So how exactly do you grow a beauty business to 700+ employees in just over two years—during a time of recession?
'So, starting a business is like jumping out of an airplane, are you a risk taker, adventurous?' I ask Alli Webb. 'Well, I am very afraid of heights,' she says, 'but yes, I am a risk taker in every other sense of the word!'
And she did jump, right into an entrepreneur's wild adventure. Her business, named one of the top "100 Brilliant Ideas of 2010" by Entrepreneur Magazine, has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and pretty much all major international women's titles.
Our local beauty writer has recently spotted her business, Drybar, in our Beauty & Style Hot Spots Los Angeles, and upon reading about her venture, we just had to get to know her.
Founded in 2010, Drybar has quickly grown to 13+ locations across the US including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City. The concept is simple. 'No Cuts. No Color. Just blowouts.' And blowouts they do around 24,000 a month! Each of the hair salons is designed like a comfy, stylish bar; the chic interior created by award-winning architect Josh Heitler from New York. Can time be spent any better than getting your hair blow dried to perfection—at $35 a pop, sip a delicious cocktail and watch your favourite Sex and the City episode.
We are thrilled that Alli has given us so much of her time to speak about what happens on the road to business and how the mother of two gets everything done in her week. We are so excited to share her story with you and hope it inspires you as much as us, enjoy!
ALLI, HOW ARE YOU FEELING TODAY?
It's a typical manic Monday and I am running around visiting all our L.A. shops, lots of meetings and calls! I feel busy, happy, excited, grateful, and a little overwhelmed - but in a good way!
DO YOU SLEEP WELL THESE DAYS?
I have two little kids and a growing business. So, no, sleep is pretty much a thing of the past for me.
WERE YOU ALWAYS LOOKING FOR INDEPENDENCE, TO CREATE SOMETHING OF YOUR OWN?
I absolutely have entrepreneur blood, so it feels so natural to be doing my own thing. While the independence of owning your own business comes with lots of challenges, the benefits of controlling your own destiny outweigh all of them for me. I also adore working with my family. (her brother Michael is CEO and her husband Cameron is Creative Director)
WHO INSPIRED YOU TO START DRYBAR?
Drybar was truly out of personal necessity. Even as a professional stylist, I've been hooked on having my hair blown out by someone else. However, for years I struggled with the two bad options: overpaying at my salon, or enduring a yucky discount chain. I always longed for a fun, beautiful, hip place I could go to for a great and affordable blowout. It didn't exist, so I created it!
HOW MANY HOURS A DAY DO YOU WORK? WEEKENDS?
Around the clock. I am always thinking about Drybar and am extremely addicted to my phone. I am always thinking of ideas—my brain is never really shut off!
DO YOU THINK THAT GOOD BUSINESS IDEAS HAPPEN BY CHANCE, BEING AT THE RIGHT TIME AT THE RIGHT PLACE? OR DO YOU BELIEVE IN THOROUGH PLANNING, LONG-TERM PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS?
I think it's a healthy combination of the two. I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason, but I also believe in working really hard for what you want. I feel that you must surround yourself with like minded people and build a strong foundation in order to create and maintain a good business. Having a good idea is actually the easy part. Having the chutzpah to go out and make it happen is much harder.
GOOD AND BAD LUCK LIE CLOSE TOGETHER, DO YOU THINK YOU CAN TRY/CHALLENGE YOUR LUCK?
I strongly believe that luck is the result of years of hard work!
YOUR BUSINESS IS GROWING SPECTACULARLY. DOES THIS SCARE YOU SOMETIMES?
Growth can be very scary but also exciting. The scariest part is that we now have over 700 people that work for Drybar and rely on us. But that is also the most gratifying part.
A BURNING QUESTION ALWAYS WHEN WE SEE SUCH A SUCCESSFUL VENTURE - HOW DID YOU FINANCE YOUR BUSINESS?
The first shop was primarily funded by my brother Michael. (My husband and I put in all our savings as well, which wasn't much!) After that we opened Brentwood, and all of a sudden had clients coming out of the woodwork to invest; it was so flattering and humbling! Shortly after we opened Brentwood and took on some angel investors. Recently we raised institutional money to continue our expansion. This whole process has definitely been a major learning experience.
WHAT WE REALLY LIKE ABOUT DRYBAR IS THAT YOU DIDN'T CREATE A SNOBBISH JET-SET PLACE, YOU OFFER GREAT AMBIANCE, TOP SERVICE AT A VERY MODERATE PRICE. WHAT DO YOU THINK WAS THE MAIN KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS SO FAR?
Aww…Thanks, that means a lot! Michael and my parents owned their own business when we were growing up so we learned from an early age how important top-notch customer service is. I have to also credit our success to all the little details that we have obsessed about for the last three years!
I FEEL LIKE I'M LIVING THE DREAM
AND WANT TO RELISH EVERY MOMENT.
YOU ARE A YOUNG MUM, AND ENTREPRENEUR. HOW DO YOU MANAGE FAMILY AND BUSINESS?
Umm… I don't. Balancing both family and business can be very challenging and I have to work really hard at it. I try to be really present when I'm with my kids—by disconnecting myself from the phone and computer. But the truth is I always feel guilty—if I’m taking time off to be a good mom, I feel guilty for not working on Drybar. And when I’m working nonstop I feel like I’m not being a great mom. (Sighs)
HOW DO YOU MOTIVATE YOURSELF? HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN YOUR ENERGY LEVEL? WHAT GIVES YOU ENERGY?
I try to exercise often, vitamins—the usual stuff. I’ve actually gotten into Bikram yoga, which I love. But honesty I have so much adrenaline! I feel like I'm living the dream and want to relish every moment.
YOU HAVE CLOSE TO 800 EMPLOYEES. THAT'S A LOT! HOW DO YOU MANAGE SUCH A HUGE TEAM? HOW DO YOU FIND THE RIGHT PEOPLE? IT MUST BE TIME CONSUMING!
Yes, finding, training, managing and retaining the right people is the most challenging part of this business so far. We have hired some truly fantastic people that we sincerely trust—there’s no way Drybar would be Drybar without them.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL A YOUNG WOMAN THAT WANTS TO START HER OWN BUSINESS?
Go for it—think it through and find great partners you trust. My brother and I have a great professional relationship because we have different strengths. It’s so important to be able to recognize what you are and aren't good at.
DO YOU THINK SELF CONFIDENCE AND COURAGE ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS IN SUCCEEDING IN BUSINESS? THE BE-ALL AND END-ALL OF A SUCCESSFUL PERSON?
Confidence and courage are certainly important, but there are so many other factors. Drybar has so many moving parts and we have had to adjust and grow to meet the needs of our business. I would say the most important factors are unwavering conviction, believe in yourself and to surround yourself with smart people who you trust.
HAVE YOU ONCE BEEN AT A VERY POINT WHERE YOU DIDN'T KNOW IF YOU SHOULD CONTINUE ON OR NOT? WHERE EVERYTHING JUST SEEMED TOO HARD? WHAT DID YOU DO?
It's been a wild ride and has definitely been challenging, but I have never considered stopping. I love my job so much!
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 10 YEARS?
That's a tough question to answer today – I'll keep you posted. (Laughs)
YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO HANG OUT?
My favorite places to hang out are in my kitchen and The Camp in Costa Mesa. The Camp has really cool restaurants, shops and a great Bikram studio.
I can shop anywhere—I'm addicted.
—interviewed by LS