Radiance CEO Emphasizes Operations to Drive Performance at Sola, Woodhouse | November

Earlier in her career, Radiance Holdings CEO Christina Russell didn’t expect to one day hold a chief executive role, but it fits her personality. A determined leader, Russell brings an attitude of 100 percent effort to her brand and team every day.“My background in franchising began when, like so many corporate refugees, I went kicking and screaming into entrepreneurship,” said Russell. “It was something my husband was passionate about and we ended up opening a women’s fitness franchise just before I turned 30.”Now at the helm of Radiance Holdings, formed in 2020 and including Sola Salon Studios and Woodhouse Spas, Russell is in pursuit of growth, both with the company’s existing brands and as she looks to expand the Radiance portfolio. Acquired by TSG Consumer Partners in late 2022, when the private equity firm purchased the company from a consortium of investment groups made up of MPK Equity Partners, AHR Growth Partners and PNC Riverarch Capital, Radiance is on the hunt for a third brand.That third brand would join Sola, a salon suite franchise with 650-plus locations that rents space to stylists and other beauty professionals, and Woodhouse, a day spa concept with more than 80 units.“I took up the leadership of Sola with the vision of setting up the Radiance platform,” said Russell. “Despite the pandemic, we pushed forward with that.”Before taking the leap into franchising with Curves nearly 20 years ago, Russell was a senior editor in the physics division for the Los Alamos National Laboratory. She eventually opened four Curves locations and also spent four years as the brand’s vice president of operations. What she calls her “first corner office” post came in 2014 when she joined dog boarding and daycare franchise Camp Bow Wow as president.Russell went from pets to Pure Barre in 2018, leading the boutique fitness brand through its sale to Xponential Fitness. Sola came calling in 2019.With her experience seeing the rise and decline of Curves and the process of bringing Camp Bow Wow into the mainstream, Russell learned a very important lesson: Focusing on franchisee success is what leads to a strong business.“We don’t succeed unless franchisees succeed,” said Russell. “I had been a franchisee and I understood this, and I carry that love of franchisees into what I do today.”To find Radiance’s third brand, for example, Russell and the team are keeping franchisees in mind. That means looking for strong unit economics, analyzing the P&L and ensuring the business is not only healthy for the franchisor but can also be profitable for franchisees.Her experience with Curves also taught her proper growth strategies. At its height in the early- and mid-2000s, the brand was popular and growing fast during Russell’s time with the company, but it’s seen a decline in locations over the years. Because of its popularity, it grew “too fast,” Russell said.“You can outgrow your operations,” she continued. “If there’s any lesson I learned from all of that, it’s the importance of getting great operations and support in for franchisees side by side with growing the brand in the U.S. and beyond.”She’s also had to overcome challenges at Sola and Radiance. Hired to lead Sola, she had a year of what she described as “glory days before the pandemic.” The acquisition of Woodhouse and formation of Radiance were completed in the summer of 2020.“We were looking to find a second ace in order to create a full house of businesses that all thrive and succeed,” said Russell. “That’s when we discovered The Woodhouse Spas.”Russell and the team pushed through pandemic shutdowns and the subsequent shifts in the business, though with Sola’s model of individual suites it was better able to bounce back as customers again sought out those hair and beauty services. Woodhouse likewise has been able to capitalize on the demand for wellness services.Sola hit nearly $270 million in systemwide sales in 2022, up 16.8 percent, while Woodhouse grew sales 17.7 percent, to $166 million.“We’re just blessed to be in a sector that’s growing,” said Russell. “We have really stable brands, great operational support behind it and really smart franchisees.”If there was one piece of advice she would give her past self, Russell said she would “tell her to relax a bit and nurture her to overcome the imposter syndrome that we all experience.” She compared her career to being on a roller coaster: exhilarating, not scary. After years in C-suite positions, she’s more confident in taking risks for the sake of her staff and business.“The honor and responsibility of being in this key position is as much about keeping that growth and integrity in the position,” said Russell. “But also, the stability necessary to make that brand that persists and lasts and holds that leadership position in the long run.”


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