Why Beauty Industry Franchises Never Go Out of Style

Welcome to another episode of Atlanta Franchise Today with host Leslie Kuban, expert franchise consultant and owner of FranNet Atlanta. Atlanta Franchise Today is dedicated to bringing entrepreneurs and business owners the best practices and tips for their franchise goals.

Today, Leslie and guest Meg Roberts take a closer look at the trends in the beauty industry and what they mean for future entrepreneurs looking for opportunities that never go out of style. Roberts is from Ann Arbor, Michigan. and is the CEO of the Lash Lounge, a rapidly growing national franchise brand in the affordable beauty industry.

Transcription:

Leslie Kuban:
Meg, welcome to the show. Great to have you.

Meg Roberts:
Thanks for having me, Leslie. This is fantastic. I’m excited to be a participant.

Leslie Kuban:
Absolutely. And let’s dive right in, Meg. For our viewers who are just hearing about the Lash Lounge for the first time, tell us a little bit about your brand and your customers. And I always like to hear the inspiration behind the brand, how they got started.

Meg Roberts:
Yeah. Well, the Lash Lounge, thank you, Leslie, for asking, the Lash Lounge has been around, gosh, almost 20 years now. The founder Anna Phillips created the brand in Dallas, Texas when she identified that people not only love looking good, but they like the ease of looking great. And lash extensions had been developed in Eastern Europe, and she just discovered it’s going to be a real hit here in the US. So she brought it here, started her franchise.

And what makes it so beautiful, and I love using that word because that’s the industry we’re in, is that it creates this opportunity for ease and customization and accenting what’s already great about us and liberates us from spending so much time in front of the mirror. So lash extensions are a skyrocketing business in beauty because people are just discovering it, and they’re clamoring for this easy service. So it’s a whole lot of fun to be in the beauty industry right now.

Leslie Kuban:
And are there any particular trends, Meg, that you guys are seeing coming forth? What’s the word on the street? Numbers behind the industry?

Meg Roberts:
Yeah, that’s a great question. In the beauty industry in general, because I love all things beauty now, so of course I’m very loyal to lash extensions, but in beauty in general, Leslie, and even within the franchising community, what we’re seeing is a trend and a dedication to what I refer to a single-service businesses.

So you’ll come to the Lash Lounge really just for enhancements around your eyes, but you might go to a facial shop just for facial and skincare services. And massage centers are really focused more on their core competency now, which is directly massage. And I think that trend is related to people’s desire to get the best service, especially post pandemic when they’re going out for the very first time. You want the best of the best, and so you want the group that focuses on just that.

And further, the expertise of cosmetologists and estheticians today, it’s such an art. And to really have the opportunity as an employee, as a stylist, to focus on what you love, it really brings those two great things together. You don’t go to a steak restaurant and order chicken, right? You go for the steak. And so that’s what I think’s happening in beauty right now.

Leslie Kuban:
And that’s so interesting. And I relate to that as a woman, when time is in short supply.

Meg Roberts:
Yes.

Leslie Kuban:
Whatever service I want I know I’m going to get it right the first time. So it’s just easier from the get-go to go to the specialist in the first place. And what’s interesting is we think about lash extensions as the beauty industry, which it is, but it’s just as much the convenience industry.

Meg Roberts:
It is. It’s often seen as beauty, and we like to talk about it as confidence and kind of liberation. Truly I think that beauty is what comes from the inside, but if what comes from the inside has an opportunity to shine a little bit brighter because you got a little more sleep and you had a little more time, that’s what happens with lash extensions. I mean, you do not have to wear makeup anymore. So another trend just circling back to that for a moment in beauty is more natural skincare, really more conscientious about just accentuating what we really have. And lash extensions allow you to do that and not have to spend so much time in the mirror. You can just spend time doing the things you love.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah, yeah. That’s great. Tell us a little bit about what has happened in the industry over the last couple of years. We know the athleisure clothing industry has certainly seen a boost with all of us working at home or being on Zoom, being more comfortable on camera, but what does that mean for businesses like the Lash Lounge?

Meg Roberts:
Well, I think it means two really important things. I mean, in the beauty industry, we’ve seen post pandemic that it’s one of the categories that’s bounced back the fastest. We spent 24 months inside looking at our gray hair, looking at our minimal lashes, and I don’t even have lashes right now, which is horrifying. The reason why is I can’t get into my own salon, we’re so busy. So people have come back and droves, which is really, really incredible. And I think that’s just one of those, it’s not a trend, it’s going to be a reflection of a standard of what now is really important to us.

But part of that also is the experience. So we’re not just going back anywhere. I think in this industry, in a post pandemic time and post-recession and maybe moving into one, the experience is so essential. So when you’re going to spend time or money someplace, you want to know that you are getting this absolutely exceptional experience. And that’s just a key component of what we have to evolve into.

Leslie Kuban:
And speaking of economic cycles and recessions, now, the Lash Lounges and nationwide brand, and it’s not a rookie brand. I think it was, am I correct, it was founded in 2006. You guys started expanding through franchising in 2010 just in time for the last recession, right?

Meg Roberts:
Yeah. Timing’s great, right?

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah. And now we’re starting to hear about hiring freezes and some companies starting to even lay off employees. And I’m just wondering in your business, what can we learn from history now that recession is once again in the headlines?

Meg Roberts:
Well, I think it’s always important to be aware of history, right? In all things in life you want to know what’s happened before so that you don’t repeat those patterns. And then there’s a certain amount that we can’t control when it comes to the economy, but we can influence our franchisees. So as the CEO of the Lash Lounge, I’m consistently reminding our franchisees that our business has never been better. And even with some of the trends that we’re seeing today and the talk on the news and interest rates and so forth, not one time have we seen a decline in the interest in our services.

So rather than be afraid and pull back, which is what Post Cereal did in the original Great Depression, and Kellogg’s pushed in, you see the difference between those brands. We’re doing the very same thing today because we recognize that there could be some softening, but that’s also an opportunity to assert yourself as the leader. We are not a rookie. There’s no doubt about that, but we have a chance now to really take hold of an industry and an interest that more and more people are expressing a desire to be part of. It means being smart about your marketing. It means being really smart about every hire that you make, and absolutely, at the end of every day, providing service that people can’t live without.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah.

Meg Roberts:
So if it’s not great service, yeah, maybe a member’s going to cancel, maybe they’re going to start working out at home instead of coming to your fitness center or replacing their lashes with something different. But if you provide exceptional service, people are really loyal in the beauty category, and that’s what I’m consistently reminding them. Service is everything for us and we control that outcome.

Leslie Kuban:
And that really is the job of the owner, the franchisees of the businesses, to make sure that they’re providing an excellent level of consumer experience in their communities. But I do want to talk about your franchisees for a minute here.

Meg Roberts:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
And kind of who they are and what their role is in the business, because they’re typically not your cosmetologists or your aestheticians.

Meg Roberts:
No.

Leslie Kuban:
They’re businesspeople. And we have a lot of folks who express interest in franchising as we hear the word side hustle a lot and secondary, third streams of income that people are looking for. They’re not necessarily looking to move away from or replace what they’re doing in their career or their other businesses. They just want to add to their success. And the Lash Lounge is one of these models where that may be possible for franchisees to do that. So in fact, if they’re in your locations too much, they might be in the way, and maybe that’s discouraged. So let’s talk a little bit about that. Unpack that. Who are your owners, and what are their skills and talents in your successful franchisees?

Meg Roberts:
Sure. I think you might be surprised. More than 50% of our franchise owners are men and people are, “Wow. That’s incredible. I didn’t know men had so much interest in beauty.” Well, of course they do. Absolutely. It’s a great industry with great revenue, and it’s only growing. So if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re interested in successful business, this is a great space to look in. Similar to residential services, right? These are places where there’s recurring revenue.

Having said that, I think, for me, what I look for in franchisees are people who have aptitude and the intelligence to understand a business model. But most importantly in the customer service industry, is the right attitude. So you said it, Leslie, sometimes the right attitude means I’m the chief cheerleader, and I might go by my salons every couple days to check in and make sure management is imprinting the culture that matters most to me. In other cases, maybe I’m not a chief cheerleader. Maybe I’m a chief financial officer, and I know that I need to hire the right management in order to scale and grow my salon or multiple salons, which is mostly the case with us.

A franchisee is so critical to setting the tone and the culture for their business. That doesn’t mean that they’re there every day. Personally, I like to see franchisees who invest their time in the first six months, really devoting putting those fingerprints on the business, but a great franchisee is going to know how to identify and step back so that they can enjoy some of those successes you described where they’re not there every day. Side hustle, I like to think that we can do a lot of things well, our full-time jobs and maybe our side interests, but it’s not a hustle. It’s a real investment.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah, yeah. That’s a ugly word but thank you for that clarification.

Meg Roberts:
But it’s commonly used.

Leslie Kuban:
It is.

Meg Roberts:
And I think it deters from the excitement of small business ownership.

Leslie Kuban:
But unpack that a little bit further, Meg, if you would. So I’m a busy working professional. I have a full-time job. I’ve got kids and they have activities and it’s like every minute is full.

Meg Roberts:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
I’m sure that’s true for the lives of your lot of franchisees. How do they make that work?

Meg Roberts:
Yeah. I mean, great question. And that’s something that we look for in franchisees because people who are interested in simply the recurring revenue or the annuity if you will, that’s great, and there’s some great brands for that. I wouldn’t say that the Lash Lounge really is that because we have a lot of employees. So we have to really make sure that we’re setting a cultural tone that the women and men who want to work for us, stick with us. They’re creating careers, not jobs. I mean, these are incredible careers for our stylists. They’re making more money than I did when I finished university. Now, that was 30 years ago, but needless to say, they’re making great salaries.

So I really like to see our franchisees invest the right amount of time and consider that the real success comes with the right investment. And that might be monetary, but I think it’s really more the emotional investment in the business. I love people who never have enough work. I don’t rest. I don’t take naps. That doesn’t happen for me. I’m not saying everybody’s yoked that way, but in our business, I like the folks who are constantly doing something. If they’re sitting down, they’re thinking about what they can organize. If they’re outside, they’re cleaning the garage or they’re talking to a neighbor, but they’re always engaging. Those are the types of franchisees that are hustlers, who can have that side hustle.

Leslie Kuban:
I like that. I like how you put that. And does anybody come to mind Meg, as we start to wrap up here, any particular inspiring franchisee success story to share with our viewers?

Meg Roberts:
Yeah. I’ve got one that I think is a story that’ll surprise people a bit because they’re thinking that a Lash Lounge franchisee is possibly a female, and maybe she’s coming from an industry that really dove tails nicely. I have an incredible franchisee in the Portland, Oregon area. He is Italian by nature. He has an Italian personality. I love him to death. He can sometimes make you bristle a little bit. Super, super smart.

He opened a franchise in Portland, recently brought his daughter into the business, and she absolutely sparkles and shines and is doing a terrific job. He’s opened his third, and now is opening his fourth wildly successful franchisee. Male leader, female VPs and managers. And in a city that really struggled during the pandemic, right? Lots of closures, lots of disruption in Portland. And all he did was keep pushing in and keep pushing in. So Sandro Pitari, great example of a franchisee who just is a surprise, and yet not a surprise at all to us. And I’d love to replicate a hundred of him.

Leslie Kuban:
And that’s such a great example where people find all kinds of opportunities in franchising that are different what they’ve done before and allows them a pathway to growth. And as you mentioned, having that kind of grit and resilience, even through hard times, is a key ingredient of success, and franchising and in any business. Pleased for you and pleased and pleased for him for sure.

Meg Roberts:
It’s so true. I mean, in franchising you have to consider the unexpected and the less obvious. And I think that’s what makes the industry so exciting, knowing that there is an opportunity in franchising and small business entrepreneurship for anybody, because there’s so many great brands and concepts. But you have to step away from thinking you know what you need and really consider what your gifts are and where you can give those to a business.

Leslie Kuban:
That’s great advice. Great advice, Meg. Well, as we wrap up here any kind of closing comments about plans for the Lash Lounge for the rest of 2022? What’s on deck for you guys?

Meg Roberts:
The plan is to keep growing and growing and growing. And we’re doing that in two really special ways. The first way is that we’re always interested in finding new franchisees in new territories where we don’t have a footprint because we know the demand is everywhere. But one of the ways that just really warms me the most, Leslie, is that our current franchisees are continuing to invest in the brand. So they’re opening their second, their third, their fourth, their fifth in some cases. And that’s just such a great representation of a good model, of a good team, this home office team that supports them so well, and belief in what they’re doing.

And I think when you’re looking for a franchise, I would encourage people in any business not just mine, in any business to look at how many franchisees are pushing in again and doing that second and third, because there is no greater affirmation than saying, “You know what? I jumped off that diving board. It was scary, but I did it. You know what? I’m actually going to do it again because it was that thrilling.” And that’s how I feel about where we’re going with the Lash Lounge. Big, big things ahead.

Leslie Kuban:
Well that’s exciting and you’re right. That is telltale sign of a healthy brand, a healthy system, when franchisees dip their toe on the water and then realize the water feels good.

Meg Roberts:
Yeah. Exactly. Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
Time to go in even further.

Meg Roberts:
To take that diving board analogy, “I jumped off. It felt good. I’m going to go back.”

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. Well Meg, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m so excited for you and your business and your franchisees and look forward to seeing where you guys are in a year from now. We’d love to have you back.

Meg Roberts:
Thank you, Leslie. Appreciate that. And look forward to seeing you next time I’m in your neck and the woods in Atlanta.

Leslie Kuban:
Folks, thanks for joining me at Atlanta Franchise Today. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did, and I look forward to seeing you again next week.


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