It’s 11 a.m. on Monday. You open up your calendar to a full week ahead — networking event later this evening, client in from New York tomorrow, panel discussion on Wednesday, date night on Thursday, kids theater performance on Friday...and 25(,000) other deadlines. As you’re typing an e-mail to confirm Tuesday’s meeting, you notice your nails look like they just went through a blender. A huge “oh-shit” moment begins to overtake you, only worsened by the realization that both of your eyebrows look like one squirrels tail. With t-minus 5-hours until the week kicks into full-drive, you need to get pretty, and quick.
While life circumstances may not always be this extreme, over 7,000 women in Chicago are looking to PrettyQuick, the online beauty booking service, to schedule both their last-minute and in advance salon and spa appointments. PrettyQuick is more than a booking service — it’s a discovery guide, hyperlocal beauty publication and tech company all wrapped into one.
“There just had to be a better way than polling your friends to see if a salon was reputable, picking up the phone, waiting on hold, paying on site, rinse, repeat, etc. With the penetration of real-time, geo-location, and mobile technologies, we knew we could create a more seamless market for time-based inventory. ” said Coco Meers, Founder and CEO of the instant beauty booking service.
PrettyQuick’s startup story is a great Chicago tale. In 2011, Meers and Shreena Amin (now the COO) met while pursuing their MBA at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Meers had just moved to Chicago from Paris, having worked in marketing for the $100 billion beauty company, L’Oreal. Amin had a serious background in investment banking with JP Morgan Chase as well as in operations and strategy with Obama for America and Chicago Public Schools. The two decided to join forces and take on the beauty service industry.
They discovered a large mismatch in supply from salons and demand from beauty service seekers: salons often had 40% excess capacity in their schedules per day. Thus, they initially built PrettyQuick as a B2B scheduling/calendar system — a utility they soon realized wasn’t the right product for the market. Meers and Amin took one year off and came back in Fall 2012 with a refreshed perspective.
"Salons didn't want to use anything new or seemingly complex. They merely wanted butts in seats. That's what we had to build, plain and simple," said Meers.
[ibimage==42392==Original==none==self==ibimage_align-center]And the iteration worked. Since then, PrettyQuick has built a network of 500+ salons in Chicago. The service's main demographic are women ages 25-40-years-old, described as “time-pressed, convenience-seeking urbanites”. This demographic has demonstrated serious purchasing power within the industry too — the average user schedules four services per month with PrettyQuick. A few key features of the service are:
Cashless Transactions. The app takes care of the transaction and calculates tip. Most importantly, this feature ensures you don't fudge up those nails when reaching for your wallet.
Rewards Points. Want major vanity points? PrettyQuick makes it pretty easy. Receive a free manicure or $15 in credit for every eight beauty services you book. Gift a $15 manicure and receive a $5 credit. Even get $15 reading this article! Use code: builtinchicago once you sign up.
Instant Booking. Select your desired appointment and PrettyQuick books and notifies you once it’s confirmed. Rising in popularity on the salon-end is the instant-booking platform, which eliminates wait times all together.
This week, PrettyQuick launched it’s iOS app putting direct access to beauty in the hands of convenience-seeking woman. Leading this development is CTO Chris Doyle, who Meers originally connected with on Built In Chicago. The app boasts great design and UX (comparable to Uber) with detailed maps and instant booking confirmation.
In addition to booking, PrettyQuick offers expert insights and reviews about each salon. Top beauty bloggers from around the city serve as Beauty Editors, covering different services and the people giving them. This process goes beyond editorial and ensures only quality salons are in the PrettyQuick network.
The company recently launched in Washington D.C. and will enter three more markets by 2015 (including Dallas and Miami). PrettyQuick currently has six employees and will continue to build the product and customer team over the next six months.
And remember, Built In Chicago readers get a special $15 credit! Sign up and use code: builtinchicago.
Meers shared the benefits of launching PrettyQuick while pursuing her MBA at Booth. For example, PrettyQuick’s first investment came from the Polsky Center and they earned major acclaim when they placed third in the New Venture Challenge. Said Meers: “[We were] bound to make a couple mistakes and the fact that I was in school gave us a little bit more runway. And, in my mind, the opportunity cost was lower because we were getting an education.”