How far can you go with the right drive, know-how, a great team and a strong brand behind you? Tiffany Hawkins will tell you, “To infinity and beyond.”
When Tiffany Hawkins proudly declares she’s “building momentum,” she means it in more ways than one.
To be sure, she’s referring to Momentum Advisors, the New York-based minority-owned wealth management firm she operates with her business partner Allan Boomer, with nearly $400MM under advisement. Under the Momentum brand, Hawkins and Boomer also co-host a podcast, “The Momentum Advisors Show,” offering personal finance advice, information on entrepreneurship and insight into how to build a successful financial legacy for yourself and your community. The Momentum brand also extends to an insurance brokerage, Momentum Risk Management, and a consulting business, Momentum Franchising, which helps other aspiring business owners get up and running with the franchise concept that fits them best.
But Hawkins is also referring to her drive to open, acquire and operate a legion of franchise locations, which currently includes a Retro Fitness site in Maryland, a THE MAX Challenge site in New Jersey and a steadily growing roster of ZIPS Cleaners locations in multiple states. The franchises are majority-owned by a fund Hawkins and Boomer run, Franklin Morgan Partners.
Hawkins and Boomer started “dating” ZIPS, as they like to describe the process, in 2016 and opened their first store in 2017 in Waldorf, Md. In the past year, they acquired three ZIPS sites in Maryland to add to the two they already owned, then snapped up another three in Indiana last month, having been hand-picked to do so by the ZIPS corporate team. They now have eight locations, a ninth under construction, a signed agreement to develop 20 more stores in Atlanta, and are in active negotiations to acquire additional stores. They hope to build more sites in Indiana once the dust has settled on their acquisition there, and to find other markets where they can spread the bold yellow ZIPS banner further.
“In my mind, we have a long way to go [in developing ZIPS locations],” Hawkins says. “Allan asks me all the time how far I think we can go, and I answer like Buzz Lightyear – ‘To infinity and beyond.’”
The pace and fervor of their expansion efforts with ZIPS earned Hawkins and Boomer their second Trailblazer Award at the company’s Annual Franchisee Meeting in December, honoring their innovation and creativity in pursuing growth. It also attracted an invitation to join the ZIPS Franchise Advisory Council, which Hawkins eagerly accepted, determined to have a voice in where the garment care industry is heading and how the 70-unit, nationwide brand can best capitalize on that trajectory.
“I can see ZIPSs becoming a household name,” she explains. “There’s a lot of land mass that doesn’t know ZIPS yet and I really feel like it’s my personal mission to be part of the brand’s growth throughout this country.”
It’s not simply the fact that she and Boomer are amassing so many stores that makes Hawkins a standout among her fellow franchisees. It’s also the performance of their locations. Their first ZIPS store in Waldorf became one of the chain’s strongest locations nearly within its first year. The second, located in Bowie, Md., remains the location to which trainees are typically sent and at which prospective franchisees are given a behind-the-scenes tour.
“Tiffany is an ideal franchisee,” notes ZIPS President/CEO Bob Barry. “She sees the benefit of scaling the business. She believes in our system and holds her team accountable to following it. She understands the value of her employees and takes good care of them, just as she understands the importance of taking good care of the customer. She always has a very positive attitude and is willing to take on challenges. I consider her a true partner in our efforts to and make our brand successful.”
While Boomer oversees overall revenue for the stores and ensures investor money is available when needed for new deals, Hawkins handles day-to-day responsibilities, partnering with her general manager, Gina Sanderson, to keep things running smoothly. Together Hawkins and Sanderson hire and evaluate staff, tweak expenses, manage vendor relationships, maintain equipment, deal with customer claims, explore opportunities for growth and generally make sure the business process is moving forward at a steady clip.
Though she beams an engaging smile, Hawkins describes herself as a “bad cop,” the one who doesn’t pull punches and pushes hard to get a desired result.
“My strongest characteristics are I’m a very strong leader and extremely strategic. That’s who I am, to a fault at times,” she says. “It’s hard for me to just let things happen. I always see the bigger picture and make decisions that focus on the bigger picture. Everything that happens in our stores is intentional. People may look at us and say, ‘You guys are lucky; you have the biggest store.’ That’s not luck – it’s very intentional.”
In her past, Hawkins has worked as a media planner, a fashion columnist and features writer, held multiple jobs in marketing and public relations and several other positions in event planning and production. She spent three years as a senior account planning director running CIROC Ultra Premium Vodka and a variety of other brands owned by mogul Sean Combs. Through it all she gained a great appreciation for the power of the brand and for attracting, developing, motivating and empowering people who share your passion for cultivating and protecting it.
“Since Day 1, even when we just had one or two stores, we were always developing our teams,” Hawkins says, noting that she and Boomer bought Sanderson, a strong performer for them at their Retro Fitness location, with them when they joined the ZIPS family, going through training together and establishing her as a partner in the stores. “We continuously recognize people within our system who are capable of doing more and groom and train them so they’re available as we continue to grow. How we treat our employees is extremely important to us. We have really low turnover, especially with the back of the house. We make sure everyone always feel appreciated. We hear ‘Thank you’ regularly. That culture takes a lot of time and effort to build.”
Her desire to help others achieve their true potential surpasses her efforts to keep employees motivated and with her organization for the long haul. It even extends beyond the work she and Boomer do with clients seeking a franchise of her own. Hawkins is committed to making the franchise sector more welcoming to and supportive of women, whom she sees as having a true and under-appreciated advantage in being business leaders.
“I would like to see franchises market to get more women in the system as owner-operators,” she says. “I don’t’ think there’s an intentional thought around it. I genuinely believe that women are better leaders and so franchises that want to see real growth and success should make more of an effort to attract women. That includes providing a particular level of support, efforts to help them get open, extra financial incentives. There have been formal efforts on behalf of helping professional athletes get into franchises. I’d like to see the same thing for women.”