Sola Salon Studios Set to Soar with Experience
Sola Salon Studios’ dynamic new chief Christina Russell knows franchising.
Russell, onboard as CEO since June, brings a wealth of vast senior leadership experience to Sola Salon Studios from previous roles as CEO of Pure Barre, president of Camp Bow Wow, and VP of Operations and former multi-unit owner at Curves International.
We checked in with Russell to learn more about her first few months at Sola and her initial listening tour to find out why there is no better time to be a Sola Salon Studios franchisee.
Q: What drew you to the Sola brand?
Russell: Sola appealed to me because it is a unique and smart business model, and the culture is built around a genuine commitment to a compelling mission. Our mission is to help beauty professionals realize their dreams of working independently to experience the freedom of salon ownership without taking on all of the typical risks. Sola also offers a great opportunity for the franchisee. It is simple, reliably profitable, requires minimal staff, and is relatively recession-proof. Our franchisees include many franchising insiders who have extensive experience, particularly in the restaurant sector. I learned quickly that our collective franchisees decided to invest in Sola because they love the mission and enjoy the opportunity to empower beauty professionals to live their best lives every day.
Q: How will your vast franchise experience help guide your CEO approach with Sola?
Russell: Starting my franchising career as a franchisee was fortunate because it grounded my perspective in what truly matters most in franchising – the success of the franchisee. I’ve been blessed to lead in some very cool brands, all of which have been the category innovators and leaders, and all of which have had some interesting challenges as they reached maturity. It’s those challenges, and navigating through them, that have honed my perspective.
Q: What insight have you gained along the way that has influenced you as a leader?
Russell: I had a great mentor and friend who said to me early in my leadership career, “More we, less I.” That insight seems simple, but it has had a profound impact on how I lead. Success in any business, but particularly franchising, relies on your ability to listen, learn, and collaborate with the smart people you work with, buy from, and serve. Leveraging that collective knowledge isn’t always easy, but it’s powerful.
Q: You’ve been on a listening tour to visit as many franchisees as possible. What do you hope to learn?
Russell: The listening tour has served me well in every brand transition. I ask about the “worries and wins” and get perspective on what the stakeholders think my focus should be as a new leader. That raw, unfiltered feedback from every perspective is incredibly valuable, and you get the best perspective when you do it early in the process. The franchisee feedback is particularly important. I’ve been on a market tour over the past two months to see the Sola mission in action, visiting locations, meeting managers and the beauty professionals that lease our studios, and hosting owner meetings. The impressive thing has been the cultural alignment. I always ask what needs to change or not change, and everyone – the team, the board, the franchisees – has consistently urged me to “keep the stylists first.” So many people think of Sola as a real estate play, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What differentiates us is our true, deep commitment to the success of the beauty professionals.
Q: What does the future hold for Sola Salon Studios?
Russell: It’s great to be the category leader! We’re approaching 500 locations and 15,000 stylists, but that’s just the start. The salon rental industry is still emerging, and our focus is still very much on growth. We’ll open over 60 locations this year, and we’re on track for around 75 in 2020. That will be our biggest year ever! Much of that growth is happening with our existing owners, which tells you a lot about their confidence in the brand. We are also doing a deep analysis into the white space available for future growth, and we look forward to welcoming new franchisees into our family as we identify exciting new opportunities. We’re taking our first steps into international growth with our first locations now open in Canada and Brazil. Our scale also gives us some interesting opportunities to innovate in ways that create an even better experience for our stylists. This is a big focus of our internal discussions. We want to drive the next-level products, services, and education that beauty professionals need to be successful.
Ready to talk about your franchise opportunities with the top brand in the $13 billion salon services market? Visit www.solasalonstudios.com to download Sola’s franchise guide.
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