Published on 7 Mar 2022 Time 8 min read Last update by 5 Feb 2024

Exclusive insights from the founder on starting a salon business (2024)

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Patrick: Hey, Patrick Findaro here, co-founder at Vetted Biz. Today I’m very excited to have, Amy Leclerc, who’s one of the co-owners of Sit Still Kids Salon. It was originally founded in 2007, and the salon continued to grow, have success, with just one single location. They waited 11 years to start franchising, which is pretty responsible compared to some brands that are half open and start selling franchise locations. They have four locations currently open, another 14 in various stages of development. Today we’re going to talk all about the hair salon industry, particularly for kids. We’ll talk about franchising, how their products, how their offerings are differentiated. And just hear a bit from Amy Leclerc who has had quite a lot of experience in advertising and franchising, and learn more about the Sit Still Kids franchise brand. So, Amy, thanks for joining us today.

Amy: Thanks for having me.

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Sit Still Kids Salon

Patrick: It’d be great to just better understand a bit of your professional background and how you entered the franchising world and then got involved with the Sit Still Kids Salon.

Amy: To start I don’t think it was ever very intentional for me to find myself in a career that is all about franchising. I started my career in New York City. I moved there, I like to say, the day I graduated college, which is probably not exactly true, but pretty damn close. Spent 10 years, close to a decade, in New York working in magazine advertising, branding, media. It was a really incredible experience working for big companies, and small companies. I just got, like, a real taste for brands and everything from beauty, to fashion, lifestyle, art. It was just incredible experience that, as I moved to the Pacific Northwest about 10 years later, just, sort of, gave me this really interesting tool kit.

This time it was about 2006, 2007, continued in magazines for like a hot second, and then found myself teaching barre3 classes. Barre3 is a boutique exercise concept that was part of that kind of a group of brands that were launching around 2010. As we all know now, boutique fitness has seen incredible growth over the past 10 plus years but at the time, it was sort of this new concept that I just fell in love with. Truthfully, found myself seating at a dining room table with a couple who owned the one location that I was teaching classes at and they said, “We want to franchise this. You, kind of, seem like you know what you’re doing, you’re professional”.

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Discovering Franchising

Patrick: You’ve ground your teeth in New York for 10 years…

Amy: Yeah, just, kind of, that energy that I think, honestly, I’ve just embodied since I was quite young, ambition and just really passionate about things that I love and gravitate towards. Barre3 is absolutely one of those things. I think I responded something along the lines of, like, ” Franchising, that’s what MacDonald’s does. Are you sure you want to do that?” And they said, ” Yeah. No, understood, but franchising is an incredible way to grow your business, it’s less capital intensive. We’re passionate about letting other people become entrepreneurs and create their own wealth.” And that all resonated with me.

I quickly figured out franchising. Baptism by fire, it was like, cold calling attorneys, FDDs, to be honest, really in over my head in the beginning because, as we all know, those of us who have been involved in franchising, it’s quite litigious and there’s a lot to it. I was good at marketing and advertising and selling, but that side of the business was a real steep learning curve. I give Sadie and Chris Lincoln, who are the founders of barre3 so much credit because they gave me a long leash to figure it out, they weren’t micromanaging the process, tons of autonomy and empowerment. Close to 10 years after that dining room table meeting, we had sold close to 170 locations across the country. Yeah. I actually opened my own location in a joint venture relationship with Sadie and Chris…

Patrick: That’s a testament.

Cult Brand

Amy: Yeah, I’m such a believer. This was just an incredible story all around, and super gratifying. 10 years later, I did understand franchising, like had this great experience, working with entrepreneurs. This was a very passion-driven enterprise and I found myself, once again, in a position where I was having conversations with the founder of Sit Still, who had been at it for 10 years. She had her own location in the Portland market. I actually was taking my kids there…

Patrick: Okay, so you saw how everything was…

Amy: As the story goes, my son, when he was about a year and a half and had really wacky hair, I went on to Facebook and put it out to all my network which was quite big at this time, that’s what barre3 did for me. I had this huge local network, and said, “Where does one take their kid to get their hair cut, like blazes ready?” It was like all corners of the Portland market said,” You’ve got to drive to West Lane, you’ve got to go to Sit Still,” like, “Sit Still, Sit Still, Sit Still.” That registered with me, that there was this kind of cult brand in this sleepy suburb. Went there, had a great experience, and filed that away. And it was many years later…

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Defining the industry

Patrick: You saw their customer acquisition strategy was pretty good, tons of referrals, not paying for Facebook ads, Google ads.

Amy: Not a lot has changed on that front, I can tell you. It’s like that word of mouth, the power of the mom, these are really valuable things to have in your business.

Patrick: How do you see, like, for me, fitness is a very tough franchising space as you have so many people that are passionate about it and it thrives, a lot of people entering in. There are trends, some fads, I think it’s a very difficult industry to navigate and there are some amazing brands. But, for me, it wouldn’t be my first choice to jump into franchising. How does your experience in the fitness vertical now parlay to, how do you even define the industry that’s Sit Still’s in, actually?

Amy: We are in the kids’ hair space but I like to say it, I mean, you bring up a good point and I have lots to say about being in the fitness space for 10 years and watching the category become so competitive. I think the promises brands in that space have to make today to attract and retain clients and then what the pandemic did and we could go on and on. Sit Still is a utility. We are in a space that is service and it’s somewhat like a subscription business, like you have a kid who has hair, and it grows…

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The clients

Patrick: How often are they getting their hair cut?

Amy: It depends…

Patrick: I have an eight-month-daughter and we haven’t had her first haircut yet.

Amy: Wow, very sweet, and we make a big deal around a child’s first haircut, let me tell you. Watch the bells and whistles, it’s a very difficult time for parents, can be tears all around legitimately…

Patrick: Get some great photos out of it.

Amy: We take photos, yeah. We get a little…a locket of hair. It’s a special moment that we love sharing with our clients. But no, Sit Still, we are in the kid’s hair space. What’s interesting about the space and as I started to look at it from a little business perspective, not just as a client who loved it, for me that’s always where it starts. It’s like, do I see myself in this? Is there something special happening here?

It's like, do I see myself in this? Is there something special happening here?


Patrick: Is the product good, is it legit?

Amy: Is the product good? Because let me tell you, in this space, there’s a lot of bad product. It’s almost that, that made it obvious for myself and my business partners who left barre3 to come with me to do this. It just made it so easy. To your point, you look at fitness and it’s like, oh my gosh, we could spend 20 minutes rattling off all the players.

Patrick: You’re competing with the same type of concept, like concepts online…

Amy: Yeah…

Patrick: It’s just like everywhere, it’s competition.

Amy: I mean, even within the specialty, it’s just highly competitive.

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