Jessica Watson became the youngest European Wax Center franchisee at the age of 23, but it didn’t come without perspective — and some strong planning skills.
The daughter of an immigrant father who built businesses alongside her mother after coming to the United States, Watson got a taste of entrepreneurship and wanted more. She majored in marketing but didn’t find roles that would help her achieve her ultimate goal: owning a business.
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After becoming a fan of European Wax Center’s experience and products, Watson combined her long-term goal with her personal interests and decided to become a franchisee. Luckily, she’d done some financial planning and leadership development in view of her long-term goal that put her in just the right place at the right time.
Keep reading to learn a little more about her story and her inspiring journey as European Wax Center’s youngest in charge.
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What inspired you to become a business owner?
My dad immigrated to the U.S. to study engineering at Hampton University. After meeting my mom, I saw them own their own destiny by building strong businesses, from home repair businesses to restaurants. This was incredibly empowering for me to witness at such an early age. Before my father died, one thing he told me was that it was my duty to have as big an impact on as many people as possible during my time on Earth — and this has since always been a goal of mine.
That said, before graduating from college, I did look for normal jobs in marketing, but I couldn’t find any that I felt were helping me achieve my broader goals in life. That was when the idea of owning a European Wax Center became real. I was a little nervous at first to pursue it, but I decided that taking this big step was more in line with the impact I wanted to have on this world, and I just made it happen.
How did you get started with European Wax Center?
During my freshman year of college, I became a guest of EWC and absolutely loved the experience; I loved the product, I loved the brand. One day, my sister — who I had also introduced to EWC — called me after leaving her appointment, going on about how great her experience was. I then blurted out, “We should own one!” I was a little shy about saying it, but two days later, I had turned it into a real plan.
Financing a business at 23 is hard for even the most entrepreneurial of souls — how did you make it happen?
Saving money and budgeting was a habit my parents taught me early on. As Warren Buffett says, “Do not save what is left after spending; instead spend what is left after saving.” I live by this mantra. My parents gave me an allowance from the time I was in elementary school. I would allot 10 percent for tithing in church, and 20-30 percent went straight to my savings. That said, I had built pretty strong savings habits and even had a good amount of money saved on my own by the time I went to college.
So I just continued this trend with my college refund checks. From those two savings streams — as well as a small loan from my older sister, who was working on Wall Street — I was able to get the funds to start an EWC franchise myself. I have since paid my sister back, with interest!
What has your experience been like thus far as the youngest owner of a franchise?
My experience has definitely been more of a blessing than a burden. But it has accelerated my learning in other core business areas: prioritization, people management, financial management, growth strategies, sales, etc.
Starting out, I was honestly a little insecure about people knowing my actual age; I felt it would discredit me. But over time, I learned that I have actually earned the respect of my colleagues in the industry and others just by focusing on building a strong business and executing well. Having more runway in my career has also been a positive, as I have been able to learn a lot from more seasoned owners and have been able to implement these lessons early on in my career in order to accelerate my growth. Don’t get it twisted — I have definitely made my share of mistakes and learned a lot of hard lessons early on — but I would not trade that experience for the world.
What do you wish you’d known prior to owning a franchise? What aspects of owning a business surprised you?
There are a few things I wish I’d known: (a) As a business owner, you are never really done hiring; great owners are always in recruitment/team-building mode, and (b) being a business owner weighs on you more mentally than I had anticipated.
I am always in recruitment mode and figuring out ways to develop talent within the organization. But more interestingly, I’ve learned a lot about self-care. The pressures and stress of being a business owner can take a toll on you over time if you don’t carefully manage them. That said, time to myself, quality time with my family and friends, travel, and exercise are all self-care habits I have built into my way of life.
Because my parents were business owners, I can’t say I was surprised about much. I personally enjoy the franchise model. While the corporate brand gives you guidelines on certain aspects of the business, you still have great autonomy to build the business the best way you know. The level of ownership that exists for franchisees in the EWC model was a pleasant surprise.
What career triumph has given you the biggest sense of accomplishment to date?
I am beyond grateful for just how much I’ve learned over the past few years. It’s incredibly daunting and exciting at the same time. I have learned how to effectively build and implement sales strategies. For example, in 2018 alone, due to my sales and marketing strategy for the shop, we’ve seen a 63 percent increase in sales in the first nine months.
Another accomplishment stems from the jobs I’ve created through opening the franchise. It’s always a powerful feeling to contribute to the economy. I have met a lot of women in their twenties who found out I was the owner of this EWC; they told me they were inspired to take a bigger stride in their own path and had no idea that owning a franchise was a possibility. For me, positively impacting and inspiring those around me is incredibly fulfilling and something I take great joy in.
How have you approached building your team and your business?
This kind of goes back to my roots. The values my parents instilled in me were hard work, honesty, kindness, and altruism; I actually look for those exact same values in the people I bring onto the team. I think about team building all the time and make sure that not only am I bringing in the right people with the right values, but that they are also getting opportunities to grow within the franchise.
What’s next for you?
Well, I certainly don’t see myself taking my foot off the gas pedal anytime soon. I plan to open additional franchises and take the profits from my first EWC center to finance those expansions. I also would like to take on more leadership roles within my own community to make sure I’m giving back as much as I can.
For more on amazing young Black women making strides as entrepreneurs and inspiring those around them along the way, visit our Entrepreneurship page, HERE.
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