How five Florida businesses grew despite a slow economy.
2010 Revenue: $5.8 million (up from $193,274 in 2007)
Of all the services people might be expected to forgo in tough economic times, spending money to get body hair removed from their underarms, chests and crotches would likely be at the top of the list. Despite the recession, European Wax Center, a chain of franchised salons dedicated to removing unwanted body hair, has kept on growing. Starting with a single salon in 2004, EWC has mushroomed to 161 stores throughout the U.S. — including three corporate-owned stores in Florida and a corporate-owned store on Long Island, New York — with 139 in development. One of the fastest-growing franchise chains in the country, EWC plans to expand to Canada this year.
The origins of EWC go back to the hair salon of Nelson Coba, a hairdresser in Aventura who turned his business — which included then-unprofitable waxing services — over to his two sons in 1993. The sons found a better-quality wax developed in Paris that adhered only to hair, not to skin, and could be applied at lower temperatures than other formulas. They also repriced the services, which they believed were underpriced, and refined the salon's environment, insisting on no sticky wax buildup on the floors and on-time performance. The first EWC opened in Fort Lauderdale in 2004. Free initial visits attracted a slew of new customers — and a membership program called the Unlimited Wax Pass, which allows customers to buy an unrestricted number of visits for a year, helped the Cobas to be profitable within the first month.
The popularity of waxing hasn't waned despite the recession, they say. David Coba says that's because waxing has evolved beyond being just a momentary fashion trend. "It's not a luxury. It's almost a necessity. It's part of everybody's daily hygiene routine — either you shave or you wax, even through economic hardship."
From left: David (CEO), Jessica (CEO/director of franchising/education), Josh Coba (COO) [Photo: Eileen Escarda]