Screen Shot 2016-09-19 at 13.01.09 With the explosive rise of fast beauty and an increased demand for treatments as and when you need them, here at Salons Direct we are fascinated by the ever evolving beauty-sphere.
Many traditional salons are now shaking up their business models to accommodate the ‘right here, right now’ approach on how beauty treatments are delivered. This is, however, a concept that is far from new. We caught up with the original innovator of the ‘speed salon’, co founder and CEO of Blow Ltd Dharmash Mistry, to understand how such an obvious and useful approach to beauty treatments hasn’t been around forever, as well as how the Blow ltd team plan to push the boundaries of fast beauty throughout 2016 and beyond.
Tell us how the Blow Ltd concept arose? What were the main factors / attributes in getting the fast beauty concept off the ground?
Fiona McIntosh (former editor of ELLE magazine and founding editor of Grazia) and I saw 4 mega-trends all playing to structurally change the market, which look even more obvious now than 3 years ago:

1) Time poverty – amongst the busiest and highest spending in most markets, expectations are enhanced by the use of mobile technology making  ‘on demand culture’ an everyday thing – from cabs (Uber), to food delivery (Deliveroo), to beauty service (Blow LTD), to dry cleaning (laundrapp), through to almost every service sector.

2) Millennial workforce – workers are young, smart, tech savvy and expect a world of flexible working, ability to be their own boss and to earn more than minimum wage + offered in salons.

3) The consumer internet has structural changes that can be simply characterised as an ‘act’ which was a media shift to on demand. Act 2 was products on demand (e-commerce and multichannel in every category), and act 3 looks like services on demand – sometimes you want the service delivered to you vs having to go to a store/salon.

4) The disruption of high street stores with rising property prices, increasing wages, and shift to on demand product and services means the world is changing fast for many traditional businesses. Our 2 flagship stores are all about marketing (data collection) and act as ‘operational’ hubs to technical test batches of freelancers before they are allowed on our platform. Today less than 15% of applicants qualify to work on our platform and on average earn between 1.5-2x vs working in a store.

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How does Blow Ltd continue to innovate as competition in the fast beauty market grows?
How have you overcome any challenges you have faced when selling beauty treatments in an on demand marketplace as opposed to the traditional method?

The beauty services market is worth £6bn in the UK (the same size as the taxi market, and interestingly the same size as the beauty product market). We think there will be a mix of services ‘to you’ vs ‘you go to’ services, so there is plenty of room to build a very large business.

What is your most successful service?

Today we do ‘event ready’ services, eg. blow dries, make up, nails for a 7am pre work, before an important meeting or a group booking for girls nights out. We are also seeing a growing wedding book, as we charge normal prices and don’t see why you should be over charged because you are getting married. We believe in simple transparent pricing, we guarantee quality with our data based approach and investing in the best stylist to earn and learn.

What is the best part about your job / growing the Blow Ltd brand? And did you have any prior experience in the beauty market beforehand?

Before being a venture capitalist, I started my career as a Brand Manager at Procter & Gamble – running consumer beauty brands such as Ulay skincare and wash & go shampoos in the 90s. Fiona was a former editor of Elle and launch editor in chief of Grazia – so had lots of experience with the beauty market for many years.

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Why did you choose London to roll out the beauty bars? Are there any plans for more UK wide salons? International?

The business is all about on demand, the stores are purely marketing and operating hubs. We over took the stores in terms of services and revenues within 6 months of launching the to-home service – it’s much more scalable, disruptive and a better business. We will not launch any more stores in the UK, but will roll out on demand services. Our current thinking is you should launch a flagship store in a new territory, again purely as a marketing and operational hub as a booster for building an on-demand and to-home service leveraging technology.

How has technology supported the business? 

We are a tech enabled service business. Today we have built a ‘curated’ two way marketplace with iOS and Android apps for both consumers (to book and leave ratings) and professionals (to set their availability and swipe to accept jobs like a uber taxi driver, see realtime earnings and manage when and where they want to work). We also have web bookings and the most complex is an administration backend (a control centre) – we can now add a new service, category, change prices, commissions, launch a new area in seconds without speaking with our tech team with a self service backend. This is a huge competitive advantage, which we will continue to invest in.

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What advice would you give to somebody launching a business in beauty?

Understand your market. Beauty is a huge market (£12bn in UK alone), probably 10 years behind fashion in adopting technology and reinventing every process with technology and using data to do things better, faster, cheaper.

What can we expect from Blow Ltd throughout the rest of 2016 and beyond?
Our ambition is to reinvent how beauty services are delivered – sometimes they will come to you vs having to go to a salon or spa – and ultimately create a new 1 to 1 distribution channel for products (ie. reinvent the Avon model – where the consumer pays for the salesforce & professionals can earn more money and build better careers). We are seeing similar well funded companies with high calibre management teams scaling with a similar model in the USA, China and India. Watch this space.