Q&A with Christina Russell, CEO of Sola Salon & and The Woodhouse Day Spa
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Q&A with Christina Russell, CEO of Sola Salon & and The Woodhouse Day Spa

Q&A with Christina Russell, CEO of Sola Salon & and The Woodhouse Day Spa

Name: Christina Russell

Brand: Radiance Holdings (parent of Sola Salon Studios & The Woodhouse Day Spa)

Title: CEO

Age: 50

Years in franchising: 20

No. of units: 545 (Sola); 68 (Woodhouse) 

What attracted you to franchising?

I have always had a true passion for helping others achieve their dreams of business ownership, and franchising has been the vehicle for countless individuals to pursue their entrepreneurial goals. So there was a natural synergy that existed that immediately attracted me to franchising. The idea of being in business for yourself, but not by yourself is something I live by and has motivated me to seize and expand on the opportunities that come my way. At one of my current brands, Sola Salon Studios, helping people become their own business owner is twofold. We have more than 150 franchisee groups across our system, operating our 545 locations, but we also have more than 15,000 independent beauty professionals that call Sola the home of their own microbusinesses. These are hairstylists, estheticians, nail techs, and massage therapists who rent out studio space within our four walls, and we get to support them very much the same way that a franchisor supports its franchisees. I love that I get to live out my passion and purpose so fully through franchising.

What was your first job in franchising?

My first “job” in franchising was actually as a multi-unit franchisee of Curves. Over the course of 11 years, I opened four successful locations in New Mexico and Florida and led all aspects of the business, including developing business plans, cash flow analysis, licensing and incorporation, negotiating leases, hiring and training, marketing and public relations, customer service, accounting and financial management, community and business partnership, and basic business taxes. It was an incredible learning experience that quickly (and effectively) taught me the ins and outs of franchising. In August 2006, I became Curves International’s area director for Florida and the Caribbean and spearheaded strategic consulting for 250 franchisees. In late 2009, I was appointed the brand’s vice president of operations, a role I held for 4½ years. During that time, I led operations for 6,000 U.S. and Canadian franchise locations with a team of nearly 50 corporate staff, area directors, and contract mentors. I made it my mission to drive unit-level profitability and system stability, and I helped design and implement an array of policies, processes, training, communication, and engagement programs. 

What do you attribute your success to?

I like to learn new things, and that has served me well. I’ve had the good fortune to be exposed to a lot of outstanding people through my career, and I’ve used that as an opportunity to learn from them and grow my own knowledge, skill, and experience. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about franchising. There are so many smart entrepreneurs – both franchisees and franchisors – and people are incredibly gracious about sharing what they know. It’s a fantastic community for learning and growth.

What challenges and obstacles have you overcome in your career?

2020 was certainly one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a leader, but from a career perspective, I’d say the biggest challenge has been mustering the courage to make a career change. Opportunities come up all the time, and it’s tempting to ignore them. Opportunities are scary. You have to take a risk on something new and unknown. But taking those leaps of faith in the right moments has been key to helping me grow in my career. I encourage every professional to explore the doors as they open. Many will be wrong, but sometimes the right opportunity is on the other side. That evolution is good for your career, and if you’re ready to move on it may mean that the brand you’re in is also ready for fresh leadership. It’s how companies and careers evolve, but you have to be willing to take the risk.

Describe your journey to your current position

I left Curves International in April 2014 to become president at Camp Bow Wow. Throughout my tenure, I drove the brand to record unit-level revenues, system growth, and franchisee satisfaction. After nearly 4 years with Camp Bow Wow, I left and landed my first CEO position with Pure Barre, the leading barre workout franchise. During my time with that concept, I led it through a successful early exit with private equity company L Catterton, and carried the brand through its sale to Xpotential Fitness in late 2018. Once the sale was finalized with Pure Barre and a successful transition had been made, I moved on to one of my current brands, Sola Salon Studios. In July 2020, I spearheaded the acquisition of a leading spa franchise concept called The Woodhouse Day Spa, which initiated the formation of Radiance Holdings with Sola as the flagship brand. Radiance represents a collection of premier brands in the beauty, wellness, and self-care sectors, including Sola Salon Studios, The Woodhouse Day Spa, and BeautyHive, an e-commerce platform for professional beauty products. The Woodhouse acquisition created opportunity for platform-level partnerships such as education and product distribution to hairdressers, massage therapists, and estheticians, and with it, I transitioned into an expanded role as CEO of Radiance Holdings where I build strategy and drive execution for both Sola and Woodhouse. 

What are your future career goals?

We have some fantastic years ahead with the Radiance platform, and I have no doubt we’ll continue to grow our portfolio of brands. My focus will be on building this amazing team to drive success for our franchisees and our beauty professionals. Who knows for sure what the long-term future brings, but I can’t imagine I’ll ever leave franchising. I always say that franchising is the embodiment of the American Dream – there’s nothing else like it!

Advice to young female executives in franchising

Ask for help. You’d be amazed how gracious people are with their knowledge and their networks. Join in on IFA webinars, and target professionals you’d like to meet. Reach out on LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid to ask for a few minutes of someone’s time to help grow your career. Franchising is full of helpful people who got into this business because we like to help others realize their dreams. You just have to find the courage to put yourself out there.

Published: March 5th, 2021

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