my oldest daughter saw a stack of dishes and by herself, pulled up a stool and started washing them. It was a proud moment to see her stepping up and working hard without anyone asking her too. She sees the business as our whole family’s and that is so wonderful. I am proud of the work ethic that we are installing in our children through our example. Being able to take our children to work with us means that we don’t have to worry about childcare, which is wonderful! We have been able to give back to our community through class tours and donations to local charities, and that is a legacy we are proud to share with our children.
PW: What advice would you give a couple thinking about starting a business together?
L: Take some time to honestly evaluate your relationship. You aren’t going to always see eye to eye at work, and at the end of the day you have to go home together and function as a family. You need to make sure that your relationship can handle the stress, because there will be some. It’s also important that you have the same business goals.
PW: What are your future plans and hopes for your business?
L: We hope to eventually have our whole business paid off. I want to be able to give our children an opportunity to work there, and if they want to, take over the ownership. Our current focus is to let the community know about the addition of RMCF to our store, it’s relatively new and we are excited to offer more choices to our customers.
PW: Any Prairie Wife words of wisdom?
L: When you own your own business balance is the key. Don’t lose sight of your family, which after all is the whole reason you are working. Keep your focus on your family and your business goals, in the end everything will come together.
As always, our Prairie Wife of the Week will be stopping by throughout the week to answer any comments or questions!