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What Does A Franchise's Opening Day Look Like? We Sent A Photographer to Capture It — Nerves and All Follow the journey of Michael and Rebecca Son on their opening day with StretchLab.

By Kaitlin Goldin Edited by Frances Dodds

This story appears in the January 2024 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Peyton Fulford

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What is a grand opening? To customers, it's the first day to check out a new business. But for a new franchisee, a grand opening is the first day of their new lives — the moment when all their planning pays off, and a new phase of hard work begins.

We wanted to know what that looks and feels like — so we decided to spend a day documenting it.

This past October, new StretchLab franchisees Michael and Rebecca Son were opening their first StretchLab franchise in Bothell, Washington, and were happy to welcome us in. Their franchisee journey began in 2022, when Rebecca wanted to reenter the workforce after several years of focusing on her kids, and Michael craved a new challenge after two decades in the corporate world. After six months of searching, they found their perfect opportunity — to open a StretchLab. The brand has over 400 studios across the nation, where members can get stretched out by trained "flexologists." By starting an assisted stretching studio, the Sons felt that they could dip their toes into the entrepreneurial world while also helping people to relieve pain and stress and improve their performance and mobility.

Related: 7 Essential Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Franchise

Below, you'll see photos from the Sons' official first day open, and their recollections of the day's excitement.

7:30 a.m. Preparing for the Big Day

For three months before Opening Day, the Sons ran a pop-up studio to give free 15-minute demos outside their store. Today was the first time people could come inside for the full experience...

Michael says: "Even a couple of weeks prior, I thought, Is this really going to happen?"

Rebecca says: "On the morning of Opening Day, I remember feeling that everything had finally come together. The artwork was in place. The benches were no longer in plastic wrap. The staff got there early. We came together and said, 'Let's just enjoy. We'll figure this out. The goal is to keep doing what we're doing.'"

Michael: "I could finally breathe."

8 a.m. First Members Arrive

Michael: "We tried to give folks who had signed up earliest those first sessions."

Rebecca: "I saw flexologists greeting members, saying, 'Hey, Brad! How are the kids? How's your golf game going?' That brought me a lot of joy because it told me that our flexologists and our members were already building rapport. We have an open-concept studio, so visitors were seeing members comfortably getting stretched."

Related: The 19 Covenants of a Standard Franchise Agreement

Michael: "No one was groaning in pain."

Rebecca: "You could hear conversation, music, laughter. It was vibrant."

8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Teaching, Learning, Connecting

Michael: "Assisted stretching is still a new modality. Almost every one of our members goes through that process of being unsure and asking, 'Is this really something?' It's our job to help them through it."

Rebecca: "I talked to a lot of members that day. They were telling me about people they knew in need of something like this."

Michael: "For instance, I talked with a mother and her son, who's an athlete. I got to understand that dynamic of a mother who cares about giving her son every possible benefit. He was super into it. It was almost like he felt this was something that no one else knew about."

12 p.m. Party Time!

Opening Day is about serving new customers — but it's also about celebrating the franchise's new community. The party starts early.

Rebecca: "I just remember feeling super proud and wanting to get the team together to thank them for getting us to this point."

Michael: "We had so many of the people who had been with us from the start, along with a mix of partners, friends, other people's family, and other local store owners. It felt like a moment to hand it off a little and just enjoy. To some extent, you need to let things go to really see your business thrive. We're still working through that process of empowering our team. But if you find the right people, success will come."

Image Credit: All Photos by Peyton Fulford

Related: These Are the 10 Hottest Franchise Categories For 2024

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