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DAA: James R. Carpenter

James R. Carpenter

Zionsville, IN | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 1994

Mr. Carpenter is President and Chief Executive Officer of Wild Birds Unlimited, Inc., in Indianapolis. His company is the first national franchise business established to focus on the growing national hobby of bird feeding and bird watching. His franchise business has grown to 162 stores in the United States and Canada, with sales of over $35 million in 1993. He is an entrepreneur and young businessman who has built a highly successful business from the ground up. Following graduation from Purdue University in 1979, Mr. Carpenter became the manager of a garden center on the north side of Indianapolis. His goal, however, was to own his own business. In 1981, with an $8000 personal investment, he developed a plan to reach a niche market that would focus on supplying the needs of the nearly 83 million people in the U.S. who enjoy bird watching. He started with a single store in Indianapolis. Using market strategies and his ideas for franchising and training, he built the largest franchise in the bird watching industry. Each year the number of franchises continues to grow. Wild Birds Unlimited was ranked 20th in the top 100 franchises in the United States by Success Magazine in November of 1993. Mr. Carpenter won the 1993 Entrepreneur of the Year Award in retailing in Indiana. He and his wife, Nancy, and their staff are active in the Audubon Society and have given hundreds of lectures to garden clubs, schools, and civic groups on the hobby of bird feeding. He has built relationships with the Wilderness Society, Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology, and the National Wildlife Federation to promote education and understanding of wildlife and wilderness areas. He serves as a member of Indiana University’s Board of Advisors to the College of Arts and Sciences. Mr. Carpenter is also on the Board of Directors of The Alliance, a group of mid-sized companies sponsored by the Indiana University Center for Entrepreneurship.