One of the strongest characteristics of an entrepreneur is optimism. Business owners look at the environment around them and believe that they can make it better, no matter the current condition or trend. In my 20+ years of experience, there has never been a more acute example of this than watching business owners expand in this post-pandemic environment.
Make no mistake about it, the last year has been brutal on small business owners across most segments of the economy. Many business owners saw significant revenue disruptions during the height of the shutdowns and the slow, stilted re-opening of the US commercial landscape. While there have been some clear category winners, even the most successful operators have had to deal with a host of new employment challenges, regulation, and operational complexity as a result of the pandemic and other macro forces. Ask any operator, in almost any business segment, and they will tell you that labor shortages are governing growth more than any other factor.
And yet against this backdrop, we continue to see unit expansion in many consumer segments. In fact, at Hand & Stone, we are seeing an increase in the number of qualified individuals looking to join our brand, and our existing franchise owners are growing organically.
What is driving this paradox?
During our most recent Meet the Team Day (still conducted virtually, for now), we hosted several new candidates that were advancing in their discovery process. Among the candidates were a successful commercial real estate developer and a large, multi-concept operator with deep ties to the franchise and restaurant industries. Both individuals, like many of our franchise owners, have achieved success in their primary vocations and were looking to partner with a brand in an adjunct business. We partner with individuals from all walks of life, including most recently the technology sector, banking and finance, fitness franchising, and business consulting.
These candidates were drawn to the health and wellness sector generally, and to Hand & Stone specifically, because of the massive tailwinds associated with our business.
Consumers have never been more focused on regular self-care, and the shift in consumer spending to health and wellness is meaningful and long-term. Our primary services of massage, skincare, and hair removal are on-site services performed by skilled and licensed team members, which makes our business more resistant to the disruption affecting other retail categories (think Amazon and food delivery apps).
The commercial real estate and small business lending environments remain favorable, and we are beginning to leverage new technologies that will have an impact on how our consumers and our team members engage with the brand.
It is incredibly inspiring to witness the confidence of these individuals as they embark on (or in the case of our existing owners, advance along) building a business with Hand & Stone. Their optimism, self-determination, and commitment to serving their communities drive us to be better every day.