Favoring the Hybrid Ownership Approach

Dry Bar is the classic model for rapid scaling. It has a narrow remit with a well-developed, hugely attractive brand identity. To quote founder Alli Webb:

‘Our philosophy is simple. Focus on one thing and be the best at it. For us that’s blowouts.’

In seven years we’ve gone from one location in Brentwood, California, to 82 across the nation. Eschewing the full-service model of cut, color and beauty in favor of a single service and wrapping it around a cool, fast-paced brand has made it easy to roll out without imposing on other established brands. We can squeeze in almost anywhere.

But the ability to grow isn’t just the result of our limited offering; we believe our success is also due to our hybrid ownership model. We are driving forward expansion of corporate-owned Dry Bars alongside a franchise model. We now stand at around 75% corporate-owned/25% franchises.

Clarity of position has been essential to ensuring this model works for us. We opt for franchise-ownership in situations where we believe impassioned owner operators will enjoy success.

With our corporate-owned locations, we focus on high-density metropolitan areas, and focus on developing within narrow geographical areas where there are lots of women of all ages who appreciate the convenience of a Dry Bar blowout. We are ideal for those women short on time who hanker after smooth, glossy waves every day or just for the weekend. Our formula works.

Our in-house real estate division seeks out the best locations, homes in on the most appropriate, available properties and then opens negotiation with the landlord. Increasingly, we’ve found that as we’ve grown so has our reputation with landlords, making them more amenable to us as tenants. They recognize we are a destination business that draws mid to high-end clients into the area, benefiting neighboring businesses.

Roll-out of the salon fitting, recruiting and educating the team and marketing the experience to the community are all done centrally. We also have regional educators who are on the ground going into our locations to ensure consistent quality and to hold together the sense of community within the company. Again, focusing on a centralized geographical area allows us ensure enough resources available to new teams during the process. For instance, we have 19 locations in New York. It is easier to build up multiple stores within narrow geographical areas.

But once you start moving into areas of lower population density, the cohesion is more of a challenge. The team that oversees consistency of brand, hair quality and education is more thinly spread. While standards could be compromised, we do a great job of not letting that happen.

So, to sustain growth and our brand, we have developed a franchise operation alongside our corporate-owned operation, offering licensees the same support structure as all our own locations. However, the motivation of franchisee owners who work in and manage their own Dry Bar ensures we have quality of delivery in areas that we don’t have the same level of traction. Plus they know their local community, and are known themselves, which makes building the model in a new area more fluid.

Our plan is to keep on growing along this hybrid model. We’ve 82 locations currently, but by the end of 2017 we will have more than 90.

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John Heffner, salon industry veteran, is the chief executive officer at Dry Bar, the chain of blow dry salons.

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