Capital Access: Michael Ansley Uses Cash And Credit To Grow His Franchise Business

In 1996, Michael Ansley and his former college roommate asked their fathers for loans to buy their own franchise (Buffalo Wild Wings, then known as BW3) unit near Ann Arbor, Mich.

"We were young and didn't know what we were doing," he recalls. "But we learned how not to run a restaurant and where not to put it." Within a decade, Ansley had grown to 22 Buffalo Wild Wings units throughout Michigan and Florida. The entrepreneur is also involved with the franchise side of Bagger Dave's Legendary Burger Tavern in Michigan.

Ansley's business endeavors generated $45 million in revenue in 2010 and close to $60 in 2011. But his markets have faced difficult and challenging times during the past couple of years. Still, he's optimistic and offered this insight on the economy, his markets, and how he comes by capital.

How has the most recent economic cycle affected you, your employees, your customers?
We weathered the storm nicely. When we went public in 2008, it wasn't a good time so we sold to family, friends, and employees as long-term investments. We've seen our customers suffer, but they've been loyal to us.

Are you experiencing economic growth/recovery in your market?
Definitely in Michigan. Florida is still a little weak since it depends so heavily on tourism and construction.

What did you change or do differently in this economy that you plan to continue doing?
We remained focused on growth. Initially we panicked and did a wing promotion in Detroit that we regretted. We won't be doing that again. We went back to our base, focusing on our guests and reinvesting in our restaurants. We've put $1.3 million in refreshing and audio/video in our current restaurants.

How do you forecast for your business in this economy?
We keep things very conservative, flat.

Published: March 28th, 2012

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