Gigi Harding - CEO of Hand & Stone Spas

Author: shawna@frantechmedia.com

Date: MAR 29th, 2012

Topic: Interview with a CEO

Gigi Harding is the CEO for Kwik Kopy Printing Canada Corporation and Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spas Canada. She began her journey in franchising in 1988 having worked in extensively internationally before joining the Canadian operation. Gigi brings a vision for a dynamic enterprise whose focus is dedicated to building strong relationships with their Franchisees, Vendors and the end consumer.

Kwik Kopy Printing is the largest printing franchise in Canada and is the proud recipient of the Award of Excellence in Franchise Relations, the Hall of Fame Award and other numerous awards, all presented by the Canadian Franchise Association.

Hand and Stone opened its flagship store in 2009 and currently has 3 Spas opens and 4 in development. Gigi is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario, was the Chair of the Canadian Franchise Association (2004-2006) and is also a recognized speaker within the industry.

BeTheBoss.ca: Tell us about the Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa Concept.

Gigi Harding: Hand & Stone is about being affordable and available. We are a Spa concept open 7 days a week with extended hours to meet the needs of our Guests. Monday – Friday 9am – 10pm, Saturday 8 am – 6 pm and Sundays 10am – 6 pm. The services we offer to our Guest are Registered Massage Therapy, Waxing and Facial Services.

BTB: How and when did you become involved with Hand & Stone?

GH: We began the research into bringing a new brand to the Canadian market approx.. 6 years ago. We looked at many different types of franchise businesses, food, senior home care, signage, handyman etc. We kept coming back to the Health Care industry taking into account the aging demographic in Canada and the US. We purchased the Master Lic. Rights for the Hand & Stone Brand four years ago.

BTB: What was your background prior to joining Hand & Stone?

GH: We have been involved in Canadian Franchising for over 30 years with our Kwik Kopy Design & Print Centre brand. In 1979, Kent Harding, purchased the Canadian rights to the Kwik Kopy Printing brand in Canada. Gigi Harding has headed up the company for 18 years and also was Chairperson of the CFA. Brett Harding, Gigi’s brother, took a different route, that of a franchisee, having owned a successful Kwik Kopy Design & Print Centre for over 10 years and then joined Gigi at the corporate offices.

BTB: What are some of the advantages in being a Hand & Stone Franchisee?

GH: Experience and support are vital parts of the equation. With over 30 years of Franchise experience and success, we have learned what it takes to build a new brand in Canada. We are also able to use the years of experience to provide an outstanding level of support.

BTB: Who is your ideal Franchisee?

GH: An ideal Franchisee would have several different skills. They need to be motivated, with take charge personalities and good Human Resources skills. Success Franchisees have to be outgoing with a marketing focus and like to get out and be part of their community. Obviously, it is also very important to have the financial means to grow the business as well.

BTB: Tell us a little about the Massage/Spa Industry.

GH: Prior to the introduction of the Hand & Stone brand into the Canadian market, there was a great divide in the spa industry. The customer could go to a day spa where they would have the full spa experience - slippers, bathrobe, high end destination - which meant investing your whole day. On the other end of the spectrum was a clinic a cold, sterile environment, not available at a convenient time to the customer. Hand & Stone fits perfectly in the center. Convenient hours with same day bookings available and encouraged, a beautiful spa setting, welcoming, clean and comforting atmosphere staffed by Registered Massage Therapists and Estheticians. Our services are affordable and available. There is no one else in Canada providing this level of service and convenience.

BTB: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this Franchise?

GH: Build your brand slowly and carefully! Don’t’ be in a rush simply to sell franchises. Interview franchise candidates carefully and protect the value of a great brand. As the system grows, involve your franchisees in the process and listen carefully to what they have to say. A successful franchisee is your strongest advertisement for the brand.

BTB: Do you have a mentor and is their someone you use for inspiration?

GH: Yes, there are many people who have inspired us to be better at what we do. John Marco is the world-wide founder of the Hand & Stone Brand. His commitment to brand excellence and his enthusiasm towards providing our Guests with an outstanding customer experience from the very first touch point is inspirational. In addition our Vendors inspire us. We have chosen them carefully and they continue to amaze us with their level of service and dedication to helping the Hand & Stone brand to be successful.

BTB: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?

GH: Do your homework and research thoroughly and look for a franchise business that you feel passionate about.

BTB: In your opinion, why do you think that Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spas would be a great opportunity for someone?

GH: Hand & Stone is in an exciting position as the right brand at the right time with Canada’s growing health conscious demographic. It is a lifestyle business helping people feel good on a daily basis and a great opportunity for multi unit ownership.