Children can be notoriously difficult to get into a barber’s chair. For some, it’s nothing short of a form of torture to sit still for a haircut. Wade Brannon’s son was one of those kids.
“It was a battle until we found Pigtails & Crewcuts,” Brannon said.
Wade Brannon with his twin daughters, who were not to blame for him getting into the haircutting … [+]
Jo Reeves Photography LLC
Pigtails & Crewcuts was a business in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, where Brannon lived. The business specialized in giving haircuts to young children. Brannon met the owner at his son’s T-ball game when she approached him about helping her franchise the business. That was 15 years ago.
“She said, ‘You’re the ham guy right?’” Brannon remembered. “It was kind of a back-handed compliment, but we were the ham people, and now I’m the haircut guy.”
The reference was to Heavenly Hams, the first business Brannon helped to build, which he and his partner sold to The Honey Baked Ham Company, the leading direct-to-consumer ham seller in the country.
“We were the Number 2 guys,” Brannon said. “We finally got under their skin enough that they came knocking.”
Heavenly Ham was a franchise operation with about 250 locations doing about $150 million in business annually.
“We started in Hilton Head in 1986,” Brannon said. “When I got out of college I went to work for the original owners. We bought it from them and moved it here to Atlanta. I kind of fell into it. We figured it out as we went along.”
Brannon had a senior partner who was anxious to take advantage of the opportunity to cash out. After selling to Honey Baked Ham, Brannon took on the role of Mr. Mom, taking care of the children and trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. Brannon was only his in early 40s — he’s 58 now — and even though he probably could have retired, he didn’t want to.
“I was looking for my next opportunity,” he said.
The biggest challenge for Pigtails & Crewcuts is finding people who are good at working with … [+]
Pigtails & Crewcuts
When Brannon was approached by the founder of Pigtails & Crewcuts about franchising her business, he said she should. The place had worked wonders with his recalcitrant son. But after some meetings, Brannon realized the owner didn’t really want to franchise her business. She wanted to sell it. So he bought it.
“We talked about partnering, I ended up buying it from her to build it into another franchise company,” he said. “Having done it before, I did some research into the concept and felt there was an opportunity.”
The concept behind Pigtails & Crewcuts is to make the experience not only comfortable for children, but also for their parents. There are bright colors and fun things to do, but it’s not overwhelmingly loud and crazy for parents.
“You’ll see a lot of color TV screen showing the same movie so it’s not sensory overload,” Brannon said. “For the parents who are waiting, there’s love seats and comfortable chairs. It could get girly with pinks and lavenders. We keep it gender-neutral with crown molding, baseboards and wood floors.”
Brannon acquired the federally registered trademark name and concept for the business in late 2004. He started franchising in earnest toward the end of 2005, surviving the Great Recession of 2008.
“We found in the recession that people will continue to provide for their children even when times are difficult,” Brannon said. “That was very encouraging.”
Brannon brought back some of his old Heavenly Ham colleagues for his second act, including Michelle Holliman, who is his Vice President of franchise development.
“She’s one of these people who is just totally dedicated to the success of the franchisee,” Brannon said. “Our motivation is their success. We figure our success comes after that.”
There are currently 65 Pigtails & Crewcuts open around the country, with about an equal number under development, according to Brannon.
“We’re from here to Honolulu with a lot of empty spaces in between,” Brannon said.
There are currently franchisees in 24 states, from California to Virginia. It costs in the neighborhood of $150,000 to get set up, depending on construction costs and other factors. Brannon charges a one-time franchise fee of $30,000, with significant discounts for multiple locations.
“We support them all through the development phase with site selection, lease negotiations, construction guidance, and training in Atlanta,” Brannon said.
Pigtails & Crewcuts currently has franchisees in 24 states.
Pigtails & Crewcuts
Brannon collects 5 percent of sales as royalties. Franchisees are also expected to contribute 2 percent of sales to an advertising fund. They sign 10-year contracts with three five-year renewals at the franchisee’s option.
Technically, Pigtails & Crewcuts could pull a franchise away from a franchisee, but Brannon said that’s not the way he operates. If there’s a problem, his staff works with the franchisee to figure out what it is and solve it.
“We’re in constant contact, talking to most of them at least weekly,” he said.
Brannon’s biggest challenge is finding people who want to work with children, and who are good at working with children.
“A lot of children have sensory issues,” he said. “They don’t like to be contained, and don’t want to sit still. Clippers are loud and scary. What we’ve tried to do is recognize that and learn from those children how to make it even better for other children as well.”
In addition to his son, now in college, Brannon has twin daughters who had no problem visiting the hair styling salon. If not for his son, Brannon said, he might not be the owner of Pigtails & Crewcuts today.
“I don’t think I would have been as interested in the concept if he’d floated along without a problem,” Brannon said. “I’ll be the first to thank him, or blame him.”