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“If we want to be a vibrant part of our communities, giving back is just a natural response”

“If we want to be a vibrant part of our communities, giving back is just a natural response”

We speak with the co-founder and CEO of Just Between Friends, Shannon Wilburn, about the franchise’s deep connection with charitable organizations.

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Interview by Kieran McLoone, deputy editor for Global Franchise

Just Between Friends started as a pop-up consignment sale in co-founder Shannon Wilburn’s living room in 1997, and now runs multiple bi-yearly sales where leftover items and cash are donated to local charities; totaling more than $28m to date.

GF: Do you believe that franchise networks have an inherent responsibility to give back to the communities they operate within?

SW: Being a franchise system certainly gives us the opportunity to do a great deal of good – the open door to make our communities better by not just creating a consumer system but by giving back, pouring into our communities where we operate. If we want to be a vibrant part of our communities, giving back is just a natural response.

GF: What kind of impact does Just Between Friends have on a franchisee’s community?

SW: Every sale now donates thousands of items to their local family-serving charity partner. For many of these charity partners, these twice-yearly donations are their largest source of items. We have seen how much of a difference that has made to help countless families who live right in the communities where each sale is held.

Not a sale goes by that I don’t hear back from a franchisee as they tell me how a single, teen mom came to the sale with only a few crumpled dollar bills but left with an armload of clothes, toys and baby gear – often subsidized by a franchisee who gives on top of what those dollars could have purchased.

GF: What does the impact of the brand’s donations mean to you as co-founder and CEO?

SW: I could cry thinking about how richly my life has been blessed by hearing story after story of how families’ lives have been changed through our franchisees.

But here’s the thing: this doesn’t just happen. It takes work to market this opportunity to the communities so they know they can be a part of this cycle of blessing. To help us do even more good, we’ve set a goal we call ‘Vision 2030’ – to generate more than $100m in donations by the year 2030.

GF: What advice would you give to franchises that want to launch charitable initiatives across their network?

SW: In short – do it! Find a way to make it happen. A great way to start is to bring together your key leadership team to help define and decide ways to impact your community. Pull together a task force, ask lots of questions and find out what matters to your people – what they care about, what they want to be a part of locally.

It doesn’t have to be some big thing, as sometimes we get hung up trying to think big. Instead, start small. Start where you are with what you have. Look around to see where there’s a need.

When I was little, my dad taught me to give. If I earned $10, I got to have $2 to spend, $7 went to savings, and the other dollar I gave at my church. My dad knew that we often have to be taught to give in this way as it doesn’t necessarily come naturally. I learned that giving, no matter how small, makes a difference to those whom I give but also to me, in my life.

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