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Season 4 - Episode 17:

Launching an Amazing Service with Alli Webb (Season Finale)

Launching an Amazing Service with Alli Webb (Season Finale)

Episode Summary

Alli Webb is the co-founder of Drybar, the influential chain of hairstyling shops that has changed how women across the country do their hair. Drybar was named one of Entrepreneur magazine’s Top 100 Brilliant Ideas of 2010, and Alli has since gone on to invest in other businesses that make a major difference in our quality of life. From massage to jewelry to talk therapy, Alli wants her customers to feel good. Today, we talk to her about her single-minded approach to services, how she came back from the stay-at-home-mom scene, and how small luxuries make a huge difference.

Episode Notes

Alli Webb was always interested in beauty, starting from her roots as a curly-haired kid growing up in South Florida. She says that going to beauty school was “one of the best decisions I ever made,” and Drybar, her ultra-popular chain of hairstyling studios, definitely proves her point. While she says she spent her childhood as a people-pleaser—”a wallflower, if I’m honest”—she’s grown into herself as a business owner and service expert.

Alli spent her 20s in New York City, doing PR and styling hair until she met her ex-husband and pivoted to the stay-at-home-mom gig. “I thought it was the coolest thing ever: I get not to work? I thought I had hit the jackpot!” But after a half-decade of staying home with her two sons, she was bored. So she launched a mobile business called Straight At Home, pitching her blowouts on parental message boards and bringing a luxury that had been previously reserved for the glitterati to moms all over L.A. 

She quickly learned that her business model—which included paying for a babysitter and a lot of gas money—was barely breaking even. But when she tried to pull back, she found that her service wasn’t really available anywhere else; her clients would either skip the little luxury, or they would make do at an all-purpose salon that got the job done but lacked that special touch. She envisioned a hair salon that got straight to where the magic happens: those final moments of a haircut that really put the oomph in the style. From that vision came Drybar.

Instinctively, she knew that she wanted the Drybar experience to be predictable for clients, replicating the same style and services across the country. She even provided the salon tools, bucking the industry norm that stylists provide their own. “Aesthetically, I had this idea of what I wanted, which led to knowing that, whenever you go to a Drybar, you have the same experience.” This meant that clients could trust whoever was doing their styling, no matter what shop they were visiting. 

In the early days, clients pushed for Alli to expand her services. They asked for manicures and makeup services, and while Alli considered it, she ultimately decided against it. “We do one thing, and we do it really, really well.” Then, investors looked at her client volume and said they were crazy not to offer them more products, more services, more everything. Alli’s response? “I don’t want to.” To this day, Drybar offers a limited range of services that focus on great hairstyles, and they’ve grown to 150 shops nationwide. 

That doesn’t mean she never expanded her business. From the beginning, Alli wanted to develop a line of harmonized hair products that would all work together. So when she raised her first round of funding, she ensured that, while the stores remained the focus, some of the money was earmarked for hair products. Her first partnership, with Sephora, helped launch Drybar from a place women went to something they could use in their daily life. 

Alli’s gone on to launch other exciting brands, including Okay Humans, focusing on a “modernized talk therapy experience,” and Squeeze, a massage studio that is her brother’s passion project. Alli says that her own divorce and a chance meeting with a newly licensed family therapist inspired her to “create an experience around talk therapy.” She’s gone on to take an advisor-investor role with The Feel-Good Company, a collection of businesses aimed at making clients feel, you know, good. (She also helped launch the jewelry line Becket + Quill, proving that self-care comes in many forms.) While each business focuses on a single element of personal care, the Feel-Good umbrella takes care of HR, marketing, and other needs. 

This is our final episode of season four of I Make A Living, but don’t worry—we’ll be back soon with more stories of successful entrepreneurs and amazing business advice. We love to hear from you, so keep in touch on Instagram and Facebook and, and don’t forget to check out FreshBooks, the accounting software that’s perfect for small business owners like you!