As is the case with many entrepreneurs, StyleBee’s Co-Founder Anna Santeramo was first and foremost solving her own problem with the business she founded. The problem was simple: During her career as a corporate attorney, she suddenly found that getting her hair done within her own schedule was a problem. A big problem, and one that often required expensive and inconvenient workarounds.
Santeramo realized she wanted a better way – specifically, she wanted a stylist who made house calls that could be easily scheduled. But that service didn’t really exist.
On the other side of the coin, she noted, stylists could be getting a better market value for their skills than what the traditional salon arrangement offers. Most salon workers aren’t employees, but are contract workers who pay a cut of their earnings to the salon. Though there are very highly compensated outliers, the average salary for a hairdresser is a little under $25,000 a year.
“About 97 percent of stylists report coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, and a majority struggled to make ends meet," she remarked. "It seemed pretty obvious to me that there had to be a product that worked better for consumers like myself that would also help stylists supplement their income.”
And so StyleBee was born, after Santeramo quit her lucrative day job as a lawyer to build a platform that has since gained the moniker of "the Uber of beauty.”
And haircuts aren't the only thing that can be secured through StyleBee. Manicures, massages, pedicures, makeup and even lessons on wearing makeup are all offered on demand though the app. Prices vary: At the lower end, a customer can pay $50 for a home visit blow-out, and for $135 a make-up artist will walk them through the fundamentals of choosing and wearing cosmetics. Services can also be bundled, such as a blow-out and make-up, for some slight savings.
As one might expect, the service can be used for special occasions like weddings, but it can also be used for unusual – or at least somewhat unexpected – requests. For example, as of right now, users can book specialized Halloween make-up consultations.
Beyond actively seeking out StyleBee, there is also a chance that consumers have worked with the firm on the backend without realizing, as StyleBee has partnered in recent years with a variety of large retailers to white-label its services within a retail offering.
Santeramo noted that these retail partnerships are a natural fit for StyleBee, mostly because it creates an opportunity for enjoyable efficiency that she says her target customers are always seeking.
“I think the last decade, under the influence of mobile, has seen a total sea change in how people shop, particularly women," she noted. "I think they want those experiences to be as productive as possible, but not feel like they are running through an unpleasant checklist. I think we have seen a trend around making it easier to shop, eat and style all in one place, and I think we are going to see that trend continue.”
Professional female consumers value time above all things, Santeramo said – and by making it easier to build activities around their very specific time contractions, her company is able to help customers get more than a good haircut. They can also help them get better control of their schedules.
The app, according to user reviews, continues to have issues – even four years into the business' existence. Specific complaints included slowness and a tendency to crash. Some users even went so far as to complain that the app itself is non-functional, and strongly advised booking through the web portal instead.
The app itself, however, is reviewed highly among consumers, as the hand-vetted square of stylists are described as punctual, professional and enjoyable to work with.
The most common complaint about the app is its scope, as most consumers can’t use StyleBee due to the fact that it is currently designed for Californian customers only. While the brand has long talked of expanding, there are not specific plans on the table to date.