Business Owner: Lynn Wheelwright
Business: Pro Musician Outlet
Location: Clearfield, Utah
Meet Lynn Wheelwright
Lynn Wheelwright is the owner of Pro Musician Outlet in Clearfield, Utah. He has owned the business for seventeen years, an impressive number, especially when you consider he never planned on going into retail in the first place. Lynn started building and repairing guitars, in the late 90’s a friend asked him to move his repair shop into his store, “Then he up and died on me, and I sort of just inherited the store,” says Lynn.
“I got into guitars probably the same way most guys my age got into guitars, we saw The Beatles in the mid 60’s.” When Lynn was eleven years old, he demanded his parents get him a guitar so he could start a band with his friends. “None of us really knew how to play,” Lynn tells us. But that didn’t stop him, he played guitar for the next four years, until he was fifteen, when he put the guitar down for a time.
While Lynn was overseas during the Vietnam War, many of the soldiers had guitars. This is where Lynn picked one up for the first time in years. He started to play on and off from then, until now. In the late 70’s there was a specific guitar that caught Lynn’s eyes, “…but they were over two thousand dollars! Which was very expensive,” says Lynn, “I ended up finding a piece of wood that was the same wood these guitars were made of. I thought, ‘Heck I’ll just build myself a guitar,’ and that’s how I started. By 84’ I was a guitar tech for one of the major Utah stores. Later, in the mid 80’s, I became a guitar researcher and historian.”
We asked Lynn, “What roadblocks have you hit trying to make this business work?” His first response was, “Wow…” followed by a really long pause. He then proceeded with the list of things he had to overcome to get things rolling after his friend’s death, up until things he is doing now, including finding inventory for the whole store and what brands to carry. He is a perfect example of the perseverance needed in entrepreneurship.
Lynn was able to use his personal funds from his days as a construction worker to make the first big order of guitars and amplifiers. “Then it came time where I needed more money,” says Lynn, “At that time the economy was rolling really well and credit card companies would send you offers with values of five to even ten thousand dollars you could use for a year with no interest and no up-front cost. I thought, ‘Gee whiz, if I can borrow five grand for twelve months with no interest and no up front fee, I’m in.’”
Lynn continues, “So over the course of about three and a half years, I kept getting these offers, and as one credit card was about to expire I would just renew it with the next credit card. I was able to roll over probably thirty or thirty-five thousand dollars at no upfront cost and no interest on these free credit cards. By the time that three or so years expired I was able to pay off all the cards with the profit from the store. I basically got an interest free loan of thirty grand for three years; I don’t think you could ever do that again because those days are gone, but that’s how I got my capital to get started.”
You don’t have to be into guitars to follow Lynn’s advice; it applies to everyone looking to embark on a similar small-business journey. “If someone came to me and asked me for advice for going into business? First, I would ask them what business it is they are planning on going into, how much research they’ve done in that business and whether or not they are floating a dream, or floating something that has a viable outcome to it” He continues talking about the importance of research, “Research is tough because no one can see the future, if you’re just trying to turn a hobby into a business, my advice would be, ‘never marry what you love, because you will kill it.’ It becomes a weight around your neck if it isn’t successful and you’ve dumped your life savings into it or taken out a big loan; that love for that hobby quickly turns into something that you don’t want to see.”