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Hammer & Nails attracts Massage Envy founder


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Michael Elliot, a former Hollywood screenwriter, is founder of Hammer & Nails.

Michael Elliot, founder of Hammer & Nails, the ultimate man cave, has to feel like he just nailed it.

After being in business less than a year, he just hammered out the details of a deal with John Leonesio—the founder of Massage Envy who has the enviable skill of quickly growing brands in the health and wellness field. The Leonesio Group bought into the company in a significant way, according to Leonesio, who declined to share the particulars.

A former Hollywood screenwriter, Elliot had just one unit open in August 2015, albeit a stylish store on Melrose Avenue in Beverly Hills, which did manly manis and pedis. “I realized I needed a team,” Elliot says. “I looked at the others (in the field) and the talent they had and I knew I was lacking.” How many people did he have working for him pre-Leonesio? “One,” he answered. “Me.”

When Elliot checked out the industry to see who he’d be interested in partnering with, Leonesio was at the top of the list. Elliot had previously been on the TV reality show Shark Tank, and although the sharks turned him down, viewers who thought the sharks were wrong invested with him.

Leonesio grew Massage Envy to 800 franchises before selling it in 2008. He’s applied that successful formula, which includes a membership component, to a number of other franchises in the health and wellness segment, such as The Joint, a chiropractic franchise, and RedLine Athletics, training centers for young athletes. He also invested in an eyelash extension company.

Leonesio says he saw that same potential in Hammer & Nails, which is why he invested in the concept late last year—even though he refers to himself as retired.

In true Cinderella fashion, Elliott clicked on the franchise information form for one of the Leonesio Group’s concepts and asked them to please forward his message to Leonesio.

A couple of days later he received an email from Leonesio’s business partner asking him to call Leonesio at home. “I hit the ceiling,” Elliot says. “For a guy like me to know I’m talking to him, it’s worth a million dollars for five minutes,” he says.

Fortunately, Leonesio wasn’t charging by the minute, because the initial call lasted over an hour. After the Leonesio Group completed its due diligence, the two parties inked a deal that was signed in December. By the end of January, Hammer & Nails had sold 95 regional development agreements and four franchises in six states, Elliot says, not even trying to tamp down his enthusiasm. “When it was just me, my goal was to sell four franchises in my first year.”

Delivering that kind of growth isn’t difficult when you have the extensive network Leonesio has acquired. Leonesio says many of his earlier franchisees are interested in buying into his later franchise concepts.

With the infusion of capital and advice, Elliot set up a corporate office in California and started staffing. He now has a staff of nine, including experienced execs from Leonesio’s other brands. Leonesio is the CEO, while Elliot is the president, in charge of the day-to-day.

The franchise disclosure documents had to be amended. The franchise fee went from $20,000 to $39,000 and the royalty increased from 4 percent to 6 percent plus 1 percent advertising. They added haircuts and straight-razor shaves, too. While people thought Elliot was crazy for wanting to start a man’s nail business, he says, Leonesio admitted to him that he also encountered skepticism when he first started Massage Envy.

And with his help, Elliot is banking on making Hammer & Nails the next enviable franchise in the Leonesio Group.

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