Q&A with Entrepreneur Alexis Courtney
After taking her daughter in for a haircut, Alexis Courtney was very excited about Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids. As a mother and teacher, she didn’t know much about owning a business, but she wanted to learn more. She became a multi-unit franchisee of the brand until 2014 when she and her husband acquired the brand. Now, Courtney is the franchisor and COO of Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids, the fastest-growing kids-centric hair salon.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. I received a scholarship to play Water Polo and swim at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. After graduation, I returned to Utah and started my teaching career as a middle school math teacher. After eight years of teaching math, I became a business owner of Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids. From 2006 to 2014, I opened and ran five stores. In 2014, I had the opportunity to purchase the franchise and become the franchisor with my husband, which we did.
What inspired you to start your business?
When I became pregnant with my second child, my husband and I realized the income I was making would go straight to daycare when the new baby was born. I wanted the opportunity to be in charge of my time and income and I started looking into opening a business.
Where is your business based?
My business is in South Jordan, Utah.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
While researching business opportunities I started thinking about my skills and what I could offer. I didn't feel my skills were unique enough to build a profitable business around them. I then started looking at existing businesses I could purchase but didn't find the right fit. My two-year-old daughter was in need of her first haircut and there was a children's hair salon about 20 minutes from my home. By the end of the haircut, I knew I wanted to be a part of the business. As a teacher, I felt confident in my ability to work with people. I researched the company for a few months and decided I would open a Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
When I opened in 2007 word-of-mouth was the most effective way to build my business. I was able to spread the word by being involved in every community event possible. My concept is still community driven and with social media, we are able to build a community online, as well.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Staffing has been our biggest challenge. I have overcome this obstacle by building an atmosphere of teamwork and respect. I hire every stylist who applies and watch to see if our store is a good fit for them. My stylists appreciate a safe work environment where they can grow and feel valued.
How do you stay focused?
In order to stay focused I play the "sticky note" game created and taught to me by Demir and Carey Bentley from Lifehack Bootcamp. I plan my day in 50-minute blocks. For each block of work, I write the task on a sticky note. While working on the task I do not allow for any distraction. When the task is done I crumple up the sticky note, give myself ten minutes of free time and then start the next task. I play this game for three hours a day and get more accomplished in those three hours than I would all day trying to multitask and being interrupted every 5 minutes. My team knows I get my work done in the mornings and they know to call me the last ten minutes of each hour if they truly need me.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
When you own a franchise the only true difference from your competitors are the people. We have worked hard to find people who want to contribute to their community and are willing to be a part of a large partnership of owners across the nation.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Recently our most effective marketing has been Facebook. We want our content to be educational and helpful for parents. We want our owners to engage and celebrate their clients with before and after pictures. We have been lucky to be a part of many social media posts from our clients who share about their great experience at Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
My best piece of advice for new entrepreneurs would be to have a strict morning routine. The first 30 to 60 minutes of your day is crucial, and should not involve devices of any kind. I highly suggest 15-20 minutes of meditation to get your mind in the right place. Waking up and going straight to your phone or your computer will put you in a place where your business owns you instead of you owning your business.
What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
My favorite book is "The Power of Habit" written by Charles Duhigg. This book allowed me to look at the world in a much different way. Our mind is our strongest muscle and we strengthen this muscle through habit. Not all habits are good for us and therefore we may need to rewire or rework our largest muscle to course correct. The fact that we can course correct and or overcome any obstacle is fascinating to me.
What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
My favorite business tool is Asana which is a project management site. I have been able to build multiple projects and attach the necessary participants through Asana. I'm able to keep in touch with my team outside of emails and I can roll out new initiatives to my franchisees. Asana has an amazing app which makes work easy when I'm not in the office.
Who is your business role model? Why?
I am an avid reader and when asked who my business role model is it would currently be Mel Robbins. Mel is well known for her book "The 5-second rule." She is a firm believer inhabit and the training of your mind.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
Over the next six months, I will train 20 new franchisees. We recently became the #1 children's hair salon in the country, with the number of salons we have open. In 2018 we anticipate another 40 store openings. I will be traveling to multiple store openings across the United States and Canada.
How can our readers connect with you?
I would love to meet and/or speak with any of your readers. Linkedin is the best way to connect with me. https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexiscourtney