MODERN EXCLUSIVE: An Interview with Sola Salon Studios New CEO Randall Clark
Randall Clark is the new CEO at Sola Salon Studios. With the salon suite brand poised to begin global expansion—their first location in Toronto opened in October 2017—Clark took time to speak with MODERN about how Sola continues to move rapidly forward.
“We’re 13 years old but five years ago we had only 70 locations,” Clark says. “Today, we are close to 400 open locations, nationwide. We continue to open 55 to 60 locations a year and we are approaching ten-thousand stylists within our Sola community. I see going forward the opportunity to collaborate and partner to bring even more value to our independent salon owners.”
MS: Please share a bit about your business background and how will it translate to the beauty industry.
RC: I have spent most of the last 25 years in entrepreneurial pursuits. My time as a private equity investor has afforded me a keen understanding of the investment side of business but I’ve also acted as a CEO, leading and growing platforms around retail and commercial businesses. I’ve done this through the creative and proactive utilization of strategic partnerships and industrywide collaboration and those skills and that mindset are ideally suited for where Sola finds itself in the industry.
I don’t come with preconceived notions or biases and I hope I can be a quick learner. I have been spending lots of time with our stylists and franchise principals to learn and glean all they have to offer. As we find ourselves the first platform to reach this large scale in the salon studio business model, we can create greater connectivity to the industry for our stylists and provide business knowledge to them to ensure their success as an independent professionals. This is where my skills will translate as leadership and vision.
MS: You are coming from outside professional beauty—what are your impressions of the industry, thus far?
RC: One of the things that stands out is this burning entrepreneurial spirit among this subset of stylists. It gives them a continual yearning for more education; they want to improve their craft and they also want to be an independent business person. We can really serve that spirit of entrepreneurship and help them realize their dreams.
I have also observed that while they are independent they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to feel like they are part of a larger community and know they are not alone. Our goal is to create through technology more ways in which our community of 10,000 beauty professionals can connect and learn from each other.
MS: Sola has grown quickly; to what do you attribute the success of its model?
RC: It is an interesting convergence of factors contributing to our rapid growth. For one, there is a strong spirit of independence and entrepreneurship in our country. Look at millennials today, for instance. They want the freedom to live their life. People drive Uber because they want to work for themselves and pursue their dreams and ambitions. Our business model meets and addresses that spirit.
The other contributing factor is we have been very astute in selecting best in class operators who become franchisees. They are creating local communities within their stylist portfolio of Sola salons.
We are staying highly proactive with technology in the digital landscape and delivering ongoing education beyond the artistic side. We have our SolaGenius app, which has all the tools our stylists need to properly run their business. They can use it to book new or returning clients, market their business, manage schedules, send appointment notifications, run reports and even process credit card payments.
The last factor is we have intentionally stayed neutral on products. Our stylists use whichever brands they choose. The SolaPro app was created to provide a platform for brands to be seen by our whole community and it also offers exclusive Sola Deals, education videos and a variety of tools and resources.
MS: And where do you see further opportunity for growth?
RC: It’s my belief that we’re still in the early innings of a rapidly evolving and changing industry. We see intrinsic demand in stylists wanting independence and we see it from Buffalo to San Francisco and all points in between. We recommend that stylists stay close to their customers and never move more than five miles from their current location when they go out on their own. By 2018, we hope to have 400 more open locations for them to move to and we see opportunity for over a thousand Sola locations.
We’re really excited about embarking on global expansion. In the first quarter, we’ll be opening in Toronto, Canada and we want to move aggressively across Canada.
We’ve also entered into a strategic partnership in Brazil with former professional beauty executives who will build a portfolio of franchisees.
The world is our oyster and we think this model translates very effectively.
MS: How would you describe the Sola company culture?
RC: We have created a business model which allows you the freedom ‘To Live the Life You Love.’ In our Sola home office, family comes first, then your career. We are a very entrepreneurial company and we are supporting other entrepreneurs who grow and manage Solas around the country. They, in turn, support the stylist entrepreneurs. We’re entrepreneurs, supporting entrepreneurs who are supporting entrepreneurs. The overarching theme of our culture is that we operate with ‘the heart of a servant.’
MS: What will be your strategy for Sola, going forward?
RC: First and foremost we want to keep having fun, to celebrate the success and future growth of our stylists working in this broad community. We want to stay innovative, create more value, more training on how to be a successful salon studio owner, and to always have the heart of service. If they soar, we soar.