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Caitlin Donovan is no stranger to business ownership. After her husband Adam Clampitt, a Naval Public Affairs Officer, returned from his deployment to Afghanistan in 2010, the couple built a public relations firm that focused on raising awareness of social impact issues.
Now, Donovan is focusing on her next endeavor — bringing Amazing Lash* Studio, a 250-plus-unit eyelash extension franchise, to North and South Carolina.
Donovan, who has been a client of the brand for years, will be opening six Amazing Lash Studio*s in the Asheville and Greenville markets, with the first two planned to open in late summer.
Connect with Caitlin on LinkedIn.
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:07] Welcome to Franchise Marketing Radio. Brought to you by SeoSamba comprehensive high-performing marketing solutions for mature and emerging franchise brands. To supercharge your franchise marketing, go to SeoSamba.com. That’s SeoSamba.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:31] Lee Kantor here another episode of Franchise Marketing Radio and this is going to be a fun one. Today on the show we have Caitlin Clampitt and she is with Amazing Lash Studio. Welcome, Caitlin.
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:00:43] Thanks so much for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:45] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. As I said before, you’re a franchisee with amazing. Tell us a little bit about Amazing.
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:00:55] Sure. So we have over 250 locations nationwide and we are the studio to come and get your lash extensions done. We have the best quality products. We have the most highly trained lash stylists, and we’ve also branched out into brows doing brow waxing, tinting, lamination. We really own the whole eye area. So it’s it’s something that we as women, we get hooked on. And it’s a little something special we can do for ourselves that make a really big difference in how we look and feel.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:37] Now, we talk a lot on this show with franchisors, and sometimes we talk to franchisees. And whenever I talk to a franchisee, I’m always curious about the journey to become a franchisee. Can you share a little bit about that story?
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:01:51] Absolutely. So for the last 12 years, I’ve been helping my husband’s manage and run our PR firm. So long story short, my husband’s 19 years in the military and we met right after he came back from Afghanistan. He knew he didn’t want to go back into corporate America and all the stress and, you know, just working for somebody else after having such a crazy life experience, like being in Afghanistan in a war zone. And so we set out to create our own veterans centric organization. We do a lot of PR and marketing for veteran campaigns, and it’s been an unbelievable journey, learned so much about business ownership and being a leader, hiring and being customer centric, all of the things, and I love it. It’s absolutely what I’m meant to do. I can’t imagine ever working for somebody else again. But truth be told, it was my husband’s business. And as much as we’re married and we did everything together, I really was yearning for something of my own. And I was noodling around some ideas, you know, trying to come up with that million dollar idea or that cool new product or service that’s not out there. And it wasn’t coming to me, at least it hasn’t come to me yet.
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:03:16] And I started exploring franchising because it’s the best way to be an entrepreneur without having to take on so much risk. Having a playbook given to you. So as long as you sort of follow the rules and you’re smart and you can you can be as involved or not as actively involved as you want. And it was a really good match for what I want to do with my career at this point. So again, I started talking to a bunch of franchise organizations and ironically at that same time, well, Biz reached out to me and I had been a customer at Amazing Studio for four years. At that point I had been a member. I knew the brand inside and out. I was hooked. I loved it. I was there every two weeks and it was like the perfect storm. So I flew out to Denver and met with the whole team. They wowed me. I said, If I don’t buy into this franchise, I want to come join your corporate team. That’s how much I just loved everybody and was really impressed. I purchased six licenses to own and operate Amazing Lash Studios and I’ve opened three in the last year.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:40] Now talk about the very beginning of this when you’re like your husband shows kind of creating something from nothing. He he didn’t choose the franchise path. He said, I’m going to build this and they will come. Kind of strategy. Right. And you saw that work for 19 years. And then something inside of you said, you know what? I would rather go with somebody who has already kind of built a playbook and I can just kind of plug and play my way into this. And I know I’m going to work hard. I know I’m going to give it my all and I’ll do whatever it takes to be successful. But I prefer partnering with somebody who’s already kind of laid the ground so I can just go in and execute. Well, when you had that kind of conversation with yourself or your spouse or your team, what happened next? Like, did you just go onto Google and said, okay, now I’m going to find a franchise? I mean, you you mentioned you were a member of Amazing Slash kind of locally. And then that team reached out to you because you were probably a super customer and they said, hey, this would be a good partner and share some of the skills that we need in our franchisees. But did you kind of go out to the world and say, let me see what else is out there?
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:05:55] I did. I did. And actually, before I connected with well, Biz and the Amazing Lash Brand, I had explored conversations with other other corporations, other franchisees. I was talking to owners that franchisees. I was talking to franchise owners. I was really digging into all of it. I was listening to podcasts and reading books and just trying to familiarize myself and understand what the process was and what to expect, what to look for, and really how to identify the right match for me.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:33] So what were some of those kind of things you learned so that you can educate some other people who are potential franchisees listening? What are some kind of things that you were like, you know what, if a brand has this, that’s great. That’s a that’s a must have. And if a brand does this, that’s kind of a yellow flag. That might be a red flag. So can you share a little bit about that kind of the the go no go decision making of when you’re vetting a brand?
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:07:03] Absolutely. So I think, you know, everyone is looking for something different. Everyone needs different degrees of support, hand-holding or autonomy. And so that is definitely a personal decision. You’ll know when you’re aligned with the right group. For me, it was there were a lot of red flags, things like missing meetings or being disorganized or just not on top of things. If I were asking specific questions about marketing or the fee structure or technology, you know, other brands just weren’t able to give me a thorough, clear, quick answer. And all of those things were red flags for me. But I think the thing that really stood out the most to me, a couple of things. One, you need to talk to other owners. You’ve got to do your due diligence. And this has been number one place. If you connect and you can really go deep, you can ask these owners almost anything because you’re all part of the same club sorority, if you will. You’re all in it to win it. And people are willing to help other franchisees give that, give all the tips and tricks and tell them exactly what’s going on. So that was a big part of figuring out what what direction I should go in. Was talking to other owners going into their physical location, if that was relevant. So for me, I saw a whole bunch of amazing studios. I talked to a whole bunch of owners all over the country, and that really clicked for me. I met all of the heads of the different departments from corporate, so marketing, technology, development, real estate. I really dug into everything and so it felt really, really good to me. All my questions were answered, all my concerns were addressed, and they were really transparent and honest.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:10] So now you mentioned autonomy, and that might be confusing for some folks because in a franchise you’re supposed to, you know, kind of follow the recipe. How much autonomy is there in the different franchises that you explored or some kind of a free for all that said, look, your market’s different, go you, be you or others like you have to you know, you can’t fried the burgers. You got to grill the burgers. This is how we do it here.
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:09:39] Yeah, I. You know, I, I think that was another reason why I nixed a few of the other brands I explored was that there was either too much hand-holding and I wasn’t given a lot of freedom or flexibility to put my own spin on things, or it was like the Wild West and they had no sort of brand standards and you could go into one store and things were done one way and you go into another, and it was a completely different service offering or their websites or social media presence were different. I thought, well, there’s an amazing lash in particular. It was a good 7525 in the sense that 75% of things are done exactly the same in every single studio, and that 25% is where you get to put your own spin, have your fun, try different things. What works for you? What connects with your community, your market that makes you unique? It was a good balance for me.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:50] Now, did you use franchise brokers? Did you use, you know, kind of some of the intermediaries that are out there or did you just do this all on your own?
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:11:01] I did it all on my own.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:04] So you haven’t had the experience of going through a franchise broker or one of the portals or one of those kind of places where a lot of people connect with franchises?
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:11:14] No, no. But I. I don’t know if I wish I had, because I had such a good experience and I was able to cut right through it and not have somebody acting as that buffer. But at the same time, you know, I had to figure everything out myself and be really resourceful and read articles, books, podcasts and really put pen to paper, writing down my questions and thinking through everything. So I think for people that have never owned or operated a business before, going the broker route is absolutely a smart move. For myself, I think I had enough experience in building businesses that I and just that reliance on my gut that I feel pretty good about the direction I went in. So I think either way works.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:08] So now when you decided to kind of go with Amazing Slash, what made you go with a six pack rather than just try one on and see if you’re going to be able to make this go?
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:12:20] Yeah. So I knew that I wanted to scale. I didn’t want to just own one. I actually ended up owning or opening studios outside of where I live. So I live in South Florida and we have a summer home in western North Carolina. So we knew we had some presence and ease of of getting to that market. But there was nothing like this there. So that’s why I picked that market. But I knew that I because I wasn’t going to be there every day, that I needed to surround myself and build really strong teams and layers of management. So I figured in this way, more could almost be less for me. If I owned one studio, I wouldn’t be generating enough revenue to have not just a studio manager, but but somebody over overarching that location as well. So I opened three in six months. So really open staff trained. Boom. Move on to the next. And I built up regional managers to help support me with all three locations. And as we grow, the costs for those senior level managers and regional folks will go down because I will spread it out among multiple studios and locations. But to be perfectly honest, I also got a package deal by buying more than five. It reduced the cost of each license considerably. And on top of that, well, this offers a super generous military discount. So we were able to really tap into a bunch of ways to trim those franchise fees. And I wanted to take full advantage.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:21] Now, once you decided to pull the trigger and you launch, is there any advice you can give a brand new franchisee in a market of how to launch successfully? Like is this you know, that would be different than. Okay well biz is helping here on this side with the launch. But me as a franchisee, I have to take some responsibility and I have to immerse myself in the community somewhat to make sure that this launch. Because this ultimately is my business.
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:14:49] Absolutely. I mean, you nailed it. You’ve got to be embedded in your community. And I’d say that was my biggest challenge because I didn’t live in the market where we opened our first studio in South Carolina. But my team was all from there. They were born, raised, went to school, had friends, family. So I was making everybody this was a team effort and we hit the community hard. We made lists of businesses to build relationships with. We invited the media. We got all of our friends and family. We did a massive grand opening party. We got engaged with different community organizations. We partnered with charities to be able to give back, but also raise awareness to our organization as well as theirs. So we have really gotten involved in the community. That’s what makes it fun, that’s what makes it meaningful, and that’s also a key component to success.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:56] Now, what about some advice on choosing those initial team members because that they’re the boots on the ground, they’re the ones that are are really the brand when you’re launching?
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:16:07] Yeah, I would say I had a little bit of an advantage in this area just because my entire career I’ve been the recruiter. That was how I started out. Right after I graduated college, I was in HR and recruiting, so I have been recruiting people my entire career, so there was a little bit of advantage there, but I had never owned this type of business before. I’ve never worked in the retail or the beauty business. I had a lot to learn and the best way to do it for me. I did get training through through the prep work that you do before you launch and you open. So I did get lots of tips and tricks and talking to owners about what what worked for them when they were hiring managers, what kind of backgrounds. But honestly, I just hit the phones. I posted an ad, of course, and I interviewed tons of people, but the people that I hired for my managers were all people that I found myself. I went out, I found them on LinkedIn, I pulled calls, I networked, I called references and flip them to become candidates. I, I really just learned what was going to work by talking to as many candidates as possible. And I’ve been really lucky. I’ve have built an unbelievable management team, and I can’t imagine doing this without each and every one of them.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:41] Now, when you were selecting, were you going with kind of attitude first or skills first and or, you know, if they have the right attitude, you can train some of the skills or that they have to have some of these skills become the non-negotiable part. And then, you know, we’ll, we’ll get them kind of built buying into the culture over time.
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:18:04] Yeah. So when I was looking at my managers, they needed to have the skills that I don’t have and so they needed to come with membership, sales, retail, studio operations, people, management. And of course, if they had anything in the beauty industry lashes or anything along those lines, that was the cherry on top. I needed that and I can bring other skills to the table. So I needed people that were very complementary. But outside of managers, which I again, I think it’s 5050, they need to have a killer attitude and b they just they need to have it all. The 50% needs to also be those technical skills. They need to be able to run the studio operations when I’m not there. And even if I am there, everyone else that works in our studios, I am dead set on attitude. Attitude to me is everything. And I have been doing this throughout my career of I would every single time hire somebody that has a killer attitude. If you are humble, hardworking. You want to learn. You are passionate, responsible, dedicated. Those are skills. You can’t teach those things. I mean, maybe you can a little bit, but I really think you’ve either got it or you don’t. But when it comes to working at the front desk or even lashing, some of my most talented and successful lash stylists came to me with just an awesome attitude and a willingness to learn. And we’ve put them through training. We’ve given them all the tools to be successful. And I’ll tell you, they are more successful than people I hired that have been doing lashing for years if they didn’t have a great attitude. So attitude for me is everything. It is truly a deal breaker.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:08] Yeah, we’ve interviewed over the years some of the folks at Chick-Fil-A and some of the the family members that own Chick-Fil-A. And one of the things that one of them said to me that really stuck with me is they hire people who are natural smiles.
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:20:27] I love.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:27] That. Like, if you’re not a smiley person, it’s going to be hard for you to get a job at one of their locations. And and that really comes across I mean, they don’t have to train smiling, you know, that’s it’s just built into the person and that’s, you know, you’re almost there. If the person is smiling at you, you’re you’re almost had a good experience right at go. So it’s a lot easier to kind of take the person that has those that right attitude and then force somebody who doesn’t have the right attitude to kind of fake it.
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:21:03] Absolutely. And, you know, this isn’t the job for everybody and that’s okay. You know, if it doesn’t work out, let’s part ways and let’s celebrate your next career. Move. As much as we celebrated, you know, you joining the team, there’s no hard feelings as long as you’ve got a great attitude. And that is what’s going to carry you through every aspect of your life and your career. So I love Chick fil A and there’s a lot of good lessons to learn from how they run their business that we can all employ in our businesses.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:37] Now, what has been the most rewarding part of this journey for you, having come from a business that again started from a blank sheet of paper to now one that had a playbook and is now kind of growing, which is I don’t want to say which is more rewarding, but what is a rewarding part about this part of your life?
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:21:57] You know, I love first of all, I think my ultimate advice is for for people considering a franchise is align yourself with something you’re super passionate about. It’s going to help you weather the storms. It’s going to make the lows not so bad and the highs that much better. So for me, I love lashes, I’m passionate about it and I love the brand, so it helps. But for me, the biggest takeaway, there’s two. It’s it’s multifaceted. I’ll keep it quick, though. One is just the teams I’ve built. I love these women. I love the opportunities that they’re tapping into and taking advantage of. That is so rewarding to me. When I was interviewing some of these gals, they would tell me the stories of places they were coming from and just the lousy managers they worked for or just circumstances that they shouldn’t have been in, in a professional setting, and to give them a completely different culture, to give them a career path. I mean, these women have are coming to me with goals. They’re paying off student loans, they’re saving up to buy houses. They are putting themselves through beauty school and transitioning from the front of the house to the back of the house.
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:23:18] I love the opportunities that are available to them and it is so exciting and worth everything to see them thriving in their lives and their career. And then on the flip side, the customers, I mean, you know, I know the concept of lash extensions and anything in the beauty industry can sometimes come across as a little superficial. I get it. But when you really strip it down, I have had cancer patients come in. I’ve had women in abusive relationships. I mean, you wouldn’t believe the stories and the things that people tell you. And to see people give themselves an hour or 2 hours for themselves and to come in and then leave. I mean, talk about smiling. I know it’s not Chick-Fil-A, but our guests come out and they are grinning ear to ear. It is transformational and it’s an hour and they feel great about themselves. And how you look and how you feel is it goes hand in hand. And I really love giving people a place that they can come treat themselves some me time, some alone time and really help them feel awesome about themselves.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:41] Well, Caitlyn, you know, the impact is real and the work that you’re doing is important. And we appreciate you. If somebody wants to connect with you, whether it’s about amazing lash or maybe you’re the PR firm you’re you work with and whatever regard what is the best way to connect with you and learn more about Amazing Lash and the work that you’re doing?
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:25:01] Absolutely. I’m reachable best at email. It’s Caitlin Clampitt at Amazing Lash Studio is probably the best way to to get in touch.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:14] Well, thank you again for sharing your story. Like I said, you’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Caitlin Clampitt: [00:25:19] Oh, thanks so much for the opportunity. It is great to chat with you, Leigh.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:23] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on Franchise Marketing Radio.