Frustrated with the cumbersome process of booking beauty appointments—you know the drill, you call various salons to find your desired stylists and time slots not available and end up with an unknown and a disastrous hair cut—Melody McCloskey joined forces in 2011 with her Current TV colleague Dan Levine to found StyleSeat, an online marketplace for beauty and wellness services. Prior to StyleSeat, Melody led digital distribution for Current TV. With more than 250,000 stylists in over 15,000 cities across the U.S. and more than 5 million beauty appointments booked in 2013 through StyleSeat, Melody has not gone unnoticed by the press. She has been named one of the Top Women in Tech to Watch by Inc. Magazine, one of the Most Stylish People in Silicon Valley by Business Insider, and one of the Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company.
Here, Melody shares her experience in launching a startup company and how StyleSeat can hook you up with the stylist of your dreams.
Tell us a bit about your background. What inspired you to create StyleSeat?
My personal experience was what initially drove the idea for StyleSeat. A few years ago I went to three salons in San Francisco for a cut and color and left feeling really disappointed with how I looked. I knew there had to be a better way to discover a great stylist, book, and pay for the appointment. Before we existed there were reviews sites, which weren’t great and focused on a business, not the individual professionals. Recommendations from friends were hit or miss. StyleSeat lets you search for the service you’re looking for, sort by things like price or neighborhood, browse stylist profiles, photos, and reviews and book online or from your mobile phone.
I mentioned that initially my personal experience drove the idea for StyleSeat, but as I began to talk with beauty professionals, it was really eye-opening how huge the opportunity was to help them grow their businesses, too. StyleSeat serves both beauty professionals and consumers. We provide free business tools to stylists and make it easy for them to manage their businesses from their mobile phones, just as we have made it easier for consumers to discover, book, and pay for appointments with amazing beauty professionals.
How does StyleSeat differ from other online beauty booking sites?
We have more than 250,000 stylists and salons in more than 15,000 cities across the US, so we’re by far the biggest platform. We also make it so easy to search for a stylist or beauty pro. Users can search by specific services such as color, blowout, or braids, as well as by availability for a specific time. For example, someone can search for a stylist available to do a blowout at 4:00 pm today in Chicago.
StyleSeat also makes it incredibly easy for people to manage all their beauty appointments in one place. Clients can schedule, cancel, rebook, and see all the appointments they have booked with various beauty professionals over time. They can also pay for their services right through the StyleSeat app or website.
What was the biggest challenge in creating StyleSeat?
Every startup has many challenges, but I’d say our primary one was convincing our first few investors that a company in the beauty industry that supports beauty professionals could get big. Ultimately, we found a great group of investors who really believe in what we are doing and have helped us grow quickly.
What types of services can be booked through StyleSeat and how far is its reach?
Appointments with hair stylists are the leading type of service booked through StyleSeat. We have a growing number of estheticians, nail artists, and massage therapists on our platform, as well. More than 250,000 beauty professionals across more than 15,000 cities across the US are on StyleSeat. More than 8 million beauty appointments have been booked through StyleSeat since we launched.
Have you ever been involved with a startup before? What surprised you the most?
When I started StyleSeat, I worked seven days a week, from 10:00 am till 2:00 am for the first year and a half. I spent zero time with friends or family and worked harder than I’ve ever worked in my life. Despite that, it was 10 times more fulfilling than any job I’d had previously, and I was happiest during that time than I’d ever been. That was surprising.
What’s next for StyleSeat?
We just launched a new and improved app that I’m SO excited about. It has a whole new design and a lot more functionality for clients than we’ve never had before. We also have a lot of features that we’ll be launching soon to give consumers even more reasons to use StyleSeat to book their services. I can’t talk much about it but I’m pretty pumped up. We have the beauty pros, so now is the time to focus on the consumer experience and growth in a big way, so it’s a really important time for the company.