One Location Wonder: MULO is Not for Everyone

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Some MULO (multi-location) brands measure success by the number of locations they have. However, other retail, restaurant, and service businesses choose to remain small and mighty.

Lisa Richards, Founder and CEO of RPZL (as in Rapunzel), falls into the second category. She has one location now but has found ways to scale creatively without adding more brick-and-mortar. RPZL is located in midtown Manhattan.

Although Richards isn’t adding locations, her brand is adding hair to people’s heads (and making their existing hair more fashionable).

We spoke with her about how she’s been able to scale her business beyond $1M without opening more storefronts. (Richards would not disclose revenues, but she indicated that has fallen between $1M and $5M since the company launch.)

When did you start the business? Why?

“RPZL was started nearly 10 years ago. It is the world’s first state-of-the-art hair extension and blowout bar, known as the “it” spot for quality blowouts, the best extensions, and award-winning tools and accessories found in salons and stores nationwide.  Hair extensions were becoming popular, and we wanted to close the glaring holes in this explosive market and bring top-quality extensions to everyone. 

At that time, clients couldn’t get same-day hair extensions. The hair quality was subpar, and consumers had to sit for over five hours — after waiting weeks to order their extensions. They also had to pre-pay for their hair. 

We applied cutting-edge technology and created a revolutionary process, decreasing application time while improving the quality and accessibility of this transformative experience. It has become a revolutionary service paired with blowouts from the best stylists in New York City.

We use ultrasound in our application process and make our own high-quality extensions.”

How do you grow if you have one location?

“We chose to expand into e-commerce, and RPZL has continued to expand in this field. Our hair, products, tools, and accessories are available online, with thousands sold worldwide annually. We are continually adding new products rather than opening more storefronts. Other salons carry our products too.

The quick process also means faster turnover—the salon sees over 100 customers daily for various services, such as a blowout with existing keratin extensions or more noncommittal clip-in or tape-in extensions. More clients = more profits, another reason RPZL doesn’t need to charge what traditionally might have constituted an entire paycheck.”

What lessons have you learned that you can impart to other women in the beauty and lifestyle industries?

“My key takeaways are:

  • Pivoting is key to business survival. Don’t be complacent, and never rest on your laurels.
  • Seek revolution, not evolution, and don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith and innovate. Swift action is non-negotiable—never delay your decisions and act with a sense of urgency. Surround yourself with the best team and partners. Most importantly, NEVER give in—it’s not an option!
  • When you hire, look for unique characteristics that play well in a start-up and success-oriented culture. For example, former athletes are disciplined. They wake up early, make their bed, etc., making them the perfect fit for new businesses. The list of attributes I look for in an employee is long: passionate, shows grit, a strong work ethic, commitment to the mission, a team player, fearless through failure, a self-starter, proactive and positive attitude, a preference for unstructured systems. Hire for potential; don’t just base the decision on a resume and talent.  You can teach most people how to do the job. You can’t teach someone to be the rest.”

Although this column deals primarily with MULO brands, Richards is an example of an entrepreneur thriving through “LO,” strategic alliances, online sales, and product line extensions — pun intended!

Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.
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