John Fitzpatrick - Sharkey's UK & Ireland CEO


Feb 10, 2017

FranchiseExpo: Tell us about the Sharkey’s concept.

John Fitzpatrick: Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids was born in October 2002 to Linda and Scott Sharkey. The first salon was a huge success, and in 2004 they opened their second and third salons.

The requests for franchises started to accelerate within months, and they knew the business model was successful. In 2006 the first Sharkey’s franchise was sold. In just two short years 20 more salons opened across the US and Canada, making us the fastest growing children’s hair salon according to Franchise Times. Things have only got better since then as we approach 45 salons open and dozens more in the pipeline.

FEUK: How and when did you become involved with Sharkey’s?

JF: After I sold out of my previous business in 2007, I was looking for a different challenge. I was looking to get involved with a unique business, that was scalable and where I could have some fun also. Sharkey’s ticked all those boxes in terms of this industry being in its infancy in the UK, children always need to get their haircut therefore massive opportunity for quick growth and being a father of 3 children.. I like being around kids!

FEUK: What was your background before joining Sharkey’s?

JF: I owned and ran a successful warehousing business that had been in operation for nearly 15 years until we sold this in 2007. There were clear signs that the market, especially in commercial property, was slowing down, so we cashed in our chips which turned out to be a very good decision.

FEUK: What are some of the advantages of being a Sharkey’s franchisee?

JF: Unlike the USA and to a lesser extent Canada, where several successful kids hair care franchise businesses have been established and thrive, the UK market is ripe for development of this concept. There is no dominant player here, with limited and variable competition from individual businesses and all our franchisees agree that working with kids and making them happy is incredibly rewarding.

There is also a guaranteed and quantifiable market for kids getting their hair cut. In fact, it’s a necessity between 6-12 times per year.

FEUK: Who is your ideal franchisee?

JF: We look for positive, can-do people with entrepreneurial flare that also have the ability to work within a franchise system.

FEUK: Tell us a little about your market?

JF: As mentioned previously, this is a relatively untapped market of which Sharkey’s is now the leading brand with three operational salons and three more to open by Q2 of 2013.

There’s no doubt that many retail businesses are suffering in today’s economy, but we’ve not experienced a significant impact at Sharkey’s. We believe this is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we’re very careful to only locate a Sharkey’s salon in areas that meet our proprietary location profiles. Secondly, we invest significant resources in engaging and delighting our customers through social-media, on-line marketing and great quality haircuts and service.

Thirdly, kids haircuts are not a discretionary spend, so while parents may not get their kids haircuts so often in a recession, and some may even do it themselves, the over all market is quite robust. Finally, our customers tell us that Sharkey’s is an inexpensive and practical way for them to treat their kids to a great time when they’ve had to cut back on some other treats and indulgences.

FEUK: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?

JF: I have learned that it’s never as simple as just transporting a successful business from another country and expect it to be as successful. Adjustments need to be made and time given to adapt to new cultures and markets. We have ironed out many of the kinks over the last three years and feel confident that our ambitious growth targets will be met in the coming years.

FEUK: Do you have a mentor and is their someone you use for inspiration?

JF: I don’t have a mentor as such. However I am an avid reader of books and if I can spare a half hour now and then, I like to read business or self-development books. Some recent books I’ve read and would recommend are - Richard Branson’s Business Stripped Bare, Stephen R Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

The best book I have read on customer service is Chris Daffy’s Once a Customer Always a Customer.

FEUK: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?

JF: We are firm believers that the number one determinant of the success or failure of a Sharkey’s salon is the owner or owners of that salon. Owning and operating your own franchise is not for everyone, so make sure you do your due diligence, get to know the franchisors and be prepared to work hard!

FEUK: In your opinion, why do you think that Sharkey’s would be a great opportunity for someone?

JF: There are lots of great investment options out there right now in franchising, and while each person’s individual situation and motivations are different, we believe Sharkey’s offers some unique benefits such as early entry into a market in it’s early stage of growth, low entry costs relative to the revenue potential and of course working with kids can be incredibly rewarding and satisfying. Sharkey’s is a proven business model with over 45 salons; sells a non-discretionary service in a unique manner that millions of children across the country need to purchase several times a year; has multiple revenue streams to mitigate risk and involves relatively low cost of entry and an early break even point.