Uber for beauty salons exists. Regina Gwynn knows this.
There’s StyleSeat, Priv and GlamSquad. Some of them are venture-backed, others are booking 1,500 appointments a week. The apps let women book appointments for hairstyles like blowouts, updos and beach waves. But the question on Gwynn’s mind, when she opened up those apps was: What about box braids? What about two-strand twists? Or sew-in weaves?
They’re all hairstyles that black women might ask for at a hair salon, and they were missing from the apps out there. So Gwynn, along with her friend Octavia Pickett-Blakely, started their own company. It’s called Tressenoire and since October, women in Philly have been using the service to book appointments with stylists who’ll come to their house to do their hair.
That convenience is a big selling point for black women, whom Gwynn said can easily spend five to seven hours in a salon because the styling process itself is time-consuming, but also because of poor salon management.
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Tressenoire recently received $125,000 in cash and services from New York venture capital firm Coventure. The startup calls to mind another hair startup geared toward black women: DreamIt Ventures company Myavana, which recently left Philadelphia.
Tressenoire has a staff of three stylists in Philly, plus one in Central New Jersey and one in Westchester County in New York. The company wanted to first launch in Philadelphia because New York City, Gwynn said, isn’t indicative of what the actual U.S. market is.
Gwynn, 36, of Jersey City, says that right now there’s just a minimum viable product, which was launched to see if there was enough interest to pursue the venture full-time. There was. Gwynn quit her marketing job for New York ecommerce company Apparel Group earlier this year, so she could stop taking Tressenoire calls in the stock room and using her lunch break to communicate with her overseas dev team.
She calls quitting to pursue Tressenoire the “best decision she ever made.”
“It’s risky and scary and absolutely crazy,” she said, “but there’s nothing else I’d rather do right now. It’s a beautiful feeling to have your passion.”
Her cofounder, Pickett-Blakely, 38, who lives in Elkins Park, is still working on the company part-time. Her day job? She’s a gastroenterologist at Penn Medicine.
Gwynn said it made sense for her to take on the full-time role: Pickett-Blakely is married with two kids, while Gwynn is single with no kids. She had savings. So she took on the full-time role. The pair often meets at a coffee shop on Germantown Avenue.
Next up for Tressenoire is using their new investment dollars to launch an app and other tech upgrades.
The company charges about 20 to 25 percent more than a salon would charge, and the stylist gets an undisclosed cut of the fee. (Gwynn and Pickett-Blakely vet each stylist personally — meaning that each stylist does their hair — as well as run background checks on each of them.)