Natasha Pilbrow on launching beauty service app LeSalon
Q. How did you come to build LeSalon?
A. Prior to co-founding LeSalon I was working as a lawyer in private practice. I had young children at home so found it a challenge to get to a salon for treatments outside office hours. However I really appreciated the way a fresh manicure could make an instant difference to my mood and my confidence.
Finding highly skilled, trustworthy therapists to come to my home or office wasn’t easy though. After meeting with several women working in beauty therapy, I realised there were numerous obstacles that prevented therapists from working independently from a traditional salon, despite the obvious lifestyle benefits that come with it. Creating LeSalon seemed like a brilliant business solution, which stood to benefit the lives of both clients and therapists.
Q. What makes the app so great for mums in particular?
A. From the feedback we’ve received, the greatest thing for our clients who are mums is the flexibility. If you’re juggling childcare and work commitments, or have really young children at home to take care of, it’s so hard to find time for yourself. We enable women to carve out me-time with minimal effort. Our therapists will come directly to you at home or at work, so you needn’t worry about leaving the kids or getting to the salon.
Q. How long did it take you to get LeSalon up and running? And what were the biggest challenges?
A. It was quite challenging recruiting skilled therapists when we first started as we did not have much to show them except our website and it was definitely a novel way of working at that time. My co-founder built the original booking site himself before our CTO joined the team. It was fairly amateur but functional and slowly the bookings started coming through – so we were up and running quite quickly but we had a lot of refining and iterating to get the operation side working smoothly.
One of the biggest challenges starting a business in London is actually being able to afford office space. Like most businesses we started from the kitchen table, but quickly outgrew that and needed a proper space. Luckily we’ve been part of a couple of accelerator programmes which not only provided advice and support but also desk space, which was invaluable in the early days.
Another big challenge is balancing supply and demand, but we’re starting to master this now, and have a number of processes in place to ensure therapists are getting the number of hours they want, whilst making sure we can service clients whenever and wherever they want treatments.
Q. We love that the app offers therapists the option of flexible working. Is that something that’s important to the business?
A. Flexible working is absolutey central to our business. Our beauty therapists are at the heart of everything we do, and have been from the beginning. One of my biggest motivations was to create a platform where women in the industry could work on their own terms, whilst feeling supported and secure, with opportunities to progress their careers.
Gig economy work is notoriously unstable, so we’ve created a framework that aims to disrupt this, and empower beauty therapists to have viable and fulfilling careers. As well as offering our therapists the highest rate of commission in the industry, we offer them technical training, financial advice, treatment perks, and various work patterns, so they can choose how they want to work. We also help our therapists finance equipment, and we provide branded toolkits to get them started.
As I mentioned we also work incredibly hard to balance supply and demand, to ensure that all our therapists get the number of hours they want. The career fulfilment and wellbeing of our therapists really is at our core, and we take immense pride in the supportive community we’ve created, and the talented women who work with us.
Q. And finally, how did your own motherhood journey play into your decision to launch the app?
A. As I mentioned, working as a lawyer with young children at home made it really hard to get to a salon, and I missed that restorative feeling that a quick beauty treatment can provide. Ultimately beauty treatments build confidence, force you take a few minutes to yourself, and help you regain that sense of identity that is so often lost when you’ve got young children. I felt really passionately that something as simple as on-demand beauty could make a real difference to women’s lives; this goes for the therapists too. Flexible working makes so much sense for young mums juggling work and children, and my experience balancing work and motherhood made me confident that this could be a brilliant career solution for those women