Bringing Kids’ Dreams to Life
Once upon a time in 2003, Dixie Drake Clarke, the company’s Founder and CEO had a vision for Sweet & Sassy®. A few years before the first Sweet & Sassy® store opened in July 2004, Dixie observed that no one was meeting the need for exceptional customer service in the children’s hair industry. She took her own two children to a local children’s salon chain and found the waiting area to be dirty, the staff unpleasant, and no receptionist on hand to help with booking appointments. In addition, the haircuts themselves were low-quality. After talking to friends, she discovered that they also had similar negative experiences. Despite these sad facts, she noticed this kids’ salon still appeared to have a booming business. Why? It was the only place a parent could take their child for a haircut without tears. This is when she knew she could do better – much better.
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When getting her own nails done at the local nail salon, she realized how many girls between the ages of 5 and 12 were getting their nails done there. Yet, this was not a fun place for kids: the nail technicians couldn’t communicate with the children very well (often due to a language barrier), there were acrylic fumes in the area, and the manicure and pedicure stations were not built to accommodate children (they were uncomfortably scooched to the front of the chair). That’s when she realized there was a need to provide a better experience for these girls as well.
Dixie set to work researching concepts for about 18 months. With a background in small business consulting, start-ups, and an MBA, she spent considerable time meeting with focus groups, analyzing pro-forma profit and loss statements, identifying suppliers, and traveling around the country to better understand national competitors.
While researching national competitors, she found a retail and party store for tween girls called Club Libby Lu. The handful of stores that were started by a Chicago businesswoman were later purchased by Saks Fifth Avenue. Dixie saw how the unique “tween” items such as room décor, bath items, and accessories (unavailable at major discount stores like Target and Wal-Mart) were selling well at Libby Lu. This reinforced her idea that the retail/party concept for this segment of the market was already successful. Although the Libby Lu parties were good, they were not great and customer service was lacking. These parties took place in a cramped 30 square-foot area of the store, had few costumes, and only offered one type of party. Once again, Dixie saw the opportunity to provide a better experience.
(Saks closed Libby Lu due to branding issues related to girls growing up too fast. Sweet & Sassy® learned from this and made adjustments in its early years to keep makeup light and glittery, and to provide costumes that do not show tummies or anything that shouldn’t be seen.)
Learning & Growing
These observations, paired with her market research, led to the development of the idea for Sweet & Sassy®. Today, our one of a kind kids’ spa, salon, and party franchise offers a totally unique concept, with exceptional customer service at its core. We train each team member to provide superior customer service in everything they do, from answering the phones and greeting the customers to providing high-quality haircuts and follow-up communication.
Over the past 10+ years, Sweet & Sassy® has become the leader in children’s haircuts, spa services, ear-piercings, makeovers, and parties. During this time, we’ve seen which locations and franchise owners perform the best and how to make it through a recession (with an average store being in business for eight years).
We have now created our plan for the next 10 years and are looking for business-minded franchisees in locations with strong demographics to partner with us in providing exceptional customer service experiences to kids and parents in their communities. Our franchise owners love making kids’ dreams come true, one up-do, party, and spa treatment at a time.