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Stephen Smith - CEO of Planet Beach

Upon graduating from Ole Miss, Mr Smith began his business career by opening a gym in Oxford, Mississippi. Mr Smith is a former licensee of three Gold’s Gyms and recipient of the International Gold’s Gym Marketing Award. He is a former arena football player and national bodybuilding champion and has been involved in the wellness and fitness industry since age 18. He opened the original Planet Beach location in New Orleans in 1995; he still owns this store today.  He recruited his partner, Nancy Price and began franchising in 1996. The brand has grown into the world’s largest fully automated spa franchise with over 250 locations operating in 7 countries. To further his education, Mr Smith received the Certified Franchise Executive designation from the IFA for his work in the franchise industry and obtained his Masters Degree in Organizational Management in 2002.

  1. Tell us about the Planet Beach concept.

    We started the business in 1995 with one location in New Orleans that had proven a membership “tanning salon” model.  From that one location we began franchising in April of 1996.  In 2005 we recognized the need to re-position the franchise as a “contempo spa”.  From that point we experienced dramatic increases in same store sales and new location revenues.  The “contempo” spa model is an automated neighborhood spa.  This means that all of our services are touch of a button.  Our customers experience spa services like massages and facials in a fraction of the time it would take at a traditional spa for the same results.  In addition to all of the expected spa services and products, we also offer an array of wildly popular spray tanning products and services.

  2. How and when did you become involved with Planet Beach?

    I founded the company in 1995 with the first location and then recruited my partner, Nancy Price from Gold’s Gym to come on board to begin the recruitment of franchisees in 1996.

  3. What was your background prior to joining Planet Beach?

    I was a licensee of three Gold’s Gym locations.

  4. What are some of the advantages in being a Planet Beach franchisee?

    The uniqueness of the brand offering is the largest advantage.  The many years of franchising experience of our staff is another advantage.  We have grown through difficult times and emerged a much stronger brand as a result.

  5. Who is your ideal franchisee?

    We are looking for franchisees who can understand that one of the best indicators of success is when a franchise location has many customers who want to open a business just like theirs because they love the brand and the location that much!

  6. Tell us a little about the beauty and wellness Market?

    The spa and sunless tanning industries represent a growing segment.  The spa industry continues to experience an increase in demand from customers and we are positioned very well with moderately priced services with unlimited use based on a membership model.  As for sunless, or spray tanning, according to statistics provided to us by Sunless, Inc. the maker of Mystic spray tanning booths, the sunless industry doubled throughout the recession in the years 2007-2011.

  7. What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?

    You must be willing, and then have the courage to change the business model when necessary to continue to drive revenues.  A very smart technologist once told a group of us “If you don’t like change, you will really hate extinction!”

  8. Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?

    I am driven by the words of two Californians, Steve Jobs and Gen. George S. Patton, Jobs for creative inspiration and Patton for guts and determination.

  9. What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?

    Don’t buy a franchise unless you are willing to become a brand fanatic and follow the franchise system as this is how you will make the most amount of money.

  10. In your opinion, why do you think that Planet Beach would be a great opportunity for someone?

    Now is a great time for Planet Beach because we are about to introduce a new spa interior design.  I can tell you that it looks awesome and is almost ready to roll out.  Our new locations are experiencing some really incredible pre-opening marketing campaigns, as we are simply getting even better at what we do. Our re-positioning efforts to move away from the old “tanning salon” image to the new “contempo” spa image are gaining serious momentum in the marketplace!