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How the Florida-based CHOP is franchising with heart

words by: Jacob Seferian
Feb 18, 2020

How does a barbershop franchise without losing the individuality which made their business a fixture to begin with? It’s a tricky balancing act, but CHOP seems to have it figured out.

In less than five years, the primarily Tallahassee-based grooming chain has opened several locations. Their credo is in the name – CHOP, which stands for Cool, Hair, Original, People. Simple but effective, their retro-yet-modern take on a barbershop immediately endeared them to customers – the free beer on tap didn’t hurt, either. But there’s also discipline. One of the shop’s owners, Sarah Bolinder, served in the military and worked as a lawyer for ten years. Her focus is credited by co-owner and husband Steve as a driving force in starting CHOP.

Beyond giving a great cut, CHOP creates an experience, fostering a community equal parts warm and authentic. Talking with management, it becomes clear that their expansion (six shops and counting!) is not just for expansion’s sake, but about growing this community.

Their success story is one with heart.

 

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ULTRA talked shop with one CHOP’s owners, Sarah Bolinder.

 

How long have your shop’s doors been open?

We have been open since May 2, 2015

 

Name a business obstacle and how you overcame it.

Becoming a major player in a highly competitive market. A combination of ways – word of mouth was huge in the beginning and accessibly. Quality of service was a no-brainer, but finding a way to keep [customers] coming back.

 

What’s the most popular cut with men who come into your shop?

Skin fades with pompadours.
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How has SQUIRE helped you grow your business?

[By] keeping it simple. Our clients find value in making it fast and easy. The Instagram connection is huge with our younger clientele, as well. Game changer.
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Why do you think customers keep coming back to CHOP?

We re-book [laughs]. Also we strive to bring not only a great cut, but an incredible customer experience.

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You’ve successfully franchised – something that’s on many other shops’ minds – can you talk a bit about the process?

Find your “why.” Growing a brand isn’t easy. Long days and longer nights. If you are 150% behind something for the right reasons and are willing to push through any challenges, knowing your why will help. Set goals and hold yourself accountable first – lead by example. Go slower and watch your budget. Educate yourself as much as possible.

“Quality of service was a no-brainer, but finding a way to keep them coming back…”

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Did the team ever have any BTS conversions about how to retain individuality while expanding?

We definitely talked about how we each find our uniqueness within this whole process and growth. Every single one of us has a role, some a few [laughs].

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It seems as though men are taking an increased interest in their appearance – have you seen examples of this at CHOP?

We constantly see men up their game in the barbershop. They are asking more questions on how they can change things up and what products to use. It’s cool to see them set up their game. They trust us.
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Because food is important, do guys have a favorite lunch spot in Tallahassee?

One of my favorites is a little restaurant down the street called Bella Bella. The owner Marc comes in all the time and leaves us some bubble bread.
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Lastly, do you have any advice for businesses just starting out?

Take some time to come up with a plan. Talk with other owners and dig into what they have challenges with. Figure out a budget and then add 25% more. Then get out and hustle. Be professional. Be smart.
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For more information on CHOP, you can visit their website here.

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