Christina Russell is the new CEO at Sola Salon Suites.
Christina Russell, newly named CEO of Sola Salon Suites, finds common threads between her latest appointment and her former CEO jobs at Pure Barre and Camp Bow Wow before that.
“In every brand I’ve been a part of there’s been some founder/CEO transition that I walked into,” she said. “It’s tough when the founder leaves to keep that beating heart beating as strong as it was.”
In the case of Sola Salon Studios, however, she said her job is not to stabilize a brand where franchisees are struggling, as was the case in the past. The co-founders, Stratton Smith and Matt Briger, had already stepped back and had a seasoned leadership team in place, before attracting new equity partners last year, she said.
“The founders created this very intense culture around supporting stylists. They’ve done such a good job of protecting it,” she said. She will still go on a“listening tour” to visit as many franchisees as possible, but she won’t be using the tour as a “technique to stabilize franchise relations to get growth going again,” she said.
“It’s not a situation where they wanted to see huge changes,”she said. “We will be focusing on the fun stuff, the good to great stuff.”
Randall Clark was CEO at Sola but left after a trio of investment firms including PNC Riverarch and MPK Equity Partners bought the brand.
Sola has 454 units, as Russell said last Friday, on day 7 of her job. “We’ve got three open in Canada. We just opened the Brazil market and we’re looking at international. We’re set to open a little over 60” this year.
“We are by far the largest provider of this type of studio suite in that industry. So being able to maintain it as others try to emulate what this brand has built” will be her focus. “What do we deepen that’s working?”
Russell left her CEO post at Pure Barre last November, after its acquisition by Xponential Fitness rendered her job redundant. “I talked to a lot of different brands through the process”of finding a new position, she said. “But when I heard about the Sola opportunity it seemed like a fit,”she said. “Coming here to Sola, it feels like I’m home.”