At the end of a long day or after a particularly strenuous workout, sometimes a hot bath or a massage can be just what the doctor ordered. Some physicians may also prescribe massages for those that have chronic back pain.
While not everyone has their own personal massage therapist on speed dial, the on-demand economy luckily has a solution for this in startup company Zeel. Through its on-demand offering, Zeel will send a professional massage therapist to people’s homes to help work through stiff joints or stressed body parts.
We sat down with Zeel’s CEO and Founder, Samer Hamadeh, to learn more about the company’s background and how it plans to grow in the future.
PYMNTS: What’s the story behind how Zeel started?
SH: When Zeel first started in 2010, we were a health and wellness booking service, but we quickly recognized an unmet need: Customers wanted same-day, in-home massages. Fifty-five percent of our massage requests were less than four hours in advance of the desired appointment time. At that time, massages were booked days or weeks ahead — the industry just wasn’t set up for same-day service.
Being the entrepreneurs that we are, we took our learnings and created a new category in the massage industry — which we named and trademarked Massage On Demand — and relaunched in 2012. Zeel is upending the $50 billion global massage industry, one massage at a time.
PYMNTS: In your own words, what is Zeel about?
SH: With Zeel, you can get a massage in as little as an hour — or a time that works for you: as early as 8:00am and as late as 10:30pm, 365 days a year. Our licensed, vetted Zeel massage therapists bring a massage table and supplies to your home, hotel or office so you can enjoy a five-star massage at your convenience. Booking is easy on the Zeel app for iPhone and Android or on zeel.com. We also offer the only in-home, on-demand massage membership, Massage Zeelot.
In addition to our in-home line of business, we offer Zeel Corporate Wellness to service companies looking for chair massages in-office; Zeel Concierge: for hotels looking to offer in-room massages to guests and, our newest line of business, Zeel Spa: where we deliver on-demand staffing solutions to spas.
PYMNTS: How does the pricing model work, and how does Zeel get paid?
SH: We take a percentage of the cost of the massage. For in-home massages, it’s 20 to 30 percent depending on the city. The massage therapist gets the rest, including an automatic 18 percent tip, which means they earn about twice the typical pay rate as they would at an average spa. The savings for customers are even better with the Zeel massage membership. Our members save an additional 15 to 25 percent on a Zeel massage a month, depending on the city, and receive a high-quality massage table and luxe massage sheets for their personal use.
PYMNTS: Who does Zeel see as its competition?
SH: When you consider that nearly 90 percent of all massages occur outside of the home, Zeel’s competition for in-home massage is all of the other venues where consumers can get a massage, including resorts, spas, studios, doctors’ offices and PT clinics. In the massage membership category, our competition is Massage Envy, which opened massage membership up to millions of Americans.
As we were first to market in 2012 and set the standards and model for the in-home, on-demand massage industry, we inspired competition. There are now dozens of on-demand massage companies in the U.S., U.K. and China imitating the Zeel model.
PYMNTS: Since its inception, how much has Zeel grown year over year? Does it have any future projections for where it hopes to grow within the next few years?
SH: We initially launched in Manhattan with eight employees and 86 contracted massage therapists in our network. Now, we’re in over 60 cities [with] 65 employees [and] 8,500 massage therapists nationwide.
Within the next few years, we plan to be in every major U.S. city and key international markets.
PYMNTS: How many rounds of funding has Zeel received?
SH: Zeel closed a $10 million Series A in March 2016 and has raised a total of $15.5 million to date.
PYMNTS: What does the term “Uber of X” mean to you, and how does Zeel fit that mold?
SH: Convenience and access. With Zeel, you don’t need to book a five-star massage days or weeks in advance, or travel to a massage location. In as little as an hour, 365 days a year, you can enjoy a great massage in the privacy and comfort of your own home, hotel or office. Today, 51 percent of Zeel Massages take place within two hours of booking.
We also create a high-end and accessible booking experience — on-demand means having a great app and a superior customer service experience. At Zeel, our app is both beautiful and user-friendly, and it’s available for iPhone and Android. On the customer service side, our dedicated customer service team is available when our customers are booking throughout the year.
PYMNTS: As most startups have their fair share of hiccups, can you share a few lessons-learned anecdotes?
SH: Know your customers. For Zeel, that’s not just our in-home customers, spas and corporate customers, but our massage therapists as well. When we first conceived of Massage On Demand, we realized we had an issue to contend with: Massage therapists were understandably reluctant to travel to the homes and hotel rooms of strangers. We took their advice and created what is still the most sophisticated and extensive security process for an online wellness company, even after nearly five years. Our customers finish a quick and secure ID verification and mobile phone number check before booking their first Zeel massage. Now, massage therapists have peace of mind when they travel to Zeel customers in more than 60 cities across the country.
PYMNTS: What are Zeel’s 2017 goals?
SH: In 2017, we will continue our rapid expansion, launching up to five new cities every month.