When Heather Elrod joined Amazing Lash Studio two-and-a-half years ago, charged with building the semi-permanent eyelash extension franchise and creating an exit for the founders, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based brand had 75 units open. Now, it has 200 open, and Elrod’s concerted work since last November has attracted a new buyer, WellBiz Brands backed by KSL Capital Partners.
Founders Edward and Jessica Le are immigrants from Vietnam with a great story, and their hard work to start the brand has now paid off. WellBiz bought them completely out, which was their choice, Elrod said. "I joined the company to assist them in growing and positioning the company for sale," Elrod said about the founders. "They are really just a great American success story."
Amazing Lash grew systemwide sales 85 percent last year, according to the Franchise Times Top 200+, rocketing up 85 spots to No. 328 in our annual ranking of 500 franchise brands that publishes this Friday.
"We have added additional lash services; we’ve added retail; we’ve added a lot of business intelligence to support the franchisees," Elrod said about reasons for the growth. "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."
Joe Luongo is executive chairman of WellBiz Brands, based in Englewood, Colorado, and also owner of Elements Massage, Fitness Together and FIT36. "This is a long process, when you look at evaluating the brand" to acquire, said Luongo, formerly of Massage Envy. "One of the pieces is, is the foundation right, and 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."
Luongo, too, praised the company’s founders. "Jessica and Edward, it’s an amazing success story. Gosh, I hope they write a book, I really do." Jessica developed a proprietary process to apply semi-permanent lashes. "She set the foundation, and our job is to create the legacy effectively. We owe her that," he said.
Amazing Lash is WellBiz’s first beauty brand, but Luongo said the idea will be to grow it like its other brands. "We like to stay as focused as we can on the core competencies on each of our brands. It’s not about adding a million different products overnight. When you add too many products, in whatever it is, you’re going to complicate it and it gets challenging for franchisees to execute it across the country."
Elrod will remain CEO of Amazing Lash. She said she talked to private equity firm KSL Capital first, starting back in November when the company announced it was seeking an investor, and that led to WellBiz because KSL Capital owns WellBiz. "When I first spoke with KSL, what they said was they like companies that do one thing very well. Our vision is owning everything around the eyes," she said.