Phenix Salon Suites has recently announced the expansion of its brand to Sweden, a completely new market for the brand. Foreign expansion into new continents can be a process fraught with risk, so how can it be minimized?
One of Phenix’s existing franchisees, Randa Shebly-Cobb is the answer. Shebly-Cobb owns Phenix locations in Atlanta, Georgia, but is now facilitating the brand’s growth into Sweden; the country she was raised in and lived the formative years of her life. Her familiarity with the country, its culture and language will be an invaluable tool in navigating a new territory for the brand.
To understand how an American brand can expand into a new European territory, we spoke with Randa Shebly-Cobb.
RP: What do you envision to be some of the key differences with running your Phenix portfolio in Atlanta, compared with Stockholm?
RSC: The number one difference is that it’s a new market, compared to Atlanta, where it was a mature market. There’s going to be a lot more effort spent on educating customers, and I’m also excited about promoting entrepreneurship.
“Generally speaking in the past, in Sweden, American concepts of franchise have done well”
I’ll also be doing things that I didn’t necessarily get to do in Atlanta with it being a more mature market, things like television ads. I think that’s going to be the key difference in promoting, marketing and really introducing the Phenix concept to a fresh market and fresh country that’s never really seen this type of model within that industry in that country.
The new market is definitely something that is going to be requiring a lot more thought and time in the marketing department to reach the audience with the concept.
RP: How do you think your personal experience with the Swedish market will benefit your franchise operations within the country?
RSC: My unique edge personally comes from having grown up there. I am East African, originally, I was born in Eritrea. I spent the first couple of years of my life there, but the majority of my years and especially my upbringing, I spent in Sweden. I feel like a native, I speak the language, I know the people, I’m familiar with the mentality, I’m familiar with the way of life, of business, of schooling and the way people think in Sweden.
I understand how some of these marketing strategies are going to have to be executed because I know how receptive a Swedish market would be to something that’s completely new, something that’s American and something that’s a franchise. My number one competitive edge is that I am from there, speaking the language growing up in that country.
The other advantage I have is probably within my career that this isn’t my first sort of expansion mission. I started in a direct sales and marketing company in London at the age of 21, fresh out of university, and I worked my way up. But I also had the opportunity to expand that business, from London to throughout the U.K. and many other countries, from 2007 to 2012.
“There’s going to be a lot more effort spent on educating customers, and I’m also excited about promoting entrepreneurship”
It’s not my first rodeo in terms of expanding and introducing new concepts to a different country; I’d say I’ve done it in many languages and in many places. So this, to me, feels like a piece of cake. This is taking something back home where I know the place. I’m confident that I’m the right person to do it.
RP: What are your plans for development within Sweden, and do you plan to take Phenix further throughout Europe in subsequent years?
RSC: I’m sure that the Phenix Salon Suites franchise already has its eye on the world. We already joke between the president and I, Brian Kelley, about global expansion. Phenix just signed and opened the first international expansion or international location back in October which was in the U.K.
I’m excited to ride the wave and take over the European market by starting out in Sweden. My plan is to start in the capital city of Stockholm, for obvious reasons. Then I plan to over the next five years, grow to eight locations.
I think at that point, we’ll see. I’m sure Phenix will be in a few more countries by the time my five years are up. Maybe I will dip back in and expand into a new country. But for right now, I’ve got my eyes on Sweden. I also have my U.S. locations that are underway. I’m currently working on my second location in Atlanta, which I’m doing simultaneously with the Swedish expansion.
I’m focusing on the Swedish expansion. Putting 100 per cent into that over the next five years is my number one goal. After that, the sky’s the limit.
RP: Is the European franchising landscape becoming more and more popular for American franchisors?
RSC: I would say, absolutely, yes. From my own experience just going back and forth for the last few years I’ve been here now I would say the co-working trend and entrepreneurship trend is growing and growing. The climate generally is moving towards being open to the concept of entrepreneurship, you know, people being excited to run their own shop, do their own business.
It goes back to the number one question about the key difference between markets. A lot of salon professionals have never thought about running their own business. Whereas in Atlanta, people are more used to having rented space and being in a co-working environment.
Again, the co-working trend is on the rise, you know, entrepreneurship in general is on the way up. This is something that I feel is even more important for Phenix to come in and fulfill because there’s that gap for these beauty professionals.
Generally speaking in the past, in Sweden, American concepts of franchise have done well. But I would say, again, it’s going to be extremely important to come in and fill this gap in the market for these face-to-face professionals.