Franklin Yancey, Founder of College Comfort and Yancey Realty As a young child growing up in Blackstone, Virginia, Franklin Yancey used to go out to...
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Franklin Yancey, Founder of College Comfort and Yancey Realty

As a young child growing up in Blackstone, Virginia, Franklin Yancey used to go out to the woods, dig up trees, pot

them, and sell them to neighborhood families. He also sold stickers by cutting pictures out of skateboard magazines. You could say that Franklin developed an entrepreneurial mindset very early on. His father certainly helped. As Franklin said, "My father was a hard worker who came up from little means working in tobacco fields at a very early age. Later he started his own pharmacy. My strong work ethic comes from both of my parents." You could also say that athletics also contributed to his mindset. From a young age, Franklin, his brother, and his sister played sports at competitive levels and they all were inducted into their high school hall of fame. His brother even played golf on the PGA Tour.

While in college at Virginia Tech University in the mid- 1990s, Franklin enrolled in a management course, which jump started his interest in entrepreneurship. "I realized that I didn't want to work for someone else," Franklin said. While walking to the Virginia Tech football stadium for a game, Franklin noticed a pile of portable, dilapidated stadium seats. These were seat cushions with a back support that fans could rent for a sporting event to make sitting in the stadium more comfortable. "They were made from cheap material and had been badly maintained," recalled Franklin. Teaming up with his roommate, John Hite, he decided to make a better product to rent to the university. And so the two became the founders of College Comfort: a company that manufactured and rented comfortable stadium seats for sporting events and large stadium events.

To produce the seats, they found a local former Levi's plant and asked for quotes to stitch high-quality material with school

colors onto the rental stadium seats. Their first high-stakes deal came shortly after when Franklin pitched contracts with both East Carolina University and Virginia Tech for stadium seat cushion rentals. It was essential to get both schools to sign on, in order to get cash to produce the product and build credibility for College Comfort. Luckily, they both signed.

Franklin worked hard to market the product in new places. The next year they signed eight additional customers. Thanks to friends and family, they didn't have lodging expenses while they traveled around the country sourcing more customers. In their third year of business, College Comfort signed on 12 more schools and the business has continued to grow ever since.

In early 2008, a large privately owned, multibillion-dollar entertainment company called WME-IMG Entertainment acquired College Comfort. Today, Franklin still works on this part of the business as a vice-president with WME- IMG. He leads a team of 10 people and has contracts with more than 100 universities, NASCAR, Major League Baseball, and others to provide thousands of rental stadium seat attachments for events.

While truly enjoying his work with WME-IMG, he still felt the entrepreneurship "itch" to start something else from scratch. So in 2016, he created a real estate company in Charlotte, N.C., called Yancey Realty that focuses on commercial real estate, residential real estate, and property management.

He now has more than 30 agents in three locations. Franklin feels the autonomous nature of his WME-IMG job, combined with the use of technology, allows him to do both "jobs"

well. He feels the secret sauce in his real estate business is his ability to empower his agents to get the job done by providing them with the resources they need to perform.

Franklin credits his entrepreneurial mindset for his ability to work hard. "I hear 'work smart, not hard,' and I understand the logic behind it. But the real mission is to work smart and to work longer and harder than others. You have to lead yourself before you can lead others, too!" Even after all of his success and at the age of 42, he still works many long nights, but it is all worth it to him. As he sees it, "There is only one title that matters: owner. Being an entrepreneur is about being an owner."

Critical Thinking Questions

1. In what ways does his mindset play a role in Franklin's success?

2. What is the one key trait that all entrepreneurs must possess, according to Franklin?

3. Have you considered any products or services as solutions to problems while walking through your own college campus? If so, describe them. 

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