Inside Sona Medspas Part 1: Why I bought a Sona franchise.

Medical Spa MD series: Inside A Medical Spa Franchise: Part 1

These posts are written by former Sona Medspa owner Ron Berglund to provide an inside view of the way medical spa franchises recruit, train, and support their owners as well as detailing some of the problems with medspa franchises.

You may ask additional questions using the comments link at the bottom of the posts.

Part 1: Why I bought a Sona Medspa franchise?

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a friend of mine opened one of the original six Sona operations in a suburb of Minneapolis. This was during Sona's "pre-franchise" period. Sona owned and operated a couple corporate centers in the east (the headquarters was in Virginia Beach) and a number of individuals (all non-physicians) opened centers in various parts of the country. I believe the initial operations began in late 1999 and 2000. The original owners were called "affiliates" and operated under a licensing agreement. Sona required that they use the "Sona approved" Cynosure Apogee 9300 alexandrite lasers, and the operations were limited to strictly laser hair removal.
The founder is an individual named Dennis Jones.
My friend and his daughter operated their laser center in Edina, Minnesota as a Sona affiliate from the fall of 1999 through early 2003 when they "converted" to a franchise under Sona's new franchise offering which was rolled out late in 2002. I had taken up my friend's offer to have his staff remove some of the unwanted hair on my back some time prior to this.
Even though I knew my friend and his daughter were still pretty much just "breaking even" financially at this time, I was very intrigued by the operation, the lasers, and the fact that this seemed like pretty much a "ground floor" opportunity at the time (circa early 2002). I had been working as an employee in the spa industry for some period of time and I knew first hand about the dawning of the "medical spa" throughout the U.S. Having been "working for the man" most of my career, I was also looking for an opportunity to own my own business-- to finally take my own shot at achieving "the American dream". For these reasons, I casually mentioned to my friend that "the Twin Cities is a big place" and it would seem to make sense to operate more than one center in MSP to take advantage of shared advertising and other synergies. "When you are ready to open a center in St. Paul", I told my friend, "please give me a call."
Some months later, my telephone rang and my friend and I discussed the prospects of forming a partnership and opening a second Sona Center in one of St. Paul's premier suburbs. Sona was on the verge of switching from its original affiliate program to a franchise program, he said, and since he was one of the original six he claimed that he had been promised "special treatment". Whereas everyone else would have to pay over $400,000 to own a Sona franchise, my friend had been led to believe that he would be allowed to open additional centers on a "cost of merchandise" basis only. Needless to say, this sounded intriguing to me, so my partner and I decided to move forward with the opportunity. The first step was to get more information about Sona and the new Sona franchise program, so I scheduled an appointment and booked a flight to Virginia Beach in the early fall of 2002.
Ron Berglund