When it comes to successfully launching a new retail concept, Drybar founders Alli Webb and Michael Landau know what it takes. Two years since launching, Drybar is now the nation’s largest blow dry only concept with 16 locations.
Here’s what they learned along the way as they share their dos and don’ts for surviving in small business.
1. Do think ahead of the curve.
Put operations systems and finance infrastructure in place before your growing the business because it’s a lot easier to lay the foundation on the front end than to catch up later. This applies also to hiring. Get the right people in place before a major growth spurt. Business began in 2008 when Webb launched a mobile blow dry only concept, which took her to people’s homes to do their hair. With clients by referral, Webb’s mobile business blossomed. Two years later, she opened the first blow dry only location with a $200,000 investment from her brother, a former Yahoo marketing executive, who now serves as CEO of Drybar.
2. Don’t try to wear different hats.
Take a look in the mirror and understand your strengths and weaknesses, then divide and conquer with your team.
3. Do tap experts for help.
Tap available experts for help and seek out investors with intelligence that can help your business. Drybar investor Paul Pressler is former CEO of Gap and Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. The company isn’t shy about tapping into his consumer knowledge, experience marketing expertise or his “encyclopedic” knowledge of real estate. In addition, Drybar investor Castanea Partners brings Janet Gurwitch to Drybar. Gurwitch is founder of Laura Mercier cosmetics and a former Neiman Marcus executive. According to Drybar, she brings not just entrepreneurial expertise but also connections and “invaluable” advice.
4. Don’t be afraid to chart a different path.
Drybar initially planned to grow through franchising as a way to expand quickly. Since then, moved back to company-owned locations only as a way to maintain control of the brand and the service offering. “It’s unbelievable what has happened in just two years,” Webb says. The company is now the nation’s largest blow dry only chain with 16 locations in five states. Plans call for an additional 11 locations by year-end, including in Maryland and the District of Columbia. For 2013, expansion plans call for 15 to 17 additional locations including in New Jersey, Connecticut and Chicago, for a total of nearly 50 Drybars. “We’re getting back to a time of glamming up,” says Lotus Abrams, managing editor of American Salon. Why has a new category formed? Abrams believes the trend of long hair and extensions is driving the creation of blow dry only salons.
Renee DeGross Valdes is a veteran business journalist offering expertise in small business, personal finance and real estate. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience having worked for The Washington Post, Washington Business Journal, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, TF-1 French Television, and Patch.