Hand & Stone franchise owners Stephen and Khamphiou (KB) Brinkley from the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area opened three Hand & Stone spa locations in less than a year. Talk about rock stars!
Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa signs franchise agreements and helps owners open spa doors swiftly so that they can bring in customers. Stephen and KB’s success is an example of how streamlined and efficient the franchise business process is.
Hand & Stone franchisees are supported throughout the entire real estate process with hands-on guidance, lease negotiation assistance, and help while securing initial financing. The Hand & Stone Real Estate Development Team manages construction and build-out processes alongside franchisees. The team offers help from the time of a franchise agreement signature through the site identification process, letter of intent, and lease negations. Finding a franchise location can be the trickiest part, so we take the guesswork and stress out of choosing the right location to open up shop.
With a long career in retail store operations, Stephen has a perspective for what he is looking for in a location, sometimes visiting dozens of centers before zeroing in on a select few. KB, who works as Vice President of Finance for another company, provided phenomenal franchisee construction updates to the Hand & Stone Franchise Development Team as she worked to open her spa locations.
Their first Hand & Stone spa was built from scratch in a brand new building in Euless, TX and opened in June 2016. The Brinkleys’ second location was built out of an existing space and opened at the Village at Camp Bowie in Fort Worth, TX in November 2016. Their third and newest Hand & Stone is a build-out that opened in May 2017 in the Overton Park Plaza in Fort Worth, TX.
When I met with the pair on a FaceTime call prior to the May 2017 spa opening, the purpose of our meeting was to talk about the progress of their newest location in Fort Worth Overton Park Plaza. During our call, we conversed over the roar of the construction equipment for a few minutes before they took cover at a cafe around the corner to talk shop. Understandably, the construction site was a loud contrast to the tranquility of the soon-to-come Hand & Stone spa. You can read our conversation below.
Q: How did you find out about the opportunity to be a Hand & Stone franchisee?
KB: Just by being a member! I was a Hand & Stone member, so I already had an understanding about the sense of well-being that massages and facials provide for your body, mind, and soul. I saw the benefits in the spa industry before buying a franchise, and I know that I’m not the only one. I was already spreading the idea of taking time out for yourself with regular services to relax to other folks in the community. I feel so much better after my regular massages, and I’m happy as a spa owner to be able to share that platform with my guests.
Stephen: We had been looking for other ways to invest over the last several years. After discussing the possibility of looking at a franchise opportunity and considering several options, Hand & Stone became an obvious choice. The industry trends, strong brand identity, and operating model meant, with careful planning and strong involvement, we could see a great return on our investment.
Q: What support did you get from Hand & Stone corporate during the construction and openings?
KB: The construction and openings went really well! Hand & Stone corporate were really engaged and involved in the entire process – they provided a framework to operate under and ensured we did not miss a step in the process. They came out to the site when we were selecting spa locations and they were engaged in the construction progress. If we had any questions during the process, someone at corporate was always available to answer our questions. As part of our open communication progress, we provided weekly construction updates to the Hand & Stone corporate team, so they could plan appropriately when they announced the openings. If everyone is on the same page, we feel you will be successful as a Hand & Stone franchisee.
Q: How long does the Hand & Stone franchise construction process take from start to finish?
KB: In our experience, we’ve been able to do the construction build-out process in 10 to 12 weeks right after getting the correct permits. Hand & Stone has a corporate design format including a standard floor plan and design. They send the new design templates to provide information to owners about the set color scheme and layout, which makes it easy for owners to work with contractors.
Q: What does it take to build out and open a spa?
KB: As the owners, we work closely with the contractor and architect to make sure that the spa design is according to Hand & Stone’s corporate specifications. We also work with the contractor, architect, and city to make sure we get the proper permits in time. A lot of the time you may find out that you’re delayed, and it has nothing to do with whether you’re prepared and more with the permitting process. It does take a bit of time to work through permits, so you really need to manage that timeline. We are closely connected with the contractor, have weekly site visits, and do other checks and balances in the construction process to make sure we hit the timeline. We’ve never not hit the timeline.
We recommend to new owners to be engaged in the entire process and to be aware of the upstream and downstream impacts of your planning decisions and how everything is interdependent. A lot of things happen in parallels with one another. Being engaged as an owner ensures you’re not letting anything slip through the cracks and that everything is on point.
We stay connected with our contractor on a daily basis; our contractor sends weekly updates with pictures and we also perform weekly site visits. We also keep the communication with Hand & Stone corporate very transparent and let them know how we’re progressing and if there are any issues. We haven’t had issues to report and have maintained the process pretty well.
Stephen: All true! With the first location, you learn something every week and I found that asking a lot of questions and relying on other owners was critical. We have a network of owners that we have relied on, especially as that first one ramped up. Also, no matter how involved you are, or how much support you get, there are things you can’t always control. Local inspectors, permitting backlogs, weather, and even licensing delays are things you should not take for granted. We learned to do things very early, and follow up often!
Q: What was it like planning for each of the spa openings?
KB: It’s been really fun. I really enjoy the business development side. My favorite parts were identifying the location, real estate, and center. I also enjoyed putting the framework together, hiring good people, and having them execute the construction and build-out process. I really have a lot of fun with the franchise business development side. Then, after opening it’s our job to make sure we’re firing on all cylinders for marketing and sales. It’s really one of the best franchises to invest in.
Stephen: We are having a blast and are excited to see our first location hit one year over the summer! We have learned so much about the levers we can pull and how each market differs. It gets us pumped up to plan for and improve on last year’s third and fourth quarter.
Q: Do you have tips for other potential Hand & Stone owners or new owners starting the opening process?
KB: I would say that I learned a lot as a brand new spa owner who moved through the process very quickly. A lot of it can be organic while a lot of issues were unplanned and you learn from them. The key is to always be in close contact with the individuals in the process, whether it’s the location site tours, lease negotiation, or build-out. You don’t want to miss something that could potentially have a big impact on your opening timeline. It’s all about staying engaged and knowing what’s going on every part of the build-out and holding people accountable to their part of the process. As long as you have open lines of communication, everything works out pretty well.
Stephen: Exactly. Be curious every day. You need a local network with your contractor, vendors, etc, but make sure you create a network of experienced owners as well. We were talking to owners who had opened a spa just a few months earlier and that was incredibly helpful since they had just gone through it.
Q: How has the recurring revenue business model worked out for you at your locations?
KB: Having a finance background, I know that if you can rely on a recurring revenue stream of membership dues, that in itself creates the foundation. As long as you continue to grow your membership base, those are fewer sales that you have to fight for every day. It’s much easier if you have more members to rely on every month. That way, the marketing efforts you put in place can be focused on bringing new prospects through the door and signing them up!
You can make building your membership base part of your marketing plan and your focus. I love the recurring revenue stream — it’s a sound model that works. The only thing that can hinder an owner from not being successful in the business model is not building a high membership base.
Stephen: It’s exciting and you can see the excitement build every month. I am constantly using the online dashboard to review current sales and historical trends to create forecasts. What happened last year by week? What kind of traffic can I expect? Which spas most closely models my spa’s trends? This allows me to set goals for each team based on where they should be, and what portion of sales are “recurring” vs. new prospects coming through the door.
Q: Do you have any tips for potential owners since you’ve opened three locations in less than a year?
KB: Searching for a spa location is probably the most important part of the process. You want to find the balance of the right location, anchor stores, and centers with the correct demographics. You don’t want to go into a center with an extremely high rent per square foot cost, so you want to find the balance of a great destination center that already has anchor stores and isn’t high on rent. You may not always be able to find that in the center or square footage you want.
Stephen: Yes, you really have to stay patient. You’ll want to have all your ducks in a row, ready to pull the trigger, but know that it will take some time. There may initially be nothing available where you’d like to be. Stay close with your real estate broker, research new housing and retail center developments. Fort Worth is one of the fastest growing cities in the country right now, and we wanted to be there. With all that success, vacancies were low, and things were moving fast. We ended up opening our first spa in another town, while we continued searching. Then, in a period of just a few weeks, we found three amazing locations! Bottom line: don’t compromise on foot traffic, brand fit, or the operating economics.
Q: Do you have any more spa openings on the horizon or interest in opening additional locations?
Stephen: As much success as Hand & Stone has had in north Texas, there’s still a lot of opportunities out there. The great thing that we have seen, is that the brand gets stronger here as each new location opens up. We are always driving around and checking out new and existing centers and viewing lots to see what might be a fit.
KB: I’m always looking to open more! It’s usually about finding the right location in real estate, so if I found another center or a location that I could buy from an owner, I’d definitely do it. Hand & Stone has a proven business model and it works.
In addition, I also really believe in the benefits of massage therapy and that it helps with a person’s overall well-being; mind, body, and soul. I saw the benefits of massage as a member before becoming an owner. It really does impact your overall well-being in a very positive way. I think a lot of folks are looking for a positive way to improve their life balance. For some people, personal improvements may be in the form of yoga, spinning, gardening, or cooking. Massages and facials are just additional avenues for people to really hone in on what’s important to their well-being and overall balance in life. When I was a member, I know I really looked forward to my own special self-care time for that hour or two and I believe bringing the affordability to everyone is an important aspect of the business model.
Do you have questions about becoming a Hand & Stone franchise owner? Please contact Hand & Stone for more information about the steps to spa ownership.