PURE GREEN PODCAST - EPISODE 5 - TANNER HOLMES
MASTERING THE FRANCHISING GAME: INSIGHTS AND STRATEGIES FROM IMPACT BRANDS’ TANNER HOLMES
Imagine getting a crash course on franchising from someone who’s been in the trenches? That’s exactly what you’ll get as founder and CEO of Pure Green Franchise, Ross Franklin, sits down with Tanner Holmes, the top gun at Impact Brands. Filled with golden nuggets of wisdom from his vast experience, Tanner generously shares his insights on the ins and outs of franchising. His eye-opening strategies could reshape your approach, whether you’re a new franchisee or a seasoned player. We explore selecting the ideal franchise location, adhering to franchisor’s protocols, and the untapped power of associating with brands larger than yours.
As we continue our deep-dive, Tanner drops the hammer on marketing and customer experience. We discuss how to maximize both, from the critical importance of investing in your team to creating authentic relationships with customers. He shares innovative strategies like starting digital campaigns early and leveraging local influencers for effective marketing. We wrap up the conversation talking about how to tap into resources within the franchising industry. There’s no doubt this episode with Tanner is packed with practical, real-world advice that could change your franchising game for the better.
Speaker 1: 0:02
Welcome to the Pure Green podcast, where founder of Pure Green, ross Franklin, interviews inspiring entrepreneurs to uncover their key habits for success. Now here’s your host, ross Franklin. All right, welcome to the Pure Green podcast. And today on the show we have Tanner Holmes, and Tanner is the founder and CEO of Impact Brands. And, tanner, thank you so much for being here.
Speaker 2: 0:28
Yeah, good morning, good afternoon. Thanks for having me Excited to be on the show.
Speaker 1: 0:32
Yeah, so the reason that we have you on the show today is you have extensive experience in the franchise world. A lot of people who are watching this show are either franchisees, they’re thinking about franchising, they’re interested in the industry, so really want to have you on to tell your story, pick your brain, get some actionable strategies that our franchisees can execute. So, to start things off, tell us a little bit about your background and all of your exposure in the franchise world.
Speaker 2: 1:00
Yeah, I’ll try and keep it to the short version by all means, but so I’m really second generation franchising. I feel like I was born into franchising. My dad started as a franchisee for convenience store gas stations with built 66 locations in Kansas City where I’m from, ended up founding as a franchisee or an indoor tanning concept called Celsius tannery in the Kansas City metro area, so grew up in that business. You know, as soon as I could hold a paintbrush or a screwdriver you’re in the salons. I got involved in the business in the late days of tanning, really when tanning saw a huge decline. So evaluated a bunch of concepts in more of the beauty sector being from tanning. We identified European wax center as an exciting new, growing concept and the decision ended up being phenomenal built three locations in Kansas City with partners sold out of that in order to purchase the area development rights to Illinois, iowa and Nebraska. I moved to Chicago to focus on building the AD as well as operating stores. It was trial by fire. We built five locations in downtown Chicago in the first 18 months. Everything that could go wrong. Did I like to call that experience my my franchising MBA? Luckily the concept really succeeded in the area development hold the operation side through. So we turned the stores around, ended up growing through a combination of development acquisition to 12 stores, built the region to 29 stores. In the process got involved in a few other concepts and eyelash extension concept called hush lash studio with three locations, and later got into salon suite with solar salons. Sold the area development for EWC back to the franchise or in 2019, ended up selling our 12 stores in a consolidation effort to private equity late last year. I’ve since pivoted into focusing on developing the solar salons concept, as well as an infrared sauna red light therapy concept called perspire, based out of Southern California.
Speaker 1: 2:54
That is awesome. So extensive experience in the franchise world. Talk to me a little more about perspire. So it’s infrared saunas. What else?
Speaker 2: 3:03
Yeah, I’m really focused on one thing, one thing only high in infrared sauna. So the infrared saunas have private suite with a medical grade red light therapy strip with chroma therapy. So we are sauna as a service, I think, like a lot of smart brands I’ve followed. They have one single Point of emphasis or focus and for us, we want to be the best in an infrared sauna.
Speaker 1: 3:25
And how many? How many infrared saunas does the typical perspire have?
Speaker 2: 3:29
Yep nine to 12 suites is average. So my first location is just about to open. In Chicago. We’ll have nine suites, four of which have showers. So, depending on the market, depending on the operator, some suites have showers, some don’t.
Speaker 1: 3:43
And how many square feet is your first unit?
Speaker 2: 3:45
It’s a little bit bigger than average. It’s a 2,200 square foot space because we’re building out some office in the back, but 1,600 to 2,200 is about average.
Speaker 1: 3:54
Interesting. So what I’d love to do is to just kind of fire some questions at you that I think are on the minds of a lot of people thinking about getting into a franchise. It’s on the minds of a lot of franchisees. So from that perspective, let’s say you’re, you got unit one right. Walk me through the thought process, and how do you find the ideal location? What are some of the things that you look at?
Speaker 2: 4:18
Yeah, I love franchising in so many ways because it’s really about cultivating, collecting and then executing best practices from other concepts, from other operators, from the franchise or so my first and foremost piece of advice is always to start with what does the franchise or learn about the site selection with this concept? What have other franchisees done? Who are the best operators? Follow their system? Franchising, inherently, is about using processes and best practices that already exist. So my first piece of advice for anyone in franchising, for just about anything, is talk to the smarter people in the room, find out what they’ve done. But site selection for me really depends on the concept, because it changes with the concept, understanding what kind of real estate you want to be in, from A plus to D minus. What market is your fit, who is the demographic that you’re serving. And I really I think later in the site selection process, emphasize more on businesses that are synonymous, right, businesses that share the same demographic but don’t compete In franchising. Especially, there are so many bigger brands that have very robust real estate departments for site selection advantages, and so finding brands that exist that are larger than yours so, for example, perspire Sonos Studio really goes after someone that has a psychographic of health wellness. Well, who does that? Extremely well. Orange Theory is a really good example of a franchise brand that’s absolutely crushed, it right and resources has a much larger franchise or, you know, beyond the size of Perspire’s current size. So where are the Orange Theories out there? Find out which ones are successful. Make connections with people in that brand. You can learn very quickly which locations work, which don’t and then build a site selection model around finding where the real locations succeed. So for me, a lot of it’s leveraging brands that serve a similar demographic and have done well historically.
Speaker 1: 6:12
Follow the data. Yeah, that’s awesome. So, looking at the anchor tenants, that’s something that we do over Pure Green as well. Orange Theory is certainly a brand that’s on our list as well. Makes for typically a great Pure Green location. You know within close proximity to an Orange Theory, so that’s awesome. Did you get much support from the franchisor with site selection, or was that all you With?
Speaker 2: 6:36
the Perspire brand, specifically being that this is my fifth brand, mostly developing in and around Chicago. I’ve got a lot of resources at my disposal, mostly on the local side. You know, leveraging brokers, leveraging landlords, leveraging a lot of the data that they’ve already. You know that I’ve already built, plus what I know living in the city for 10 plus years, so their resources are available. Frankly, I didn’t really use a ton of their resources because I, frankly, I had a development plan built almost before I bought the first license. Much of it came from learnings from previous experiences and concepts in Chicago.
Speaker 1: 7:11
Awesome. Now, in preparation for the grand opening, do you make a big deal about the grand opening and do all the crazy things, or do you do more of a soft open? How do you like to do it?
Speaker 2: 7:21
Yeah, I laugh at that ask because historically we really didn’t invest a ton in that pre-marketing, pre-grand open, especially with the European waxer model. We just found that it had gained enough traction that we thought if we build it, they will come, which was true to an extent. However, I’ve learned a lot through the perspire brand because I think that they have not necessarily perfected, but probably close to perfected, the pre-sales effort and stolen a lot of best practices from Jim’s fitness. We’re in a membership business, so pre-sales is very important to cash flow. In that first month we invested dramatically more in this first perspire location on pre-sale than I have historically. It really started with a campaign 100 days out on a digital strategy and now it got a team out in the market tabling almost on a daily basis. I think that I’ve been able to cut the path to profitability on an EWC model which used to take four to six months, while perspires are breaking even as early as month one, which is not something I have seen. I think a lot of that benefit comes, a lot of that value comes, from the pre-sale marketing efforts. It’s an investment, for sure, but investment I’m willing to make at this point?
Speaker 1: 8:36
Absolutely. I come from the fitness world, so you’re definitely speaking my language. It’s all about member-based number one most important metric. We do big in the fitness business. It’s all about pre-sales and getting as many memberships pre-sold as possible Right at the gates. You have that recurrent revenue. That’s awesome. What we like to do with Pure Green, because it’s more of a QSR, what we like to do for the grand opening is the focus really becomes getting reviews. Having, like before the big grand opening, having friends and family, which is a way to work out all the kinks with the staff, and then also asking reviews, asking your friends and family for reviews, having a QR code for them to scan. Hey, leave us a review on Google, leave us a review on Yelp. We’ve had stores like get like 50 reviews, 75 reviews, even like right when they open, like on grand the grand opening, that works the algorithms in all the search engines and just gets them so much traction right out of the gates. Is there anything in terms of reviews that you’re planning? Is there anything else outside of the pre-sale to just have like a huge grand opening celebration? Anything else you’re planning?
Speaker 2: 9:46
Yeah. So something that’s nice about the perspire model, given that the back of house is a machine, right, it’s not labor. So my cost of a free service is quite low. So one of the things that we’ve been very strategic about is finding service providers in our market, and there’s a couple of reasons for that One, I think a really good way to establish as a new business in a community for the first time, find the local service providers the doctors, the chiropractors, the personal trainers you know, for us it’s a little bit more health and or fitness focused and offer them free service. So, again, because our cost of a free service is low, we’re finding people who work in the area, so we know that they’re close by, we know they’re in the profession of health, wellness, who can provide personal referrals and testimonials and, even more importantly, they as a service provider, they don’t get serviced very often, and so we have a chance to really sort of buy good will in the community by providing service providers a free service. Now what are they going to do in turn? They’re going to talk about our business, and you know they’re touching almost on a daily basis our community because we know that they’re a service provider in the market that we exist in and so haven’t really had a chance to fully execute on that plan. But so far it’s been really well received and I actually think it’s going to end up converting a lot of those service providers into paid members. But more importantly it’s you know, it’s about chasing those referrals 100%.
Speaker 1: 11:11
That’s a fantastic strategy. Yeah, I come from the gym world and so we like to do this strategy as well. So, if there’s a local gym close by, think about these big box gyms. They may have 40, 50 personal trainers and typically, the way most of these gyms have their structure, there’s a fitness manager, personal training manager and they have a monthly forum with all the trainers. You think about it. Each trainer has 40 to 50 clients. So if you go to the trainer forum and present and talk about your brand, for us, peer-grain, we bring smoothies, juices, acai bowls, have them try it. They’re blown away. And what are they going to do? They’re going to, you know, when they’re training their clients, they’re going to talk about it. They’re going to tell them to swing by, tell them about the experience and targeting. Chiropractors love that. That’s amazing. The same type of thing there. Some of these chiropractors are doing massive volume. So that’s a great strategy.
Speaker 2: 12:03
Yeah, and like you were mentioning and I think we can both take advantage of this in that service, riders care about the education, which is nice for us, right being a science-based wellness modality with InFredSana. They care about the science, they care about the education portion, which is really nice because that’s really where we excel. And so, like Puregreen, with personal trainers educating them on the benefits of your products in our case, educating them on the benefits of the services, I think there’s more buy-in, but then they can from a credible source. If you hear advice from your personal trainer on a healthy, smoother, healthy as a evil, or, in our example, if you hear from your chiropractor something that could reduce inflammation, the testimonial is exponentially worth more in that it’s a credible source. So we focus too on that education piece because they care about it. They’re in the profession of health and wellness or fitness, so they tend to care a lot more than the average consumer?
Speaker 1: 12:58
Absolutely. I feel like with Perspire, the big part of your marketing is just a heavy, heavy presale. So you come out strong right out of the gates but after you get rolling, can you talk about some marketing strategies that you’re planning? How are you planning to really, just once you get open? Obviously, if you have a strong presale, you’re going to be set and just organically a bunch of people are going to come in. This is going to be word of mouth, but are you planning any additional marketing strategies to really just build that snowball and build that momentum?
Speaker 2: 13:27
Yeah, I mean. So I actually like to do grand opening and or ribbon cutting ceremonies anywhere from two to four weeks after that initial big opening gives you a chance to really plan, strategize, like you said, work out the kinks. Trying to invite a ton of the community or leaders into the space on that day one can really be overwhelming. But we’ve also found, I think, that postponing that sort of grand opening celebration or ribbon cutting allows you to really see two boosts from your opening. You get the day one right, which new, is always fun and exciting, and then two, four, six weeks later we’re hosting another grand opening. So I like to postpone that grand opening formal celebration several weeks after we actually open, because it’s an opportunity to get a second push on the opening From there. It’s a lot of it’s just evaluating the business. I think in the early days of EWC we poured money into marketing, thinking that we had a ticket problem. We just don’t have enough feet walking into the door for the first time. So we pour money into marketing and unfortunately, what I found later through the data was that up to 80% of our first time guests weren’t returning for a second visit and so we were paying out left and right to try and push more people through the front door, but we found out in the data was that we weren’t providing a good enough experience for the people to come a second time. So we were paying a ton of money for a very expensive first visit, but we weren’t executing on the experience so that they came back. So I think what I’ve learned is sometimes the absolute best marketing strategy is just to absolutely crush the experience from start to finish. Every interaction, confirmation calls, emails, every touch point is a piece of that interaction and that experience. So invest your team into that first guest experience and that second guest experience. And I think that, in some cases, is where your money is best spent, love that.
Speaker 1: 15:27
I couldn’t agree with you more. There’s companies out there they spend so much money and just driving traffic to the door, but then, once they come in, these days, unless your experience is memorable, unless your experience is legendary, people aren’t going to come back. It’s average. They can have that experience anywhere. So it’s like what are? If you’re a franchise partner, what are you doing to create that memorable experience? How’s the level of hospitality? What’s the experience like? Are you just crushing it? You know, if you are, you create that first time guest and they become a repeat guest, and that is absolutely where the focus should be.
Speaker 2: 16:02
Yeah, and you know, as I really like to focus the team, there will be hiccups in that grand opening. You know you will have something that doesn’t work, you’ll have leaks. It’s almost 100% guarantee that something’s going to go wrong somewhere. But as long as the team is focused on making those genuine connections, you know the authenticity can, in my experience, buy you out of some of those other hiccups. Right, whether it’s booking, you know, a technical issue or a mechanical issue, maintenance issue, you know, maybe we have a sauna that goes down in that first week because of whatever problem, if the team is really going above and beyond to make that personal connection, I think people are much more forgiving through the experience. As long as we’ve nailed that touch point, there are a lot more forgiving on that grand opening. The craziness of the grand opening, I think if you can really genuinely make that connection, Absolutely.
Speaker 1: 16:52
Talk to me a little bit about your perspective on digital marketing. So, if you’re planning on any Google ads, on any Facebook Instagram ads, on any types of social media marketing, any types of influencer marketing, influencer events, any of that that you’re planning, yeah, digital side right in today’s world it’s a necessary evil you have to.
Speaker 2: 17:15
One thing I really like that I’ve seen lately in a lot of the digital spend are the AI models that can be built into meta ads, instagram, facebook, it’s split testing, but even further than that, with AI models being able to evaluate different texts, different captions on different images. We have found incredible success in the learning curve of a lot of that digital spend. So I think in my experience that’s where the advantage of starting early really creates value by the time you get open, in that the system has a long time to learn. It’s not always necessarily the more spend the better it learns. Sometimes it just takes time, and so starting that digital campaign earlier on has definitely had advantage. I don’t have any influencer marketing plan yet. I really like some of the opportunities that are now available with I believe it’s NIL, with collegiate sponsorships now allowed. They’re local influencers and especially in a city like Chicago or markets where you’ve got a university or a college town. Their social followings are huge and for us we see, on average, a younger demographic and everybody always wants that younger. You want to buy the demographic early. So these NIL sponsorships we can offer free membership to a college student, to quote unquote. Sponsor them in exchange for post. You don’t always need to follow or find the starting quarterback. You can find people in the swimming team, like for us. The detox has great benefit for swimmers on detox and the chlorine that your body is taking in, and so can we just find people in the swimming team because they’re much more likely to just take a free session or a couple of free sessions to post. But they still have massive following. So NIL sponsorship I really like they’re not as expensive as going after those huge mainstream influencers and in most cases we found students are pretty happy to say yes to free stuff.
Speaker 1: 19:08
Absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more. Getting national influencers with massive following that’s great, but when you have your store in, let’s say, chicago, you know you want those local influencers. Have the local followings and even a lot less, like a couple thousand followers, but they’re all local and they really listen to the influencer. That’s going to have much more of an impact on your business and driving traffic through the doors, potentially then one of the major massive influencers.
Speaker 2: 19:36
So that’s a great strategy and obviously we’re talking in a world of franchising. At the franchisee level, it’s a lot more accessible even for a one-off owner to be able to find local influencers. I like that you mentioned that, because it’s not just college students but anybody that’s local People with 1,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 followers. They’re accessible, but also it’s affordable at a single store level, which is great for us.
Speaker 1: 20:01
I’m just curious you mentioned there’s a lot of these AI platforms that are coming out. Is there any that you specific AI platforms that you’ve used and had success with?
Speaker 2: 20:12
Not personally. It’s a question that I ask just about every one of the vendors we work with at this point is how are you leveraging AI? It’s so critical, certainly in the marketing front, but it’s now, I think, inherent to the vetting process. We should be asking our vendors how are you leveraging AI? And, for franchisees, ask the franchisor what tools can we leverage, can we use as franchisees? I don’t use a ton of platforms on a personal scale specific to my businesses, but it’s an expectation that I’m now placing on our vendors.
Speaker 1: 20:44
Absolutely. I’ll tell you that for our franchisees, something that’s really important is the Google Business profile, and Google’s getting better and better at making the Google ads much easier to use. Used to be very complicated, now it’s very easy for anyone to just go to your Google Business profile, hit Advertise. A lot of times they’re running promotions where you can get $500 credits and it just takes you through some very easy prompts and you can promote in a very small radius around your store and you have that $500 credit to Advertise, which is super helpful. And the way I use AI is for the headlines and the descriptions. You just go into chatgpt4 and tell it the page, tell it a little bit about the company, put the website in, and it’ll write the headlines for you, the exact amount of characters, it’ll write those descriptions for you and they’re really good. Very little tweaking involved. So AI is just getting better and better. It’s super interesting.
Speaker 2: 21:42
Yeah, I mean chatgpt is really good for if you’re a franchisee that’s really running a lot of the day-to-day ops. So are you looking for social content? So, for example, perspire now does a Wellness Wednesday. So asking chatgpt give me 100 tips and tricks that are metric-based that we can post on social content in one sentence. So stuff like that, generating content, a lot of the basic stuff that’s time consuming and for franchisees I just wrote I’m now using a lot of templates for documents, hr forms, stuff like onboarding paperwork or any MDHR protocols, feedback forms, performance reviews. Chatgpt can write those templates very easily.
Speaker 1: 22:21
It’s great at all that stuff. For sure. It’s even really good at scripts. You can tell it to act like hey, the best copywriter in the world, best script writer in the world and write like a 30-second Instagram reel. Give it the criteria that you’re looking for and it’s shockingly good how good that script is. It’s almost like that copywriter that you programmed in like wrote it themselves. So it’s scary how good it’s getting.
Speaker 2: 22:46
Yeah, it’s going to change the way we market. There’s no doubt about it.
Speaker 1: 22:50
Awesome. So, before we wrap things up, is there any other tips, tricks or even just interesting nuggets of information that you could share with our listeners?
Speaker 2: 23:01
I think given everybody has the franchising background. One of the things I always tell people is do discovery, go through discovery for other concepts, even if you’re not thinking about other concepts. I learn a ton of best practices by going through discovery from other concepts, like you really never know what you’re going to learn. For example, I was recently looking at a fitness concept because it’s a similar space. I’m not looking at investing in a fitness brand, but there’s a fitness brand that’s used in a credit program on services and membership. So you can buy a number of credits per month and use those for different modalities. So you never know what you can learn through that discovery process. And I think for me you can do one of two things. One continues to validate the concept that you’re in, and if I look at investing in either a new concept or continuing to grow and invest in existing concept, it’s great validation to know I’ll do discovery for 10 other concepts and think I’m sticking with the one I’ve got. That can be very validating. But secondly, it’s a great opportunity to learn tips, tricks, find new vendors, the discovery process, because franchisors are essentially trying to sell you their business. You get under the hood of just about any business that you want and you can ask questions at a significantly deeper level and you could meeting some random business owner on the street. But for me, connecting with other franchisors, connecting with other franchisees, find people that are operating in your market, that are also going multi-unit or growing alongside you. From site selection to marketing to labor. There’s a ton of best practices to be shared. So leverage the fact that you’re in franchising because you’re already paying for it. You may as well take advantage of it.
Speaker 1: 24:41
Love that. That’s awesome. Well, tanner, thank you so much for being on the show. Good luck with the upcoming opening of your first perspire, and thank you so much.
Speaker 2: 24:50
Yeah, thanks for awesome. Thanks, Juan, anytime Thank you.