Building a Pawn Shop Empire

Robbie Whitten and his father Robert didn’t start out in business together planning to open a pawn shop. When Robbie was just 18, he joined his father in building a business empire spanning the country, purchasing gold and silver jewelry and selling it to smelters for a solid profit. When the market collapsed, the pair was left with a warehouse full of beautiful jewelry and nowhere to put it.

That’s when the Whittens decided to open a pawn shop – Money Mizer Pawn & Jewelry. Now, 33 years later, the flagship store is still going strong, and the franchise has grown to seven locations across the south, with five more planned in 2013 and eight to 10 per year in the future.

And now they’re expanding into the world of online shopping with, where sellers can submit photos of the items they want to pawn, and Whitten’s team will appraise the items and make an offer. It’s a solid option for people who may not want to go to a pawn shop or are unable to get to a physical location.

Between Money Mizer’s aggressive franchise expansion and the new website project, Whitten is helping to change the image of pawn shops – no longer the seedy stores of days past, today’s shops are targeting clientele from all backgrounds and are expanding into increasingly upscale markets. In today’s economy where money continues to be an issue for many people, the pawn industry is poised for unparalleled success.

Robbie is featured in the April 2013 issue of Entrepreneur magazine, available on newsstands this week.