(Ambrosio’s note: With a comprehensive franchise plan, there’s no need for an investor to reinvent the wheel: That work has already been done. But new franchisees can still learn from others who have come before them.
With our Franchise Mentor series, we will introduce you to investors with diverse franchise portfolios as well as single-unit operators who share their personal stories about the keys to their success, what has worked for them, and even some things to avoid, as you contemplate becoming a franchise partner.)
Like Paul “The Mane Guy” Spindler (Blo’s COO featured in a separate article), Blo Blow Dry Bar’s franchise partners are assigned an alias, like Athena Boyd, aka “Miss Tease Y’all.” The 31-year-old entrepreneur and mother of a toddler daughter was the first person to receive a franchise agreement in the American market and hers was the second Blo bar to open in the United States in Austin, Texas.
A native of Vancouver, Canada, she was aware of the company and kept abreast of its development, even while studying for her master’s degree in education at Concordia University Texas before Blo even started franchising in the United States.
“I thought the concept was amazing,” she said, “and I was just waiting for someone to bring it to Texas. It never dawned on me to bring it to Texas myself.”
But bring it to the Lone Star State she did, and now she owns two Blo bars in Austin. The first 1,200-square-foot store opened downtown in April 2011 and the second, 1,300-square-foot location, known as Blo Domain, opened in August 2012 in Central Austin. (She says a smaller site, ideally about 800 square feet, is perfect and can help minimize costs, but she couldn’t find something that small in Austin.) She employs 30 people between the two outlets, 10 of them full time.
Company Now Has Franchise Systems in Place
With Blo Domain now up and operating, it has been easier the second time around, said Boyd. A bit of a Blo guinea pig, she signed with the company so early that some of the systems now in place did not exist when she and her partner Alina Poulsen first started exploring franchise opportunities with the chain in late 2009.
“We were going in blind,” she said. “We just really, really, really had to believe in the concept.”
In fact, she was such a pioneer in the franchise that she ultimately sourced suppliers and products for Blo in the U.S. market that are now used by other franchisees throughout the country, she said.
“We did quite a lot on our own because (Blo) was so new and didn’t quite have all their stuff together yet,” she said. “We paved the way for the U.S. as far as I’m concerned.”
Franchisees who sign with Blo today, will have a much easier experience, she notes.
“Although there were some ‘growing pains’ when we first signed on, I think that’s normal for most franchises, so we don’t hold it against them. They have so many best practices and aids set in place now for new franchisees. It’s well organized right from the beginning now. From weekly calls and goals to meet to assist in getting ready to open, to someone from corporate coming to your city to help with site selection, to a style director training you and your staff, to providing lists and links to source materials for construction.”