Fiona Hilario of Lay Bare Waxing Salon
Fiona currently holds the position of Managing Member for Lay Bare Franchising, LLC. She also acts as CEO for the two company-owned branches in Los Angeles.
She started Lay Bare in the Philippines along with her two siblings in June 2006. Prior to Lay Bare, she worked as HR Specialist for the US Department of Veterans Affairs in Manila where she stayed for 5 and a half years. Fiona holds a degree in Business Management from the College of St. Benilde (Manila, Philippines).
She started Lay Bare to be able to spend more time with her daughter Noelle who was 3 at that time. Noelle is now 16 years old and Mom and daughter spend a lot of time travelling the world together when they are not working on making a bigger and better Lay Bare.
1. Tell us about the Lay Bare Waxing Salon concept.
Lay Bare Waxing Salon started in the Philippines in 2006 when there were no comfortable options for hair removal except for either the all-around parlors that did hair, nails, and everything else or the high-end spas that charged you an arm and a leg for hair removal services. Lay Bare is also the first salon that popularized the use of all-natural cold sugar jelly which is more commonly known in the United States as sugaring.
2. How and when did you become involved with Lay Bare Waxing Salon?
I was one of the three founders of Lay Bare Waxing Salon. I started it with my two siblings, Monique and Paolo Hilario and the three of us are business graduates with no formal business experience prior to Lay Bare. My sister and I have been going to this all-around salon and they offered cold waxing which was way more comfortable than hot wax. Even with an appointment, we would normally have to wait for hours just to get waxed because all salon technicians did facials, massages, nails, hair, etc, and those services take so long too. We found it to be a great opportunity and had the whole Philippine population to serve as back then body hair was thought of as sexy!
3. What was your background prior to joining Lay Bare?
I worked for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs which was under the US Embassy in Manila as HR Specialist for 5 and a half years. My background has always been in HR, admin, and customer service.
4. What are some of the advantages in being a Lay Bare franchisee?
Lay Bare is the biggest hair removal salon in the Philippines with over 100 locations nationwide. This number also makes us the biggest player in the sugaring space globally as other players have not hit 20 branches yet. We are known not only for offering more comfortable hair removal services, but our price point has made us popular with all walks of life. We wanted to promote that hair removal should not be a luxury but something you get done regularly like a manicure or haircut. We also offer complementary products that are all FDA-approved and most paraben-free that are now available on Amazon and through our website.
5. Who is your ideal franchisee?
We are looking individuals who share our passion for all-natural hair removal by sugaring and is eager to promote this in their community. Someone with prior business experience would be ideal too as opening a salon involves managing a team of at least 5 people – 3 sugaring technicians and two receptionists as we are open 7 days a week.
6. Tell us a little about the hair removal Market?
The hair removal market may be broken into three segments that are more widely practiced: manual (plucking/shaving), laser, and waxing. There is still a big market for razors as it does not have any down time but the downside is that you have to do it every day. Laser on the other hand is still pretty costly and normally only works on dark hair. It does not guarantee permanent hair removal but just permanent hair reduction. The third segment which is waxing, has three mini segments too and they are: hot or strip wax, hard wax, and sugaring which is all-natural. There are many, many, players in the first two segments of waxing and that alone has reported a gross revenue of several billions in 2017. Sugaring is still trying to make a name for itself and I feel Lay Bare has done a pretty good job in conquering the Philippines giving us the experience and expertise to do the same in the United States.
7. What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
That success is give or take 10 years. Behind every successful brand is a lot of unsuccessful years. I couldn’t even count how many gift certificates we gave a way or trade shows we attended before we got people coming to see us regularly in the Philippines and now people bug us everyday to sponsor events with the same gift certificates they refused a decade ago.
Opening in the US was almost like starting over too as it was a very different market and culture. US clients tend to be more bargain-conscious and it has cost a lot of money to bring in new clients by doing Group On, YELP ads, Facebook ads, etc. Word of mouth helps too but that comes way after you spend to bring in a new client.
8. Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
I personally am part of a Global Executive Mastermind Group that brings together CEOs and our facilitator helps us find solutions to problems we are facing and have not had any luck solving on our own. It’s very interactive and you get to understand other industries as well too and their challenges.
My daughter has always been my inspiration. I am a single mom and she was 3 when we started Lay Bare. The first year was tough and I had to leave her with different people because I was busy running the show. I was the only one running it full time. We were so slow the first year that I had to pull her out of kindergarten as I couldn’t pay for it anymore. We also had to move out to the province and couldn’t afford living in the city. Through all this my daughter has been very supportive and understanding and trusting that we will one day make it. And Lay Bare has given us a lot in return. My daughter is 16 now she goes to one of the best private schools in the country and has travelled to a few countries already. Everything I do, I do for her.
9. What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
Make sure to go with something you are truly passionate about and the money will follow. I couldn’t imagine myself doing something else really. My lack of love for my body hair has definitely changed my life and my family’s as well.
I would also advise them to pay attention to their health and save money! You will need those two things during the struggling phase which the franchisor took the brunt of but something you will still experience at least for 6 months to a year like any new business owner goes through.
10. In your opinion, why do you think that Lay Bare Waxing Salon would be a great opportunity for someone?
Lay Bare aims to be the Starbucks of the hair removal industry. In time we would like to be the number 1 in our segment, globally. We strive to have great brand culture and we do our best to be socially-responsible. We promote all-natural sugaring that easily washes off with water and does not have any preservatives so you know exactly what touches your skin.
We were able to make the Philippines a hair removal capital in Asia which is traditionally a more conservative country where people used to think of body hair as sexy. We have the experience and expertise to build and support a big network like how we did it back home. Our Philippine franchisees normally own 3 to 6 branches each and they come from very diverse backgrounds – medicine, law, government, you name it and we all share our passion for all-natural hair removal.
Sugaring is very new in the hair removal space and it would be a great opportunity for anyone who likes natural and hates body hair!