In October, Sola Salon Studios announced that three investment groups, working together, had made a strategic investment in Sola Salon Studios. The three groups are MPK Equity Partners, AHR Growth Partners and PNC Riverarch Capital, which will now hold a majority stake in the company.

 “We are very excited as this new investment and ongoing capital commitment from our new partners will provide us with significant financial resources and the ability to successfully and quickly deliver on key strategies and goals,” Randall Clark, CEO of Sola Salon Studios, says.

 Soon after the announcement, we spoke with Clark and Sola Salon Studios' Vice President of Marketing and Stylist Programs, Jennie Wolff, about what this would mean for Sola, its stylists, and franchisees, moving forward.

 MODERN SALON: What are some of your goals for 2019?

 RANDALL CLARK: We are the leading brand in our space and for us to continue and to widen that position we felt we really needed to access capital. Our plan is to jump start a wide continuum of areas where we could employ that capital in the technology, services and operational best practices to franchises and our growing beauty professional community. Everything we do is with an eye toward serving them and enhancing their lives as beauty professionals and entrepreneurs. We also feel it’s important for us to own more of our locations, to really have skin in the game.

 My vision is unchanged; we see a thousand Solas open and we see ourselves in ten countries. And to get there we had to access additional capital.

 MS: How will this investment help you continue to support your community?

 RC: For us, everything we do is about providing enhanced tools and support.

Our technology (in Sola Pro and Sola Genius) offers so much, including the ability to book and to calendar and to measure their own performance, all the way to lead generation and product design. That is a wide continuum because as we grow we become a technology service company to our professionals.

 And for our franchisee, we offer everything from managing payments, to marketing tools to attract beauty pros. Technology is a huge watch word for us.

 MS: Tell us more about your plans for international expansion.

 RC: Last year we looked at the Sola business model in other communities and came back from this study with target countries where the same model would be well-received. We’ve opened three locations in Toronto and will expand, significantly.

 We’ve also made our first overture into Brazil with our first location there and now we’re pursuing other markets where the same themes, the receptivity to the professional beauty industry, matches the same mindset and opportunity. International expansion will be a big part of the next few years for us but it is our belief that we’re still in the early innings here because there is still a tremendous amount of white space in the US.

 MS: You have conducted your Sola Sessions across the country—will they continue, what will they look like going forward?

 JENNIE WOLFF: These started in 2016, and they were developed as a result of focus groups and conversations with stylists. They started as regional events, four times a year. The community wanted one day events at a lower ticket price. It also provided a stage for brands that offer great education. Everything that has a live application also has digital learning opportunities, as well.

 This year, we went from four to two so we could bring in bigger artists and provide more value throughout the day. In 2019, our strategy is going to be making them unique based on the venues and the culture of the city we are in. We envision big Sola events in the future.

 MS: How you support your independents with some business/marketing training and support?

 JW: Last year, we launched our Sola-specific curriculum, Sola Pro Live.  We deliver it to our franchisees in a way that allows them to organize and facilitate workshops at a local level. It is about getting the community together to learn from each other and share success stories.

 We have partnered with educators and brands to offer education in the form of webinars because we see that stylists like to learn on their own time. 

 MS: Why do you think Sola was an attractive investment?

 RC: First and foremost, it’s always special to be a leader in an industry.  There will always be a place for the more traditional salon model but today our society is so focused on entrepreneurship and making individual choices and our model speaks to that. Independence is the emphasis.

 Secondly, we find ourselves at a time where our business model and brand is Amazon-insulated; our services can’t be replicated over the internet. And, third, we are in the top five percent of all franchise performance in terms of investment. When you put this all together, you see there is still tremendous growth trajectory. Today, capital is looking at those kind of elements, so they can support a strong management team and that is why we’ve had this seminal moment in our company’s history.

 We chose an investment group that embraces our culture and allows up to do what we are good at. Our founders are still shareholders in the company and that speaks to their belief in our continued growth.  We are all on board as we continue to serve our community in bigger and better ways.


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