When Kristen Wood opened her first The Ten Spot Beauty Bar in Toronto's hip Queen Street West neighbourhood in 2006, everything seemed to fall into place. Ms. Wood, who was 24 at the time, made all the right moves, which started with a solid business plan to secure the bank loan, finding a high-traffic location and hiring estheticians to provide three main services: manicures, pedicures and waxing.
After working out a few kinks, including standardizing how the services were delivered and moving from a walk-in model to a more predictable booking system, the business boomed – even through the 2008-09 recession, as clients sought pampering during difficult economic times. Her second location, which came three years later, was more of a challenge. Ms. Wood says she "misfired" in terms of location in a less desirable area of Leslieville and by hiring some consultants whose advice turned out to be an expensive mistake. She persevered, opening two more locations -- a third in Toronto's Bloor West Village and fourth in nearby Hamilton.
Today, The Ten Spot has grown to 14 locations (she eventually moved the one in Leslieville), including 11 franchises. She plans to open another four locations by the spring, including three in British Columbia. Ms. Wood, 33, describes her journey growing up as a daughter of an entrepreneur and the job loss that launched her career.
When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I'm originally from Winnipeg. My dad is retired now, but he had a diamond drill bit manufacturing plant there. Growing up, he always said to us: "I don't care what you do, as long as you make it a business." I remember him teaching me the word entrepreneur as a kid. I knew that's what I wanted in life, but that I needed to be in the workforce and know what it's like to be an employee so I could be a good boss.
What are some of the jobs you had to hone your skills to run a business?
I did a lot of waitressing and took a lot of internships. I moved to New York after school and landed an internship at a PR company, and later at Vice magazine. I also worked at a nightclub there. I moved back to Montreal and did a graphic design program, then worked as a graphic designer in Toronto. I had gone into graphic design thinking I would get a more tangible skill. The company I worked at dissolved and I got laid off. I thought: "This is it. The stars are aligning. I'm going to do something right now."
How did you come up with the idea for The Ten Spot?
A week after I was laid off, I was having pie with a friend, thinking I need to come up with my idea. I asked myself, "What do I want?" I thought it would be fun to have my own little business, open up my doors, turn on my lights and have my customers. We brainstormed ideas and I thought, there's nothing in Toronto that married the worlds of what's great about the chop shop [a low-end nail salon] but had the quality and service of the high-end spas. I thought that could be a really good idea. This was when Paula Adbul had that fungus [caused by an unsanitary manicure] and it was a huge story. I knew going in that the main downfall of the industry was the hygiene standards. I knew I wanted to communicate to people that we would be beyond the book in terms of our hygiene standards.
Where does the name 'The Ten Spot' come from?
I came up with it while putting together my business plan literally overnight. I didn't want the name to be a descriptor such as Polish Beauty Spa or something along those lines. I wanted it to have a meaning, but not be obvious. I thought about 10 fingers and 10 toes, that 10 is in my name and has always been my lucky number and that I was born in October, the tenth month. I also didn't want it to be gender specific. Then I thought about hot spot, or perfect 10. I just conjured up The Ten Spot. Then I checked to see if the URL available, and it was.
How did you raise the money to start the business?
I had a $30,000 line of credit and borrowed another $100,000 through the Canada Small Business Financing Program. My thinking was that I needed to go in this with a splash. I wanted it to look like something really different. I also have a good brain for not getting overwhelmed with the risky stuff. I didn't worry at first about how to pay the rent or whether I would get enough clients.
Why did you decide to go the franchise route?
Our first locations already ran like franchises, with managers working on their location while I was working on expanding the business. I thought it would be so great to give other people the freedom and thrill that only entrepreneurship can bring. Also, it meant we could expand at a more rapid rate because you don't need the same type of capital that you need when you're building out bricks and mortar places. You need a lot of money in the bank to do that. It allowed us to expand the brand without having to pay for it.
What is your vision for the company?
My goal is to be the most recognized and reputable beauty bar brand in the world. I would like to follow in the footsteps of [franchise pioneer] Martha Matilda Harper, with more than 500 locations. We'll be at almost 20 in the spring, then I'd like to hit 60, then 100 and go from there. Within the next couple of years I would like to be open in the U.S. It's a big market. My plan is to be in markets such as Miami and California, where it's summer longer [which is good for business catering to exposed legs and toes], then Chicago and New York.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
If people are in their 9-to-5 job looking to make the leap I tell them to look at it this way: If opening your business is your Plan A and it doesn't work out and your Plan B is to get a 9-to-5 job, you're kind of living your worst-case scenario right now, so you might as well go for it. My company was an idea over a slice of pie and it could've stayed that way. I could've just gone out to find another job. Sometimes you have to take a risk.
This interview has been edited and condensed.