Doing it herself

A supportive franchise and support from the Don Ryan Center for Innovation’s HEROES program helps veteran starting a DIY business do it herself

By Ellen linnemann

After serving in the United States Marine Corps, Veterans Meghan Zalich and her husband decided to start their next journey here in Bluffton with Meghan’s launch of The Wooden Loft.

Upon graduating from high school, Meghan Zalich knew two things: she wanted to explore options other than college, and she wanted to follow in the military footsteps of her father. Noting that “my patriotism, family and love of this country gave me the courage to enlist,” she enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps right after high school. She grew up to be the “mini version” of her father — who was also in the Marine Corps — and proving to all who knew her, as well as herself, that she could do it. 

Zalich served as a marksmanship instructor on Parris Island. After spending four years in the Marine Corps, she decided it was time for her next journey – and knew that she wanted to start her own business. The first question, Zalich recalls, was whether she wanted to start her own business on her own from the ground up or with the support of a franchise. And once she decided that a franchise was the right move for her, the question became how to find one that was the right fit for her – and what to look for when considering her options

“I did a lot of research and I called around to explore a number of franchise opportunities with similar concepts, but it was The Wooden Loft, which is a DIY workshop where people can create home décor and signs from raw materials, that was the best fit for me,” she says. “I came up with a list of what was important to me and what I wanted. The Wooden Loft has a huge support system and is very supportive to our first responders and military, which was extremely important to me,” she said. She was excited about becoming involved with the franchise because the projects that The Wooden Loft offers are “unique and one-of-a-kind,” and company owners Erica and Aaron Lovall “take pride in their work and without a doubt will always be there if we have any questions.” 

Each workshop is an instructional hands-on experience where people can assemble their own custom project from raw materials, using different painting techniques and tools to customize it to their home.

Zalich and her husband, whom she met while they were both Marines, said “it was fate ever since.” They fell in love with the Lowcountry and decided to open The Wooden Loft in Bluffton. In preparing to launch the business, it may have also been fate that the Don Ryan Center for Innovation had just launched its HEROES Initiative — a program created to help active duty, reserve, National Guard, veterans and first responders in South Carolina launch and grow a business — providing exactly the type of business support that Zalich and her idea needed.

“There is so much to know about starting and running a business of any kind, and you can’t do it alone,” says Zalich, who opened The Wooden Loft Bluffton in October.  “Working with my mentors and the people at the DRCI has been incredibly helpful, and I would never be where I am now without them.”

With the support of a great franchise opportunity, the DRCI HEROES program, and a great team, this “do it yourself/DIY” franchise business owner is “doing it herself” — not only starting a business in Bluffton, but poised for growth ahead.

Three takeaways for pursuing a franchise opportunity

1. Do your research, and choose your franchise and location wisely. “I’ve learned a lot buying into a franchise that I wasn’t aware of before,” says Zalich. “It’s really important to research who the owners are and what their goals are for their other stores to make sure you have the right fit.”

2. Pay close attention to finances and your initial investment. “Have a budget – and hold yourself to it,” she stresses.

3. Preparation is key. “There is only so much you can prepare for, but the more you prepare for, the more successful you will be.”

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