Since its founding in 2004, Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa, the 500-plus-unit massage and facial spa franchise, has prioritized the empowerment of female entrepreneurs through successful franchise ownership.
To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, as well as Women’s History Month throughout all of March, several members of the Hand & Stone leadership team spoke about their journey with the brand and discussed how their roles help position all franchisees for success.
Cindy Meiskin, Chief Experience Officer
Hand & Stone Chief Experience Officer Cindy Meiskin joined the team as a director of training after falling in love with the brand’s concept in 2012. Meiskin says her role now allows her to support the women on her team and create an environment where franchisees feel empowered to do their best.
“I oversee the massage and facial program as well as all training for all franchisees,” said Meiskin. “When someone chooses to invest in their own business, it is their baby, so I feel very passionate about helping franchisees and letting them know they are heard. Anyone who invests in Hand & Stone should know that there will always be someone there to support them. It is never too late to reach a turning point in your life — if anybody is on the fence about investing, I want them to know that with hard work, they have the infrastructure to get to where they need to be. When I look back at my life, it all came together and led me to Hand & Stone so I could follow a path that was true to my passion and help other entrepreneurs do the same.”
Gigi Harding, Hand & Stone Canada President
Gigi Harding, president of Hand & Stone Canada, is a fourth-generation business owner who began her journey in franchising in 1988 working for the largest printing franchise in Canada. Utilizing her in-depth experience in the Canadian franchise industry, Harding began looking for a new concept to introduce to the country and fell in love with Hand & Stone. Since opening its flagship spa in 2009, Harding has helped expand the brand’s Canadian footprint to over 32 locations across the country.
“33% of Hand & Stone’s operations in Canada are solely owned by women, and 45% are operated by couples with the women running the business,” said Harding. “That is a significant number and I am in awe of these women because they are driven, capable and used to managing much more than just a job, whether that be a household, a family or otherwise. The beauty of Hand & Stone is that it allows these passionate entrepreneurs to have it all. One of our most successful franchisees is a stay-at-home mom with three kids, and she is able to manage a huge spa because she has great management skills and a strong infrastructure behind her. It is important to put strong women in the forefront and give them the confidence and opportunity to succeed. The most important way I empower entrepreneurs is through mentorship — there is nothing that motivates me more than seeing other women succeed and reach their goals.”
Anita Wells, Hand & Stone Canada General Manager
Anita Wells has worked alongside Gigi in the corporate printing franchise business since 2000 and transitioned with her to the Hand & Stone Canada operations in 2008. As Director of Marketing during the brand’s introduction to the country, Wells was very much hands-on at this exciting time of growth and strengthening of the brand recognition. Today, Wells is Hand & Stone Canada’s General Manager and oversees the brand’s Canadian operations.
“There are inherent advantages to having both men and women in business leadership positions. Women bring diversity and new perspectives to the table because of their experiences and their backgrounds,” says Wells. “It was Gigi who laid the foundation for what Hand & Stone Canada is today, and she left her mark on the Canadian franchise industry as a smart, successful, female leader. Gigi has been an incredible mentor for me, personally, and I want to show prospective business women that same support through Hand & Stone.”
This expert leadership team and culture of support is part of the reason why qualified women entrepreneurs continue to join the Hand & Stone team. In 2020 alone, Hand & Stone signed franchise agreements for 25 new spas across the country. Now, the Hand & Stone team has identified a number of top-tier territories ready for franchisees in 2021, including Boston, St. Louis, Kansas City, Hartford, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Cleveland, San Diego, Chicago and Baltimore.
With a strategic growth plan in place, a proven business model and the support of an expert leadership team, the time has never been better for qualified entrepreneurs — both women and men — to join the Hand & Stone family.
Meghan Lally, Vice President of Operations
When Meghan Lally, now vice president of operations, first joined the brand 14 years ago as a spa associate at Hand & Stone’s flagship store in New Jersey, the company had just become a franchise, and she watched first-hand as Hand & Stone successfully executed an ambitious plan for growth. Over the next few years, Lally’s career grew in step with the brand, and she began training managers and spa associates at new Hand & Stone locations. The company also contributes funds to help Lally earn her MBA program.
When Todd Leff joined the team as the CEO in 2009, he knew the brand needed an ongoing support system, and he selected Lally as Hand & Stone’s first operations manager. Then, in 2020, she made the leap to vice president of operations.
“As a leader, you need to be able to evaluate someone’s strengths and design a path that leaves them motivated to do the work,” said Lally. “We have a support team of 18, and 16 of them are women. We work alongside each other to achieve the common goal of supporting successful business entrepreneurs. The greatest value I bring to this company is my hands-on experience within the four walls of the spa. I have so much respect for every franchisee that is in the system because I understand what they are taking on, and I understand how much is on the line. My role is to evaluate their business plan, help them achieve their goal and put the pieces together so that they gain all the benefits of this franchise.”
Nicole Alburger, Vice President of Franchise Development
After joining the brand in May of 2013 as a coordinator, Nicole Alburger quickly grew within the company, and today she is Hand & Stone’s senior director of franchise development. Alburger says the role offers her the opportunity to support both the women on her team and prospective franchisees who are looking to join the brand.
“My position is a unique one because I fit the core demographic of our business model — a 35-year-old female who is also a consumer,” said Alburger. “When I talk to potential franchisees, it is validating for them to know that I believe in the brand, the model and the support system. Regardless of gender, people might have preconceived notions about our business model, so my role gives me the ability to speak to both sides of the coin. The most important part of my role is finding quality franchisees who are going to be an asset to our brand. That is a large responsibility. The vertical progression of employment here, especially for massage therapists, estheticians and franchisees, really speaks to all of our qualities and the way Hand & Stone supports women.”
Lisa Rossmann, Vice President of Brand Experience
Lisa Rossmann, vice president of brand experience, started out as a regional operations manager with Hand & Stone when the franchise was just shy of 50 locations. In that role, Rossmann said she supported new franchisees as they opened their businesses, drove sales, and recruited and trained employees. In 2016, Rossmann, a licensed aesthetician, began focusing on growing the skincare segment of the business and used her passion to help franchisees manage skincare services at their spas. Now, Rossmann serves as the vice president for brand experience, overseeing all services at every store that opens.
“A lot of what we do is focused on boosting confidence for women — both for our customers and our internal team,” said Rossmann. “For example, some business women join the system thinking they can only open a single store, but we provide them with the confidence and resources to realize their true dream of scaling to multiple locations. The systems we have built provide them with the confidence and freedom to focus on their long-term goals. I take great pride in building leaders on my own team and on the store level, helping people realize their strengths, showing them what we are looking for and giving them the freedom to thrive. A lot of people get stuck in careers doing things they don’t want to do but feel like they have to. We want to encourage both women and men to try to follow their passion, because passion leads to success.”
Anita Davis, Corporate Counsel
Hand & Stone Corporate Counsel Anita Davis started her career as an attorney in the law firm setting, but when she was offered the opportunity to join the corporate team in October 2020, she knew the Hand & Stone culture was a place where she could thrive, so she eagerly accepted.
“As corporate counsel, my role is to be a resource and guide for all corporate entities,” said Davis. “Being a leader means empowering and motivating others to change for the better. The thing I love about Hand & Stone is that it is not one of those franchise brands that wait for things to happen — it is a very hands-on company that plans ahead and is always finding creative ways to improve the brand for our franchisees and customers. I am proud to be a part of a company that inspires others to do better.”
Sarah Moudry, Director of Franchise Development
During her decade-long career in franchise development, Sarah Moudry embraced the franchise community and developed a passion for business development, marketing and PR. Moudry was offered the director of franchise development position at Hand & Stone in September 2020.
“I talk to people about their dreams every single day,” said Moudry. “Every woman I talk to, whether it be stay-at-home moms, teachers or nurses, have so much passion, drive and ambition to become their own boss and follow their dreams of entrepreneurship. If I can take my experiences and help women create generational wealth and get to a place of freedom and happiness, that gives me purpose and inspiration! Hand & Stone is bigger than the bottom line — we are selling a lifestyle in an industry that is helping customers feel better. If you’re going to invest your life savings in a business, why not with one, that’s mission is to help people feel their best. Hand & Stone happens to be a lucrative, recession-resilient business, but we also provide an incredibly valuable service. That makes it an attractive model and appealing dream for women specifically, as they are the target consumer demographic and understand the true value of what Hand & Stone offers.”
Moudry continued, “I’m truly working with the best team in franchising and couldn’t be more thrilled about what the future holds at Hand & Stone. I hope to one day live in a world with more health and wellness franchises than fast-food chains. That is the bigger mission. Health and Wellness is the future!”