Does the name Melody McCloskey ring any bells? Well, if you’ve ever booked an appointment using the StyleSeat app, then you’ve contributed to the success of her beauty empire. Bad haircuts aggravated the first-time founder, expensive pricing, and rude stylists so, she proposed a way to bring the salon to the customer. McCloskey’s achievement can be attributed to the ones who rejected her, the followers who stuck with her, and the friends who invested. Co-founder of StyleSeat, a longtime friend of McCloskey, Travis Kalanick invested in the journey towards female empowerment while helping a rejected idea become a $3 billion corporation.
The app’s primary goal is to connect salon customers with beauty and barber professionals with ease. It allows clients to book appointments exclusively online, search through stylist reviews, and check prices of salons in their area. Whereas, the professionals can create and share schedule details, build relationships with clients, and even block customers; if need be. However, Silicon Valley wasn’t too impressed with her platform. Investors constantly rejected her attempts, and with little to no funding of her own, the success rate of her app was unsettling.
75% of beauty professionals (hairstylist, nail technicians, spa therapists, etc.) are female. So, where are all the female-owned beauty empires? Assumingly, the biggest hurdle for McCloskey to face was the lack of female representation within the industry and in each investor meeting. The male-dominated field lacked understanding of the beauty industry itself, and open-mindedness of a female-driven company. It’s design, layout, and ease of use, along with its online counterpart, have proven to be successful in both its user turnout and profitability. StyleSeat’s overall interaction has grown nearly 100% over its first couple of years. Those seeking a beauty appointment have found the “What? Where? When?” and “Available Today/Near You” features to be extremely helpful when connecting with a stylist, while the professionals enjoy the manageable calendar and easily share photos. McCloskey states, in an interview with Foundr.com, her app is keen on the “tremendous freedom” that an automated service can provide. After a few years of raising money and increasing her following, McCloskey was ready to face the boardroom again. This time, with her impressive growth, she stated her claim, presented her numbers, and did not take ‘no’ for an answer. She was direct in her approach and overwhelmingly determined, commanding the odds be ever in her favor.
Another year would pass before Cowboy Ventures would wrangle StyleSeat with a $4 million offer that could neither be refused nor overlooked. For those unfamiliar with the company, Cowboy Ventures is a female-owned Venture Capital that assists in developing female-owned technologies (also, male-owned ones). A few of their clients being Branch, co-founded by Mada Seghete, and Brandless, co-founded by Tina Sharkey. The company’s investment allowed McCloskey to fund the research needed to make the app more user-friendly, visually appealing, and profitable. From 2014 through 2015 test runs of the app’s improvements were held and its raising of $40 million succeeded its invested amount. Since then, StyleSeat is available in over 16,000 cities, turning a profit of nearly $3 billion after five years of activity.
The future of StyleSeat is said to be in pursuit of creating salons instead of individual stylists seeking customers. With this approach, the app has the potential to double its customer interaction. McCloskey has undoubtedly created a platform that not only showcases the capabilities of female entrepreneurs but also represents an underrated yet growing field.