When Wess & Reshae McDonald moved with their family to Northeast Texas, they missed some of the opportunities that they previously had access to in the Houston area. Now, they’re excited to bring Special Strong to their new community.
Tell me a bit about yourself – what does your background look like?
Reshae: All my life I’ve been involved in the special needs community. My older brother was born with some challenges. Growing up with him, we had a wonderful relationship, so I grew up very comfortable with the special needs community. Later on, I worked for a large school district in the Houston area for 20+ years, most of that within the special needs area. During that time our youngest son Ty was born, and he’s 20 now. He has Down Syndrome and is amazing, so I have experience from the parenting perspective, too.
When he was growing up we were involved in the Houston Down Syndrome Association, which had lots of fun things, lots of activities, and we met so many wonderful people. About 4.5 years ago we took a big leap and moved from Houston to Northeast Texas to own and run a bed and breakfast for the better good of our extended family. It’s been wonderful for Ty except that it pulled him away from the activities that he’d been doing for years. There were a lot of opportunities in the Houston area. This is a much smaller city and smaller school district. There are wonderful people here but it doesn’t have the abundant opportunities that we had in Houston.
What were you doing in your previous career?
Wess: A few years ago we were looking for a family business that we could operate and we had a lot of boxes to check. We had several family members who we wanted to be able to provide a space for. We teamed up with my brother and his wife and that’s how we found this bed and breakfast retreat center that was really a great blessing for us and checked a lot of those boxes. We were able to come in and move some family into their own private areas.
There’s enough space that we can spread out and have room for us, room for family, and room for guests. We host lots of groups, and we are looking for ways now that we can incorporate our property into Special Strong, whether that be hosting events or thinking about different possibilities that we’re yet to define – but we’re excited about the potential that it has!
How did you end up here? Why did you pick Special Strong?
Reshae: Several months ago I started seeing posts on Facebook from some of our friends in the Down Syndrome Association, showing photos and videos of their kids who I know and love doing all of these great things through Special Strong. I was immediately motivated and excited to learn more about it because it seemed like something that Ty could really benefit from.
I thought it was a specific gym that you’d go to, so I was trying to find a location near us. I saw that there was a trainer in McKinney. Not yet understanding how it worked, I was calculating how far McKinney was from us and how I could make it work. The more I read, the more I wanted to do it and when I saw the franchise opportunity I grabbed Wess by the arm. We just knew that it was meant to be.
Wess: When Rashae came to me with the idea of getting involved with Special Strong, it was pretty quickly appealing to me as something that we could add to our portfolio as we work toward retirement. I’ve been with the same company for 25 years. We like the idea of building this up and having it as another source of income.
At the same time, we were really looking at the potential it has as far as the number of people we can reach. We see this as something that will help Ty have a more specific purpose, something to strive for that will keep him active, growing, and reaching new goals. There’s often a lack of opportunities for people in the special needs community, and this seemed like a way for us to help bring new opportunities for something that we hadn’t seen before.
Were there any concerns that you had going into this process?
Wess: Questions, yes. But concerns were very few. Lindsey and Daniel were great at answering questions quickly and immediately.
Reshae: Every once in a while I’d feel a bit of anxiety, but no more than what comes along with any time you start something new. I feel very confident in the people around us. It really feels like a family. It feels like they’ve brought in the best people you could wish for.
From start to finish, what was the process like of becoming a franchisee?
Reshae: We sent an email that we’d like more information. Lindsey called us back and about two minutes into the conversation we could instantly feel the connection. She asked a lot of questions about Ty and what he enjoys. He pretty much enjoys everything – he loves the spotlight and loves people. When she heard that, she asked if he’d like to be a coach or assistant coach. Hearing that was heart melting. We already knew we wanted to be part of the Special Strong family at that point, but when she said those words and I imagined him being “Coach Ty” and leading activities and groups, there was no turning back. This could be so wonderful for Ty to be in better shape, healthier, and more excited about each day.
During the process, what did you learn from talking with other franchisees?
Wess: We talked with a number of other franchisees and being able to reach out to others who have been through this was a huge peace of mind. Just getting their insight on that it’s not necessarily easy, that there’s a lot of work involved, but the rewards go so far beyond the monetary benefits. The connections that are made with the athletes and their caregivers. Seeing their improvements and the lives that are touched. That means a lot.
Reshae: When we were speaking with Teri and Tammy, they told us that trainers were coming to them saying they wanted to work with them. When we spoke with Ron, he mentioned that clients were reaching out from all over. There was a young lady who wanted to learn more about doing virtual sessions with her father after he had a stroke. She didn’t even live in the same state but found Ron online and sought him out. You do wonder where will trainers come from, how many athletes will jump on board. I’m sure every franchisee has a different experience, but it’s reassuring to hear how well things have been going for them.
What would you tell someone else who is considering becoming a franchisee?
Wess: If your heart is in helping others and if you have a heart for this community, by all means, give it a shot. From what we can see so far it’s worth every dime, every minute of work, and any labor involved.
Reshae: Daniel and Lindsey make no secret of this being a faith-based company. I think it’s so important for anyone who is considering this to pray about it.
What were some of the most attractive components of the business model?
Wess: It’s something new that we don’t see a lot of. It’s not something that’s being offered on a large scale. There’s a lot of potential and a lot of potential clients out there that can benefit from it. For us, being able to get a territory that’s in our backyard and close to home, that we can work hard to develop and grow – that’s one of the biggest things
On the monetary side, there seems to be enough potential there that it could be a salary replacement plan for us as I move toward retirement from my day job.
What made Special Strong different from other opportunities you were looking into?
Wess: We knew that we wanted to find something else, but it was kind of on the back burner. The B&B has kept us pretty busy, my day job keeps me busy. We wanted to keep an eye out for opportunities but we weren’t actively searching.
We really feel like this one was heaven-sent. I’ve always said that God’s timing is better than anything we could plan for and hope for and it certainly worked out that way with the B&B, which wasn’t what we were expecting or looking for. The timeframe ended up being about three years sooner than what we had been planning on. But, when the opportunity comes you just have to jump. It was the same thing with Special Strong. We knew that we wanted to be a part of it and now was the time to get involved.
What was your biggest fear about saying YES to Special Strong – and what made you overcome it?
Wess: Any time you’re looking at spending money, you want to make sure that it makes sense financially. Daniel and everyone was very open about sharing information and giving us the details we needed to be able to address those questions and they were answered very quickly. Questions like that didn’t ever really escalate to concerns.
What did you think about the start up costs and fees with Special Strong?
Wess: We thought the costs were very reasonable for the opportunity that we’re getting.
We haven’t done a lot of research into other franchises, but generally, I know that you’re getting up into seven figures pretty quickly to get into fast food or some other franchises, especially national brands. You could be looking at a lot of upfront costs on the buy-in, construction costs, and loans. There’s a lot of debt that could be piled up if you went that route. This was something we were able to come into without taking on debt and without risking our future with an investment that was going to be outrageous.
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.