Fast & Serious: 2-10
2. Orangetheory Fitness
Orangetheory Fitness was the No. 1 grower on the Fast and Serious list last year when it boosted sales by more than 100 percent and locations by more than 70 percent. The boutique fitness growth machine did slow down slightly. The concept is still one of the most aggressive growers on the list, as it grew sales by 63 percent to $739 million and locations by 47 percent to 858 in 2017. Over the last three years, the concept has grown sales by 246 percent and locations by 155 percent. Now it’s changing tactics slightly.
Since the brand has operations across many major markets and has wide appeal, CEO Dave Long said he’s trying to make the heart-pumping workouts more of a habit. “In the past year, we’ve really focused on how do we leverage the brand that we have and the customer experience. It’s all about customer retention. That’s been a big focus,” said Long. “That why it’s been a big push there because it’s a gap we can close.” Long said the company is also focusing more on international growth, the next phase to keep up the aggressive goals. But there is a bit of a learning curve outside the U.S. “You have to pivot different ways and that takes time,” said Long. “What works in the U.S. doesn’t always work outside the U.S.”
Boxing is big business, but you don’t have to tell that to Shannon Hudson, the founder and CEO of 9Round. He grew company sales by 332 percent and locations by 106 percent over the last three years. He said the ultimate motivation was having no “Plan B” to fall back on, keeping his laser focused on growing and enhancing the brand. But unlike a lot of fast-growth companies with eye-popping development deals, he doesn’t sell off a region and hope for the best. Instead, he keeps people focused on their first location and eager for the next. “We do not sell multi-units out of the gate because I want people to prove both to us and to themselves that they can run the model successfully and make a profit. Once they have proven this, then multi-unit discussions are common,” said Hudson. “I’m proud to say that 40 percent of 9Round franchise owners now have more than one location. This method seems to work well for us and has ultimately been a major factor in lending to our company’s rapid but sustainable growth.” In the past year, he said the company has watched for any opportunity, but the key in an extremely fast growth segment of franchising has been shouting out those differentiators. For 9Round, it means marketing the brand qualities such as 30-minute workouts and fun, full-body boxing exercise over and over. “For continued growth and relevancy in an industry that is so competitive, we need to continually emphasize what makes 9Round different from other fitness programs,” said Hudson. “Continuing to capitalize on the ways our brand is unique from all of its competitors has helped us to continue growing despite the heavily saturated market we are in.”
Heather Elrod, shown here at the IFA’s Emerging Franchisor Conference in Miami, is CEO of No. 4 Amazing Lash Studio.
4. Amazing Lash Studio
Eyelash extension studios
Amazing Lash Studio was one of many franchise acquisitions in 2018. The company was acquired by WellBiz Brands, the owner of Elements Massage and Fitness Together. What did WellBiz see in the brand? Big-time growth. From 2015 through 2017 the brand grew sales by 769 percent and, thanks partly to CEO Heather Elrod, grew units by 224 percent. Elrod joined the company in 2015 to help sell franchises and help the founders find an exit. Since then, she’s been busy with that incredible unit growth but also expanding the brand. “We have added additional lash services; we’ve added retail; we’ve added a lot of business intelligence to support the franchisees,” Elrod told Franchise Times. “Moreover, we have such a strong franchise base, just really fantastic individuals in this network. I am so proud of their accomplishments and the relationships I’ve had with them.” That growth and evolution snagged the attention of WellBiz, which sees a lot of the same explosive growth in the future. “Heather has done an amazing job with growing the brand smartly. When you talk about first mover advantage, and there’s so much runway for so much more,” said Joe Luongo, executive chairman of WellBiz Brands.
5. Club Pilates
When Shaun Grove took over as president of Club Pilates in 2015, his mission was clear: grow, grow, grow. In the world of boutique fitness, he said it’s the only path for the brand and for the business. “In an emerging boutique fitness business, it’s grow fast or die slow. In our business, not unlike most others, you have to sell the territories before you can open the units and start collecting the royalties,” said Grove. “So when we acquired it, it was critical for us to sell the markets as fast as possible.” (The “we” is parent company Xponential Fitness.) Since 2015, the company grew from 43 locations to 207, for a 381 percent growth rate. During that time, it also grew sales by an incredible 1,082 percent. After that intense growth, it’s all about getting those sold locations open. Grove said he likes to see a six-month timeframe from purchase to opening day. But with that kind of growth, the company has shifted some attention to opening support. “We’ve had such explosive growth in 2016 and 2017 in franchise sales, that now it’s just getting them open as quickly as possible. That’s where the bulk of our time is spent these days; on the development side, getting the leases locked in and getting them open,” said Grove. He’s also looking abroad for the next wave of major growth, but with special care taken on international partners. “For us, we’re doing it as a master franchise relationship. So you’re really looking for someone who has all the things you have in yourself to replicate that in their country,” said Grove.
Whenever The Halal Guys food cart shows up, lines form. The No. 6 brand is now franchising after working to get the model right.
6. The Halal Guys
Street food restaurants
What do you get when you add garlic sauce to chicken? The pure magic of The Halal Guys. What do you get when you franchise the concept? Massive, massive growth. In just the last three years, the brand has exploded its location count, growing from five locations to 81—that accounts for 1,520 percent growth. Of course it’s a small base, but in that time the company has also pushed sales from $5 million to more than $71 million, a growth rate of 1,445 percent. How did a little, albeit popular, food cart grow like that? Systems, systems and more systems. The leadership team signed on with Fransmart before jumping into franchising so they could get the prototype right, the operations right and best practices for the surge of franchisee interest.
Home buying and selling
We’ve all seen the signs: “We buy ugly houses.” But behind those signs is a powerhouse growth concept taking full advantage of the housing market. In the last three years, the company grew sales by 65 percent and added 50 percent more locations. At the end of 2017, the company counted 990 locations and system sales of $375 million. Since inception, the company has purchased more than 85,000 homes, either holding them for better market conditions or rehabilitating them to flip into hot markets. CEO David Hicks said while the company supports the system as best it can, the growth is pushed further and further by hard working franchisees. “We recognize that the strength of our brand’s success is rooted in the hard work and dedication of our independently owned and operated franchises,” said Hicks. “In fact, one of the biggest commitments we have as a franchise organization is to the training and mentoring of our franchises. We are reminded with every list we rank on that we’re putting our eggs in the right basket.”
8. Mosquito Joe
Mosquito Joe Brand President Lou Schager is trying to bring the sexy back to the pest control industry. And with three-year sales growth of 260 percent and location growth of 108 percent, he might just be doing it. “While not known as the sexiest of industries to enter, pest management professionals provide a critical service that not only increases families’ quality of life but also provides peace of mind against the potential for serious health concerns that mosquito and tick vector-borne diseases bring,” said Schager. “All of this reinforces our motto that ‘Outside is fun again.’” That aggressive growth caught the eye of the Dwyer Group, now called Neighborly, which acquired the brand in August 2018. That means more growth for Schager and the team. “This strategic move will allow us to leverage Neighborly’s deep franchising expertise and extensive resources while joining forces with their many complementary trade brands focused on services to the home, enabling us to sustain our historically strong growth,” said Schager.
Mobile device repair service
When founder Justin Wetherill launched uBreakiFix in 2009, it caught on like the smartphone, growing to 47 units in just three years. And when he had to decide to grow with debt or franchising, he chose franchising. And the concept grew even faster. In the last three years the company grew sales by 96 percent and pushed location count up by 115 percent. With 354 locations and $118 in system sales, the company keeps growing with every new phone launch and added sales with every drop, slip and “oh $@#%” moment. Since franchising, Wetherill continued to expand the brand as well, saying he “wants to fix anything with a power button.”
At Nothing Bundt Cakes, 30 to 35 percent of growth is now with existing franchisees, says CEO Kyle Smith.
10. Nothing Bundt Cakes
Bundt cake bakers
Nothing Bundt Cakes CEO Kyle Smith may have the most exciting slogan for driving sustainable growth. “Sometimes it’s OK to be dull,” said Smith, summing up how the concept has grown to 240 locations across the country. The company growth story is anything but dull. Since 2015, Smith has overseen an 89 percent sales growth while adding 60 percent to the location base. How? Well, if you make really good cake, people come back. “We’re really staying focused on the basic things. It’s kind of dull, but you get great people in the organization, you support them and have a strong financial model and growth takes care of itself,” said Smith. “So we don’t have any big numbers that we’re aiming to hit. I think when you just do the fundamental things and execute like crazy, it happens.” He said the biggest change in 2017 was a spate of internal growth. While many Nothing Bundt Cakes franchisees came to the brand with more dreams than food-industry experience, they’re outgrowing their single-unit ponds. “As the brand matures and we’ve had success, our operators’ goals and dreams come in wanting more than one bakery,” said Smith. “We’re seeing that it’s becoming a reality for some franchisees, 30 to 35 percent of our growth is now with existing franchisees.” That’s been quite a balancing act as Smith charts the path toward further growth. “New markets are new folks and in existing markets, we’re holding growth back a little bit and letting our experienced people grow,” said Smith. “I love the idea that our folks are striving. You have to keep it competitive, you want to earn the right to grow.”