Mindy Ratcliff went from 18 years as a stay-at-home mom to overseeing construction on Salons by JC franchises, and she’s having the time of her life. “I love touring with prospects and meeting young people who always dreamed of opening their own salons,” she says. “I don’t even feel like I’m at work.”
Owning a business had always been her husband John’s dream, she says, and after looking at several types of franchises, the duo focused on the salon-suite model because of the people involved and the hours it would require. After talking to competitors, they chose Salons by JC because it had on-site concierge and the owners “were warm, welcoming and supportive.” Now the Ratcliffs are opening their second location, and Mindy is the day-to-day front person while John is the business force behind the scenes.
“I never thought I’d be overseeing construction,” laughs Mindy. “Our first location opened in Round Rock, TX, three years ago, and the main difference is that I’m confident now. I know it’s important to go to the site once or twice a week because it keeps everyone accountable.”
While the build-out for the Austin, TX, location began just two weeks ago, Mindy is confident her June 26th opening date will be met because there’s so much she’s learned along the way that has helped her work smarter.
Best Lessons Learned
When the couple began looking for second-location sites, the shopping center they initially considered did not have a lot of stores that drew women. Partially based on input from Salons’ by JC’s President, Steve Griffey, they decided to keep looking until they found a site near lots of female traffic. That’s important to both potential tenants and to their clientele.
Some other key factors that are easing the way:
- Careful Site Selection. The Ratcliffs knew to consider salon saturation and number of nearby competitive suites. (There’s one franchise and one non-franchise in their market). Realizing she had to be available to both locations, Mindy also wanted one that put her home right in the middle. That way, she could reach either one easily in an emergency.
- Better Build-Out Planning. While the Austin location is a little over half the size of the Ratcliff’s Round Rock location (26 suites vs. 43), this time they knew to add more double suites (6 vs. 4) because there are always tenants who want to save money and enjoy a friend’s company. What was truly different, which dual-location franchisees run into often, was what the local Austin area required.
“Austin is very pro-environment, so many things are not allowed,” stresses Mindy. “Because of regulations that keep the area ‘green,’ we used a firm that builds in Austin often and we hired a construction overseer. We also hired an expeditor for about $7,000 because we knew getting permits would take longer. Our opening date is June 26th and we’ll try for the last permit, the certification of occupancy, on the 19th. I learned that there are always a few little changes after the inspection.”
- Earlier Tenant Prospecting. Having learned that “you can’t market soon enough,” Mindy began doing so as soon as she signed the second lease. With a micro site from the corporate-recommended Bluewater franchise marketing agency, this time she paid for Google ad words , which got her phone calls from day one. Now the marketing company is developing and placing Facebook ads for her: “Something I didn’t even know I could have done last time.”
While everything is moving ahead as planned, Mindy says she still keeps a close eye on her competitors in both markets.
“Whenever we put out a four- or eight-week rental special, I noticed that they do the same to stay close to us,” she says. “Apparently, we’re the marketing leader. But you have to stay on top of it, and I check area pricing every three or four months. While we want to stay competitive, it’s not just about price. At our first location, the concierge and manager we hired put us above and beyond our competitors. Clients are walked back to the suite, walk-ins are given an overview of the tenants and their specialties, and the client feedback on being greeted by their names when they enter the facility has been excellent.”
The only thing left is to add a little leeway for those hot-to-move-in tenants at the Austin location. While still anticipating a June 26th opening, Mindy is giving tenants a July 1st move-in date, just in case there are quick occupancy-permit adjustments to make.
“I never want my tenants to be disappointed,” she says.