Sola Forms New Holding Company, Acquires Woodhouse Spa Franchise
The Woodhouse Day Spa of Castle Pines in Colorado, one of 65 locations in 21 states.
Christina Russell was just in Victoria, Texas, last week and was planning another trip in the coming days to continue meeting with the team at Woodhouse Day Spa, the franchise acquired by the newly formed Radiance Holdings with Russell at the helm and also including Sola Salon Studios. Victoria, however, was just listed among the top five cities in the country with the highest new cases per capita of COVID-19.
“So that’s not happening right now,” said Russell of a return trip. “But I’m a Zoom pro now.”
It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Russell and Sola Salon Studios, the salon suite brand she joined in June 2019 as CEO. After getting its network of 500 locations back open following coronavirus-related shutdowns, Sola franchisees in California have had to close about 100 units after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced July 13 a rollback of the reopening plans in several major counties amid a surge of new COVID-19 cases.
“We know the drill, we’ve been through this before,” said Russell, who noted the company is reviving its efforts to explain to local and state officials that because hair stylists and other beauty professional who rent space at a Sola all have individual suites, they shouldn’t be considered in the same category as businesses where numerous people are in close contact with one another. “We’re hoping our lobbying efforts will raise some of that awareness.”
“I want them to make the decision for everyone’s health and safety, but there’s a big difference between congregating at bars” and the one-on-one interaction of a stylist and client, continued Russell. “We’d like to be considered on our own merits. …We’re very frustrated about being lumped in with bars.”
The coronavirus pandemic, meanwhile, wasn’t going derail the acquisition of Woodhouse Day Spa, which Russell said had been in the works since January, when the investment groups and board at Sola began their due diligence process.
“There was no intention to pull off the gas pedal and not get the deal done,” said Russell, pictured at right, “it just slowed us down a little bit. The reality is” getting the deal done “represents the strength of our investors and really the strength of Woodhouse as a brand.”
Sola, for its part, is owned by a consortium of investment groups—MPK Equity Partners, AHR Growth Partners and PNC Riverarch Capital—that acquired a majority stake in the Denver-based brand in 2018.
Based in Victoria and founded by Jeni Garrett, Woodhouse has 65 locations in 21 states and provides “an experience like what you’d get at a high-end resort, but in a suburban location,” said Russell of the array of massage, facial and body treatments. Garrett was ready to exit the brand, she emphasized, and this wasn’t a case of a distressed franchise looking for a buyer.
“It’s not like the brand is broken and someone needs to come in and fix it,” said Russell. “It’s turning that dial on growth.”
The formation of Radiance Holdings will help accelerate that growth as it rolls up franchise development and real estate for both brands, along with what Russell termed “a biggie”: systems and technology. “We’re looking for someone to actively lead technology at Radiance,” she said, with a focus on using data to improve unit economics.
With Russell’s transition to CEO of Radiance, Sola’s president and COO, Myrle McNeal, will continue to lead day-to-day operations of that brand. Ben Jones and Nathan Jensen were appointed Radiance’s chief development officer and chief counsel and chief financial officer, respectively, roles they previously held with Sola.
The goal for Radiance Holdings is to eventually have a collection of brands in the beauty and wellness sector, but Russell said they’re “not actively looking right now.”
“We look at that over the long game,” she said. Instead, she's focused on transitioning Woodhouse from its founder and getting in front of franchisees to introduce herself and her leadership team—albeit not in person.