Since 2016, Justin Strickland has built his 10-minute oil-change concept Strickland Brothers to nearly 30 corporate stores and opened 12 franchises as private equity firms came calling. Princeton Equity Group won out, announcing in May a strategic investment of undisclosed size to help fuel growth.
Strickland Brothers has awarded 165 new franchise licenses in the last year, and Strickland said he welcomes Princeton’s additional support. “We weren’t aggressively seeking investments from private equity firms, but we are trying to seek the best possible infrastructure and support system that we can build for our franchise partners,”he said.
“Private equity, similar to our business in the auto world, has a negative stigma on it, so we wanted to be very careful when we were combing through the equity firms. Throughout the process, we felt Princeton aligned with our mission statements, how we view franchise partnerships.”
The chain offers a handful of so-called visual services. “We don't do brakes, tires, engine repair. It’s quick maintenance items the customer can see for themselves,” such as oil changes, air filters, wiper blades, tire rotation and the like.
“The thing for Strickland Brothers, we wanted to become a very simple, transparent concept,” he said. In the auto world, “you always question if you can send your wife or your daughter or your elderly parents, whether or not they’re going to be taken advantage of.”
Jim Waskovich, co-founder and managing partner of Princeton Equity Group, said they like to back founders at the stage “where the concept is proven but there’s still a lot of growth to go get. We found that passionate, knowledgeable, energetic founders are probably better at delivering on that promise of growth than we would be as investors.”
Named after Princeton, New Jersey, its headquarters city, Princeton Equity recently invested in Card My Yard. “We love that concept, we love the story, we love the founders,” Waskovich said. “It is a little bit of a rocketship.”
Other investments include Massage Envy, European Wax Center, Sola Salon Studios and Urban Air, all service businesses specifically not in the restaurant category. “I think people forget actually a majority of franchises are not restaurants,” he said. “Franchising is a really broad business model, and it applies across different types of end markets, and we’re open to look at a lot.”
As for the “brothers”in the Strickland Brothers name, they’re actually Strickland’s two young sons, who will have plenty of work ahead of them if they are to join the company some day. “They’re struggling to clean their room right now,”Strickland says with a laugh.