With baby in mix for owners, best-laid plans can go awry
For new parents Shani and Francis Obedoza, owning an 18|8 salon franchise offers the flexibility to focus on their family while pursuing a business. But those who have been there say it’s not always so easy.
When their 1-year-old son is old enough to understand, Francis and Shani Obedoza will owe him quite the thank you. He was, after all, the one who prompted the couple to explore franchising and ultimately sign with 18|8 Fine Men’s Salons to open three locations in Orange County, California.
The Obedozas bought a house, got married, had their first child and signed a franchise agreement all in a three-year span. While becoming franchisees may have come up faster than anticipated, it’s the achievement of a common passion. But can it all go as planned—especially with a baby on board?
Franchisees Francis and Shani Obedoza, and baby Maceo, are ready to open an 18/8 salon.
The Obedozas are part of a trend among younger franchisees, says Page Nicol, a consultant from FranNet who worked with the couple. The millennial generation, especially, is looking for ways to remain in the workforce on their own terms, and they’re turning to franchising as a way to do so.
After a few conversations, Nicol says it became clear Shani wanted the flexibility to spend more time with their baby and Francis wanted to keep his full-time job at Pacific Life Insurance, but they also wanted two incomes. That’s when Nicol directed them to 18|8, a “semi-passive retail company” where the owner is only onsite 15 to 20 hours per week and receives continuous support from the corporate office.
“We got really excited about 18|8 with how they structure the management, with owners being able to work from home,” says Shani. She also likes what she calls “a really strong career path strategy” at 18/8, “so stylists are able to grow and move forward. It allows us to retain key contributors.”
What will they learn?
Mixing a desire for flexibility with the demands of building a business is difficult, and will take constant adjustment, warns those who have tried the same balancing act.
A case in point is Andrea and Bryan McGinness, WineStyles franchisees since 2006. Hiring the right people in those key contributor positions “can make or break you,” says Andrea. The couple brought on a full-time manager when they opened their first retail store in Des Moines, Iowa, “and in hindsight we hired the absolute wrong person.”
That experience affected the McGinness’ original goal, which, like the Obedozas, was for Andrea to be at home more with their three children, then ages 14, 12 and 9, while Bryan kept his corporate job with Maytag.
“She was gone after two months,” Andrea says of that first manager. “So for the next two-and-a-half years I was there all the time running the store. We felt like we were so burned by that situation that we never hired another full-time manager.”
They’ve since purchased the entire wine retail system and moved the corporate headquarters to Des Moines. Looking back, Andrea says the best advice she can give to new franchisees in any business is to “ask the tough questions” when hiring. “Really take the time to interview your candidates,” she says.
Others point out the demands of building a business are always much greater than advertised. The most successful owners realize they’ll need to hire outside childcare, remain flexible when the business’ needs change, and above all—hang on to that steady job until the franchise is cash-flow positive. If the pro forma says that will take a year, double it, seasoned entrepreneurs say.
Choose the franchise carefully
The type of franchise one chooses is also a key decision for those seeking flexibility. The 18|8 concept takes aim at “discerning, successful men who want to look their best, feel their best, so they can perform their best,” according to the website, with services ranging from classic haircuts—priced at $50— to facial and scalp treatments, straight-edge razor shaves and manicures.
The environment is suitable for visits from their youngest team member, something the Obedozas wanted out of their franchise. “They were very nervous about bringing a baby into their business,” says Nicol, and didn’t want to choose a company where doing so would be detrimental to their success. 18|8 is casual enough, he says, where Shani can bring Maceo to work without detracting from the customer experience.
The company has just six locations in Southern California and Albuquerque, but the nationwide franchise launch last summer brought on 20-plus franchisees who are expected to open more than 70 salons across the country in the coming year.
After meeting at the University of California-Irvine in 2005 while getting their MBAs, Francis and Shani headed to separate cities upon graduation—Shani to Los Angeles, where she took a job in human resources with General Electric, while Francis stayed in the area and joined Pacific Life.
The house, marriage and baby —“we weren’t trying but we weren’t not trying,” Shani says with a laugh—followed and it was during their maternity/paternity leaves that the couple made the decision to seek more flexible schedules and explore franchising.
“It’s something I had an interest in for awhile,” says Francis of owning a franchise. Having worked at a Chicago area TCBY during high school and later at Jimmy John’s in Urbana while attending the University of Illinois, the now 35-year-old saw the opportunity for independence and “always had that want to be a small-business owner.”
Shani, meanwhile, grew up in an entrepreneurial family, with a father who owned several businesses and a mother who as an independent marriage counselor “essentially always worked for herself. I think this is getting back to what I grew up with,” Shani says of signing with 18|8. Yogurt shops, yoga studios and a spa/massage business were all considered before the Obedozas settled on the men’s salon concept.
“We feel like this is just a market that’s going to keep growing,” says Shani. Their first salon will open in March in Laguna Niguel, and they prepared themselves with help from both 18|8 corporate and Nicol, who Francis says, “helped us pinpoint our strengths.”
“Luckily they were different,” interjects Shani, “so we could divide and conquer.”
Francis, in addition to staying at Pacific Life, took on the CFO role and is developing a marketing strategy. Shani will be at the salon putting her human resources skills to work, managing operations and hiring.
The couple also made a point to talk about how their family life will fit with their franchisee life. “It’s not really a work-life balance,” says Shani, “it’s a work-life integration.”
The couple is ready to grow their business and, eventually, their family. But for now, quips Francis, that first salon is almost like having another child.