It’s mid-January in Fort McMurray, Alberta and despite the mountainous heaps of snow and below -freezing temperature, Mercy Carlos can’t help but smile. The MVP Modern Barbers franchisee is celebrating her one-year anniversary as a small business owner and, to commemorate the milestone, is offering customers 50 per cent off all haircuts. For Carlos, the discounted prices are a small gesture she can offer the community that has welcomed and supported her business over the past year.
Carlos, who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in 2006, always dreamed of opening her own business. After working nearly 15 years in a 9-5 office job, she finally decided to take the leap into small business ownership and, in 2018, began researching available franchise opportunities in the Fort McMurray area. Her due diligence eventually led her to MVP Modern Barbers, a men’s hair salon. Carlos was immediately enticed.
“When I came across MVP Modern Barbers, I sent them an email asking for more franchise information,” she recalls. “That’s when MVP’s CEO, Brian Bonsma, called me.”
After an initial phone conversation with Bonsma and the MVP head office team, Carlos was ready to start her career with the franchise. Today, the first-time franchisee is perfecting her business acumen, gaining confidence, and helping her customers stay in style.
Learning the ropes
Starting work early and ending late into the night is typical for Carlos, whose MVP location is open seven days a week. From Monday to Friday, the franchisee says she comes in before the doors open at 10:00 a.m. and stays well after they close at 8:00 in the evening. The same can be said on the weekends, when Carlos and her staff of eight welcome customers between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. And, when the entrepreneur isn’t working at the business, she’s working on the business.
“I’m on the job all the time,” Carlos says. “If I’m not at the front desk helping customers, I’m managing everything, including the bookkeeping, marketing, employee hiring, and the day-to-day processes.”
Working behind the scenes for long hours to grow a business is a must for any franchisee, but it especially rings true for the owners at the helm of MVP Modern Barbers. The franchise offers much more than a haircutting service. Customers view the barbershop as providing an experience and the franchise prides itself on offering fair prices, stylish haircuts, and an environment where their male clientele can relax. All haircutting stations include flat screen televisions and clients are pampered with hot face towels and scalp massages before receiving a hair consultation and, finally, a cut and style.
The brand, which is currently franchising in Alberta and British Columbia, has established itself as an exclusive spot where men get the opportunity to treat themselves like an MVP – and get a hall of fame haircut in the process.
As the franchise provides its customers with the ultimate haircutting experience, its business owners want in on the action too, all vying to be crowned an MVP in the Canadian franchise industry. For Carlos, this means becoming the barbershop’s top franchisee. To do this, the entrepreneur has committed to learning more about the hair industry and actively pushing herself to try new things.
Not long after she started the business, Carlos learned how to professionally cut hair in an effort to better understand the industry and get an idea of what life entails for her employees. It was an advantageous move for the franchisee, especially because MVP does not require its franchise partners to be professional barbers. Though it doesn’t happen often, during peak hours at the barbershop, Carlos can assist her employees with the haircutting duties by taking on her own clients.
“When I first started, I knew I had to do everything I could to help me and my business succeed,” she says. “For me personally, to grow as a business owner, it was good to have an idea of how to cut hair. But, if you have good employees – like I do – you don’t have to go through that type of training to succeed with MVP.”
In addition to helping employees, the training has also enabled Carlos to better determine what type of stylists she should be hiring. In fact, Carlos says the number one challenge of running an MVP franchise is the hiring process. MVP helps onboarding franchisees with initial hires; however, owners are expected to take over quickly to meet the growing needs of their individual business.
Along with her other day-to-day tasks, Carlos says the hiring process has become easier. Still, she’s learning something new every day and admits franchising doesn’t come without its fair share of challenges. Marketing the business, handling its finances, and developing a growth strategy are all obstacles Carlos has had to overcome over the past year.
“I have worked to improve the business and myself,” she says. “But that happened because I pushed myself to be better.”
A change for the better
For Carlos, the move from office employee to entrepreneur was nothing short of monumental. An introvert with a naturally shy demeanour, she admits opening a business was a daunting task she wasn’t sure she could handle.
“It was a really big change and I wasn’t sure of myself,” Carlos reflects. “It was actually MVP head office telling me I could succeed. They were with me all the way and that’s what I appreciate about the franchise.”
MVP equips all franchisees with extensive training when they first join the business. Everything from operations and finances to marketing is covered with new owners before they officially open up shop. And although this training is fundamental for franchisees to launch their career with the company, Carlos says it’s the emotional support MVP provides that truly determines their success. She credits the working relationships she has developed with head office and the camaraderie she shares with other MVP franchisees for making her first year as a franchise partner an extremely rewarding experience.
“The overall system and support of the franchise is what I love most about franchising with MVP,” says Carlos. “If I ever have a question, day or night, I know I can call Brian or reach out to the other franchisees. Every week we have a scheduled team call. All the franchisees talk often and we will contact one another directly if we have any questions or want to talk about the challenges we experience.”
These working relationships and new friendships have helped to grow and foster Carlos’s business knowledge and have given her the confidence needed to step out of her comfort zone and make her franchise location a success.
For those interested in investing in an MVP Modern Barbers franchise, the best advice Carlos can give is simply to push yourself to try new things and be ready to face the challenges that inevitably come with franchising.
“You need to have a heart,” she says. “At the same time, you need to be serious about what you’re doing and respect the business. Once you accept that, things will come easily.”