Local entrepreneur exits showbiz, finds flooring

Pandemic has more people eschewing vacations in favor of home-improvement projects.
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Matthew Horist. Courtesy Footprints Floors

A former professional opera singer is now making bank as a West Michigan flooring contractor and wants to get the word to young people looking for career opportunities.

Matthew Horist originally went to college for a degree in music, and as a young man, established himself as an opera singer, but after years of touring on the road, he realized the life was not for him.

“Living on the road is great when you’re in your 20s, but after about five years it starts to get old,” Horist said.

Horist then moved back to Michigan and stumbled his way into IT. Fortunately, being in the entertainment industry taught him the importance of self-discipline, which he then put into the corporate sphere.

“When you’re in entertainment, there is no 9-to-5,” he said. “It was a disciplined lifestyle, not just a job.”

Horist broke into the IT industry with an entry-level job at the help desk at Johnson Controls in Holland. But when the company was going through a layoff period, he got in as a staffing specialist with West Michigan Staffing Agency Kforce. The experience, he said, inspired him to launch is own IT staffing company, Lakeshore Resources, which he ran for about eight years.

“That company was great,” Horist said, “but it was still integrated into corporate America, and that world is tough. It’s very competitive, not very diplomatic.”

Horist started looking into getting a loan to buy a franchise. After exploring a variety of brands, Horist ultimately chose Footprints Floors, realizing the increasing demand for home improvement services due to more people spending time at home.

“I wanted to get away from corporate America, and I wanted to get into home improvement,” Horist said. “The success rate for Footprints Floors is like no other I’ve seen, probably because it’s so new.”

Footprints Floors was founded as a standard flooring contractor in 2008 by Brian Park in Colorado. In 2018, the company opened up franchise development and has since awarded 52 franchises in 100 locations across the U.S.

Horist opened his own Footprints Floors franchise — the first in West Michigan and one of four in the entire state — in September and reported success from the beginning.

“I actually made money the first week,” he said. “I was operating in the black, so to speak. For the other franchisees out there, that just doesn’t happen.”

Horist attributed the success of Footprints Floors to both the low startup cost and the low operating cost. A franchisee’s main responsibilities are renting or owning a truck and incidental costs like liability insurance.

The goal of a successful franchisee is to average about 10 estimates with new customers per week and anywhere from 40 to 60 per month.

“If you’re between 20 to 40 as a startup you’re good. The challenge, of course, in West Michigan or Michigan as a whole is the demand is very high right now,” Horist said. “If you have wood floors and you want somebody to come in and refinish them, they’re booked until the holidays right now.”

Footprints Floors Development Director Brian Knuth added new franchisees are able to turn a profit quickly after starting up because the company has had enough time to perfect its lead generation and marketing machine.

“The second you turn on your business, wherever it may be, we’re getting with customers looking for in-home estimates,” Knuth said.

Knuth also echoed Horist’s experience saying flooring contractors are in high demand, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people are staying home and deciding to put more money into home improvement.

“I think the value people are putting on their homes has increased,” Knuth said. “There’s a tremendous amount of cash they’re saving by having their vacations put off. That’s kind of a perfect storm for Footprints Floors.”

Horist certainly has a unique story, but as a business developer, Knuth said he’s met a number of interesting characters who found their way to franchising, recalling one individual he met who started his business because he won the lottery.

Construction trades still are starving for new talent as well, which has been a point of attrition long before COVID-19, but Horist said there’s little talk about employment as a flooring contractor compared to other trades.

“You hear a lot of this from electric and plumbing but not with flooring because it’s not glamorous,” Horist said. “I want to inspire that, so I’m trying to put the word out to younger people and say this is an option. You can work in a factory and make $15-$20 an hour or you can own your own business as a subcontractor.”

Learn more about franchising opportunities at https://footprintsfranchise.com/.

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