Frenchies Revolution: "Culture is not a fluff thing, it's everything"
Name: Stephanie Coffey
Title: Co-Founder, COO
Company: Frenchies Modern Nail Care
Years in franchising: 15
Years in current position: 5
Stephanie Coffey is a visionary leader who saw a need to shake up the $14 billion nail care sector. Identifying some fundamental issues in the space, she set out to offer a healthy, clean environment for guests and team members, along with a a top-tier guest experience. And that’s exactly what she did in 2014, when she and her husband, Guy, co-founded Frenchies Modern Nail Care.
Today, she serves as COO of the emerging brand, which has 23 locations and slow-and-steady post-pandemic plans for growth. One of the first things that becomes clear about Coffey is her passion for helping franchisees pursue their dream of owning their own studio. Perhaps that stems from a previous position she held as a franchise consultant with Anytime Fitness, where she coached more than 140 franchisees who owned a combined 560 clubs. She also served as president and SVP of franchise development and support for Waxing The City.
As a membership-based concept, Frenchies has been a real disrupter, says Coffey. “Customers are attracted to our nontoxic products and variety of healthy, unique offerings. The beauty industry as a whole has seen a focus on consumers demanding organic, nontoxic options for the beauty services and products they use every day, and Frenchies is delivering on both fronts.”
With Covid in the rearview mirror for now, Coffey says unit growth is back on the table and she expects to add one unit per month this year. The brand is also looking to add new products to its line that can help keep costs down and quality up.
What is your role as co-founder and COO? My role as co-founder is to grow and push our brand forward. I’m responsible for crafting and executing our strategic plan to meet our goals. I do this through sound decision-making, leading our small but mighty team, developing key partnerships, and, most important, supporting our franchise owners while they are on this journey with us.
How has Covid-19 affected the way you have led your brand? We have been successfully promoting our “clean and healthy” services to separate ourselves from the typical nail salon experience since our inception. We have not changed our business model—we just focused on reminding customers of our health and wellness benefits that were present pre-pandemic and are now arguably more important than ever. Even before the pandemic hit, all new Frenchies studios installed leading-edge energy recovery ventilators, the kind you see in hospitals that remove stale air and pump in fresh air, critical for fighting infection. And we didn’t stop there. Each client has a personal ventilation system at every manicure and pedicure station, guests and specialists wash their hands before every service, all metal tools are sterilized through a three-step process that includes a medical-grade autoclave to kill 100% of bacteria and viruses. And we have never used pedicure bowls with jets that are impossible to thoroughly clean.
Describe your leadership style. I would describe it as more of a coach approach, especially in my role. I spent several years supporting franchisees in every aspect of growing their business. It is critical to provide candid feedback to all constituents, hold franchise owners and team members accountable, and drive the business forward. I want to coach and develop individuals into being the best version of themselves so they can contribute to their business, their families, and their communities.
What has inspired your leadership style? I’ve been fortunate to have had a varied and successful career in many different industries: technology, distribution, and franchising in both large companies and startup environments. I’ve learned and grown with each company and position I’ve held. What has made me successful is that I listen to the team and customers to understand the industry and its business drivers, and then I roll up my sleeves and get to work. Over the years, I’ve been recognized for being a visionary and a gritty executer who quickly establishes trust with my teams. I lead from the front, do whatever is necessary, and rally my teams toward a common goal resulting in success for all involved.
How do you transmit your culture from your office to frontline employees? Culture is not a fluff thing, it’s everything. It’s incredibly important, and I believe it starts in the franchise recruitment and development process. It is imperative that everyone involved in the brand aligns with your values, mission, and purpose. We have built our processes, education, and resources around these company attributes and reinforce them in everything we do.
How can a you help your CMO develop and grow? The CMO role for a franchise, specifically an emerging franchise brand, is imperative. To ensure the integrity of the brand is maintained, amplified, and visible, the CMO should be looped into strategic conversations on all key issues and initiatives. Recent research has shown that many CEOs believe CMOs are some of the most qualified candidates for the CEO role. I believe that comes from the close relationship these two positions hold. Nothing happens without marketing and communication across the company, and the ability to collaborate closely with your CMO speaks volumes to the long-term success of any initiative.
Where is the best place to prepare for leadership: an MBA school or OTJ? I believe both are important. Graduate school provided a great foundation for me in terms of learning the ins and outs of business and all of the facets that go into running a successful company. However, the skills I learned by working side by side with people in the trenches was invaluable for helping me grow my skill set and putting those things into action.
Are tough decisions best taken by one person? How do you make tough decisions? As a leader, the tough decisions always reside with you. At the end of the day, the results are your responsibility. How you get to making that difficult decision involves a lot more than just your thoughts and perspectives. I tend to make tough decisions by talking through things with our leadership team and my co-founder, who also happens to be my husband, to get a variety of perspectives. But, ultimately, I’m not afraid to make the right decision for the business and the brand even if it’s not the popular decision.
Do you want to be liked or respected? Earning the respect of my team, franchise owners, strategic partners, and industry colleagues is critical to our success. As a franchise brand, our entire team must be viewed as professional, competent, and productive. This evokes respect for each other, for our industry, and ultimately for our brand.
Advice to CEO wannabes: When you see an opportunity, have faith in yourself and take the leap! Your career is not a straight upward incline. It has dips, it has flips, and it has leaps that are learning opportunities that will mold you into being a better and stronger leader.
What does your management team look like? We have a small but talented team that is well-versed in franchising. We are intentional about being very strategic and focus on initiatives to move the brand forward while also being available to support our franchise system.
How does your management team help you lead? We are fortunate in that our team has worked with each other for more than 10 years. The level of respect, trust, and caring for one another allows each of us to speak our mind candidly—whether it’s about something in general, something specific to that person’s expertise, or even if it’s not in that person’s area of responsibility.
Favorite management gurus: Do you read management books? Profitable Partnerships by Greg Nathan, Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, and Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey Jr.
What makes you say, “Yes, now that’s why I do what I do!”? Seeing franchise owners win in business and in life.
What trends are you seeing with consumer spending habits in your stores? We are experiencing that our guests want and are willing to pay for an exceptional guest experience. That is why we created a “6-Stage Guest Experience Cycle” that we coach on and execute daily in our studios. Guests are drawn to our clean studios and our healthy alternative to the typical nail salon.
How is the economy driving consumer behavior in your system? Historically, the beauty industry has been deemed a recession-proof industry. Consumers find beauty services to be more self-care than an indulgence, and nail services are considered an affordable luxury.
What are you expecting from your market in the next 12 months? We expect continued growth—grow the revenue in our franchise locations as well as the number of franchise owners in our system. During Covid, we put franchise sales on the back burner while we supported our existing owners in navigating the challenges associated with the pandemic. That focus paid off and we are proud of how well our studios are doing, which provides us the momentum to ramp our sales efforts back up.
Are your franchisees bullish or bearish about growth and adding units? As an emerging brand, our franchise owners understand the need for our system to grow and the benefits it will bring them. Those who signed on with us early have already begun to see the benefits of purchasing power, added services, and sharing of ideas that help the brand and their businesses grow and evolve.
Are commodity/supplies costs any cause for concern in your system? I think any company not concerned with the rising costs of supplies is kidding themselves. Covid and the economic environment have put a ton of pressure on costs for any type of business. For this reason, we invested strategically early on to get our own supply chain moving to be able to provide our own branded product line. As an emerging brand this was a stretch, but we have already realized cost savings for our franchise owners in the consumables used in our studios. We also work very closely with our vendor partners to source items to keep costs down as best as we can.
In what ways are political/global issues affecting the market and your brand? As a highly regulated industry with little oversight to ensure that brands are playing by the rules, the Covid era put a spotlight on the beauty services industry and its impact on the economy. While many businesses were allowed to reopen, the additional regulations required for salons and spas resulted in business closures and an exodus in talent because of the social distancing and extra costs to do business. While restaurants and bars seemed to have a voice at the table for support, the beauty industry was left in limbo to try to figure things out on our own. The long-term challenge is that the consolidation of the industry, paired with upward pressure on wages by states across the country, resulted in price increases as a necessity by salons just to keep up. These impacts are making consumers more selective about the beauty services they maintain, and the businesses they deem they get the best value from.
What time do you like to be at your desk? I am on the go and making calls with franchise owners, strategic partners, my team, and our studio from the time I wake up at 6 a.m. Sitting at my desk doesn’t necessarily translate into productive time for me. My primary focus is connecting with the professionals who make our brand what it is, and ensuring they have everything they need to be successful.
Exercise in the morning? Wine with lunch? Yes! I am committed to taking care of my body and try to keep to a morning exercise regime. But I will also enjoy a glass of wine at lunch if the situation presents itself. It’s all about balance.
Do you socialize with your team after work/outside the office? We are intentional about creating opportunities to connect outside of working hours. We have quarterly team events to enjoy each other’s company and to build a deeper bond. It’s important for the culture of our brand.
Last two books read: The Wealthy Franchisee by Scott Greenberg, Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe.
What technology do you take on the road? My iPhone and my reMarkable notebook. My laptop is always with me as well, but not always the charger for some reason.
How do you relax/balance life and work? I love dinnertime with my family and we make it a priority, especially with my husband and me both running Frenchies. It’s important to be present for each other and our sons. During dinner, we all share our “pit & peak” of the day. I also enjoy hiking, skiing, tennis, yoga, and spending time with family and friends.
Favorite vacation destinations: I have two favorite vacation destinations. One is South Seas Island Resort in Captiva Island, Florida. I started going to this special place in grade school with my grandparents and family, and the yearly tradition continues with countless cousins and their families. Another special destination for me is our cabin in northern Minnesota. We love spending time there with family enjoying water activities, lazy boat rides, making s’mores, and picking blueberries.
Favorite occasions to send employees notes: Birthdays, service anniversaries, and annual cabin retreat.
Favorite company product/service: Technology: My reMarkable notebook has been a favorite of mine for the past year. Clothing: Aviator Nation has the comfiest, most stylish loungewear.
Beauty: Frenchies—my hands and nails are selling opportunities. How they look really makes a difference.
What are your long-term goals for the company? We are the market leader in providing a nontoxic nail care service. My goal is to continue growing the brand with a focus on delivering an outstanding guest experience, ownership opportunities to others in their local markets where they can give back to their communities, and grooming and providing opportunities to a team of beauty professionals. I love the Frenchies brand for everything it brings to franchise owners, our guests, the team and the community.
How has the economy changed your goals for your company? Out of the gate we grew really fast and far exceeded our expectations and projections. Without Covid affecting that, we would have been on track to continue that pace. Covid made us step back and focus on the health of our franchise owners, their local stores, and employees, and on how we provide unparalleled service, including sanitation standards, to our guests. We are now focused on adding to our system in a slow and steady pace so we can maintain that focus.
Where can capital be found these days? For franchise owners, SBA loans are a dependable option. For franchisor systems, there seems to be a lot of interest from family offices and PE groups.
How do you measure success? 1) How profitable our franchise owners are and where they are headed. That drives the success of our business. 2) How much time I have with my family.
What has been your greatest success? Personally, my husband. Hands down, he’s the biggest win ever for me. Professionally, growing Frenchies from an idea to what it is today in full view of my sons. There are ups and there are downs; our sons have seen my husband and me handle them all while staying true to our values.
Any regrets? None. Lessons have been learned from each experience and, to one degree or another, everything leading up to the present has shaped who I am. I’m always trying to improve and am far from perfect, but I am good with who I am and what I stand for in this world.
What can we expect from your company in the next 12 to 18 months? We expect to add one new franchise location to our system every month. We are also focused on adding more products to our branded product line, which supports a healthy beauty brand and allows us to control costs and the quality of the products we use in our studios.
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Franchise Update Magazine: Issue 1, 2023