Kevin Davis started his career in franchising as a Burger King cook in New York. He was 17.
His longtime friend and business associate Orin Bobb landed his first gig at a McDonald’s through a summer work program. He was 14 when he started as a cashier.
Barry Hazelwood began his franchise empire at a Roy Rogers in New Jersey. “I was a grill person. In less than a year I became a manager at 17, the youngest they’d ever had.”
“We grew up in franchises as employees,” Davis said. Almost three decades later, these men are now partners owning 17 Phenix Salon franchises with 10 more in construction.
Obviously, their careers took more than one big turn. They went from exuberant chefs and cashiers to each owning multiple fast-food franchise restaurants. And then they went from fast food to the beauty industry to find Phenix Salons. Davis’ first franchise was with Jani King, the mega commercial cleaning service. His first fast food restaurant was a Subway and he eventually owned Popeye franchises among other high-profile brands.
Every barber I ever went to, every time I took one of my daughters to get their hair done, the stylists wanted to be in business for themselves.
But the mechanism by which they climbed was all pretty much the same. They worked really, really hard, saved money and got second mortgages to buy their early franchises. They eventually pooled their talent and effort.
Then, they all began to tire of the fast food industry, and of franchising in general. They were burned out. Food prices were on the rise. “Fast food was getting so tough,” Davis said. “We just tired of the whole fast food gamut.”
Davis had the idea of entering the beauty industry and he was searching for a consultant when he met Jason Rivera, founder of Phenix Salon Suites. Suddenly, everything clicked.
“Every barber I ever went to, every time I took one of my daughters to get their hair done, the stylists wanted to be in business for themselves,” he recalled. A key to the Phenix formula is to provide salon professionals with an inexpensive way to own their salons, to control their space and destiny, away from the withering drama that can make a salon so exhausting.
“I knew in three seconds this was for me,” Davis said.
Hazelwood and Bobb needed a little convincing but came around quickly. Almost two years ago in Maryland, they attended a meet-and-greet where franchise investors mingled with salon professionals and other stakeholders. “You see the expression on their faces and the happiness in their hearts,” recalled Hazelwood. “This was a new beginning for a lot of the stylists to have their own salons. There are a lot of dreams there.”
They opened their first Phenix Salon in Catonsville, MD, with others opening on the opposite coast in California in coming months. How have they moved so fast? Hazelwood pointed to Davis. “He is a very aggressive person in real estate, and he is the one who got us so far so fast.”
In Jason, Davis said, he found a kindred spirit. On Thanksgiving Day a few years ago, Jason returned his email in about 10 minutes. They ended up talking on the phone for hours that evening. “He seemed like a workaholic, like me,” Davis recalled.
“If it wasn’t for Jason and Gina, I wouldn’t be in franchising anymore,” said Davis. “It’s a great family environment. They do what they say. They’ve got passion.”