Christina Russell: Radiating Joy Through Beauty

Christina Russell | CEO | Radiance Holdings

Sola Salons is the world’s largest and fastest-growing studio suite concept for independent beauty professionals. The brand is the leader in the salon studios sector with over 650 locations across the U.S. and Canada. Its innovative salon model empowers hairdressers, aestheticians, nail techs, massage therapists, and other like-minded professionals to take control of their lives and their careers. Sola provides beauty professionals with beautiful, fully equipped salon studios alongside the support and tools they need to launch their own salon business in no time.

Christina Russell, the CEO of Radiance Holdings describes her company as a  global company representing a collection of premier brands in the beauty, wellness, and self-care sectors. Our brands include Sola Salons, the world’s largest and fastest-growing salon studios franchise; Woodhouse Spa, the largest premium day spa brand in the U.S.; and BeautyHive, an e-commerce product distribution platform catering to independent beauty professionals.

In an interview, Christina rattles about her company which is currently radiating joy through beauty.

Elite X: Thank You for doing this with us Christina. Can you please elaborate more about your company, its tagline & mission statement?

Christina Russell: Radiance Holdings was established in 2020 and is headquartered in Lakewood, Colorado. Our recently transformed and expanded office is home to the Radiance team as well as our brand teams.

Our flagship brand Sola Salons was established in 2004 with the opening of its first location in Denver, Colorado. Woodhouse Spa was established in 2001 and was acquired in 2020, establishing Radiance Holdings as a multi-brand platform. Between our brands, we have ~740 open units (~92% franchised) across the United States and Canada.

Our tagline is Joy Through Beauty, which gives you some insight into the overall mindset of our company. Radiance is committed to investing in its brands, driving innovation, and helping its franchisees and their community of independent beauty professionals grow their businesses and improve their lives.

Our values include:

Joy: Our positivity is our strength. We greet each day with optimism, gratitude, and a passionate focus on growth and opportunity.

Integrity: We act with openness and honesty, and we demand that of others. We strive to be the best authentic versions of ourselves.

Achievement: We take personal responsibility for our individual and collective success. We are driven to pursue the highest standard of excellence. We own it. We are accountable.

Teamwork: We empower and support one another through genuine collaboration. We care about each other. We bring our strengths, but we know that we are stronger together.

EX: Beauty, wellness, and self-care are sectors that have several competitors. What makes your company stand out in the competition? 

CR: Sola Salons is the original salon suites concept and a market leader with over 650+ locations. We have the most robust training and development program as well as unparalleled market resources such as our BookNow engine, allowing customers to online book and customize their appointments with their independent hairdressers, nail technicians, aestheticians, massage therapists, or other beauty professionals.

Woodhouse Spa is the only approachable luxury spa franchise. Our massage parlor competitors are focused exclusively on services, whereas Woodhouse is about experiential luxury and bringing 5-star services to local neighborhoods.

For more than 20 years, the award-winning Woodhouse Spa has offered guests a variety of luxury treatments that are fully customized to meet their guests’ unique needs in a calming environment that is rich with warm earth tones and textures, sounds of nature, soothing aromatherapy for skin treatments, massage therapies, facials, and other exquisite services, such as waxing and nails. Every treatment, detail, space, and feature has been carefully crafted by the Woodhouse masters of mood care.

Christina Russell

EX: “Beauty and personal care show no signs of slowing down’. What are you doing so that you don’t slow down and continue radiating joy with beauty?

CR:For Sola, we anticipated increased competition as new entrants continue to ride the wave of independence that we helped to create over the last 17 years. Our goal is to maintain our position not just as the leader in terms of size, but as the leader in innovation and service to our 20,000+ Sola professionals. Spas will also continue to thrive. A recent Deloitte survey showed that many consumers are more willing to give up gym memberships over massage services. They can move their workouts online, but you can’t do that with facials and body treatments. We also see a flight to luxury, where consumers expect more from their massage experience than many of the mass-market spas can provide. Woodhouse is well-positioned to serve that consumer.

While there have been many highlights over the past few years, just this month our company changed our private equity sponsor. We went to market in June when the economy was still relatively stable, but the fear was rising around inflation and a coming recession. Despite a very challenging climate, we were able to navigate nearly 30 meetings with top private equity firms, and we were thrilled to land with TSG as our new sponsor.

Christina Russell

EX: As a CEO how do you radiate joy through your beauty?

CR: At Radiance, we lead through a very “people first” approach:

1) Aligned Values – Everyone on our team shares a commitment to Joy, Teamwork, Integrity, and Achievement, and that minimizes the drama and turnover, even in challenging times. Plus it makes for a really fun work environment.

2) Clarity on Mission – Everyone has the clarity that our focus is on driving unit-level revenue and profitability, system stability and competitive advantage, and system growth. Those are the keys to responsible franchising, and we have a team that is passionate and aligned about driving performance on behalf of the franchisees.

3) Specific Goals – Every person in our company has specific goals they work toward throughout the year that are designed to drive the Mission. That clarity and focus allow us to thrive in the hybrid culture – we were already hybrid with flexible work schedules before the pandemic, and we’ve seen strong productivity and retention because we’re authentic in this and not reactive.

4) Accountability – We drive against specific KPIs that help us all to stay accountable to performance targets. We love crushing budgets and giving great bonuses to our team, but it takes commitment from everyone to achieve that.

This approach helped us thrive coming out of the pandemic, and it helped us navigate the change in sponsorship this year.

Our tagline is Joy through Beauty, and Joy is our top value, along with Teamwork, Achievement, and Integrity. We encourage our team to keep a positive mindset even in the face of challenges, and that means we assume the best in others, we support each other, and we’re always looking ahead to the solutions. We encourage that in our franchisees as well. When you hire around values as well as skills, when you’re clear about the mission and vision for the company, and when everyone is aligned and accountable around goals, good things happen.

-Christina Russell

EX:  A radiating radiation for all the women out there.

CR: Advancing your career means having a clear vision for where you want to be, and being willing to take risks. I started my career in franchising as a franchisee, and after taking on some contract work with the franchisor, I realized my real dream was to be a franchising executive. I took a job as an Area Director for the franchisor, engaged with IFA to build my knowledge and network, enrolled in an Executive MBA program to build my business acumen, and put myself out there to take on every side-project I could manage to build my experience. It was scary, risky, and not always fun. But it led me to a VP role, then a President role, and ultimately to my first CEO role. Whether you’re building a business or a career, you need a clear vision, a solid plan, and the willingness to do the hard work. A great way to get started is to ask for help from others who’ve achieved what you want to achieve. Your path will be different from theirs, but their stories can help you to get clear on what you want and how to get there.

. Much of my downtime is really about family. I’m like so many women in the “sandwich” generation – I’ve been with my husband for over 25 years, we have a seven-year-old daughter, and my mom has late-stage Alzheimer’s. Those are all huge priorities. My “me time” is usually about taking a walk or a barre class, or taking a true spa day. I’m currently reading Hamilton, I’m on page 385 of nearly 800 pages, so I’ll let you know how that goes!

Christina Russell