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Why This Great Clips Franchisee Left Behind a 20-Year Career in Big Tech to Open His Own Salon Business

Searching for a more flexible lifestyle, Ray Solnik traded a “non-stop” career in technology to join the iconic salon brand.

By Ben Warren1851 Franchise Managing Editor
SPONSOREDUpdated 8:08AM 07/15/22

Ray Solnik lives with his family in the Silicon Valley region of Northern California, and like many professionals in the Bay Area, Solnik built a long and lucrative career in technology. But after two decades in the industry, Solnik made a dramatic pivot, trading his fast-paced career running high-tech businesses for a more lifestyle-friendly endeavor as a franchisee with 4,400-plus-unit salon franchise Great Clips.

Today, Solnik operates 11 units in and around the Bay Area. He is also the most recent recipient of Great Clips’ Community Award, which recognizes franchisees for exceptional work in their local communities.

“The first store I opened with Great Clips is now the fourth-highest-performing store in the greater San Francisco area in terms of customer volume,” Solnik said. The third store Solnik opened is “now the number-one salon in our market for both sales and customer volume.”

But while Solnik admits he always had ambitions to become a top performer in the franchise, he says his initial inspiration to join the brand was simply to escape the relentless pace of his previous career in tech.

“It’s an extremely demanding industry,” Solnik said of his 20-year career running technology businesses. “We were running global operations, and we had clients in Europe, the U.S. and India, so it was just non-stop.”

When Solnik found himself spending six months in India on a project, he decided it was time to reevaluate his career goals.

“My kids were 14, and I wasn’t around to see them,” he said. “I realized it wasn’t a good way to live my life, so I came back to the States and started looking into career options in low-tech.”

Solnik says he researched a number of businesses in a range of sectors, but when he came across Great Clips’ franchise opportunity, he “fell in love right away, and that love never went away.”

What about the legacy salon franchise appealed to the tech-operations professional? “First of all, it’s a business I can understand,” he said. “I love the service. It’s simple, it’s efficient and it’s not going anywhere.”

Moreover, Solnik says he was inspired by the Great Clips, Inc. executive team, who he met when researching the brand. “They are incredibly smart, but without an edge — they are very friendly, which is not something I saw a lot of in my previous career,” he said.

Solnik’s experience in technology clued him into the strength of Great Clips’ operational model, which has been refined over decades to leverage troves of data to help franchisees grow.

“It’s a very quantitative model — very analytic,” he said. “When I met the team, the first thing we talked about was how the business uses analytics to improve operations at every opportunity. That wasn’t something I saw with the other franchise brands I looked at. I’m a numbers guy, so that really sold me.”

Solnik signed on as a Great Clips franchisee in 2009, but he didn’t open his first store until 2011. “I moved very slowly at first — I still do,” he said. “I always want to be the tortoise, not the hare, and that’s worked out for me.”

When asked how other new or aspiring Great Clips franchisees could replicate his success, Solnik didn’t hesitate: “Just do what Great Clips tells you to. That’s what I did. A lot of franchisees want to come in and reinvent the wheel, but that’s missing the whole point of buying into a brand like Great Clips. They have been around for nearly four decades, and they’ve continued to grow. They’ve built a killer model. It just works.”

Every year, Great Clips hosts a celebratory event for all franchisees and salon managers. At last year’s virtual event, Solnik took home the franchise’s Community Award for his region. The award acknowledged the work Solnik had done to help not only his stores but all Great Clips stores in his region succeed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There were a lot of tricky issues to address during the pandemic, and I suppose I took on a bit of a leadership role,” he said. “For example, a bunch of franchisees in my area all work with the same landlord. I coordinated with the Great Clips corporate team and about ten franchisees to negotiate rent relief while salons were closed. I also set up a weekly conference call for franchisees to share best practices for navigating the pandemic.”

Beth Nilssen, director of franchise development for Great Clips, Inc., says Solnik’s Community Award reflects an approach to community-building the brand encourages all franchisees to adopt.

“We are a very community-oriented franchise, both in terms of our internal community and the local communities our franchisees serve. Ray’s work is a shining example on both fronts,” she said. “He’s done an incredible job of building a model that other franchise owners can follow. We see him as an amazing advocate for our brand and mission.”

Solnik says he has no plans to slow his growth with the brand anytime soon. “I don’t have a particular number of salons in mind for the future. Could be another 10, 20 — maybe 50,” he said. “But I like growing with Great Clips. We’re the number-one salon brand in the country, and my goal is to be one of the top performers in the brand. So, we keep pushing forward.”

The total investment to open a Great Clips salon ranges from $146,750 to $302,400. For more information, visit

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.