MVP Modern Barbers - Brian Bonsma, CEO
BeTheBoss.ca: What’s the story behind MVP Modern Barbers?
Brian Bonsma: MVP Modern Barbers opened their first location in Calgary in 2004. It was built on the simple idea that men were looking for a place where they could get a great haircut in an environment that was designed for them. You could still find small owner operated, classic barbershops tucked away here and there in most cities, but most guys assumed it was normal to share space with women and kids in the ubiquitous unisex salons that took over the industry after the 1970’s. The idea that you could slip away, watch TV, play video games and get a proper man haircut, was revolutionary.
BeTheBoss.ca: What made you decide to buy the franchise?
Brian Bonsma: My connection with the company began in 2007 when I became a customer in the second location that opened in Kelowna BC. We had just moved to Kelowna and I kept hearing rumors about this amazing men’s barbershop. They had tv’s everywhere, they offered a free drink, the pampering was equal to a spa, but it was just for men! It only took one visit and I was hooked.
So, when I had the opportunity to become the franchisor of this amazing brand I didn’t hesitate. You can quite literally say that I loved the company so much I bought it.
Helping other business owners become a success has always been a driving motivator for me and with a franchise like ours, I particularly love the fact that our success as a franchisor is tied very directly to the happiness and success of our franchise partners. We are a team that gets stronger with each new franchisee that joins us.
BeTheBoss.ca: What was your background prior to forming the company?
Brian Bonsma: For 25 years I was as an insurance broker in Ontario. I specialized in working with businesses and this gave me a unique deep, inside view of a wide variety of businesses and how they operated. Even more than that, I learned to respect the promises I was selling. The protection had to be there when my clients needed it most.
Next, I completed the certifications to become a business coach as a transition to being semi retired. The training taught me how to listen and guide business owners to answers they might not realize they knew.
In 2008, we purchased a sign business I had been coaching. A signs and graphics business was a complete departure from anything I had done before, however knowing it was a franchised business gave me the security that the training and support would be there after the previous owner was no longer involved. We went on to win numerous awards for sales, marketing and community involvement. It was that business that expanded our knowledge about marketing and showcasing a business; helping our customers and their businesses get noticed and finding out what mediums and methods worked best.
As a franchisee, I had expectations of my franchisor and I learned to work with them, ask for help, ask for advice. As the president of the Franchise Owners Association for a 2-year term I was able to offer suggestions that helped to improve the system and I had input on the spending of the national advertising fund.
Today, I get to use all those years of learning to help our franchisees be the best they can be and I can guide them past challenges that I’ve already experienced.
BeTheBoss.ca: Tell us a little about the Men’s Grooming Market?
Brian Bonsma: The barbershop industry, specifically in the US, (Canada doesn’t track the same data) is estimated to currently be $4bn, and our experience in Canada tracks very closely with this. In the five years leading up to 2018, barbershops have shown consistent growth and continue to perform well. Barbers are generating more sales per person in 2018 than they did in 2013. In the next five years, the industry is expected to continue growing. This is an extremely stable industry and is rarely affected by macroeconomic events. Despite downturns in the oil business and provincial governments that can sometimes be less than business friendly, we are still seeing an average 40% growth in same store sales in BC and Alberta this year. A large part of that can be attributed to the quality of our franchisees. Our franchisees regularly have net promotor scores well over 80 and individual store Google, Facebook and Yelp ratings of 4.5+.
Even our landlords tell us they love our barbershops, they see us as one of the few industries that is protected from competition on the internet, there is no way to get a haircut online!
BeTheBoss.ca: What have some of the challenges been in growing your franchise?
Brian Bonsma: There aren’t any real challenges but probably our biggest hurdle comes from overcoming the perception that joining an “emerging” franchise might pose more of a risk than joining a larger, more established franchise. I can tell you from experience on both sides of the franchising fence, that this assumption is wrong. The input our franchisees have into our future directions, products and our marketing can be far greater than the impact I had as a small player in a larger franchise. Even as a top 10 performer in that franchise, our input was welcomed but any resulting impact was limited. We are on track to double our franchises this year so while the perception is still there, it is changing. People are now seeing us as an early ground floor investment.
BeTheBoss.ca: What are some of the advantages in being a MVP Modern Barbers franchisee?
Brian Bonsma: The obvious first benefit of being an MVP Modern Barbers Franchisee is that we help people start their own business. People who may have been recently downsized from a career and are now looking to take control of their own lives or maybe they are boomers, like me, who are holding off on retirement because they still want to be productive. They could also be a stylist/ barber that is working behind a chair right now and while they know they could be great business owners, don’t know how to get there.
For them it's not just about buying a brand or a system it's about investing in their future. We understand all those things because those are the same reasons we bought MVP Modern Barbers.
It’s true that our business model allows them to get up and running faster with less capital invested and our on-going royalty fees tend to be lower than industry norms because of our lower overhead. Those are great benefits, but the real benefit is the focused, one on one attention from me as they start and grow their business. I get to help these dreamers turn those dreams into reality.
MVP will help them not just with the details of opening, but we also show them how to become a central hub in their community, a meeting place, a place that cuts hair but serves a purpose and ultimately becomes a vital, active part of their communities. I love this quote from the book Start with Why by Simon Sinek.
"People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it" -
Finally, our franchise partners are some of the greatest people to work with, their willingness to share experiences with each other and new franchisees is amazing, so new franchisees can also count on being able to reach out to them for first hand advise.
BeTheBoss.ca: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?Brian Bonsma: Don’t overlook the smaller, “emerging” franchises. It’s always better to be one of the bigger.