In this Salute to American Success, we’re taking a look at Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids, and franchisee-turned-franchisor Neal Courtney. This company features neon lights, playgrounds and motorcycle, airplane and race car-style “fantasy chairs” in its salons.
Courtney, the former COO and CEO of Famous Brands International (parent company of TCBY Yogurt and Mrs. Fields Cookies), was introduced to Cookie Cutters through a neighbor’s recommendation. After taking his child to a local Cookie Cutters salon, Courtney decided to fill out a franchise application online, and went on to buy that same store.
According to Courtney, within three years, he had five locations open. Eventually, he bought more locations and the rights to the Western region of the U.S. When sales dropped in 2008, Courtney sold three salons.
In December 2014, after being a franchisee for nearly a decade, Courtney acquired the Cookie Cutters brand, and relocated the company’s headquarters to Salt Lake City.
Today, Cookie Cutters has about 30 locations open and is operating in six states. By the end of 2016, the company will increase its presence to 13 states, with about 45 locations, according to Courtney. The company also has one location in Canada.
“We took a risk and expanded fast in a niche business,” Courtney said. “Our model is extremely simple and our initial investment is extremely low versus the competition. People always need to get their hair cut. As long as you provide a good haircut and quality service, you’ll have them [customers] back.”
Although Courtney is optimistic about small business prospects in the U.S. this year, potential wage hikes are clearly a concern.
“A major threat to small business right now is an increase in minimum wage,” he said. “It can put a lot of strain on certain industries.”
Courtney added: “A fair wage is important, something you can’t ignore. I’m all for fair wages, but it could really impact the growth of small business.”
Courtney’s advice to entrepreneurs is to have an open mind when trying to develop a business.
“You don’t have to get into the business with something you have experience in,” he said. “You have to look at it from a business perspective and ask: will I get a return on it and do I have the skill set to support it operationally?”