Cassidy and Hunter Bauer were recently awarded the first statewide Special Strong territory. With firsthand experience of how people in rural communities often have more limited access to critical resources, they’re excited to bring Special Strong to communities in South Dakota.
Tell me a bit about yourselves – what do your backgrounds look like?
Hunter: I’ve been surrounded by this community pretty much my whole life. Growing up, I had a sister who had some disabilities and some things that she struggled with and my cousin has Down syndrome. He and I are really close. We’re the best of friends.
Cassidy: When I was younger, I had leukemia and one of the types of therapies that they had me do was physical therapy. They had me working on a number of things that were similar to adaptive fitness, and looking back actually followed the CBSE model closely and used many of the same concepts.
The chemo that I was on for two years was trying to kill all of my muscle, so my doctors really made me understand the importance of keeping my body moving and using my muscles so I didn’t lose them. That was really big so I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of what physical activity and exercise can do.
Another thing that added to my own experience was that my mom is a special ed teacher. Especially with treatment and having leukemia, I spent a lot of time in her classroom. Even when I could go to school I would still need to take breaks so I would end up spending a lot of downtime in her classroom and I got to watch her teach her students. I was always really involved with the students in her classroom, and they were my peers, too. I was in elementary school at the same time that they were and then when I moved to high school, she moved to the high school as well. She ended up continuing to teach my peers and then that helped me get close with a lot of them.
What were you doing before this?
Cassidy: I got a degree in finance in college and I was just finishing it up the last few months as we were starting with Special Strong.
Hunter: Both Cassidy and I were just finishing school. I got a degree in Ministry.
I’ve been involved with Special Olympics in our community, especially in the past. When I was in high school I was a coach and when I went off to college I got disconnected a little bit and I missed not being as connected with the community.
How did you end up here? Why did you pick Special Strong?
Hunter: My cousin’s mom introduced my parents to Special Strong and then my parents passed that information on to me. The more Cassidy and I looked into it, the more we decided that this was something that we wanted to do. It was more of a realization that this is something really cool that we can do for our community. It wasn’t necessarily that we were looking to franchise.
Cassidy: It definitely wasn’t something that we sought out. It was something that came to us.
Were there any concerns that you had going into this process?
Hunter: I think going into the process a lot of our concerns were, “Okay, we’ve just graduated college. We’re only 22 and we’re about to start a business. Are we even capable of this?” Those were our big concerns. My parents are involved in this too and were concerned about that, but they weren’t as concerned about it as Cassidy and I were.
Throughout this entire process, we can both say that Daniel and the rest of the team have just been so good to us and have let us know that they really feel confident in us – and that instills confidence in us.
From start to finish, what was the process like of becoming a franchisee?
Cassidy: We looked into Special Strong when we were engaged about six months ago. His parents reached out to get more information. They had the first phone call with Lindsay and they called us right away afterward to see when we could all talk about it. They thought it was awesome and were immediately on board with the idea, recognizing that it was something that could really benefit a lot of people. They were speaking from personal experience, wishing that they had had something like that.
We had that first call, which led to the second call, and we just kept going. We got married at the end of September, went on our honeymoon, and then a couple of days after getting back from our honeymoon we started SSU. Throughout all of it, it was very evident that it was right for both of us. The way that our lives have been laid out so far and the experiences and trials that God has brought into our lives.
During the process, what did you learn from talking with other franchisees?
Hunter: We talked to three different franchisees and they all had good things to say. The main thing that I took away from each of them was just to not worry about it. The plan that Special Strong has for you is going to work. They made it clear that it worked for them and if it worked for them, then it was going to work for us.
They were all very reassuring and excited about their jobs. Some of them have been doing this for five years now and still have that love, joy, and passion in their work. It just really made us feel like yes, this is something that we want to do and this is how we want to feel in 5, 10, or 15 years from now.
Cassidy: The first franchisee that we spoke to was Mike out of the Houston area. He’s originally from Montana and got involved with the special needs community because his sister has Down syndrome and still lives in Montana. He thought it was really interesting that we were trying this in an area that’s less populated and reassured us that this could work in our area. He knew that his family would have bent over backward to utilize something like this if it had been available for his sister when she was growing up.
They didn’t have an option, and he helped us really see the benefit for people in communities like ours that have fewer resources to draw from because there are fewer people and resources in general when the population is so spread out. He was very encouraging.
What would you tell someone else who is considering becoming a franchisee?
Hunter: Find your passion for it. You definitely need to love this community.
I don’t necessarily think that you have to go into this thinking that you love running a business, but you have to find ways that you love running a business when it comes to loving the community and finding the right people to put around you.
Cassidy: Don’t let yourself say no without giving it a chance. Having his parents on board believing in it and knowing that we were all going to do this together made a huge difference. I wasn’t sure initially. The more I learned about it and the more I saw what the day-to-day of it would be and what the potential was – meeting more people, having our discovery day, and experiencing it more – is when I really became very excited about it and the desire started for me.
It wasn’t until we got to the point that it was no longer our decision. We had our discovery day and then Daniel and his team took what they learned about us and how we interacted with the clients to decide if they wanted to award us a franchise. It wasn’t until it was out of our hands that I really felt how right it was.
What were some of the most attractive components of the business model?
Hunter: For me, it would definitely be the faith-based component. Daniel introduced it as not a Christian company, but a faith-based company, which relates to everyone who doesn’t have faith, and those who do can really feel the full effect of that as well. That’s what really caught my eye.
And the community makes it so much different than many other jobs that we might have considered. There are so many opportunities for serving and helping people. That was the number one takeaway – we’re not here just to create a business or make money. We’re here to be able to serve.
Cassidy: The business model in and of itself was already set up for us. We went through SSU and learned the business side of things, in terms of keeping track of the books and things like that. I knew it from my background but it was also reassuring to know somebody was going to be looking at it, checking it over, and that it was not entirely on me to figure things out on my own.
What was your biggest fear about saying YES to Special Strong?
Hunter: Just wondering if I was capable. The self-doubt fear was the biggest thing for me.
Cassidy: My fear was also self-doubt but more in the knowledge capacity of wondering if I know enough to run a business to keep the business side of things going, to make it profitable, and to keep track of all these things.
We also had so many things we had happening at the same time. We lived in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area while we went to school. We had talked about moving back here when we graduated and got married, so that was kind of our plan but then it just felt like so much was happening at once. Moving states, graduating college, getting married, moving in with each other and learning to live together, starting a business. A lot of big changes at once.
What made you overcome your fears and say YES to Special Strong?
Cassidy: I had a lot of anxiety about it because I just didn’t know logistically how it was going to work, but his parents were great about pointing out how big it could be with both of our backgrounds and degrees. They helped us see how great it could be – for us, but also for other people.
They’re very passionate big-picture people and both of us are a little more reserved, wondering how this will work. With his dad, the sky’s the limit. We really needed somebody to remind us what was possible, help us think about the potential, and not worry as much about the logistics.
There were fears but ultimately I couldn’t really put my finger on what would make it a “no” for me. I truly believe that this was the Lord calling us to this because every time we would go into one of those calls I would have X, Y, and Z things on my mind. Worrying that the money is going to be an issue, or that we weren’t going to have enough time for this, or that our territory is too big. Daniel, Lindsay, or Adam would always say something in those calls that every time without fail would completely shut down each one of my fears. It was all just really reassuring.
What did you think about the start up costs and fees with Special Strong?
Cassidy: We also talked to a lot of people throughout this process. We talked to some business owners that we’re close with in the community here and they were very reassuring in recognizing that this is a unique opportunity and that we could get people to help with the initial startup cost.
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.