1851 Franchise spoke to Driscoll to learn more about the founding of Squeeze, how it's different from any other massage concept on the market and how the brand is expanding across the U.S.
1851 Franchise: Tell us about the history and founding of Squeeze.
Brittany Driscoll, Co-Founder & CEO: Squeeze is a way better massage experience from the founders of Drybar. Prior to Squeeze, I spent 4 years running marketing for Drybar and helped take the company from $30 million to over $100 million. It was the ride of a lifetime. During that time, we opened over 60 new locations and expanded the product line into national and international retailers. Founders Alli Webb and Michael Landau and I were all avid massage-goers and would often share our personal frustration with the limited options available. At one end of the market there were low-end discount chains, which to their credit made massage accessible to the masses, but lacked a lot from a consumer experience standpoint. And then there were high-end spas which are certainly lovely, but unattainable for most to incorporate into their regular wellness routine. So in a very similar way to Drybar, we saw the white space and decided to create a brand and experience that felt luxurious, and was also affordable.
After researching more on the industry however, what really got me excited to start Squeeze was the opportunity to create a brand and experience that put just as much thought and care into the employee experience. I like to say we’re in the people industry. Our values and company culture were inspired by Maya Angelou’s quote, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s important to us that our team feels valued first and foremost for who they are as human beings, and then for the contribution they make to the company. An incredible amount of heart & soul has gone into creating Squeeze as a great place to work, and I’m excited to continue to build what we affectionately call our Squeeze Squad as we open across the country.
1851: What void does Squeeze fill? What was missing in this space before?
Driscoll: In addition to our focus on company culture and making a meaningful difference in the communities we serve, technology is our biggest differentiator. We built an end-to-end platform and proprietary app which allows guests to book, set personalized preferences, pay, tip, rate and review all at their fingertips creating a completely customizable and streamlined experience (goodbye, awkward checkout counters!). When a guest sets their personalized preferences they’re able to select areas of the body they want more or less focus on, their desired pressure level and whether they’d prefer oil or lotion. All of these settings are saved to the guests’ profile so their massage therapist knows exactly what they want, each and every time.
We consider Squeeze a feel-good company because of course, who doesn’t love massages? One of our values and really our brand mantra is The Feel-Good Revolution. So as we created other elements of the experience, we really wanted to ensure that every interaction resulted in a positive feeling and created surprise & delight moments. We have a simple pricing structure and made sure that there were no hidden costs at the end of the experience. Essentially, extras don’t cost extra. Each massage includes your choice of deep tissue, heat therapy, percussion therapy and aromatherapy at no additional charge. This perk is a huge plus for our team as well because they get to focus on creating a relaxing, enjoyable experience and don’t have to worry about meeting daily, weekly, and monthly quotas.
We also have a fun, interactive aromatherapy bar, six different music playlists for guests to choose from, as well as a ready button guests can push once they are on the table and ready for the therapist to re-enter and start their massage.
Our ultimate goal is that guests walk-in and float out.
1851: What are you doing well right now? What are your brand differentiators?
Driscoll: Our membership model is a game-changer. Guests can purchase a membership through the touch of a button on our app (no pushy sales people & paperwork), are billed month-to-month, and can cancel or pause at any time. Staying true to our feel-good commitment, we are not in the business of locking guests into a contract. As a member, you have access to exclusive pricing on additional massages and your unused monthly credits never expire - they roll over each month and can even be gifted to friends. Memberships are transferable to any location. We’ve also incorporated a philanthropic component to our membership program which was really important to us. For every membership sold, Squeeze is helping to provide a day of canine support to a person with a disability through our partnership with Canine Companions. Both our guests and team members know that we’re just as committed to doing good as we are to creating a feel-good experience.
1851: What are your growth goals?
Driscoll: Our vision at Squeeze is to transform communities for good. We really take that to heart in wanting to provide a way better massage experience for our guests, a way better employee experience for our team members, and a way better franchise experience for our Operating Partners. We plan to expand to 300-500 units in the next 5-7 years so we can make an impact across the country.
1851: What were some learning opportunities that Squeeze has leveraged over the years to get to where it is now?
Driscoll: The pandemic will always be a piece of our story, given that our Studio City, CA flagship had only been operating for 11-months before we had to push the pause button. For me, it has been the ultimate exercise in entrepreneurship. I’m convinced the most successful people are not the most experienced, the most well connected or best educated, but the ones who just keep going - and don't give up. That mindset is crucial in building any business. It has provided such a strong framework and foundation as we look to partner with and support other entrepreneurs. Our Operating Partners have a dream, they want to be part of a great wellness culture and make an impact in their community. But there are ups and downs as you build anything and nothing great comes easily. As much as I wish that the pandemic hadn’t happened, I think we’re well-positioned to walk alongside our Operating Partners through the ups & downs of their entrepreneurial journeys.
1851: What are three or more of the brand’s important milestones over the past five years?
Driscoll: Our Studio City flagship opened in March of 2019, generated over $1.6M in our first year, and grew our membership base to nearly 1,000. We’ve maintained our 5-star Yelp & Google rating status since opening as well as a net promoter score of 82 which is higher than Starbucks, Apple, Nordstrom & Southwest Airlines.
Welcoming our first 20 Operating Partners (making up 50+ territories) within a year following the pandemic has been exciting and a milestone we’re proud to have reached during that time.
And last but not least, our first two franchised locations opened at the end of 2022 in Scottsdale and Nashville. They opened to 5-star reviews and those Operating Partners are already looking to expand in their markets after originally coming on as single unit owners.
1851: What does your ideal franchisee look like in terms of how they run their business, what personal traits they have, what prior business experience they can claim, etc.?
Driscoll: I always like to say that we're in the people industry, not the service industry. At the end of the day, all we are doing is selling people's time. So much of what it comes down to for us is not just that our Operating Partners have strong business acumen, but that they understand how to motivate people, have a passion for leading teams and want to be a part of their community. The desire and ability to follow our system is also crucial - we have a detailed playbook across every functional area of the business and have designed it to support their success. It's a definite plus if people have retail or hospitality backgrounds, but we have operators from all walks of life - from accountants to lawyers, bankers, retired athletes and marketers. What ultimately matters is their ability to lead a team and a willingness to roll up their sleeves to create a thriving small business in their local community.
1851: What does an ideal franchisee look like? Are they semi-absentees? A passive investor or an active owner-operator?
Driscoll: It's really important that our Operating Partners are present within the shop experience for the first six to nine months of the business. We require a hands-on approach in the beginning to ensure that they're setting the right cultural tone, building out the team and connecting with their community. Once they have their team and shop operations established, our hope is that they're able to then shift and focus to either building their next Squeeze or pursuing personal passions.
1851: How does Squeeze support franchisees?
Driscoll: We have robust functional support across every major area of the business.
The first step in the process, and often a daunting one, is finding the right location. We have an 8-person team (and growing!), led by Kat Reyes, our head of real estate & development. This team is well versed in our deal terms and site requirements, in addition to local municipality regulations, the ins & outs of permitting, and GC management. Our real estate & construction teams have proven processes and systems designed to deliver projects on-time and under budget.
We also have a dedicated and experienced operations and training team working alongside our Operating Partners supporting them through new shop openings as well as coaching them on business best practices. This team is led by our Chief Operating Officer, David Werner and Megan Martin, our head of operations & training. This team supports our Operating Partners on everything from setting up their business entity, to finalizing their financial model, to recruiting their teams, to operating their Squeeze. When it comes to guest acquisition & retention, we have a new shop opening playbook as well as a local store marketing toolkit developed by our head of marketing, Stacey Levine, who also oversees our PR, social, digital and creative teams dedicated to building brand awareness for Squeeze.
We also host an on-site multiple day training in Studio City. The Operating Partner and their General Manager will come out to shadow the Studio City team and really get a sense of what it's like to operate a Squeeze. A week leading up to the opening, we have a dedicated shop opening support team that facilitates a train-the-trainer program and helps to prepare that initial team for opening. From there, in addition to ongoing business coaching, we have a 550-page Operations Manual, all of which is very digestible through our learning management platform. In addition to our systemized approach to ensuring our Operating Partners are well versed in every aspect of the business, myself and my leadership team are always accessible and available to support our Operating Partners’ entrepreneurial journeys. At the end of the day, their success is our success and we’re committed to doing everything we can to support them at each step.
1851: What growth plans does Squeeze have in the coming years?
Driscoll: We are planning to open 10-15 locations in 2023 as well as award 100+ more territories as we look to build The Feel-Good Revolution and paint towns across America Squeeze Blue!
1851: Why is now the time to buy into Squeeze?
Driscoll: Not only have we seen a growing interest in self-care and wellness, but a desire for personalized, contactless experiences — something Squeeze was spearheading long before the pandemic. It’s an exciting time to join a growing feel-good brand that’s disrupting an outdated industry and is sure to be a household name in no-time. We believe more in what we’re doing today than we did when we started, and are so excited to continue transforming communities for good. We’d love for you to join us!