Pattie Wells owns and operates LunchBOX Eagle, a wax-only salon that’s known for its chic-yet-cheeky flair and high-end boutique service. This location marks a monumental milestone for Idaho business, Wells, and another woman whose optimism and energy parallel this Sun Valley transplant and mother of two
By Kate Matthews
Photography Courtesy of LunchBOX Salons
Everyone loves a story about a girl whose dream comes true. It’s at the heart of so many feel-good fairy tales and big-screen blockbusters, that it almost seems cliché; yet, at this very moment, it’s happening right here in Eagle.
Nestled next to the arch that welcomes visitors into one of Idaho’s favorite communities, a cottage has come alive. Pattie Wells starts her mornings prepping for a busy day that includes tending to dozens of people. But make no mistake, this is no Cinderella story. On the contrary, Wells does her job optimistically and by her own accord. The people she surrounds herself with are lovely – and are happy to see her.
This recent Sun Valley transplant and single mother of two busy, teenage daughters is among Eagle’s newest small business owners. She owns and operates LunchBOX Eagle, a wax-only salon that’s known for its chic-yet-cheeky flair and high-end boutique service.
“I finally feel for the first time in a long time sure in my life, sure in myself and sure that I’m doing what I can for my kids’ future,” said Wells, who has been in the cosmetology field for nearly 30 years and had spent her nine years in Sun Valley cutting hair part-time while her girls were young. A divorce prompted Wells to make a variety of changes in her life, including a move to the Treasure Valley to seek more opportunity. Realizing cutting into the Treasure Valley hair-styling market would be difficult, she opted instead to reinvent herself.
“I love the whole concept of LunchBOX, and the numbers are saying that the community does, too,” said Wells, who reported $7,000 in sales the first month, $8,000 in the second month and $10,000 by the third month. “I love owning my own business, making my own money.”
Beyond Wells’ dream come true, this location marks another monumental milestone for another woman whose optimism and energy parallel Wells’. It’s significant, too, for Idaho business.
From Eagle to Arizona and Beyond
LunchBOX Eagle signals the start of the next phase for LunchBOX and its founder Debi Lane. This year, Lane and her team underwent the arduous process of transitioning this once private business that experienced 100 percent year-over-year growth since its inception in 2010 to franchise status, enabling Wells and other like-minded individuals the opportunity to purchase and own their own LunchBOX salons.
Starting with Eagle, LunchBOX salons will soon begin to appear across the nation in other high-end, affluent communities. Lane plans to award up to six franchises in 2013 and another 20 or so in 2014. Target markets include Park City (Utah), Portland’s Pearl District and Lake Oswego (Oregon), Scottsdale (Arizona) and Queen Anne in Seattle (Washington).
“Eagle is a great representation of the kinds of areas we’ll be targeting,” said Lane. “Eagle is among the nation’s most desirable places to live, and it truly represents the caliber of community we’ll be pursuing in other states.”
A Yahoo! Contributor Network article ranked Eagle as Idaho’s No. 1 most desirable place to live in 2011, as judged by its median household income, educational attainment and low property crime rates. Areavibes.com rates Eagle as the state’s most livable city, based on eight criteria.
Lane said she will be as careful about her owner-selection process as she will be the communities chosen for the LunchBOX concept.
“Owning your own business isn’t easy, even when it’s one that’s hand-delivered to you in a pretty package and with every detail considered beforehand,” said Lane, whose franchises can be opened in around 120 days after signing. “It’s a physically and mentally demanding proposition, so when it comes to qualifying, we’re not hasty.”
Wells’ experience in the beauty industry bolstered Lane’s confidence when it came to determining who would be the company’s first official franchisee, but it’s not all.
“Pattie fits the LunchBOX family, because she’s as interested in empowering those around her as we are in empowering our franchisees,” said Lane, whose franchise concept recommends regularly integrating community-centric charitable efforts into franchisee’s business plans and also includes a business coaching program that offers franchise owners ongoing mentoring from executive coach and business consultant Carrie Morgan.
“It can be lonely and overwhelming at the top,” says Morgan, who understands the pressures of new business ownership. “Devoting time and having an unbiased companion when it comes to planning strategies for success and developing professional skills can be invaluable to any leader.” Wells and other franchisors can tap the expertise of Morgan to receive guidance from anything from reducing risks to developing business strategies.
“I’m not new to business, but that doesn’t mean that I know everything I need to know,” Wells said. “I love knowing that I have this resource to continue learning about business best practices and creating the kind of work environment that breeds success.”
Lane said it’s these kinds of added touches that helping generate interest from people curious about opening up a LunchBOX in their own community. And surprisingly, it’s not just women who are knocking on her door.
“This has been a learning process for sure, and one of the most interesting things I’ve learned is that men are as interested in owning these salons as women are,” Lane said. “It makes sense to me now, but I have to admit my initial vision when I decided to franchise was to empower women and create this strong network of female-owned businesses. I’m just as happy to know that the LunchBOX family will include men and women, just like our clientele. It’s going to be great.”
Standing Out in the Crowd
Anyone who’s driven by Wells’ salon on State Street or the other current locations in downtown Boise and Ketchum have probably gotten a smile or brow-raise from the LunchBOX logo, a head-turning brand that has gone viral from the likes of passers-by who are compelled to take pictures of it and post it to social media sites. Earlier this year, comedian Brian Posehn posted a picture of himself next to the LunchBOX logo.
“People love Ms. Box. She’s surprisingly simple, but there’s just something that stops people in their tracks,” Lane said.
And it’s not just Ms. Box that stands out in a crowd. When it comes to Idaho business, Lane seems to be in a very elite group who has ever built a franchise operation from scratch in this state.
Moxie Java started in 1988 and currently operates around 40 café and bistro locations in four states, including a location as far east as South Carolina.
And soon, with Lane’s determination, another Idaho brand will spread coast to coast.
Although the International Franchise Association (IFA) couldn’t pinpoint other franchisors that started and currently operate in the state, it has released numbers to show franchising is alive and well in the Gem State and contributes significantly to the state’s employment rate and economy. Nearly 50,000 Idaho jobs come from a franchised business – or about 15 percent of the state’s jobs. Annually, those workers collectively receive $1,257 million in salary.
Opting to buy a franchise over traveling down other business-owning avenues such as private ownership or leasing is appealing to many for a variety of reasons, Lane says.
“A lot of people want to own their own business, but getting one rolling on your own can be tough,” she said. “Franchising is a turnkey alternative because it offers up an already proven system, developed branding and built-in training and support to make life easier.”
According to franchising industry reporting firm FRANData, the franchise business climate has been on a steady uptick for the fourth consecutive year. Demand is on the rise to the tune of 65,000 anticipated unit transactions this year alone. If franchise performance meets these expectations, these transactions will create more than 883,600 jobs for the U.S. economy.
Plus, one notable statistic adds to the allure: A franchise business has a 92 percent success rate over five years, compared to 23 percent for an independent business, according to Franchise World Magazine.
Add the right market, and confidence soars. Waxing is a fast-growing segment of the ever-growing salon industry. Industry reports show that specialty salons that include waxing salons, held up surprisingly well during the recession. In 2012, the market generated $7.1 billion. A market research report from IBISWorld indicates revenue is projected to grow in the post-recession years, due in part to improving employment figures and discretionary income.
“I wake up ready to go and happy that I’ve made the right choice. I love what I do. I love where I live and the kinds of people I get to meet and know – be it who I do business with, the people I get to engage with socially here in Eagle or my clients,” Wells said. “I have full faith that it’s going to be like this for a long, long time.”