Entrepreneur Jay Oboma Shares Why He’s All-In with Fantastic Sams Franchise

The chance to open one of the first redesigned salons in the nation had strong appeal, as did the chance to operate a respected national brand

FS-Jay-ObomaJay Oboma is not afraid of change. After years in the insurance industry, he went back to school for a master’s in business education. The job market in teaching wasn’t all it could be, however, so he began to look for another place to leverage his talents. A Fantastic Sams salon franchise seemed like a perfect fit for the self-described “people person,” so in December he opened Connecticut’s first Fantastic Sams with a newly redesigned floor plan in Cromwell, and his business has been going gangbusters ever since.

What were you doing before Fantastic Sams?

I was an insurance underwriter, handling healthcare benefits for corporations. I’d been doing that for 25 years and was ready for a change. I wanted something that would let me get out and interact with people rather than be behind a desk all day long.

What got you interested?

What I have always done is work with a lot of numbers, talk on the phone and interact from a distance. And even those conversations weren’t very fun, since it was all about numbers, percentages and discounts. Discussions about benefit plans just aren’t that much fun. I wanted to be in the people business, to do something where people are having fun and enjoying themselves. I wanted a business where I could help make people happy.

That led to looking at a lot of retail, but I wanted the broadest appeal possible. Fantastic Sams wanted a presence in Connecticut, and I really liked the brand. They’ve been around a long time, and they cater to everybody. I looked closer, and it just went from there.

How did the numbers look?

There were a lot of pluses. There’s the stability of the salon business, and they have a very solid model. Fantastic Sams also has its own line of products, and that was appealing because I could see it creating another revenue stream beyond services. I also didn’t want something where I had to have a huge storage area, or carry a lot of inventory, as you do with anything in food service. Fantastic Sams offers a service that people want.

Even so, I had to learn a lot. The team at Fantastic Sams walked me through how their salons operate, how the financials work, so I understood everything going in. I was able to work out a plan that showed what my annual gross income could be, and from there it was up to me to take a leap of faith. Life is full of risks, and I felt that if I didn’t take this opportunity, I would regret it.

What will make you successful?

The people I have hired. When people come in, they see how we operate as a team, and they really appreciate that. They enjoy coming here because our team approach translates into good customer service. That elevates the good feeling they get when they have a great cut or color. We have a family environment where everybody’s happy, and we all care about each other.

Not long ago a stylist was working with a client, and three others came over to consult about the color. The customers all noticed that, even the ones whose stylist had stepped away for a minute, and they really liked that! That’s exactly what I pictured when I began thinking about this business.

What’s your management style?

I want to lead by example and let my stylists and salon managers do what they do best. I’m not a cosmetologist. I empower them, and if they have a suggestion I am all ears. If it’s workable, I help them achieve it. I want to coach and lead, not just tell them what to do and what numbers I want them to hit. They have great abilities, and I learn every day who’s got special talents that can be nurtured. I trust them, and if something doesn’t work out I help correct it. Things can always be fixed.

What do you like about the job?

I just love talking to customers! They don’t know I’m the owner, so I’m just a guy in the salon who’s having a good time. The staff has become like a second family to me, and I feel like I am doing right by them. I love helping people get a nice cut and color, but I also like giving people a livelihood in a great business where they enjoy coming to work. The stylists get to be creative, the community gets a great haircut. Everybody leaves fulfilled, and that makes me really happy.

What will franchising let you do that you couldn’t before?

I get to be who I am, to really let my personality come to the front. I don’t have to be a businessman who knows everything and fit into a corporate mold. I get to interact with people, to listen and learn, to solve problems and have fun while I’m doing it.

Is previous salon experience important for an owner?

Not really, if you hire the right people. If you get a manager who knows how to run a salon and stylists who are good at building a book of business, then you just have to get out of the way. Underneath the services there is a basic business model, and if you can follow that and hire well, then you’ll be just fine.

How will you market? What’s the opportunity for growth and/or new franchises?

We’re going to be doing several things. We’ve begun to build out a website, gofantasticsams.com, where we can offer coupons and specials. We’re also doing some social media outreach, and we will be pushing awareness through Groupon and Yelp. We also will be doing some traditional media marketing through coupon books and other avenues.

We are taking advantage of Fantastic Sams’ Guest First program, where we can log what services existing clients and new customers have gotten, and then target them with specific offers. For example, if someone comes in for color, we can mine that data and get them a coupon for color refreshing, or another offer that makes sense based on their history with us.

Would you recommend a Fantastic Sams franchise?

I would say to anyone who called me that they should make sure they really want to do this. It’s a lot of work. Don’t expect it to just take off without putting in a lot of time and effort and energy. But if you have the will, you can make it happen.

Fantastic Sams brings a lot of great systems and has the organization in place for you to succeed. Starting a new business isn’t easy, but the corporate partners will be there to help you in the run-up to opening and the early days. You have to be there a lot, and you have to know your team and work with them, but if you hire good people and work well with corporate, then you have talent on both sides of the equation that will help you succeed.

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