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Military Veterans Who Became Great Franchisees: Hollis Howell, Woodhouse Spa

Howell shares his journey from the Navy to franchising and discusses the role Woodhouse Spa allows him to play in his community.

Veteran Franchisee: Hollis Howell

Franchise: Woodhouse Spa

During his service in the U.S. Navy, Hollis Howell’s work focused on submarines, guided missiles and underwater weapons. Then, he transitioned to the information technology space, focusing heavily on cyber security. With this background, there isn’t necessarily a clear-cut path to his role as a Woodhouse Spa franchise owner, but his experience as a client of the brand kicked off his journey. 

Howell has long emphasized the importance of wellness and self-care in his personal life, noting that he sees spas as a form of rehabilitation. As a franchisee, he is able to provide that same care to members of his own community, supporting the wellness of employees and clients alike, while leveraging the skills he learned during military service to run a successful business.

“Having a strong foundation in mathematics and strong speaking and writing skills — those are some things that I picked up from the Navy as well as having a very good grasp on computers and networking,” Howell said. “I also learned the importance of keeping accurate records, performing detailed work tasks and functioning at a high level within a cohesive team environment.”

1851 Franchise spoke with Howell about his franchising journey, his accomplishments in the industry and his advice for other veterans interested in venturing into the franchise world.

1851 Franchise: What is your story? How does military service play into your life, and how do you get to where you are now with franchising?

Hollis Howell: I’m the fifth of six children and the only boy. I’m an Army brat — my dad was in the Army. I lived abroad in Germany, and when he retired we moved to Mississippi. After college, I joined the U.S. Navy and joined the submarine service. A lot of my responsibilities involved operating and maintaining submarines, guided missiles and underwater weapons. Today, my primary professional background is in information technology with a very strong concentration in cyber security.

My wife and I view spas as rehabilitation, so I would frequent different spas in our travels. We’ve visited multiple spas around the world and realized that we really appreciate the value of self-love and self-care. So, she visited a spa in New Jersey, where she’s from, and we instantly fell in love with the field, the look of the spa, and their overall focus on consistency of service. That’s how we got introduced to Woodhouse Spa.

1851: Were you looking to go into franchising specifically, or did you just happen to find and fall in love with a brand that is a franchise?

Howell: Wellness was a part of the overall idea of what our forever-after story would be. We talked about holding classes on the side of the beach and doing all those other things. With me being in jiu jitsu and Muay Thai, and her being into yoga and stuff like that, it just made sense. So we learned of the Woodhouse story, and it fit us personally as far as their overall goal.

When we were introduced to the Woodhouse family, we were embraced and they really made it comfortable. They made it an easy decision for us to focus on the Woodhouse brand.

1851: Are there any skills you developed or lessons you learned during your service that help you now as a franchisee?

Howell: My experience in the Navy gave me determination, the ability to be mission-oriented and to lean into my critical thinking, as well. Within the spa, learning every job function and every role allows me to promote operational efficiency. I’m not a therapist, but I can do everything else.

1851: What’s your favorite part about what you do now or the brand you represent?

Howell: It has to do with the promise of the experience that you receive. Wellness and self-care are things that we tend to neglect. We tend to care for others. With this brand, it really allows you to focus on self. I think that’s really important. Like when you fly on a plane, you put your mask on first before you help the other person. [Self-care] is really essential to being more of a benefit to yourself as well as those around you.

1851: What are you most proud of on your journey?

Howell: For one, we get to create this oasis of a place — a place of escape. People come into the city, into Atlanta, and they don’t feel like they’re in Atlanta; they feel like they’re on vacation. So that part of it is really cool.

The other piece is that we’re employers. We get to meet interesting people from all over the world, and they’re coming in and working with us to accomplish this mission that we have. We’re able to give people a livable wage where they’re able to really focus on their own contributions for their family. They’re essential people with families, kids and elderly parents, so we’re a workplace where people come in and continue to take care of themselves.

We do a lot in the community. We afford our employees two days out of the year to work at a charity of their choice, whether that’s Habitat [for Humanity], the children’s hospital, the ASPCA … and we pay them full salary for those two days because we understand the importance of giving back to the community.

1851: Do you see giving back as a form of self-care that some people don’t have access to because they can’t just take off from work and lose the day’s salary? Is that part of why you offer this opportunity?

Howell: Yes. It’s something that, again, we tend to neglect. It’s really important to make that possible for those around us.

1851: What advice do you have for another veteran looking to follow a similar path? Or what would you want them to know?

Howell: [Franchising] allows me to be a small business owner and lean into a lot of the skills that I’ve learned working and serving my country and leverage the leadership skills and teamwork that I’ve obtained throughout the years.

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