Squeeze in Studio City, CA
Guest: Brittany Driscoll
Topics: Squeeze, massage business
Chris Ressa 0:06
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris ReSSA. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by TLC management. Welcome to retail retold everyone. Today I’m joined by Brittany Driscoll, the co founder and CEO of squeezed massage. Before that Britney was the Vice President of Marketing for dry bar, helping the company move from $30 million in revenue to $100 million in revenue. I’m excited for her to be here today. Welcome to the show. Brittany.
Brittany Driscoll 0:47
Thanks for having me, Chris. It’s an honor to be here. Well, Brittany,
tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do.
Sure. So I, let’s see where to begin. I started my career in marketing and advertising, I have the amazing fortune of working with incredible brands like Disney and Barbie and Hot Wheels, and Coca Cola and Hilton, you know, scratch my my teeth on some pretty world class brands and worked with great teams and understood the power of creating a great experience and connecting with consumers in a meaningful way. And just really fell in love with with building brands and creating engaging moments. And so after about a decade working in that space, with all of those great brands, I was itching to get into something that felt a little bit more personally exciting. And Dr. R had come onto the scene a few years before then, and they were about three years old, they were looking for a head of marketing. And so I got to take all my great experience working with his brands and bring it in house to help build dry bar. And you know, that was just such an incredible experience and understanding. Again, just all of the little aspects of a brand and a business and experience that can really engage and connect with people. So powerfully, we always used to say a driver that we weren’t selling blowouts, we were selling happiness and confidence that came with a blowout. And when you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you can take on the world. And so, you know, we really kind of drink the the yellow Kool Aid, if you will, for a long time, it just loved the idea of what we were doing for empowering women. And I would actually say that, that that’s kind of what has carried me through to where I am today. So after spending four years with the brand, again, loved every second of it opened over 60 doors, launch the product line into all the retailers that it exists in today. Built the team, all the processes and protocols, you know, onboarded franchisees, like it was such an amazing experience. But I’ve always been an entrepreneurial spirit. And that was like a teaching to get into to something else. And Michael and Ali, the founders of driver had always had this other idea and the massage space, but obviously didn’t have the bandwidth to get it off the ground. So they they kindly gave me a shot of running with it. But when we were creating squeeze, I think it was the idea of creating another feel good experience that got me so excited about about what we were doing and disrupting both on the consumer and the guest side. So I would say you know, that’s really that’s really kind of like the underlying mantra and motivating factor for all of us is just building these great feel good experiences that people can, you know, take time out of their very stressful lives, especially now. And you know, and get a little reprieve and self care.
Excellent. Very cool. I’m a big believer in the look good, feel good. I wrestled in college. And so I wrestled my whole life. And I had a college teammate, good friend of mine, and he used to gel and make his hair perfect before a wrestling match. And I used to go to him. Rob in about 15 seconds. You’re going to be sweaty and your hairs going to be a mess. Why are you doing your hair before the match? And he looked at me he goes, You look good. Feel good. You wrestle good Chris. And I said okay. And from then I was a big believer in that.
I love that. See, you know,
so. Okay, I want to take us to the next part of the show called Clear the air. And I’ve got three questions for you. Are you ready?
Okay, here we go. Question one. What is one skill you don’t possess but wish you did?
I wish I could speak another language fluently. Which one, either French or Spanish. French because it’s beautiful and Spanish because it’d be very useful.
Perfect. Alright, question two. What is one thing most people agree with, but you do not.
So I hope this isn’t too controversial. But I I am a huge believer that experienced Trump’s education each and every time.
Wow, I haven’t heard that answer on this show. I’ve heard people talk about that. But I do think that is contrarian for sure. Okay. Wow. I like it. Last one. When is the last time you did something for the first time?
So last month or two months ago, I was in the Bahamas with a girlfriend and we went deep sea fishing. And I caught a Mahi like, I don’t know, like a pound or something. It was massive. So
and it was so fun. That’s great. Not seasick. Clearly. No,
it was an experience of a lifetime is so fun. Very cool.
How was the vacation? Lovely, as you can imagine. All right. So you’re the co founder and CEO of squeezed massage, big ambitions. Today, you have one location open in Studio City, California. Gail, take us away tell us the story of how the squeeze in Studio City, California ended up where it did have that open there.
So if you know anything about real estate in Los Angeles, and or sometimes permitting a massage business can be very difficult. I probably went through and not just 15 locations. In terms of LIS I mean, I was in multiple lease negotiations, I was in front of different city jurisdictions to try and get, you know, massage permitted and specific parts of the city. So I was all over LA for probably it probably took us nine to 12 months to find our location before we were even like under construction. So you decided LA? Yes, we all lived in Yes, we all lived in Los Angeles, LA, obviously a great market to launch a brand. You know, we knew that health and wellness and massage would be very well received. We also had a great strong presence because of dry bar. So but I mean, we looked everywhere from like Marina del Rey to also gotten down to West Hollywood. I mean, everywhere Santa Monica. And we ended up in Studio City, which worked out I mean, everything works out the way that it’s supposed to. I’m such a big believer in that I lived in Sherman Oaks at the time. So I was literally like three minutes from the shop, which was such a blessing in hindsight, because had we been in El Segundo, I would have been banging my head against the steering wheel for two hours, both ways each and every day. So yeah, you know, I mean, it was just it was such the process. And then again, permitting massage in Los Angeles, I, the amount of times I went to the LA City Police Department to go through the whole process because you get permitted through the police department versus like the health and safety department. So there’s all sorts of just like Insanity, getting to opening our doors, but it was so much fun. I mean, I loved the construction process I loved watching our space before it was squeezed was a mattress shop. So I always say we like swapped beds for beds. Clearly, you know, it was like a big open space and we created a space with 12 rooms. So it I mean, they their construction prod process and just creating something that’s going to come to life. It’s an amazing experience is a really cool experience. I loved every second of it.
So I want to go back a little bit before that. You are the co founder of squeeze. And who are the other co founders.
Yes. Okay, so squeezes the brainchild really of Michael Landau and Alli Webb they are the founders of dry bar. And if Michael were sitting here with me, he would tell you that he was a avid massage goer for a decade plus and a member at a nother concept that we will not name the name of. But you know, his whole experience was basically the massage itself was great. But everything about the experience was really frustrating and on relaxing. And so what we’ve done it squeeze is really created a seamless, truly relaxing experience. And what I mean when I say that is we’ve built an end to end booking platform that enables our guests to book through an app or online set all their personalized massage preferences, everything from areas of the body focused on what you want, avoid it if you want more or less pressure if you want your table heated, all that information is saved to your profile before we even walk in the door. The therapist reviews all of it, they know why you’re there. You know they feel empowered to give you a great experience. We carry that personalization forward or through the shop as well. So like you can select a an aromatherapy scent from an interactive aromatherapy bar we have in our lounge. We’ve got you know great refreshments that you can also enjoy when you get into the room itself. You can select from six different music playlists, you can adjust the lighting, we’ve got phone chargers and mints and hair ties. One of the favorite features also we’ve added a Ready button to the table so you as the guests let the therapist know when you’re ready for them to reenter the room after you’ve gotten undressed and on the team. We’ve all avoiding the very awkward knock exchange that typically happens. So you know, and then when the massage is done, it’s like Uber and Postmates, you rate tipping review. at your leisure, we like to say our guests walk in and float out. There’s no checkout lines, there’s no one asking you about tipping it is all truly very, very seamless. So yeah, I mean, launch, we basically built a technology, business and also retail business at the exact same time and had to launch it all, it probably took 18 months start to finish. But the real estate piece was, you know, was a big piece of it and all of it to say that it was definitely the right location, the business performed phenomenally, we’ve got such an awesome team. And despite the past, you know, the world having different plans for us the past 15 months, we’re really excited to be scaling nationally. Now we’re franchising and we just signed Scottsdale, I was just out there looking at some locations. And we’ve got a few more that we’re about to announce in a couple of weeks here. So yeah, it’s exciting. It’s a good, good time, I’m happy to be on the other side of the last 15 months or so.
Same. When did you all decide like the idea Michael was a massage goer for a decade? The idea was there for a while, when did you all decide that now is the time we’re going to launch this what time period?
So it was probably well, I can say because when I worked at dry bar, I mean, they were talking about this idea for years and years, they just again didn’t have the bandwidth, nor someone like me that that could dedicate time to it. And so what ended up happening was, I was again, ready for my next challenge, looking to move on. Didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. But Michael and Allie reminded me about this idea. And I was like, wow, my husband would tell you that he knew immediately that I was going to do this, but I was a little bit like whoa, I’m not sure I was looking to actually launch a business from scratch, I thought maybe I would go find like the next dry bar again. And and, you know, take what I had learned and do it all over again. So what I told Michael and Ally was, I said, I’ll start to think about how you could launch and build this brand. I’ll build a model, I’ll think about how we could position it. And at the same time, I was kind of exploring my other options like seeing what else was out there. But then, of course, and again, it was around three months from like the initial conversation, we had to I spent a little bit of time thinking about how it was going to more how the business could be positioned. And after that time, I was kind of like, okay, I think this would actually be really fun and amazing. So I want to take it on and do it. It was I mean, it really had to be, you know, me deciding to move forward. Because again, you know, they didn’t have the bandwidth or time to do it. But I think what got me the most excited honestly, was the feel good brand piece of it. Like, obviously massage makes you feel good. And thankfully, there’s an endless demand for massage. But domain opportunity within this space is the employer side, like the people side and I’m such a people person, I love people, I believe in people, I love championing them and, and I thought, gosh, like what a cool opportunity. This could be to create a space not only where our guests love to come, but also people love to come to work. And I love the idea of building and scaling something around, you know, that mentality and the community piece. And that is honestly what got me the most excited about it. And I had written out what our values were going to be and again, like really what we stood for and what our vision was, and and kind of the rest is history.
That’s an incredible story. And you decided that you were taking the role? When did you start?
We started in fall of 2017 So like September of 2017. And we ended up opening our doors in March of 2019 2017.
What are the what are you doing at that point? You start What are you doing?
Yeah, everything from trademarking the name to getting our URL to starting on the branding and the you know, the layout and flow of the shop. Like thinking about the technology piece, I brought on a partner really quickly. David Warner who’s now our Chief Operating Officer, I originally brought him on as our chief technology officer because we all knew the retail side we had no idea do you know an app and make it seamless? And he’s he’s been such an integral crucial part of building this business but yeah, so I mean, he you know, he started immediately on like, the technical requirements and the structure of how the app was going to work and how we were gonna be able to offer everything and we were off to the races I mean, it was a it was a lot but but you know, looking for our site probably took A big, big chunk of time, the most time I would say,
you get all the behind the scenes stuff done. And now you start looking for a site, you knew it was Los Angeles, you’re all there great market to open a new brand. As you said, now you’re getting into the real estate side, what were some of the surprises to you, as you were looking at real estate?
Well, you can never find a location, that’s exactly the square footage that you want, or you need. And, you know, for us, specifically, it’s very important that we have a certain amount of rooms in order for, you know, the financials to work. So it was always like, how many rooms? Can we fit in this space? And, you know, Can we can we maximize that to our, to our benefit? And yeah, so that and then, of course, you know, there’s columns and pillars and things you can’t move and which always makes, you know, the design part really interesting. And then again, just the, the permitting, and the zoning side of things in Los Angeles for massage was way more intense than I ever imagined. I navigated it all and figured it out. But But yeah, it was never a dull moment, as we say.
Yeah, never a dull moment. How was the reception? You mentioned? You’re you’re trying to find a location pretty much anywhere in LA and you had a bunch of letters of intent and even multiple leases out? How was the reception by the landlord community? Were they like, or were they like, this is great.
Really positive? Honestly. I mean, that’s why we were in so many conversations, it really came down to either like this, this space working and or the, the zoning situation permitting in this in the city. But no, I mean, I think everyone was super excited that it was from the founders of dry bar. And also for massage. I mean, this industry is ripe for disruption, right, the idea of having a modern, fresh approach to experiencing massage and having a beautiful space and, you know, very seamless technology. I think everyone very quickly understood the differentiation of our business and, you know, wanting to in their community for sure.
We’re gonna get to that in a second. But first, what type of real estate product? Are you in? Are you in a downtown location? A shopping center? What are you in a mall? What’s, where’s the location? Studio City is
right on Ventura Boulevard. So we’re a street facing location. That’s not to say, though, that I mean, we were looking at also Gundo. You know, we were looking within more of an outdoor shopping centers, you know, format. And I do think that squeeze again, as we go into these other markets, you know, can work in grocery anchor shopping center, or, you know, something that’s a little bit more suburban, if you will, and feel versus street facing.
totally get it. Do you see yourself in some locations that are similar to some of the other large massage brands that are out there? Because they go into grocery anchored shopping centers and things like that?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think daily use is always a part of our real estate mix, you know, wanting to be near, again, whether it’s a grocery store, or a coffee shop, or a bank, you know, places that people frequent regularly, and can incorporate squeeze into their routine. And on Ventura Boulevard, we literally are what I like to call a long wellness row, there’s like a nail salon a facial space somewhere to go get your hair done, your eyebrows done, massage. So you know, it kind of all works within again, people’s like regular routines.
God got it once you got comfortable with the zoning piece and identifying the location that was going to be the one that you were choosing, how was the LOI and lease negotiation? Was Was there anything unique to that? Or was it pretty run of the mill,
I would say it was relatively run of the mill. I mean, it was the first time so I had been exposed to a lot of our lease negotiations at dry bar. And so there was nothing too unfamiliar to me. But it was the first time that I was leading the process. And really, you know, also the one like making the final decision, the location that we ended up going into was a bit larger than our typical wall. It’s actually a lot larger than our typical floor plan would be but it was such a great flagship location. So you know, having to bite the bullet on like, a little bit higher rent, and the build out costs is going to be more because we had more square footage. I brought that to Michael anally, they sit on my board, you know, and they I remember there’s this distinct moment of Gosh, we’ve looked at so many locations at this point, nothing’s going to be perfect. And I feel like this is really, you know, the, the best of what we’ve seen, but clearly like, you know, didn’t check all the boxes. And Michael was like, I trust whatever decision you make. And I was like, wait, what? Can you tell me yes or no. And, you know, he was like, no, he’s like, whatever. Were you you’ll make the right decision. And I remember I went for a run, like a 45 minute run. And by the time he came back, I was like, Okay, I know, I know what I’m gonna do. But, you know, having this, this is my first true entrepreneurial venture where, you know, aside from having my amazing business partners and board, I’m, you know, I’m kind of like the the buck stops with me. So that was a, that was definitely a moment of truth, for sure.
That’s excellent story. So you open your doors in March of 2019. Obviously, the pandemic happened prior to the pandemic. Where were you in? On the economics? Were you at the revenue that you thought were you behind? Were you ahead? How was it doing?
Amazing. So we were open for 11 months before the pandemic hit, and we beat all of our projections. In those 11 months, we generated over a million and a half in revenue. Yeah, we had close to 1000 members with a net promoter score of 82, which is, you know, higher than Nordstrom and Starbucks and Southwest Airlines. I give a lot of credit to Dave for that one. Because again, I mean, just the seamlessness of the technology, and the full experience was really, truly, you know, we launched pretty flawlessly and again, not not to my credit by any means. But, you know, I think it was one of those things where massage is such an on demand, experience, like people think about it even for yourself, you know, when do you want massage like you want it now you’re not like, oh, like next Thursday at 3pm? That’ll work. You’re like, no, can I have it in two hours, actually. Right. So you know, the fact that our guests are able to do that so easily through the app, and then seamlessly walk in again, there’s not a lot of like friction or things happening once you’re in it was just so well received from from the gecko. And yes, so financially, the everything, all of our metrics and projections were exceeded, which was super exciting.
And how big is it again?
So we have 12 rooms, our typical, or attended 12 rooms is our typical prototype, and 2800 to 3000 square feet, our location is much bigger than that. But again, that’s that’s the typical.
Excellent, and then the pandemic hit. When were you able to reopen your doors?
I mean, we were in Los Angeles. So honestly, we opened for a few weeks in November. But really, we weren’t able to open until the end of February of this year. So pretty much a year we were close.
And how’s it going since the reopening
amazing. I mean, honestly, it’s so great to have the team back, everyone’s excited to be back to work and you know, have a community of people around them. Demand is even greater than it was before. And again, I mean, the good thing about massage is there really isn’t an endless demand. It’s just again, about, you know, creating a great place where people want to come to work and having enough therapists to service that demand, which, which is primarily our focus. And again, like the type of operating partners and future franchisees that we want are people who understand people. But in any case, yeah, the demand is even greater. And people are booking as far out as we’ve ever seen, again, just to, you know, kind of have an appointment on the book. So it’s exciting. I think that there’s we were bullish about this concept, pre pandemic. And now I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, like, you know, this is the right time to be in this business. And I’m very excited for, you know, scaling, squeezing, getting many more people to experience it.
Well, kudos to you, I wish you nothing but the best of luck.
What a wonderful story. I’m glad it’s heading back into the direction that even better than you hoped.
You and me both.
I’m sure launching a new brand and then getting shut down. That was not an easy year.
rough road, that’s for sure. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. So here we are.
Here we are. So I want to now talk about something you’ve mentioned a bunch, massage, extremely competitive landscape, a lot of different brands. There’s still a tremendous amount of small business, local spas, there’s all the high end spas. You mentioned that squeezes this disruptive brand and massage. What makes squeeze a disruptive massage brand.
So I would say that everything I described earlier as it relates to the guest experience is what makes us a way better massage experience from a consumer standpoint, and that is our tagline a way better massage experience. Again, going back to just the seamlessness of booking through an app you can you can read therapists reviews, you are bios, you can read other guests ratings and reviews on the app you can favorite a therapist everything is at being in the guests control, if you will. And then again our space is beautiful the ability to personalize all of your settings in the room. You know, that’s what really sets us apart from the guests experience. From the industry side of things, I also like to say that we’re a way better franchise experience. And I think we’re also a way better employee experience. And that’s just because we’ve placed a lot of emphasis on ensuring that we have happy team members and happy franchisees, which, in turn, will, will make for happy guests. And that’s, that’s just the recipe to a great business. And on the employee side, you know, we have put a lot of programs in place to retain talent, not only from, you know, a competitive compensation structure, but also just programs that celebrate our people day in and day out, we have really tight communication feedback loops with within the way within our communication platform, and the way that we work with a team so that people feel heard, and they feel valued, there’s a lot of ownership and accountability that we give our team, it’s not like, Oh, let me go talk to the manager, you know, our teams are able to make very immediate decisions in the moment for the for the guests experience, and then equally so you know, again, I think they feel a lot of ownership and pride in our space and how it’s cared for, we’ve got like a very strong team. Dynamic and, and the way that the team helps each other out, we we just, we’ve just done a lot of things very differently within the retail space that I think truly does set the employee experience apart, we’re not perfect by any means. But I, you know, I’m very proud of, and it’s something that we spend a lot of time focusing on, because, you know, you spend so much time at work. And our team also, you know, they’re putting their heart and soul into helping and healing people like they deserve to feel just as valued. Day in and day out, I always like to say that I hope our team feels recognized not just for what they do, but for who they are, and that they’re seen as people. So So yeah, so I think that that’s, that’s a big piece of it. And then on the franchise side, you know, it’s kind of like the combination of those two things that we’ve built, and the system and structure that we’ve put in place to enable them to have a very, you know, successful system to operate. From the other piece of it from the franchisee side, that’s probably the most interesting is just, we require no sales team. So our membership were primarily membership driven. Business 50% of our revenue, as an example came from membership fees. And all of that is at the touch of a button through our app. There’s no sales team, there’s no paperwork, there’s no, you know, kind of like the heart to hard sell that happens in a lot of spaces. It also enables us to have a very lean in shop. Staff. So we’ve got one person working at front versus the two to three that you typically see. So there’s just a lot about the experience that is way better.
Very cool. You also mentioned to me offline a few weeks ago, when we were prepping for this that you had an interesting brand positioning, which was it’s affordable luxury. Yes. Talk to me about that.
So when we looked at the market landscape, on one end of the spectrum, there were the low end discount chains, which I always like to say to their credit made massage accessible to the masses, affordable in price point, the lack of lot from a consumer experience standpoint. And then on the flip side, you’ve got high end hotels and spas which are lovely, but unattainable from both like a time and financial resource standpoint for most people to have a regular routine experience. And so what we’ve done and that was kind of the case with Dr. Are two there was like the fantastic fans and the high end salons and there was nothing that brought in that elevated, sophisticated luxurious experience and seal, but at an affordable accessible price point. And so we’ve done that at squeeze, you know, and so and that is you know why I believe we sit in that like affordable luxury category is it feels luxurious and upscale, but it’s something that you can do at least once a month, if not more, which is how it should be. I mean, we should all be getting massages at least once a month.
Kudos to that. Well, I think that’s a good point to end on. We should all be getting massage at least once a month. Yeah. Well, this has been fantastic. I want to take us to the last part of the show. It’s fun. I call it retail wisdom.
I’m very excited.
I have three questions for you. Are you ready? Ready? All right. Question one. What extinct retailer Do you wish would come back from the dead?
I mean, I feel like I hope I’m not the only person that ever thinks or says this But I loved blockbuster. I mean blockbuster was like I mean don’t get me wrong Netflix and everything having a touch your fingers awesome, but like going and you know perusing the aisles and you know running into people like it’s just such a nostalgic experience and memory that I have and on Friday nights I miss it.
You’re not the first but I agree it was a good one. I will Have I spent, I will tell you that the touch of the button piece for me hasn’t necessarily shortened the time because at Blockbuster, I used to read the back of every video. And so I’d be there for a long time. And now I do this all the time I end up the descriptions on like Netflix and all these channels aren’t as good as the back of the VHS box. Angry. So I ended up going, what’s this going to rotten tomatoes going to IMDb and like it takes just as long.
I know. I know. I’m with you.
Question two. What is the last item over $20 You bought in a store?
I bought my brother’s sunglasses at a Sunglass Hut in Vegas.
Excellent. I need a new pair of sunglasses. Yes. All right. Last question. Brittany. If you and I were shopping at Target, and I lost you what I would I find you in such a good question.
Definitely the home section probably the magnolia market. Specifically Joanna Gaines fan. Yes. Yes. Massive any HGTV fan? Honestly. But yes,
my wife. I am too actually. So I like is she TV? Well, listen, this was excellent. Thank you so much for the time. Best of luck. I think you’re gonna do great. You’re so passionate. And it’s a very interesting concept. So kudos to you all. Congrats on making it through the last year. Not easy. And I think you guys are onto something here. So kudos.
Thanks so much. I appreciate it.
Thank you for listening to retail retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at retail retold at DLC mgmt.com This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode