Need a massage between stressful meetings? This recently launched Chicago startup can hook you up.
LISA, an online platform that connects beauty service providers with nearby customers, lets you schedule massages, haircuts, barber appointments, nail care, and other beauty services at home or at your office on immediate notice. As of this writing, approximately 2,700 professional, licensed “artists” have registered to provide services through the app.
LISA founder and CEO Robert Richmond believes the app can become a game changer for professionals looking to branch out on their own.
“We’re looking to help empower the artists to become entrepreneurs, and really run their own business the way they want. So they can work where they want, work when they want, and work for the price they want,” said Richmond.
Richmond got the idea for LISA from his wife, Lisa Nation, who has been a cosmetologist for 23 years. When they met, she worked two server jobs alongside her full time job as an artist. Curious about her industry, Richmond did some digging and discovered that few artists are able to make a good living in the field.
Nation eventually left the salon she worked at to start her own business in order to avoid paying 60 percent of her proceeds to whatever salon or spa she was working at. Now Richmond wants to help other artists gain the same sense of independence.
To ensure quality and the safety of both artists and clients, the app lets artists and clients rank their experiences with each other, much like the Airbnb model. The LISA staff also vets providers, ensuring they maintain valid and current licensure, as well as running background checks on providers in fields that do not require such certificates. Moreover, as a last resort backstop, the app integrates Lifeline Response, which lets providers and clients alert authorities automatically in case of emergency.
The app was developed with the guidance of 47 industry professionals, who got together for a week in Orlando to sort out what functionality they would need. Members of this group now serve as evangelists for the app, helping the company with recruiting and onboarding colleagues.
Richmond also cites the app’s live geolocation feature as a competitive edge, drawing on Uber as an example to compare his company to competitors.
“It’s as if you looked at Uber and decided ‘I want to order a cab,’ and they sent back a notification saying ‘How about tomorrow at eleven?’” said Richmond. “Uber works so well because of that just in time, on-demand service, and that’s what we are hoping to become.”
For Richmond, the decision to launch the company’s product in Chicago was easy. He is from Chicago, as are the rest of LISA’s executive team members. Moreover, Richmond said, other companies often neglect Chicago. That leaves LISA with an opportunity to build out its audience while preparing to go national over the next 18 months, spreading to the coasts first before filling in the gaps.
LISA’s 11 person team works out of the West Loop. Richmond said the company is fully funded, but did not disclose any specific funding figures.
Image via LISA.
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