StyleSeat’s Melody McCloskey, how a real startup founder thinks

I was going through my podcasts when I had the opportunity to listen to an episode of Jason Calacanis’s, This Week in Startups featuring StyleSeat‘s Melody McCloskey. At first, I said to myself, oh great… another stupid app. After all, it’s the,

“Uber of Hairstylests”

and yet I continued to listen. Good thing too because my ears immediately perked up. This lady is in the glitter business but she’s no devotee of glitter traction. StyleSeat’s Melody McCloskey is the real deal. She’s thoughtful, analytical and just makes sense.

Besides, the this of the that (uber of hairstylest thing)… what is StyleSeat?

Style seat was founded in 2011 and has raised $40 million.  Investor’s include, Lightspeed Ventures, Cowboy Ventures, Jason Calacanis’s LaunchFund and even Slow Ventures (one of the suckers who invested in Trustify) In StyleSeat’s Melody McCloskey’s own words, “we are the premier platform and we power relationships between independent beauty professionals and their clients.” Okay, that’s almost a great quote except I hate the word premier… premier is not something that a company can bestow upon itself. But I digress, says the premier digresser who continues to veer far off stream as he bestows upon himself the title of premier digresserer.

According to the StyleSeat website:

StyleSeat is the premier platform for independent beauty professionals to run and grow their business. We’ve powered more than 90 million appointments totaling over $5 billion in revenue for small businesses — 75% of which are female owned; 50% by people of color.

We deliver powerful business tools to hard working professionals across the country, from robust scheduling tools to customizable marketing campaigns. Our customers are passionate and determined entrepreneurs and we’ve changed the way they do business with software that takes care of the busy work for them so they can focus on what they love

StyleSeat is a marketplace between beauty professionals like stylists and their customers. When the company was founded in 2011 20% of professionals in salons were independent contractors and the remainder were employees. Today that number has grown to $70 independent contractors. Those numbers work in favor of StyleSeat.

Today, the company serves the needs of both sides of the marketplace, service providers and clients. It is a CRM for the service providers, it is a platform that allows them to develop a web presence, show off pictures of their work, host reviews. It allows clients to find a stylist, recommends other beauty related services like a manicure, facial or pedi. Clients enjoy the Uber-like experience of paying for service and tip on the platform without having to take out a wallet or do tip-math..

Typically stylists are artists and not natural business people trained in sales, marketing, or running a business. StyleSeat does the heavy lifting of marketing and back-office business for stylists and frees them up to concentrate on their art.

I know what you’re saying Glen, this is the kind of app you usually make fun of… what’s up? Well, there are two things that are up. One, Ms. McCloskey has built a company that is getting real traction… as in revenue and customer growth, and two, McCloskey seems to be a true business superstar. I was impressed with her analytical methodology and step-by-by process used to build her company.

She started out alerting the audience that unlike most Founding CEO’s this talk wasn’t going to be a simple feel good, pat herself on the back, self-aggrandizement presentation. She wasn’t going to speak in simple high-level broad strokes, She was going to dig into the tactics, the difficult stuff that the press usually ignore. When she went to hear founders give talks, she said,

“I needed tactical help and tactical stories and data to help me solve my tactical problems when I was in the earlier stage of my company and then also I hated that everyone was only telling success stories and all like the happy amazing things that work so well the whole time and how much of a genius they were and the reality is is like starting a company is gnarly…”

Yup… she got that right… starting a company is gnarly. She then began digging into how she methodically built the company. The features of her MVP that first attracted stylists. The how, what, and why she made the choices to sequence the addition of functionality to StyleSeat. What worked. What metrics she used to measure success and failure.

Listen to the video, it’s well worth the listen. Pay attention and you’ll learn the importance of listening to the market, focus on metrics, focus on focus and ignoring the glitter.