What’s the flip side of fear? ‘Beautiful possibilities,’ in The Boss
“How do you know how it’s going to end? You don’t. You take a chance.” — Hakika Wise, founder of Kika Stretch Studios with five units
Tell me about your upbringing.
I grew up in the Newark area of New Jersey. My mother was a serial entrepreneur, so I used to vow not to be an entrepreneur because I saw a lot of her projects fail and I was afraid of that instability. I went to Montclair State, I studied dance. I acted and danced professionally for years, and then I became pregnant with my son, he’s now 8. I wanted to do something more stable. I wanted to be able to provide for him. I was a great starving artist, but I was starving. I decided it was go back to school or start a business. I took a little poll. They said, Oh, don’t start a business, they fail.
Obviously you ignored that advice.
As an undergrad I took classes on anatomy, how the body moves. I was always obsessed with stretching. I started using it myself and I started applying it to others. I thought I was on to something, that was 2011. I rented a small room, which I shared with a real estate agent. My rent was $375 a month. I started one client at a time. Then he would not renew my lease, because I was using the space too much. I was actually a business, which he didn’t expect. I started printing out brochures from my own computer. I rented a Gumby costume and had college students walking around in it. I studied books on guerilla marketing because the only capital I had was $500.
But you said you would never take that leap.
I sold furniture during my early career of trying to get a quote-unquote real job. They gave me a certificate on this flimsy piece of paper because I’d been there for a year, and I actually started crying, because I had actually been there for a year. I was spending all of my time there, with people I didn’t like.
When did you start thinking about franchising?
One of my main storefronts is in Montclair, New Jersey, and it’s our headquarters. Two years ago it caught on fire and I relocated the studio. So you go from this big beautiful storefront, and you have to stretch in the basement of a church, and when I say basement, I mean moldy, vents on the ceiling. I realized the service is really good and it’s not about me.
I said I would never franchise. You get the moral of the story, right? For me it seems like this very scary thing that I didn’t understand. I knew a couple of people that were franchisors. They said, It’s horrible, it’s very stressful. What I realized now is they weren’t selecting the right people.
How do you know you have the right person?
I’m 34 but mentally I tell people I’m 65, just because I started a business with $500 seven years ago, so you can imagine what I’ve gone through. I started to realize the people you want close to you. I look for people whose personalities I’m attracted to, people who want to put in some work versus people who want an instant return on investment.
Beth Ewen, editor-in-chief, learns if it’s lonely at the top and other lessons from franchise leaders, and presents their edited answers here in each issue. To suggest a candid C-level subject, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why did you name it after yourself?
Early on one of my clients was Bobbi Brown, of Bobbi Brown cosmetics. My second location was a basement of a restaurant, so in the summer you would smell onions and curry coming through the vents, but people would still come and stretch. She came one day, and all I had was a conference table, a vase of flowers and a mat. She walked in and said, is this a franchise?
I knew she was coming, but when I actually saw her walk in I said this is it for me, I’m done, I’m ready to retire. I was honored. One thing she told me is you have to raise your prices. I said, I can’t do that, but then I did. The competition is going to come of course, but if you name it after yourself that’s something unique.
What is your biggest lesson learned?
Do not let fear of the unknown stop you from making a choice. When people come to me and tell me they’re afraid of the unknown, I always tell them there’s the other side of the unknown. What is there besides fear? There‘s also opportunity, and beautiful possibilities. How do you know how it’s going to end? You don’t. Take a chance. That’s why we’re alive.