Founder & CEO of beauty salon empire The Ten Spot, Kristen Gale shares her experience as someone who knew early on that creating her own business was her life’s mission. And it worked.
15 years later, Kristen Gale is leading The Ten Spot, a successful network of beautifully designed studios, both company-owned and franchised, in which customers receive a range of exceptional nail, waxing, eyebrow and eyelash, as well as facial services, and where teams receive above-average wages and commissions, benefits, exceptional training, and ongoing educational opportunities.
When you were growing up, did you already dream you would be an entrepreneur later in life? Or what did you imagine you’d be doing as a career?
Actually, I was told I was going to be an entrepreneur. My father was an entrepreneur, and he said to his kids, ’Do whatever you want in life, just as long as you make it into a business’. Growing up, I thought I was always going to have my own small business.
I didn’t realize at the time that it was such great advice. What I’ve learned now, looking back at it, was like the secret to living a life that you love. He knew that being an entrepreneur was the best way to get that freedom and creativity and control, and most specifically unblocked earning potential, that you want to have a successful life.
Were there other role models around you? Including women?
It was primarily my dad, for sure. To be honest, I was a terrible employee, so the reason why I started The Ten Spot was because I had been fired for the second time, and I was only 24 at the time! This was my third job, two out of three.
I knew that I was not really employee material because I knew that I was going to have my own business, or felt like I was going to have my business. I was waiting for the great business idea to hit, and in my early twenties, I had bounced around to a bunch of different jobs and different internships.
When I got canned the second time, I was like, ’Okay, let’s start to get serious. You’re old enough now’. I’d accumulated enough experience having worked. Another thing that my dad said was that you don’t want to start your business right away. You do want to learn what it’s like to be an employee, what it’s like to work for somebody else, to have good bosses and bad bosses so that you can learn that.
I did take it as my sign that, okay, maybe I need to get serious and start my business. And that was my plan A, my dream and my vision for my life, to start my own company. I felt that if I go for my plan A, and it doesn’t work out, I’m right back in the same position I am in right now, which is looking for a job. I realized that I was actually living my plan B in my worst-case scenario, so I might as well go for it right now, and start my company.
When you started the business, and it was one location first, when did it feel like you had a real business on your hands?
To be honest, it was immediately so because we were so different in the marketplace, there just wasn’t anything like us. We really opened with a bang! And I wasn’t quite prepared for that because I was very good at creating the business.
For me, business is just very logical. I can’t stress about ’will people come and show up?’. The first step is just writing a business plan, finding a location, getting a contractor, and getting money. Generally, it’s better to do that in a different order. I signed my lease without getting my financing, which I would never recommend, but I was super naive at the time, which was helpful.
We really had a lot of success right away. And we definitely had customers, we call them ’our guests’. We had guests coming from every area of the city. So it also became a very destination spot. The second time that I realized that this was a real thing was when I ended up getting married and moving out to Hamilton. We had just started to offer franchises for sale, and when it really hit me was when I built out the Hamilton location.
Because at that point I wanted to really test and see, does this work in a smaller market? Does this work when I don’t have my head office here and all of the infrastructure here? And when that one was also successful, I was like, ’Okay, this is something’, this can be a model that’s replicated in different markets, and we can still have that consistency and control over the brand experience that is vital in a franchise system.
What are some of the advisors, or what is that support network that you built around you to help you be better at running the business?
I am pretty ravenous about personal development and growth and business growth. I really read as much as I could on this because it got to a point where I wasn’t a small business owner anymore. We had a bunch of locations, and I was becoming a CEO without really knowing that I was getting put into this CEO role. When it dawned on me, I just started reading as much as I could.
There’s a whole slew of business books, audiobooks… I’m a huge fan of listening to podcasts and taking as many courses as I can. Anything I could find on YouTube is really helpful as well. And then getting mentors and advisors, basically anyone in the franchising industry that I could get my hands on. Anyone in the world of business.
Speaking of women, I was part of this growth driver program through the BDC. It’s a marriage between the government of Canada, the Business Development Bank of Canada, and then the Richard Ivy School of Business, and they have a program that’s really fantastic where they pair you with a coach that works as an advisor.
And coaching means almost like a therapist. Our coach slash advisor was Kelly McDougal. She’s basically the most fierce, incredible CEO woman that I could ever imagine. And she really helped us take that next leap.
Also, taking advantage of as many opportunities, because there are so many companies that want to help women in business. Milking every opportunity, applying for every award I could get my hands on… Use your networks, tap into your networks as much as possible.
What do you bring every day as a leader and working alongside your team?
How do you build a strong company culture, and how do you go about really communicating it and translating that?
Oh God, this is literally my favourite topic in life. One of the business books that I read was Scaling Up and learning about having a one-page strategic plan and what’s involved in that, such as also having your purpose and your core values really clearly defined.
We went about doing that in a very hardcore way. The Ten Spot is a part of me, and I’m a part of it. It made sense for me to start with my own belief and purpose. And I believe that it’s my duty to try and live my best life ever.
Life is so short and so special, and to not at least try to do your absolute most to suck everything out of it that you possibly can seem like a waste to me. I believe that everybody should live their best, and in order to live your best life ever, you really need confidence.
I don’t think anybody can wake up, kick ass and take names and live their best life to their full potential when they are feeling like a fraud or an imposter or not confident in their body, or in who they are.
Very early on, we started to collect feedback from our guests after they had a service, and time and time again the number one thing that people say is they end up feeling more confident. When we’re making somebody feel put together and polished, we’re making them feel like a 10. That was really how that came together: we exist to make everybody feel like a 10 so that they can live their life as a 10.
What would be your top two pieces of advice for women, or anyone really, wanting to start their business and begin their journey as an entrepreneur?
I would say do it. As I said, you’re going to go back to your plan B, or your worst-case scenario might be the thing you’re actually doing right now, so just go for it.
Be ravenous in your learning. Reading and listening to podcasts, getting those mentors, getting those advisors, taking classes, doing whatever you can to just better yourself all the time, which I think is just in general. I believe that no matter what you do, you’re going to at least get one nugget of value out of something, and that’s worth it.
And then being authentic. There’s only one you, and you have just as much right to take up space as anybody else on planet Earth. No one really knows what they’re doing. Everybody’s just making this up. We’re all born at zero, knowing nothing, making up these lives. Just get out there and make something up and create something and be you.
Listen to our full podcast interview with Kristen Gale, CEO of THE TEN SPOT HERE.