Starting the Conversation…
I first met Shel in 2016. A long-time financial executive, Shel was ready for a new chapter in his career that would offer a better work-life balance. Today, he runs a successful MY SALON Suite business that regularly launches exciting “next chapters” for many health and beauty professionals. I recently sat down with Shel to reflect on his path to business ownership and the life he wanted for himself and his family.
How would you describe your career journey before you started your MY SALON Suite business?
It was definitely a journey with a lot of chapters. I spent over 40 years in financial management. As my career progressed, I served as the Chief Financial Officer for several public and private companies. I eventually became a specialist in selling the companies that employed me. This included finding private equity buyers and helping navigate the early part of the transition.
Because of this unique specialty, I frequently ended up in transition myself. The CEO and CFO rarely stay with a company post-sale, so I went through that transitional process at least ten times!
What inspired you to start looking at alternative career paths?
To be perfectly honest, I’d had enough of working in Corporate America. There were still plenty of opportunities in the work I was doing, but I began to feel that my roles in the organizations were transient, rather than feeling the camaraderie within my work environment.
At the time of my last corporate transition, I was in my early 60s – not yet ready for retirement and definitely not wanting to seek another executive role. I was ready for something new – something steadier and more conducive to a better work-life balance. My wife and I have a special needs daughter, and I wanted a work experience that would enable me to spend more time with my family.
How did you start investigating opportunities?
As with many things in life, it’s all about connections! Because of my financial background, I was part of a networking group comprised of thousands of financial experts with a range of experience. This group had long served as a strong support system for me – whether I was in transition or simply looking for advice or the right connection.
Through that group, I attended a seminar for financial executives in transition – led by an organization called The Entrepreneur Option. I was intrigued by the alternative possibilities highlighted in the seminar – some of which I’d never even considered. After the event, I reached out to learn more, and that interest, of course, led me to you, Harris.
What did you like best about our time together exploring potential opportunities?
I greatly appreciated the personalized approach. Every franchise idea we explored reflected the feedback my wife and I shared with you – and offered solid potential. Every time we spoke, you asked insightful questions that helped guide me to the right opportunity – the one that most closely fit with the life I wanted for myself and my family.
Ultimately, you chose MY SALON Suite. Looking back, what was the top factor in that decision?
I loved – and still love – the idea of an entrepreneurial endeavor that supports other entrepreneurs. Each MY SALON Suite location is an approximately 5,000-square-foot space comprised of individual salon suites for health and beauty professionals who want to start a small business, but don’t currently have the means or desire to open their own storefront.
While my own career in financial management evolved, one of the things I enjoyed most was helping others grow in their careers, and I knew this franchise would allow me to pursue that passion of helping others be successful.
I also liked that MY SALON Suite was a relatively “young” franchise. When I started in 2016, our franchise in Williamsville, NY was the 50th location. Today, there are close to 300. I knew it would be exciting to not only start my own business, but also be part of a growing and younger organization that was spreading its wings.
What were your biggest challenges in getting started?
The construction process was stressful since MY SALON Suite location is different and presented its own set of challenges. However, I found comfort in knowing that each one ultimately was completed – and looked beautiful!
Also, it took a long time to lease all of our salon suites. The franchise has a recipe for success, and back when I started our marketing efforts, we relied on Craigslist, direct mail, and relationships with local organizations, like the chamber of commerce. The local relationships are still fantastic sources of connection, and fortunately, the rise of social media tools like Instagram now create even easier “starter” conversations with health and beauty professionals.
Thanks to our fantastic location in the Buffalo market, as well as our foundational and ongoing outreach efforts, our location has been 100% occupied for over three years.
What’s been the most rewarding aspect of franchise ownership?
Three big things come to mind. First, as mentioned earlier, it remains very rewarding to help support other small business owners and entrepreneurs. I’m always inspired when I learn about the business vision of a potential tenant.
Second, we get great feedback that tells us we’re making a difference and doing a good job with our offerings. As an example, we conduct an annual survey that includes, among others, one simple question: How likely are you to recommend MY SALON Suite? That question results in a metric called the “Net Promoter Score.” A score of 50 is considered “very good,” and the whole franchise regularly scores in excess of 80 (our own location score exceeds 90) – which is definitely satisfying.
And third, this endeavor has allowed me to stay engaged in the work force. I’m not the retiring type! My financial management skills are certainly needed, and I enjoy keeping all the financial records. I also appreciate the relationships I have developed with our tenants. I don’t need to be on location full time – which frees up my time to focus on the things I’m passionate about, such as going to music festivals with my family and spending more quality time with my daughter.
What advice would you give to someone interested in franchise exploration?
Again, it all comes down to the right connections. I recommend that anyone interested in franchise possibilities find an expert who really cares – not just someone who is simply going through the motions. As an example, I really appreciated how you walked me through the advantages and disadvantages of each opportunity. I never felt pressured, only guided through the decision-making process. And you always took the time to circle back to check in on me – even after my business was up and running. You still do!
I can say from personal experience that starting a business is an incredible journey, but it’s a complex one – so having the right people to support you is essential. Those connections make all the difference in making sure the vision you have in your head becomes a reality.