Exit for Amazing Lash Studio Founders In Sight
Jessica and Edward Le are Vietnamese immigrants and founders of Amazing Lash Studio.
It’s time for the founders of Amazing Lash Studio, Vietnamese immigrants Edward and Jessica Le, to exit their franchise and reap some of the rewards, says Heather Elrod, president and COO of the eyelash extension franchise now based in Scottsdale, Arizona.
She announced earlier this month Amazing Lash is seeking strategic alternatives including a sale for the brand founded in 2010 in Houston, and now with more than 300 studios awarded and 160 of those open and operating.
“Ever since then their world was non-stop,” Elrod said about the Le’s. “When they opened their first studio their son was three. He’s 10 now, and they have two more children. They are very passionate, hard-working entrepreneurs, and they recently made an assessment and decided the time with their children” was most important now.”
Elrod said she is talking with “a number of parties” that have signed non-disclosure agreements. “All are private equity firms, but that’s not to rule out the potential of a strategic buyer,” she said. “The way the company is positioned, the velocity of our growth, the enormous opportunity for this brand to be the category killer—it’s kind of the perfect scenario.”
She came on as COO last May, and was named president in July 2017. She’s been fielding “a couple of calls a week” from private equity firms that are interested in the brand. Elrod is no stranger to M&A. She was on the executive team at Mail Boxes Etc. when it sold to UPS Stores in 2001. “I certainly became educated on the process, and the due diligence from the private equity teams is a process. They turn over every stone,” she said.
She said she has started a series of conference calls with franchisees, who always get nervous when new investors come in, especially when replacing founders. She has implemented several regional committees with franchisee members since joining Amazing Lash. “That has been a really key focus since I joined, to open the doors of communication. It’s a very healthy system from a relationship standpoint,” she said. Franchisees “view this as an opportunity. As we’ve shared, a private equity investor or a strategic buyer, they will look to increase the value for all stakeholders.”
Elrod said she does not expect a transaction by year end, but rather into the first quarter of next year. “In my experience it takes 60 to 90 days,” she said.
The Le’s do not want to retain a stake in the brand, Elrod said, but will remain as consultants if the new ownership wishes. “Jessica Le is our chief innovation officer, and she is an extraordinary talent,” Elrod said. Edward Le told her he did not want to retain a stake because “we could get in the way,” a realization that is often hard for founders to make, but it demonstrates his commitment to the good of the brand, Elrod said.