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Darla Moore School of Business

MBA alumnus relies on degree’s skills to open men’s barbershop and spa in midst of COVID-19 pandemic

July 28, 2020

Alumnus Landry Phillips (’19 MBA) immediately applied the skills he learned in the Professional MBA program by creating a business plan for and opening his new business, the Regal Lounge.

The Regal Lounge provides grooming and spa services specifically for men. Phillips said his is the first business of its kind in the Columbia, South Carolina, area.

Before formally deciding to open his own business, Phillips completed his MBA over 20 months while working full time as a senior fiscal manager in the Office of Economic Opportunity within the South Carolina Department of Administration.

“As with many other aspects of my life, I did not take the easy route when pursuing my MBA,” he said. “To meet both my professional and personal education needs, I completed the international business and innovation/entrepreneurship specializations. I took additional courses outside the PMBA to earn credits towards the eventual pursuit of becoming a CPA. I was also fortunate to be chosen as one of the 2018 China Scholars, which was a truly incredible experience.”

Phillips had to create a business plan in his new venture analysis course when he first brainstormed the idea for a barbershop and spa exclusively for men. While his group in that course ultimately chose to draft a plan for another venture, Phillips’ passion for his new business started.

“When I shared the concept with my wife, she loved the idea and encouraged me to pursue it,” said Phillips, whose wife, Chynna (’18 USC M.S. public health and social work), is co-owner of the Regal Lounge.

As soon as Phillips graduated in May 2019 from the MBA program, he went to work on formalizing the plans for the business; he utilized the support and advice of the South Carolina Small Business Development Center and Moore School faculty members Juliana Iarossi and Joel Stevenson; Stevenson taught the course that initially sparked the idea. Phillips said it took him six months to find the ideal location.

“After finding a great location [on Bull Street near the intersection at Gervais Street], we faced some competition for the space, but ultimately, our business plan and concept won over the building’s owner and allowed us to secure a lease,” he said. “Like most new small businesses, the Regal Lounge was financed through personal savings and investments from a few close friends and family members.”

Phillips said he has always wanted to own his own business, and the skills he learned in the Professional MBA program helped him realize his dream.

“All the planning that went into starting this business was fueled by many of the lessons I learned throughout the [Professional] MBA program,” he said. “I literally pulled up various projects and assignments I completed in the program and copied the framework for the Regal Lounge’s business plan. The [Professional] MBA program shaped how I identified the target market, evaluated our competition and how I looked to identify potential strengths and weaknesses.”

Research, problem-solving and differentiation were some of the key lessons learned from his MBA that Phillips said will be instrumental in the success of Regal Lounge.

“Many of our case studies took challenges faced by large corporations and showed how innovative thinking allowed them to pivot or find solutions to ensure their success,” he said. “In light of the current pandemic, this lesson could not have been more important as we look for ways to establish and grow our customer base.”

Initially scheduled for a soft opening March 24 and a grand opening April 20, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on the Regal Lounge’s ability to operate because of the city of Columbia’s stay-at-home orders followed by Governor Henry McMaster’s executive order to keep non-essential businesses closed to limit the spread of the virus. Phillips said he adjusted by scaling back his initial hiring plans.

The Regal Lounge opened its doors May 19 when the executive order was lifted. They are taking numerous precautions to protect new clients from COVID-19, including taking daily temperature checks for staff, all employees wearing masks and gloves, requiring clients to wear masks when service permits, asking customers to complete a pre-screening COVID-19 and thoroughly disinfecting all grooming tools and surfaces, among others. They are also limiting service to a maximum of eight patrons at a time.

While already facing challenges as a new business owner before opening, Phillips said the Professional MBA program helped teach him perseverance. Working a full-time job while completing his course work and balancing family life was no easy task. He’s still prioritizing his time much like he did when he was earning his degree as he’s continuing to work as a senior fiscal manager full time while managing the Regal Lounge and carving out some time for his wife and son.

Phillips equates each business task like an MBA assignment by setting priorities, allotting a time frame for completion and assigning a due date. The program has also helped Phillips identify the types of tasks which are most impactful to the business, he said.

“Like many entrepreneurs, I do not get a lot of sleep,” Phillips said. “My days are dedicated to serving the citizens of South Carolina as a state employee, and my evenings are committed to ensuring the success of Regal Lounge for my family and our employees who trust in my leadership.”

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