Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bald Is Beautiful?

Rick Mikles and Joe Acebal

Chiropractors Rick Mikles, 49, and Joe Acebal, 48, sensed that they could build a business with staying power by focusing on laser hair removal. After all, the process for removing hair permanently is the top nonsurgical cosmetic procedure for folks under 35. In 2005, Ideal Image's sales grew to $50 million from $8 million the year before.

The co-founders had been selling Ideal Image franchises one by one since 2004. That approach "now seems about as smart as selling individual sticks of chewing gum instead of the whole pack," says Acebal. The Tampa entrepreneurs soon switched to a cluster strategy requiring franchisees to simultaneously open numerous stores--a more efficient use of marketing dollars.

The former school pals expect franchisees to nearly double the number of units, to 75, this year. Company-owned units will grow from six to 25. Bald really is beautiful.

Media is Ideal Image's highest expense at a whopping 25 percent to 30 percent of sales. It has a five-person creative department that can produce TV and radio spots and marketing collateral.

The company does extensive market analysis and demographic research. It wrote software to tell it where to place locations. It's more than just census data. It focuses on buying habits and other details and uses Arbitron TV ratings.

"We know where they hang out and what they do," Akers said. "But it's really important to have points of sale open to cover that media buy."

To get the locations open, the company spends a lot on infrastructure, dropping $200,000 on hardware to support its homemade proprietary clinic management software. It has developed detailed training systems and manages its own financial group.

Recommended Reading:

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth

No B.S. Wealth Attraction for Entrepreneurs

Laser Hair Removal by David J. Goldberg