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One-on-One Consulting Is the Future of the Beauty Industry. This Company Creates Spaces for Solo Stylists, and Business Is Booming. Phenix Salon Suites is anticipating a surge in business from stylists who want more security, safety, and control over their operations.

By Stephanie Schomer Edited by Frances Dodds

This story appears in the June 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of Phenix Salon Suites

Phenix Salon Suites didn't know it had a pandemic-perfect business model. But in 2020, the franchise — which rents private workspaces to individual beauty professionals — quickly realized that it was able to help a challenged industry deliver one-on-one services to cautious consumers. The system's 300-plus locations (each of which houses multiple suites) didn't just survive COVID-19 but thrived. Now, as conventional salons fight to recover, Phenix is anticipating a surge in business from stylists who want more security, safety, and control over their operations. Brian Kelley, president and COO, outlines how he and his franchisees are preparing for the rush.

Judging by all the self-inflicted haircuts that happened last spring, not a lot of people were going to the salon when the pandemic hit. What did that do to your model?

The issue for our franchisees is, if stylists aren't working, locations aren't making money. So we increased communications with franchisees, helped them secure rent deferments with landlords, and helped them provide similar deferments to their salon professionals. But once regulations started shifting and businesses started figuring out how to reopen, it was clear that our business was really designed to meet the concerns of social distancing. We stepped up cleaning procedures, but we really didn't have to change much. The privacy of individual suites, and their one-on-one servicing, helped create a sense of safety for our salon professionals and their clients.

Related: Working Through the Pandemic Made This Industrial-Services Franchise Stronger

Do you see the pandemic having a long-term effect on your business?

There's a bit of a revolution going on in our industry. People are going to continue to want elevated safety protocols, and conventional salons that have everyone congregate in one space don't provide that. Of course, the big downside to all of this for our industry is that a lot of conventional salons are closing.

What does that mean for your business?

In 2020, versus 2019, we saw a 344 percent increase in salon professionals coming to our website, looking for a suite to rent. We need to prepare for that increase, and also do what we can to help the long-term pipeline of salon professionals. We're getting out there and educating about our model and speaking to beauty schools. And through our mobile app, we're really helping salon professionals manage their own clients and businesses.

Related: 7 Franchisees Share Lessons from the Pandemic

What does your mobile app look like?

It's called Gina's Platform — named for our founder — and it's brand agnostic. Any stylist, whether they work out of a Phenix location or not, can use it to manage their business, pay rent, explore benefits, and process transactions. Stylists are small-business owners, a lot of them are single moms, a lot of them are the breadwinners in the family. We want to give them tools to succeed. We have 3,400 users, and about 400 don't work at one of our locations.

How does the app help franchisees improve their operations?

Stylists can pay their weekly rent to franchisees, and they can use it to build marketing tools, which of course spreads awareness about Phenix. We opened 34 new locations in 2019, and 33 last year. This year, we're projecting nearly 50. We're here to support the industry.

Stephanie Schomer

Entrepreneur Staff

Deputy Editor

Stephanie Schomer is Entrepreneur magazine's deputy editor. She previously worked at Entertainment WeeklyArchitectural Digest and Fast Company. Follow her on Twitter @stephschomer.

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