Alli Webb, founder of Drybar, shares her entrepreneurial experience with Yahoo Beauty. (Photo: Drybar)
Would you like The Cosmo? The Manhattan? Maybe a Dirty Martini? Personally, I want them all and thankfully, not one yields a hangover. At Drybar, there are no cuts, coloring, or headaches (or hard alcohol). Just blowouts for $40. Creator Alli Webb tapped into what LA moms needed (and what the rest of us were craving), even when others didn’t believe the business would be a successful one. “To all those people out there with an idea and dream, ignore the naysayers,” says Webb. “I say, just go for it!”
Clearly, Webb did, and Drybar is strong, and expanding on it’s current 40+ locations with a new salon in Beverly Hills and more popping up in Houston, Texas and Brooklyn, New York in the near future. We reached out to find out about her lifelong hair obsession, how she started her empire, the obstacles she faced, and her tips for success.
Yahoo Beauty: Nowadays many women know about Drybar, but what were you doing before the first location opened its doors?
Alli Webb: I was a stay-at-home mom. In 2009, I started my mobile blow dry business, Straight-at-Home, which was a great way for me to do something for myself, get out of the house and earn a little extra cash. I was only charging $40 a blowout and was running all over LA blow-drying all my mommy friends’ hair. I got very busy, very fast.
How did you find the confidence to start something bigger?
I was so happy operating Straight-at-home, but had way more demand than I could handle myself. It really hit me that woman had two bad choices out there for a blowout: they would have to overpay at a traditional salon, or go to the local discount chain. Neither experience was good. I knew if we could create a beautiful space, offer great customer service, and top-notch blowouts at an affordable price, we’d have a great business on our hands. I never imagined it would turn into what it has!
Were you always a beauty-girl?
Always a hair girl. Since I was a very little girl, I would beg my mom—who’s not a hair stylist—to blow out my curly hair. I loved it straight and felt more confident, even all those years ago. I’d say the seed was planted for Drybar almost 35 years ago!
So many new businesses have a lack of focus, but you knew you wanted to offer one thing: no cuts, no color, just blowouts. Why just blowouts?
Hair, and perfecting my own curly hair, has been a life-long passion of mine. When we started Drybar, I felt intuitively like that was where my expertise was and that was all we should focus on if we wanted to be great—well, the best—at blowouts.
Alli Webb in front of the Drybar shop. (Photo: Drybar)
What was your biggest obstacle while building a blowout empire?
They are many obstacles growing a business as fast as we have. It’s been personally very challenging for me to let go a little and allow other smart people to run things, and not have my hands in every single thing. Luckily, today I’m happy to say, we have a pretty fantastic team of awesome execs that know how to run and scale a business of our size and demand. Oh, and also capital. Our shops are expensive to build. We’ve raised a little more than $50 million so far. Fortunately my business partner and brother, Michael Landau, deals with that side of things.
Who was and has been your biggest cheerleader throughout?
I’d say it’s a tossup between Michael and my husband Cameron, Drybar’s creative director, and my mom. They keep me going. We all really keep each other going, though. I’m incredibly lucky to work with my family. We have a blast together, through the good and bad times. And my 10 year old son Grant always says, “Mommy, I’m so proud of you”. There’s really nothing better than that.
What’s the best piece of advice you were given while building a business?
Don’t let “perfect” stand in the way of progress. I am a stickler for things being just so, but have learned that sometimes you just have to take a leap and perfect the little details later.
What’s the worst advice you’ve received?
I had a lot of people—mainly men—tell me this blowout concept would never work.
Did you have any Drybar failures that taught you great lessons?
We’ve all learned a ton since starting this business. It is true that you learn the most from your failures. One was printing: “Walk-ins always welcome” on every piece of our collateral. After a few months, we had to throw it all away and reprint everything because we realized our clients preferred to book appointments in advance. Clients were understandably getting so upset that they couldn’t just walk in!
So many stylists, designers, and artists have muses. Do you have a beauty style icon?
I’m inspired daily by so many things, but mainly woman. I just love seeing what other woman come up with, fashion and hair-wise. I’m always paying attention and taking bits and pieces from different women. If you hang out in one of our shops, you will see the hippest woman breezing in and out. They constantly inspire me.
There are signature tools and products at the shops. What new things can we look forward to?
We are working on a lot of product and tool innovations right now. Developing products and tools has become a major passion of mine. We will have a lot share very soon. Stay tuned!