In New York City, the city of fashion models and media pundits, stylists are depended on to keep our camera-on stars and newscasters looking good. It’s a hectic life, but one that can earn a successful stylist between 5 and 6-figure salaries. The recently launched, San Francisco based StyleSeat operates like an OpenTable for stylists, salons and spas. According to StyleSeat, the beauty industry is a $22 billion market, dominated by word-of-mouth recommendations. Until now, there has been no comprehensive, integrated tools to manage customers relationships, online booking, acquire customers or promote services.
The site, which already has over 10,000 users mostly in New York, San Francisco and Dallas, provides beauty and wellness professionals with tools to connect with clients, gain new ones and grow their business and also gives consumers a photographic source for discovering and booking top beauty and wellness professionals. We caught up with StyleSeat’s super smart 26-year old founder and CEO Melody McCloskey to talk about what it’s like bringing technology to the beauty industry.
CBM: Why do we need StyleSeat? What problem does it solve?
Melody McCloskey: I had a busy job and wanted to get my hair cut but didn’t have time to ask my friends where to go and then call around. I was frustrated that as a client I didn’t have an easy way to find and book an appointment. When I looked into it I realized that stylists and salons aren’t empowered either and it seemed like an exciting opportunity.
There are a lot of people out there who have certain needs when it comes to a stylist. It might be someone that specializes in a certain hair texture or service. Some want a place in their neighborhood or a particular price range. We are making it easy to find that stylist so they’re more likely to keep coming back.
On the professional side, we run a stylist’s business for them (client retention, marketing, booking) so they can spend more time with clients. Professionals can build a web page, post photos and use social media to build word of mouth. They can set business goals and track revenue as well as create loyalty programs and promotions. We have a mobile app so most things can be done from their phone, it’s pretty easy to use, and it’s also beautiful, which was important to us.
CBM: Tell me about yourself and how you came to found StyleSeat?
MMC: I’ve worked at a few startups and love building things that help people. I was inspired by the beauty and wellness industry because the people are incredible and I knew we could really improve their lives and grow their businesses.
Most professionals in the industry are really talented and just want to make people feel great. They’re artists and many of them are really good at what they do but they don’t have any tools to help them manage the business side of their world. I wanted to create something that grows their business for them, and let’s them spend more timing building relationships and doing what they do best.
CBM: Tell me about the stylist world? How much does a really good stylist make a year? What’s the life of a stylist like?
MMC: It’s a crazy, creative life. Most stylists spend eight or more hours face-to-face with people, listening to what they want and making them feel great. Stylists can make anywhere from five to six figures, depending on their focus.
The Internet has never really factored into their life until recently. In the past couple of years most stylists and salons have gotten on Facebook and have smart phones. Word-of-mouth which is how all of them get new business is pretty much what social networks were built for and they get that. They just need a tool that solves all of their needs in one place, which is what we do.
CBM: How do you plan to make money and who are your financial backers?
MMC: We’re the only free service for both professionals and clients. When a professional signs up they can design a Web page, access our mobile app, upload photos, share across social networks, access education, view business metrics, set revenue goals and access marketing tools. We offer a premium package which starts at $25/month and gives pros access to even more features like unlimited email marketing, client text message and email reminders and a few other features to grow their business more quickly. We’re backed by investors including SoftTech VC, 500 Startups, Team Europe Ventures, Chris Sacca, Dave Morin, Alfred Lin and Travis Kalanick.