Franchise ownership can be a great way for women to experience entrepreneurship, inheriting systems, processes, and often a recognizable brand name that allow you to skip some of the legwork required when starting a business from scratch. Despite the many positive aspects of being a franchisee, there can be some difficult times, too.
Meet Emily Palmer, European Wax Center franchisee, owner of a mortgage brokerage business, and mother to two young boys. In this episode of the Franchise Rising Podcast, Emily shares her real experience trying to balance franchise ownership with the rest of her responsibilities – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Listen above or keep reading here for her honest story of the lessons she’s learned throughout her franchise journey.
Emily’s Story: How She Became a European Wax Center Franchisee
Emily had been running Crest Funding, a mortgage brokerage in Encinitas, CA, with her husband for about 15 years when she found herself itching for something new. The business had been doing very well, but started to want a reprieve from the high-stress, male-dominated world of mortgage lending. Instead, she was seeking something more nurturing and female-focused.
She started to consider buying a European Wax Center. She’d already been a guest for years, and really liked the experience. She was also a client and fan of Massage Envy, and knew that many franchisees own locations for both brands, which gave EWC credibility and Emily more confidence in the idea of owning one.
It didn’t take long for Emily decide to join the franchise, with her sister as a partner and with the support of her husband.
Lesson One: Finding the Right Location is Key for Franchise Success
As with most businesses, one of the keys is location, location, location. The ideal location for a European Wax Center is high-density and has heavy foot traffic. Unfortunately, Solana Beach, where Emily’s business is located, doesn’t have the volume of potential customers needed to really thrive.
So, how did she end up there? It came down to wanting to get the business going, and picking the best place of what she’d seen up to that point.
Emily and her sister had signed their franchise contract over a year before finding a location. Commercial space is hard to come by in Southern California and it’s at a premium price point, so it was difficult to find a location despite working with an experienced commercial broker.
When they finally found the place they now inhabit, they knew it wasn’t ideal but decided to pull the trigger anyway so they could get the business started. Who knows how long they would have had to wait for the perfect spot to become available?
Today, she wishes she took more time to find the right location, because her space in Solana Beach has faced some obstacles. In fact, European Wax Center’s corporate office has said the location isn’t ideal, and wouldn’t have been approved today.
First, the density of the area isn’t high enough for the amount of foot traffic they really needed. The most profitable European Wax Centers are in places with tons of foot traffic, and this location didn’t have that.
Further, Solana Beach is an upscale community, so the locals aren’t necessarily looking for a deal for their wax. Many already have a spa they’re used to frequenting where they can go for waxing.
Lastly, Solana Beach is a very conservative community that has some major restrictions when it comes to advertising (signs allowed, photos in windows, etc.). Emily found a cool beach cruiser that she attached some marketing materials to, for example, and the city told her she wasn’t allowed to have it outside of her store. And, some of her marketing materials were deemed a little too risque for the community.
So, what are the solutions to these challenging? She can do more marketing that’s community-approved, and can also consider moving to a denser location.
Here’s what she would do differently if she were opening today, knowing now what she didn’t know then:
- Know the restrictions in your community, both marketing and otherwise.
- Research foot traffic and density needed to thrive, and ensure your location fits the bill.
- Ask corporate what supports are in place when locations don’t perform as well as expected.
- Always have your own exit strategy so you’re prepared if things don’t go as expected.
Lesson Two: Learning to Follow Systems vs. Doing Everything on Your Own
As an entrepreneur who’d started a business from scratch with her husband, Emily was used to the freedom and responsibility that comes with running her own company. But now, as a franchisee, she was faced with some restrictions and this was another challenge.
On the plus side, corporate has already made many of the difficult business decision for you. This can be a relief if you have a lot of other things going on in your life. Emily already was balancing her mortgage company and raising two young boys, so it was nice she didn’t have to recreate the wheel with her European Wax Center.
But at the same time, you have to be willing to give in to those decisions that have already been made. This can be challenging if you’re truly an entrepreneur like Emily who’s used to making your own decisions.
First, she struggled with the transition from banking to the beauty and wellness industry. This was foreign territory.
Secondly, she felt frustrated that she didn’t have full control over her marketing initiatives. For example, she wanted to have her own Instagram and Facebook pages for the business, but was held back because corporate wanted to manage the brand’s entire social presence. Of course she understood that they can’t have everyone doing their own thing and need to preserve the brand, but she felt like she could really contribute with her prior business experience.
Here’s how Emily suggests a prospective franchisee overcome these challenges.
- Research as much as possible in advance, and don’t be afraid to ask hard questions to other franchisees during validation, or to corporate throughout the sales process.
- Surround yourself with really intelligent people with years of multi-unit franchisee experience, particularly in the industry you’re focusing on. This really helped her.
- Know your limitations in advance. Franchises vary, and some are more restrictive because there are so many locations, so they need to be more systematized.
Lesson Three: A Strong Support System is Essential
If you’ve been researching franchise opportunities, you’ve probably heard the saying that in franchising, you’re in business for yourself but not by yourself. The truth in this saying has been one of the greatest lessons Emily’s learned from her experience.
Initially, she saw other franchisees as competition rather than as a resource. But, she quickly discovered that her fellow franchisees are hugely helpful.
If she runs out of product, for example, another franchisee can help her out. She’s also worked with others to set up marketing co-ops. Plus, the camaraderie is a nice bonus. “I found a lot of help from other franchisees, telling them my story, meeting them, asking what they recommend,” says Emily. “I got a lot of coaching from them.”
Aside from her network of franchisees, Emily’s also found support from her family to be a key piece of her experience. First, it took much longer than expected (several years) to get the business to a place where it was profitable. So from a financial standpoint, it was essential she had her husband’s support and financial stability to help keep her family comfortable.
She suggests talking with your family and asking yourself these questions before buying a franchise:
- Is your personal life structured to where you can handle the hours and the stress?
- Can your partner handle it?
- Can you handle it financially? It can take years for a franchise to become profitable, and it may never happen at all.
What’s Next for Emily?
While she’s faced some trials and tribulations, Emily has no regrets about her experience as a European Wax Center franchisee. She’s loved her new focus on women and mentoring, especially since many of her employees are young women. She’s created a positive, team environment that she really enjoys.
She’s learned so much about the world of franchising – what type of people to hire as employees, what it takes to open a business, how to set sales and marketing goals, and more. It’s been great franchise experience overall.
So, what’s next for her? Emily’s goal is to get her European Wax Center to a point where it’s profitable enough to sell eventually. After that, she may even buy another franchise!
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