Learn more about Sweet and Sassy from Dixie Drake-Davis, CEO.
How was Sweet and Sassy originally conceived and started?
Sweet & Sassy® is the vision of Dixie Drake-Davis, the company's President and CEO. A few years before the first Sweet & Sassy store opened in July 2004, Ms. Drake-Davis observed that no one was meeting the need for exceptional customer service in the children's hair industry. She took her own two children to a local kid's salon chain, and found the waiting area to be dirty, the staff unpleasant, and no receptionist on hand to help with booking appointments. In addition, the haircuts themselves were not very good. Mrs. Drake-Davis talked to some of her friends and discovered they too had had similar negative experiences. Despite these sad facts, Ms. Drake-Davis noticed that this salon still appeared to have a booming business. Why? It was the only place a parent could take their child for a haircut without them crying. Ms. Drake-Davis knew she could do better - much better.
When Ms. Drake-Davis got her own nails done at the local nail salon, she realized how many girls ages 6-12 were getting their nails done there. Yet this was not a fun place for kids: the nail technicians couldn't communicate with the children very well (few English skills), there were acrylic fumes in the area, and the manicure and pedicure stations were not built to accommodate children. Ms. Drake-Davis realized there was a need to serve these girls better as well.
She set to work researching concepts for about 18 months. With a background in small business consulting, start-ups, and an MBA, she spent considerable time meeting with focus groups, analyzing profit and loss statements, identifying suppliers, and traveling around the country to understand national competitors.
While researching national competitors, Ms. Drake-Davis found a fun retail and party store for tween girls called Club Libby Lu. The handful of stores that were started by a Chicago woman were later purchased by Saks Fifth Avenue. Ms. Drake-Davis saw how the unique "tween" items such as room decor, bath items, and accessories, unavailable at major discount stores like Target and Wal-Mart, were flying off the shelves at Libby Lu. This reinforced her idea that the retail/party concept for this segment of the market was already successful. Although the Libby Lu parties were good, they were not great. They took place in a cramped 30 square-foot area of the store, had few costumes, and only offered one type of party. The customer service was somewhat lacking, and the store had no place for the girls to eat cake. Yet, Club Libby Lu was booked two months out for parties on Saturdays. Once again, Ms. Drake-Davis saw the opportunity to provide a better product.
These observations, paired with her market research, led to the development of the idea for Sweet & Sassy. Today, Sweet & Sassy offers customers a totally unique concept, with exceptional customer service at its core. Each staff person is trained to provide superior customer service in everything they do: from answering the phones, to greeting the customer, to providing high-quality haircuts, to follow-up communication.
What was your original vision for Sweet and Sassy?
The cornerstone of the Sweet & Sassy business philosophy is to bring to the party and salon business a well-designed operation, providing exceptional customer service, clean surroundings and a family environment at an exceptional value.
What do you believe is the single most important factor when choosing a franchise?
A commitment to Customer Service excellence is the single most important factor when choosing a franchise.
Why should someone choose your franchise over other similar franchises?
We have three primary businesses under one roof that cross-promote each other for a higher average ticket price. Our 3,000 square foot stores offer a salon, spa, retail store, party place, ear-piercing and pink limo service all for tween girls. Our party customers buy retail and become salon customers; our salon customers get their ears-pierced and have parties, etc. We are the ultimate destination for tween girls.
What types of qualities do you look for in potential franchisees?
We are looking for successful business people with management experience, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to customer service.
What do your franchise fees and royalties cover?
Franchise week training, store opening assistance, advertising and store front materials, website and email, trademark, negotiated better retail pricing, and ongoing operational support.
How do territories work for your franchisees?
We have previously used a 5-mile radius and are now looking toward using software programs to better select the territory.
Where do you see Sweet and Sassy in 5 years and 10 years?
We are choosing only the best franchisees and locations. We plan on adding 8-12 franchises in 2012 and 12-15 in future years. Our 5 year plan is to have a stronger web presence, more branded retail items, and to be the media expert on salon, girls parties, retail, and all things tween.
What is your favorite advice for new franchisees to help them succeed?
Be committed to excellence. Serve your staff and customers and set high expectations. Measure results and adjust as needed to reach a level of excellence.
What would you tell potential franchisees that may be nervous about the financial burdens of starting a franchise?
The biggest factors in our stores success are location (we can help with that), owner work ethic and commitment, owner business experience, and owner commitment to customer service excellence. If you have those four things in place, your chances of success are much higher.
On average, how long does it take to start a new franchise from the franchisees point of view?
It takes about 3-6 months from signing to Store Opening Day.
What was your background and experience before founding this franchise?
I have a BBA in finance and an MBA in marketing. I've worked as a financial analyst, salon owner and small business consultant and was also a stay at home mom for 5 years. I love what I do!
Do you have any franchisee testimonials or success stories that you would like to share?
We have a good number of owners who have made it through the recession and now have two years of good comp store sales increases. A few owners are looking to open 2nd, 3rd, or 4th locations in 2012 coming out of the recession. We stopped selling franchises during the recession to focus on existing stores and are excited to be expanding again.