You just returned from a quick outing to pick up a bag of sunflower seeds for “your” cardinals, but your shopping bag seems too full. You start to unpack to remember what else you bought: a third hummingbird feeder, a birdbath heater, a nifty strap for binoculars, and ironically, a squirrel guard for one of your bird feeders and a feeder specifically for squirrels. You may be thinking that your hobby has gotten the better of you—until you realize that you are among 81 million people in the U.S. who feed birds and watch wildlife around their homes. For bird seed and wildlife food alone, consumers spend $5 billion every year.

You’ve probably often thought about whether you can indulge your love of nature, share your passion about it and also make a living from it. If you like the idea of not simply selling products, but also promoting enjoyment of the environment as a beneficial pastime, then owning a wildlife franchise might be the perfect business opportunity for you.

There are a variety of franchises based on animals and wildlife. But most franchises involving animals are based on pet-based products and services like food, grooming, boarding and vet care; some even sell actual pets. These types of franchises, along with outlets like grocery stores and hardware stores, offer a comparatively limited, often low-quality selection of food or supplies for wild species, and their staff usually has little or no knowledge about this part of their inventory. A nature franchise that is specifically focused on feeding and observation of wildlife can allow you to provide diverse, high-quality products while educating consumers who share your passion.

Now is a great time to invest in a nature franchise such as the kind tailored to birders. As an outdoor hobby, birding is second only to gardening in popularity and it shows no sign of slowing down. Even during the pandemic downturn, birding supplies are among the items shoppers are still loading into their carts. Besides feed, if you include costs for binoculars, spotting scopes, feeders, baths and nest boxes, U.S. consumers spent $7.6 billion on bird feeding and watching supplies in 2016. Backyard birders are known for being fiercely loyal to tending to “their” wildlife, even consumers on a fixed income. About 42 percent of households in the U.S. have reported they buy wild bird seed at least sometimes—an average of $59.73 per year on feed and $37.88 on feeders. More than half of consumers said they are loyal to a brand.

Owning a nature franchise is similar to many hobby-specific businesses in that your clients will expect you and your staff to be especially knowledgeable about the purpose and value of your products. That may sound daunting, but the right franchise will provide you with upfront education and perennial support to make the enterprise a success. Wild Birds Unlimited, for example, doesn’t expect its franchisees to start out as bird experts. Rather, we welcome enthusiastic nature-lovers from a wide range of backgrounds who want to become an expert resource for the community’s backyard birders.

Franchisees in the Wild Birds Unlimited family not only love running a nature franchise, but they also give high marks to the system allowing them to follow their dream and keep following it. Franchise Business Review recently released its latest franchisee satisfaction survey results, yet again placing WBU among the top franchise opportunities. We would love to hear from potential franchisees with a head for business and a heart for nature. Click here to learn more about us.