Interview with Franchise Partner Matt & Tracy Furrey of Folsom California

While Tracy Furrey has a history with the special needs community, her husband Matt has always been athletic, so when they came across Special Strong, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to merge their interests and fill a gap in their community.

Tell me a bit about yourself – what does your background look like?

Tracy: I graduated with a recreational therapy degree, so I worked with children and adults with special needs. Very shortly after graduating, we got married and had kids. At that point, I decided to stay home and got into the direct selling business, which was a ton of relationship building, sales, and recruiting.

I still always had the passion for special needs, so I did it part-time here and there until we had three kids under three and I didn’t have the time for it. So for the past 23 years, I’ve been in the direct selling industry, both in the field and at a corporate level.

Matt: I’ve been in a sales role for the last 25 years, but I’ve always had a heart for special needs. I played baseball collegiately, so I’ve been in sports my whole life, and have participated in a lot of events like BuddyBall.

How did you end up here? Why did you pick Special Strong?

Tracy: Over the last two and a half years, I’ve been laid off from the corporate world twice – so I’ve spent a lot of time on LinkedIn. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but Daniel’s video came across my feed there. I was totally moved by it, and I kept seeing it. A friend liked and commented on it because he was just so inspired by their videos, which led me to dig in a bit more, and then I found out that we had a connection with Jayde and Fran, who are franchisees in Arizona.

Matt and I were Jayde’s Young Life leaders way back in the day. I connected with her and asked some questions. The deeper I dove, the more videos I watched, the more people I talked to, the Lord laid it on my heart that this is where I was supposed to be.

Matt: What led me to this was her. I’ve always had a heart for special needs, but this is her passion. I’m more in the supporting role, where I can help out with the gym aspect of things. I’m an avid lifter. Exercise has always been in my life. I’m excited about that part of business, to see where I can learn even more about helping the adaptive world to get stronger.

Were there any concerns that you had going into this process?

Tracy: If finances weren’t an issue I would have jumped in on day one. Having lost two jobs, I haven’t worked in ten months and that’s made a big impact on our finances. We have three kids in college. We’re taking money out of our savings and making a huge investment – of course there’s the concern of what if it doesn’t work. Throughout that, I trusted that I was at peace with everything else. I felt like God was going to make a way.

Matt: From the get-go, I’ve been at peace. From the business side of things, there’s a reason why we pay all of our financial people – they know what they’re talking about. Those are the steps we’re in right now. Thankfully we’ve got the right people who can give us the right guidance. We get a lot of it from Gerry on the Special Strong side. I feel very, very calm moving forward with everything that’s fallen into place.

From start to finish, what was the process like of becoming a franchisee?

Tracy: We saw the video on LinkedIn, I talked to Fran and Jayde about Special Strong, and then I went back to LinkedIn. They have a franchisee kit, I got a response from Gerry, and it was as easy as that to set up a call with him and get the ball rolling.

During the process, what did you learn from talking with other franchisees?

Tracy: I talked to Jayde and Fran early in the process because I knew them and they were franchise owners. As we were talking to Gerry, we found out about the Special Strong games in Texas. We decided before we made a definitive decision that we needed to go and see in person what it was about. We booked flights, flew there, and spoke to everyone – franchisees, parents, athletes.

The franchise owners were so helpful and supportive. They let us know that when you hit a road bump, you can call one of them, Daniel, or Gerry. Someone is always there to support you, and we have found that that has truly been the case. Any question that comes up, they respond right away with exactly what it is that you need. Everyone was really so helpful in our decision.

Matt: The other big thing was talking to parents while we were there. We got to hear from them about why they chose Special Strong. Being in the gym is comfortable to me, so I found it interesting to talk with parents who also looked comfortable in that setting, and ask why they chose Special Strong over training their children on their own. That was a great conversation to have with the parents. Hearing about how learning to speak to their children in different ways has helped tremendously to overcome some of the barriers of trying to do it on their own.

Tracy: It was incredible to hear what everyone’s doing. In speaking to Mike Lutey, we learned that it’s not just adaptive training in the gym. He’s doing dance courses and gymnastics. Fran does a lot of MMA and boxing. There’s really a multitude of possibilities with this franchise. The sky’s the limit. That was super helpful to me. While Matt loves the gym aspect of Special Strong, that’s not my favorite part of it, so I was excited to hear about the different possibilities.

What would you tell someone else who is considering becoming a franchisee?

Tracy: As long as you have the heart to serve others, this is a great place to be. If you’re thinking about it, definitely schedule those phone calls. Don’t be in fear of taking that first step. There’s so much vulnerability and honesty within everybody that you talk to. I really do believe that and if they don’t think it’s the right fit, they’ll say that. We didn’t feel pressure at all in any of our conversations along the way. Gerry and Daniel spent a lot of time answering our questions, and never did we feel pressured.

Matt: You’re at your own pace. There’s no push, no pressure, and I liked that. There are parts of this business that we’ve never done before, while Gerry’s an expert. He keeps telling us to just trust him, which can be hard at first when you’re just getting to know someone. Since day one, he has not let us down one bit. Trust in Gerry. He knows from the inside out how to start a franchise. Trust the process. It will work.

If you’re thinking about it, get your feet wet. We were blessed to be able to go and see the games in person. I know everyone won’t have that opportunity, but if you can, go visit one of the existing franchises. Be with them for a few days and really see what it is.

What were some of the most attractive components of the business model?

Tracy: For me, it’s marrying all my passions in one. My love for the special needs community, and my strengths in building relationships, recruiting, and sales. That’s basically what the back end of this business is. We have to recruit gyms, trainers, and clients. That was one of my favorite things to do over the last 23 years in the industry of direct selling – build those relationships, cultivate them, and then watch the success.

Matt: We love that it’s faith-based. The whole mission is serving. We’re serving the community. From the business perspective, I started thinking about how we might be able to grow this to all of Sacramento, and how many kids we could reach and serve. I’d love to eventually bring our kids in and potentially hand it down to children. Our kids are athletic, and some of them have aspirations of becoming trainers, so this is really something that could be a legacy for them that we could pass down.

What made you overcome your fears and say YES to Special Strong?

Tracy: We spent a lot of time in prayer. A LOT of time in prayer. I initially thought Matt would think I was crazy when I came to him with this idea. We prayed through every single part of it. When we were on the phone with Gerry, he would pray with us to close out a meeting. We kept saying “God, open the door or shut it.” And we felt like the doors were being flown wide open down every single route we went. It was really the prayer and feeling at complete peace every step of the way.

Also having the opportunity to see it and talk to people in Texas. Then talking to family and friends who have special needs kids and realizing that there’s nothing like that here. Knowing the potential for growth because of the desperate need for something like this in our area.

What did you think about the start up costs and fees with Special Strong?

Matt: I’ve always wanted to have a business. That’s a dream I’ve always had. Mine’s always been sports-minded, but I’ve never taken that next step. When this came across, we looked at it financially knowing that a lot of franchise opportunities are millions of dollars. When we saw this and looked at the finances, yes it’s a lot of money but the amount was attainable. We were going to try to make it happen no matter what, but when we saw the rate we knew it was actually attainable.

If you would like to learn more about owning a rewarding Special Strong franchise, we encourage you to reach out to us today for more information.