WhizBang! Helps Independent Retailers Succeed

By Jane Whitttington on March 29th, 2016 / Comments

What Bob and Susan Negen, co-founders of WhizBang! Retail Training in Grand Haven, Michigan, have to offer is years of experience as entrepreneurs and retailers, along with a tool kit of proven guidance in marketing, customer service, retail management, employee relations and all the other bits and pieces that go into business success. Since 1999, they have been the go-to experts for retailers who want to thrive.

When Bob Negen graduated from college, he wanted to turn his passion for kites, games and toys into his vocation. He started Mackinaw Kite Company in Mackinaw City and soon had another store in Grand Haven.

He says, “I had stars in my eyes and went into starting up my own business with some unrealistic expectations. However, despite that, over the next 20 years, the store was successful. I learned a lot from the experience and, in 1999, sold the store to my brother and founded WhizBang! with my wife Susan, who had years of experience in retail in companies like Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Lord and Taylor.”

Bob, Susan and WhizBang! offer retailers an opportunity to learn the critical skills they need to operate a successful enterprise. WhizBang! itself, like any thriving venture, has been agile enough to evolve as the marketplace itself has evolved, and it continues to provide retailers with proven up-to-the-minute strategies that can smooth the path to a flourishing enterprise.

Bob Negen says, “In starting WhizBang!, I knew there was a need because my story is the same as just about everybody’s.  My struggles were like everybody else’s, too. I had spent a long time and a lot of energy and effort in retail. I was at a Kite Trade Association meeting and was just sitting around with a large group of people, and I realized that they were all listening to me share what I had learned about running a successful business. When my brother offered to buy the company, it was an opportunity for me to share what I had learned on a much larger scale.”

He continues, “Susan and I had already talked about doing something like this on the side, so when I sold Mackinaw Kite Company, we decided to grow this idea into a real business. There was nothing else like it available for independent retailers, and we knew we could bring our problem-solving abilities to the marketplace.”

Negen says that while he has both natural and learned public speaking skills, Susan has the ability to organize comprehensive information into an understandable and rational format.

Negen says, “The first thing we did was the Retail Success Series, offering four four-hour seminars on the nuts and bolts of retailing.  We did that right here in Grand Haven.”

WhizBang! evolved from there and offered more seminars, increasing their client list far beyond West Michigan. Negen began traveling throughout the country, addressing conferences, conventions and large trade meetings. At the same time, they started offering a series of packaged videos for various facets of retailing for in house training. In time, this grew into a much more comprehensive package called the Retail Mastery System, which addresses the full range of issues facing the independent retailer. Negen says, “This latest iteration took us a full year to create and encompasses the full range of what retailers need to succeed.”

They offer other products designed to address specific topics. Their latest product is an online course, the Retail Sales Academy designed to train salespeople.

Their website details their many clients as well as testimonials attesting to the value they bring to their clientele.

He continues, “Our product is what we know about retail, and what we teach is exactly what retailers need.”

On May 15-17, in Grand Rapids, they will host the world’s largest education event for independent retailers, the Retail Success Summit. They are expecting about 500 people at the event; last year’s event hosted retailers from all over the world.

Negen says that the business will continue to evolve and change. He would like to cut down on the time he spends on the road, and WhizBang! will probably host a summer school where clients travel to him rather than have him travel to them. They are also building up their social media presence, and a new website is in the planning stages.

For more information and free tips for retailers, visit their website at www.whizbangtraining.com.


About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.