Demand Drives Expansion, Franchising for Salt Lake Business

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FRANCHISING USA COVER STORY  SEPTEMBER 2015

Sometimes even the best made plans can change. That’s what happened to a studio salon concept in Salt Lake City, UT whose founders originally planned on opening just one location several years ago. Turns out, an overwhelming demand said otherwise.

Brothers Jason and Shaun Olsen opened their first Image Studios 360 salon in 2010 and now have five locations in Utah. These entrepreneurial siblings have been hard at work and are ready to franchise their studio salon concept, as they’ve deemed it the most effective way to expand their brand across the country.

Image Studios 360 takes large retail space and subdivides it into individual salon studios that are custom designed for beauty professionals such as hair stylists, nail technicians, aestheticians and massage therapists. It’s like a mini-mall of beauty salons all under one roof and the franchisee is the landlord.

Typically, an Image Studios 360 salon is about 5,000 square feet, which ends up housing 28 – 32 individual salon studios according to Jason Olsen in a recent interview from the company’s headquarters in Salt Lake City. The average single studio size is around 10’ X 12’, roughly 120 square feet.

Olsen likened the concept it to a beauty industry incubator for professionals who are taking the next step in their career and want to start a business of their own.

“We help facilitate their desire to go out and succeed on their own” Olsen said.

Rather than taking on the risk of opening a traditional salon, which typically includes hiring many employees that creates large overhead expenses for the owner, beauty professionals can now open their own business within an Image Studios 360 salon without the large investment and headache of a typical salon. Their risk is much lower with our concept, Olsen explained, as there is very little overhead expense apart from their own studio rent payment.

Currently, Image Studios 360 has 175 salon studios in its five locations in the Salt Lake City area and about 90 percent of those are women-owned businesses.

Getting Started

The Olsens started franchising their business in 2015 and have four prospects that are expected to open locations within the next 12 months.

Jason Olsen said he and his brother Shaun recognized a need for a business like Image Studios 360 when they were visiting with a hairdresser friend who wanted to open her own studio. She mentioned she’d heard about the salon studio concept and thought it may be something Utah could benefit from. After doing extensive research around the country it was apparent that the concept was gaining popularity and appeared to work very well.

They concluded it was a great opportunity and could already envision how they would make it even better. What they injected into the mix was a variety of beauty services, a high-end design befitting of a beauty professional, training, continual education and a variety of business services. By designing the spaces to look high-end, it not only allows the studio renters to attract high-end clients but also makes them proud of where they do business.

Olsen says “I think that’s really helped our success by creating a space that looks amazing inside and out to attract top end clientele for our professionals.”

In fact, within six months of opening their first location they were out of studios and at 100% occupancy. The second salon they built a year later experienced similar results, and the demand has stayed strong ever since.

That’s not bad considering the brothers were planning on opening just one location originally. As their popularity grew the focus on expansion was their number one priority. To help facilitate this growth opportunity they decided to focus on franchising their business across the country.

Beauty Business

The professionals within the beauty industry face a particularly big challenge because they go to school to learn a trade, but this highly specialized education doesn’t teach them some of the basics required to successfully run a business, Olsen noted.

The brothers also realized that many people want to open their own salon, but find it difficult to procure all the needed resources.

“We’re able to lower the barrier of entry for salon ownership and save them from having to sign a large lease on a 3,000 square foot space, which would add a lot of risk and liability otherwise,” Olsen said.

Originally, the brothers thought the majority of the inquiries would come from beauty professionals who were looking for the next step in getting out from behind the chair, but instead, they attracted a variety of business entrepreneurs and investors.

This makes sense, Olsen said, as it’s relatively easy, stable business model with very little maintenance costs and requires virtually no employees. It also attracts investors because it doesn’t require a lot of involvement from the franchisees. Olsen also said the beauty industry is relatively recession-proof, as something people still tend to hold onto even when the economy is bad, which has helped attract investor franchisees.

Communication is Key

Much of Image Studios 360’s training is focused on how to communicate effectively with the people who will be occupying the spaces within the salons, Olsen said. Training for new franchisees involves a week spent in Salt Lake City visiting corporate stores as well as training at their corporate headquarters. We thoroughly cover all the critical aspects of our business model, such as working with the beauty professional who want to rent the space and understanding their backgrounds and what fears they may have starting with their own business. There is also emphasis on creating an environment that allows each person freedom to express their own creativity within their studios. This allows our salon professionals to decorate and customize their own space so it reflects their personality and creativity. We want them to feel comfortable and confident in their new work environment.

One of the tools to help with marketing is our marketing and print store that has different print products that are customizable for salon renters and franchisees to use. All these campaigns from direct mail to our in­store marketing — are already designed and ready for salon renters and franchisees to simply customize for a variety of marketing campaigns for their own space and location. Once the design is finished everything prints automatically and is mailed out to the salon renter or franchisee.

Image Studios 360 also works with a PR firm and a marketing company that does ongoing marketing and advertising for the entire company.

They are also in final talks with an international beauty brand that would supply each location with supplies and products, in addition to a recently forged partnership with Booker.com that helps automate their business operations.

Most areas in the USA and Canada are open for franchising as the company continues to ride the demand of interest from a variety of entrepreneurs and investors.

For more information on franchising an Image Studios 360 salon, visit www.imagestudios360franchise.com.