Grit, perseverance, determination— these are all traits that one hopes to exemplify, and can be practiced and mastered through life experience.

For Chris Aune, these skills are what shaped his life as a business owner, and his career in the military enhanced his ability to embrace the challenges that come with life-altering opportunities, and to ultimately get things done.

Chris joined Phenix Salon Suites in 2017, opening his first location in the Austin area with his wife, Claudia in 2019. Looking back on the five years since joining the franchise concept, Chris recognizes that although it could have been easy to give up at points, his time at the United States Military Academy at West Point and serving in the Army helped instill values that still ring true today.

At age sixteen when Chris was entering a new chapter of life and determining his path for higher education, he was presented with unique opportunity to enroll at West Point on a golf scholarship. Although it did not fit the ‘traditional’ college experience, Chris was drawn to doing something different and entering a program dedicated to developing the leaders of the future.

“Overall, attending West Point was an excellent experience that opened many doors for me,” said Chris. “My parents definitely had a positive influence on my decision, encouraging me that not everyone has the opportunity to attend such a distinguished school such as West Point, which definitely directed me down the path I ended up taking.”

“Lifechanging” is the way that Chris describes his time and West Point. His experience at the academy coupled with his years in active duty exposed him to challenges that he may not have faced otherwise. Upon graduation, Chris served as a Second Lieutenant in the Field Artillery for the Army, later earning his title as First Lieutenant. During the four years he served, Chris lead units of field artillery soldiers and equipment.

“During my time on active duty, I learned the importance of taking a step back, observing the situation at hand, and choosing the best path forward to success,” said Chris. “Being able to problem solve and think critically was something I continued to utilize in my life following the Army. After transitioning to civilian life, I worked in corporate America for 20 years in leadership and strategy positions at Dell, Marriott and Apple. Although I got to see a lot and had significant success, there came a point where I was ready for a new journey to embark on.”

After the military and working in corporate America, Chris and Claudia sought out to regain control of their future for their family, and the pair were drawn to the idea of franchising. Investing in a proven business model, tapping into the corporate support, and not having to start from ground zero while still having all the appeals of being a small business owner was attractive to the Aunes.

The couple explored various industries in the franchise space such as auto repair, dry cleaning, education, and salon suites. Ultimately, the Aunes were drawn to the unique retail requirements and proven track record that Phenix Salon Suites has with its more than 340 salons both nationwide and internationally. There was one factor above the rest that sold them on Phenix—and it was the chance to provide a lifechanging opportunity to others going out on their own and starting their own entrepreneurial journey. Similarly on their own path of entrepreneurship, the Aunes felt they would be in a special position to help those in their surrounding community through Phenix Salon Suites.

“It could have been easy to give up,” said Chris. “As we were still fresh in our journey as budding entrepreneurs, we were faced with new struggles that we had not yet experienced in our previous careers. Every day we had to find a way forward, go to work and get things done, and we were able to do that through our personal commitment to the business along with support from the Phenix team. We’ve had a great outcome with our locations and have been able to create results that we are proud of— and it made the hard work and perseverance worthwhile.”

Through their determination to work through the early and ongoing challenges that business owners face, the Aunes have been able to seek new opportunities with Phenix Salon Suites. With the success of their first location, the Aunes opened an additional Phenix Salon Suites in 2020. With the now high demand for the suites in their area, the Aunes are adding an additional 18 suites to the second Austin location, and are currently seeking a site to open a third location.

Beyond their own achievements, the Aunes are have been able to help dozens of salon professionals from the surrounding Austin area take a leap of faith and start their own business. The Aunes provided extra support to those renting salon space in the early stages of their own small business ownership journeys, and those same professionals are still practicing in the Phenix Salon Suites locations today.

“It is great to see the salon professionals busier than ever in our locations, and know that we were able to be a part of their journey as entrepreneurs in the industry,” said Chris. “They are their own boss and very happy to do what they’re doing, and I can think of many stories with the exact sentiment. We can relate to those we rent our spaces to, as we too were ready to take our future into our own hands and open a business. As we continue to grow Phenix Salon Suites in Austin, we are looking forward to the many people that we will have the opportunity to meet and support through our locations.”