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#001: The Story of the Dry Bar Blow Out

How Dry Bar turned this simple idea into a salon empire that grew from one simple shop to a business that was recently acquired by Helen of Troy Ltd. for $225 million.

Dave Young:

Welcome to The Empire Builders Podcast, teaching business owners, the not-so-secret techniques that took famous businesses from mom and pop to major brands. Stephen Semple is a marketing consultant story collector and storyteller. I’m Stephen’s sidekick and business partner, Dave Young. Before we get into today’s episode, a word from our sponsor, which is well it’s us, but we’re highlighting ads we’ve written and produced for our clients. Here’s one of those.

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Dave Young:

Stephen, today, we’re going to talk about hair.

Stephen Semple:

Hair man. And I could use a little more, I know we’re not talking hair replacement. Don’t worry.

Dave Young:

I’m also a customer. I’ve got long enough hair that I maybe could be a customer of this company. We’re talking about Drybar.

Stephen Semple:

Yep. Drybar.

Dave Young:

And they’re probably a lot of guide business owners that don’t have any awareness of this company.

Stephen Semple:

No idea, probably whatsoever. So what Drybar does is this thing called blowouts. Blowouts are when you go to a hair salon and they basically use just a hairdryer and brushes and shape and sculpt your hair in a particular way in and it’s called a blowout.

Dave Young:

Oh, I definitely need this. [crosstalk 00:02:14].

Stephen Semple:

When I came across the story of Drybar, here’s the thing that blew me away. It was founded by Alli Webb and she had this idea and she was a hairstylist and sort of saw how the whole business model work. And went, I think this a business would be a lot easier if all you had to do was no cuts, no styling. And all you had was a hairdryer and a couple of brushes. That would be a really easy business. And so why not just do these blowouts? Just do that, just do a business on that. Today, they have 50 salons and they’re doing $70 million in revenue.

Dave Young:

70 million in just 50.

Stephen Semple:

In just 50 stores, 70 million in revenue just doing blowouts.

Dave Young:

That’s amazing.

Stephen Semple:

But here’s the thing. If somebody came to you and said, sometimes there are just these nutty ideas that work, somebody came to you and said, Hey, I want to do this. You’d probably be like, are you nuts? No one’s going to be interested in just that. Even when they opened, they did a bunch of social media promotion and things along that lines in their first eight hours, now granted it was just her when she opened, but in her first eight hours, they booked six weeks out.

Dave Young:

That’s insane.

Stephen Semple:

Right?

Dave Young:

It’s amazing.

Stephen Semple:

Now, one of the big things that they do that has also managed to catch a lot of social media and things along that lines is they actually really make it an experience. One of the things that they do is they do this big deal where you’re sitting. You know how most hair salons, you sit and you look in the mirror and they cut your hair. They don’t do that. You’re sitting here [crosstalk 00:03:55] but you sit with your back to the mirror and they do the whole thing. And then there’s the big spin you around tada! Look how beautiful you are! It’s like the home improvement reveals. They do this. A big part of what they do is in the customer experience is this big reveal. And they make a big deal of it. And everybody’s like, oh my God, it looks so amazing.

            They’ve also managed to build in this experience, which makes people go, oh, that’s awesome. I want to do that again. I’ve got this anniversary dinner, or there’s this gala I’m going to, or there’s this I’m getting together with a girlfriend or whatever. They don’t want to do the full haircut, but they just want to look great. Drybar. They go and do it. And it’s ended up becoming a hugely successful business. Especially when you consider, look how little infrastructure you need, the mirror, you a chair, you need a hairdryer and some brushes. Boom, Done.

Dave Young:

Yeah. That’s really cool. They’re growing. They’re big. The technique here is more subtractive than anything else, right? It was, let’s look at an existing model and get rid of everything. That’s not blow-drying your hair.

Stephen Semple:

Yeah. That’s a great observation because what most of us do is what more can we do? What more can we do? What more can we do? What more services can we layer on? Instead, they went pivoted completely opposite direction. As you said and said, let’s just do this thing. This thing that’s actually unnecessary.

Dave Young:

It is, but it isn’t. When you’re talking about an emotional purchase. This is a hundred percent that. A hundred percent emotional.

Stephen Semple:

It completely is. Yeah.

Dave Young:

I want to look good for these people that I’m going to see later today.

Stephen Semple:

And I actually don’t need my haircut. I just need it to look better.

Dave Young:

I feel like the trend in and even in-home service companies lately has been, let’s just start adding, adding, adding, adding. We’re a plumber. We need to start doing air conditioning and we need to find an electrician. Then, we need to start doing solar and maybe we’ll replace roofs, and pretty soon now your everything to everybody versus a plumber who says, you know what, I’m just going to do the drains. I’m going to be Roto-Rooter and that’s it.

Stephen Semple:

There’s an interesting idea in all that, because now Dry Bar if you come across Drybar, you know what they do, it’s very clear what they do. It’s very clear how they are different than a salon. The differentiation and creates a different space in your head. If you’re another salon that has just added a service that other salons don’t have, sometimes it’s still hard to stand out because you’re another salon. If you do the whole thing up, instead of being a plumber, I’m going to be a home services company and do everything under the roof. It’s very hard.

Dave Young:

Stay tuned. We’re going to wrap up this story and tell you how to apply this lesson to your business, right after this.

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Dave Young:

Let’s pick up our story of where we left off and trust me, you haven’t missed a thing.

Stephen Semple:

Instead of being a plumber, I’m going to be a home services company and do everything under the roof. It’s very hard to get somebody to remember you for four different things. It’s easier to get somebody to remember you for one thing. In fact, even the companies that have been very successful at building these multi-tiered things will tell ya, there’s typically one that is the point on the spear. This is the service that brings everybody in. This is the service that we’re known to market to and then, what we do is now that the person’s a customer, we introduce these other services to them. For example, the heating and air conditioning companies, clients that we know that the partners of ours work with who’ve branched in the plumbing. They’re not advertising the plumbing. They’re advertising the heating and air conditioning, a person becomes a heating and air conditioning customer then, they get introduced to the plumbing end of the business. That’s that whole idea of be known for this, bring the customers in under this, and then you can upsell them to the other services.

Dave Young:

Make sure you train your people to spot plumbing problems when you’re actually in somebody’s house.

Stephen Semple:

Now that you’re in the house, and if you do a good job and they know you love you and you build that trust, it then becomes an easy handoff. Less is sometimes more such as the case advisement.

Dave Young:

I love it. I love that type of thinking that way of looking at a problem and saying, how do we either focus in. It’s not an unsound business strategy to expand your services and do lots more things. If you can manage that. Terrific. But, if there’s just certain parts of your business that you love and you don’t want to do all that other stuff? Man, become known for doing that better than anybody.

Stephen Semple:

Do it really well and create a great customer experience.

Dave Young:

I can also think of, I had a friend back in a place I used to live who she was a beautician, but she had to stop doing colors and perms because she had developed a contact allergy to all the chemicals. It was just haircuts and she would probably do a blowout, but it was probably before that was even a thing. But, I can imagine a customer, that’s one of the, to me, one of the worst things about going into a beauty parlor or a spa or whatever you want to call it today is, oh my gosh, the smells that are there from the harsh chemicals that you have to use on people’s hair. If you just want that experience of having people work on your hair and then flip you around and there’s the reveal. Wow. That’s great.

Stephen Semple:

Dave, when you go do it, let us know how it turns out for you.

Dave Young:

Yeah. I’m going to open up their site and start looking for a location. I don’t see one in my current town, but I see one there’s only a couple hour drive away.

Stephen Semple:

Send pictures.

Dave Young:

All right. Check them out. Drybar.com. Actually, it’s thedrybar.com. Very cool business.

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