Salon studio franchise Sola Salons has a clear-cut vision to boost its presence in the Canadian market.
Currently supporting a community of more than 19,000 independent beauty professionals across North America, the company’s turnkey business model is designed to set stylists up for success, as they explore the world of being their own boss.
At the helm of the expansion is chief operating officer (COO) Jordan Levine, a seasoned professional in helping brands achieve their desired growth. With experience at every rung of the ladder, his credentials as a franchise consultant have proven crucial to building Sola’s empire.
Levine spoke with Canadian Business Franchise about how the company’s business-to-business (B2B) approach benefits its franchisees, as well as its plans for continued expansion across Canada.
Canadian Business Franchise (CBF): How did you get into franchising?
Jordan Levine (JL): A graduate of the University of Michigan, I joined the team at Cold Stone Creamery in the early growth days. Over my 10-year tenure, I earned my “real-world MBA” as a franchisee and area developer. From there, I took my talents to another national brand, Massage Envy, where I led domestic, and later international, operations to grow its locations from 500 to more than 1200.
When the entrepreneurial bug bit again, I built a successful independent franchise consulting practice, where I helped grow many well-known franchises. Building this consulting and speaking practice led to an opportunity to join one of my clients to lead the Amazing Lash brand. Then, I joined the Radiance executive team in 2020, to apply my two decades of franchise knowledge to Sola Salons.
CBF: What was its specific appeal to you?
JL: I was first introduced to the franchise world in high school. I started my first job scooping ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, where I ended up working for 10 years at many different levels of leadership. During my time there, I saw the opportunities related to becoming a franchisee. There are endless growth prospects, and you truly have the opportunity to build an organization. I became inspired to help passionate, driven people become franchise owners and grow their communities within the franchise world.
CBF: What are some of the key lessons you have learned along the way?
JL: Life is too short to not enjoy what you are doing. The role of a good franchisor is to spark inspiration for the franchisees and be the cultural leader. It is our job to be the champions of the brand and the lifestyle, while inspiring people to want to be a part of it. Whether it is potential new franchisees or existing ones, we should make them feel like they belong to a caring community. At Sola, it is very easy to be excited, because every day is an adventure.
CBF: What have been the highlights and challenges of running the business?
JL: The Sola concept is scaled for international borders and translates well to many different countries. It thrives where beauty professionals have a yearning to be their own boss and take control of their careers and quality of life. The concept appeals to how people want to work today, by allowing them to choose their own hours, the products they sell, the services they perform, and how they decorate and run their business.
The biggest challenge in my previous franchise positions was finding new employees. Luckily, I do not run into this issue with Sola, as franchise owners are trying to expand locations and soak up demand. Right now, we have more than 600 locations and are the world’s largest and fastest-growing salon studio franchise.
CBF: What is your system’s competitive edge compared to others in the Canadian beauty/salon industry?
JL: Sola is unique, as we are not selling an actual product—we are selling a B2B model. Our customer base is beauty professionals, which we call “Sola Pros.” They encompass more than 19,000 professionals from all walks of life in health, wellness, and beauty. We are predominantly in the hair business, but we also offer services such as nails, wax, massage therapy, and esthetics.
What is different about Sola is we do not have employees—we have independent beauty professionals renting the space within a Sola location, while having their own companies, entities, identities, and branding. We give them a turnkey system, allowing them to be their own boss, and in turn, they gain flexibility and endless income possibilities. We are constantly making sure our spaces are fresh and cutting-edge. We provide resources such as our Sola Sessions, which are educational events with incredible keynote speakers. We also have an ambassador program called Faces of Sola, where we select individuals to teach future beauty professionals how to become the best stylists in the industry.
CBF: What is your strategy for expanding the system?
JL: At Sola, we provide our beauty professionals with the necessary tools to make their businesses their own. Whether it be implementing a new service, changing the name of their business, painting their salon a different colour, or adding additional branding, they are the entrepreneurs with the freedom to do what is best for their careers. We provide all the tools required for them to succeed, such as booking software, marketing materials, training, and education. What we are seeing is a wait list of beauty professionals wanting their own space, so franchisees are now expanding to more than just one location to accommodate the demand of their marketplace.
CBF: Where are you planning to open new franchises?
JL: We are keenly focused on the Canadian market right now, and we look forward to rapidly continuing our expansion here. We have about half a dozen locations in the Greater Toronto Area—some of them open and the rest under construction. We are also expanding in Calgary, where we have one open location.
CBF: What do you look for in new franchisees?
JL: The most important quality to look for in potential franchisees is passion. I like to see individuals who believe in what they do and have a strong drive. It is easy to see it and feel it in early conversations. Another trait I look for is excitement to learn the ropes of the business, get their hands dirty, and roll up their sleeves to really make it the best Sola in their market. Lastly, I look for people who understand how to scale a business, have a fire in their belly, and dream to grow an organization while understanding the possibilities of what the business can do.
CBF: Why is it important for franchisees to build community partnerships?
JL: Sola offers franchise owners the flexibility to work from anywhere and establish their own hours, while supporting women, entrepreneurs, and local organizations. Additionally, Sola is invested in growing and supporting its community at both the corporate and franchise owner level. Through supporting local non-profit organizations and initiatives, volunteering time and services, and offering continued mentoring and education, Sola takes every opportunity to be a charitable backbone to local communities.
CBF: What other advice do you have for franchisees with Sola Salons?
JL: Think big and dream big. The most successful people do not limit their dreams. They may start small, but if people have a plan for how to grow them, there will be no limits to success.
For potential new franchisees in Canada, the time to go for it is now. We are on the ground floor, and we have already figured out how to enter the market. Everything from picking the right locations to developing marketing strategies has been mapped out for franchisees. This business model is truly unique, especially considering the current landscape and how hard it is for many companies to hire employees. Luckily, our business model is sheltered from