Fantastic Sams Franchise Review: How Single Parent LaRonda Hunter Launched Four Thriving Salons

Hunter says you don’t have to be rich to buy your first salon in this Fantastic Sams franchise review

Dallas has been a great market for Fantastic Sams franchise owner LaRonda Hunter, who owns four salons in the area. Photo by Robert Hensley / Flickr Creative Commons.

Dallas has been a great market for Fantastic Sams franchise owner LaRonda Hunter, who owns four salons in the area. Photo by Robert Hensley / Flickr Creative Commons.

LaRonda Hunter was an accountant at American Airlines when she opened her first Fantastic Sams salon in the Fort Worth,TX, area in 2006. She was cautious about first-time franchise ownership and kept her day job. Luckily, LaRonda’s salon took off quickly. She was able to quit the American Airlines job to concentrate full-time on her Fantastic Sams franchise after six months. She followed up with the purchase of a second salon north of Fort Worth in 2008. That salon was launched during the toughest days of the Great Recession, and yet it was a hit from the beginning. LaRonda bought two more Fantastic Sams salons in 2012 and 2014.

Because of her ongoing success as a multi-unit Fantastic Sams owner, LaRonda has improved her life in ways she’d only dreamed of when she was an accountant. Now she can work a flexible schedule while overseeing her four salons. Most important to her, she can spend more time with her 16-year-old son. In this Fantastic Sams franchise review, LaRonda explains why she choose the Fantastic Sams business model over others.

How did you get started at Fantastic Sams? What were you doing before? I’m an accountant by trade. I worked for the FDIC for many years, and then I worked in accounting and financing for American Airlines.

What got you interested in Fantastic Sams to begin with? I wanted to own my own business, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I went to franchise shows for a couple of years. I researched and got FDDs (franchise disclosure documents) from a number of companies. I decided on Fantastic Sams and the hair salon business because it seemed recession-proof. It’s not trendy. It’s a service people use in good times and bad. I actually researched several hair companies. I picked Fantastic Sams for a few reasons. First, it’s a full-service salon. We do more than just cut hair. Also, I wanted a business I had a reasonable clue about. I’ve been going to salons for 40 years. As a customer I know my preferences. I have a good idea of what the customers need to feel good.

I like that Fantastic Sams has a flat royalty fee and not a percentage-based fee. All the other franchises I researched were based on percentage. I started out with the goal of being successful, so I wanted there to be a point where I could start making money and not have to give it to the franchisor. That was a big factor for me. It’s proven to be advantageous. I’m not a wealthy person, but I had enough money up front for the franchise fee and down payment on a loan. I had good credit. I think it’s important to know you don’t have to be rich to start a Fantastic Sams. I have SBA loans on all of my salons.

LaRonda Hunter

LaRonda Hunter

Did you buy your Fantastic Sams during the Great Recession? What was that like? Yes, the recession started not long after I bought the first salon in 2006. Then I opened one in 2008 and that was definitely during the recession. It really was OK. I was able to grow. The great thing about Fantastic Sams is that we aren’t the low-end salon and we aren’t the high-end salon. We’re affordable. During the recession, a lot of the people who had been spending more on their hair at higher-end salons couldn’t spend quite as much. They decided to give us a try. If anything, I think the recession may have helped us.

You didn’t have beauty industry experience when you started. Was this a handicap? Not at all. I was determined to learn everything I needed to. I believe in going with my gut. When I follow my intuition and best instincts, I find I usually choose the right thing. Fantastic Sams has been great for me. I wouldn’t go back and change it for the world. I wish I had done it five years earlier. I tell my salon managers that one of the reasons we’ve been so successful is that we have a balance. My stylists come at the business from a technical side, and I come at it from a customer’s side and from having a background in accounting. I feel like I know the level of customer service people want in salons because I’ve been a customer. Between us we’ve got it all covered.

One of your four salons in the Dallas/Fort Worth area one of Fantastic Sams Top 50 salons. What goes into creating such a successful salon? A lot of it involves things that would make any business successful — a lot of hard work, a drive to be successful and consistency. In the beginning I just poured myself into it and was determined to learn the business. I knew nothing about the hair salon business whatsoever. That’s actually why I decided to buy a franchise versus trying to open my own business. I knew I’d need help in learning the ropes. I wanted access to people who could teach me. Fantastic Sams has certainly done that for me. I have a manager and stylists who always want to do their best.They help me be successful. They work at it, and it makes all the difference in the world to the bottom line. Of course, your location can make a big difference. My Top 50 salon is in a great location with a lot of foot traffic. It’s in Saginaw, TX.

How many employees do you have? I have 43, counting all full-time and part-time employees.

What does it feel like being an employer and providing that many jobs? Sometimes it’s challenging from the financial side of things. On the other hand it’s something I wanted, and it’s definitely something I enjoy. It feels great to provide jobs. It felt especially good to create jobs during the recession! My employees are just wonderful. They are popular with customers, and many give back to the community. I have a couple of stylists who do special work in retirement homes and nursing homes. They get minimal pay when they go, but I don’t think they’d give it up. It can be difficult for them because sometimes their customers pass away. Of course, senior citizens come into the salons quite often, too. One of my salons has an arrangement with a retirement home where they bring in a bus of senior citizens once a month. We give them a special discount and treat them special.

You own four salons. How do you make it all work? I have awesome managers at all four stores. In my opinion that’s the key to having a successful multi-unit operation. I manage the managers, and I manage the business, but not the employees.

What are the qualities of a successful franchisee? You have to be a confident decision-maker. You have to know that you don’t know it all. You need to let the franchise organization help you. The ones who come in and think they know more about it than the franchisor does don’t often succeed. You need to be able to find the balance between keeping the customer happy and keeping the employees happy.

How big is the opportunity with Fantastic Sams? There is absolutely room for growth in this industry, especially for a salon that offers such good value. The more salons we add to the market, the better it is for all of us. It gets our name out there, and more people recognize us. The industry as a whole is basically recession-proof. Fantastic Sams is a full-service franchise in this industry, and that’s unique for franchises. They have a flat royalty fee rather than a percentage-based fee, and I think that’s a big plus.

What has owning a Fantastic Sams franchise enabled you to do that you wouldn’t have been able to do working for someone else? The flexibility is great. It’s so much better than it was during 30 years of corporate and government work. There are many days when I work at my computer in my pajamas at home. I’m in charge of my own schedule and can design it around anything my son has going on. I was in a position this past year to purchase a lake home. That’s something I’ve wanted forever. I was finally able to afford to do it, and it’s because of my Fantastic Sams businesses. Fantastic Sams has given me the lifestyle I really wanted. I paid my dues for many years working for someone else. I feel very fortunate to be a Fantastic Sams franchisee. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. I feel like I’ve lived the American Dream — no doubt about it.

Learn more about Fantastic Sams

Fantastic Sams is the oldest full-service unisex salon franchise in the nation, and we have grown to more than 1,100 units over the past 40 years. We offer customers current styles at affordable prices in a convenient atmosphere. Unlike discount haircut franchises, we serve more women than men, and we offer cuts, styling, color and facial waxing — which drives up our average ticket price. That means larger profit margins from the same level of investment you might make in our competitors’ salons.

You don’t need any salon experience to open your own Fantastic Sams salon franchise; you just have to be passionate about people and have good business sense. We’re seeking franchise candidates with a minimum liquidity of $60,000 and a net worth of at least $200,000. You can open your own Fantastic Sams salon for about $185,000. To start a conversation about this franchise opportunity, please fill out the form at right or call us at 855-371-3465. We look forward to hearing from you!

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