eSalon is a beauty brand offering clients hair color and hair care products through its website. eSalon’s core product is custom blended, professional quality hair color, for at-home application. Clients receive personalized hair color for home use with each color individually blended, like in the salon. The high quality ingredients leave hair softer, shinier and provide complete gray coverage. The personalized shade, delivered to your door, even has your name on the bottle.
Who is your startup aimed at?
eSalon services clients from two existing markets. First, those using traditional boxed hair color from a drug store. In the US, this market is greater than $2 billion. Second, clients who visit the salon for hair color and hair care products, but need to save time and money. eSalon offers clients high quality hair color and hair care products at affordable prices, without the trip to the salon.
How does your startup stand out against its competitors?
We do not have direct competitors blending hair color based on online interaction with a colorist. However, eSalon does compete with traditional boxed hair color by offering better quality, customer service, and product selection. Since inception, eSalon has blended over 80,000 individual unique shades, though the hair color options for our clients are endless. We do compete with traditional salons by offering a similar result, at a fraction of the price in the convenience of the home.
Where did the idea for the startup come from?
The hair color and hair care industry is dominated by a few companies short on innovation and product selection. The founders were looking to innovate in a large consumer market with a natural continuity product. The management team has a background in technology, retail and online shopping. Upon learning the manual color blending process that occurs in the salon, the founders decided to offer clients a salon experience through its website, using technology, at very affordable prices.
Did you have any concerns when starting your business, if so what were they?
We knew the concept would resonate with our clients but we also knew we needed to garner trust and guide clients through the process. Clients answer hair related questions through the website, as they would in the salon talking with a colorist. Many clients understand the process immediately but others need more context. Four years later we have blended over 1,000,000 hair color applications.
What is your business background, and what got you interested in startups? I started my career at PriceGrabber with the eSalon management team. Our focus has always been empowering online consumers with new and differentiated products and services to save time and money. At eSalon, we use technology to facilitate a dialogue between the colorist and a client. Based on this interaction, we are able to deliver highly personalized hair color without the salon visit. There are obvious savings passed through to our clients. I find working at a start-up very rewarding because we can give consumers value and convenience in a new way.
How did you initially raise funding for your company?
The founders of PriceGrabber funded eSalon. PriceGrabber was sold to Experian in December of 2005. There has been no outside investment other than Angel investment from Friends and Family of the founders.
What has been your greatest achievement so far? Last month, we hit the 1 million hair color applications milestone and reached 100,000 clients across the US, Canada, and the UK.
How have you kept your business relevant and engaged with your audience over the last three years? Hair color is primarily distributed through grocery stores and drug stores. This puts the traditional brands at a disadvantage, as they have a layer between them and the customer. eSalon sells direct through its website. This has enabled us to have a constant dialogue with our clients. For our core product, there is a color matching element and with every hair color application, our efficacy improves from the client feedback loop. Based on feedback, we can be very nimble when it comes to making changes to the product.
How long has your startup been in the making, and who is the team behind the business? eSalon launched in September of 2010 though there were 2 years of R&D prior to launch. Francisco Gimenez is the founder and CEO of eSalon. Francisco and I worked together at PriceGrabber for 6 years. The other founders and backers of eSalon, Tamim Mourad, Omar Mourad, and Cory Rosenberg were the founders of PriceGrabber.
What has been your biggest challenge so far as a startup owner? eSalon has dramatically changed the way consumers buy hair color. There is an educational aspect to the product. We show clients how to color their hair the way a colorist would in a salon. It’s not difficult but we must be very precise with our instructions. With less differentiated products, the competition can help educate the market. When offering something completely new, you can only rely on yourself.
In the coming year, what would you like to achieve with your business? We will launch a dozen or more hair care maintenance products which will complement our core custom blended hair color product. Our product pipeline is strong and all new products will be consistent with our value proposition.
What has been your most valuable lesson so far since starting your business? We learned very quickly you can never under invest in customer service. We have a team of colorists that really shape the product and the experience. It is important to remember we are selling a physical product, but also selling a service.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be?
There must be a strong focus on the consumer value proposition. New business owners need to be sure they are offering consumer value in a very unique way. For eSalon, the value was clear from the beginning and is constantly evaluated. We continue to improve our offering but it really does start with the core value proposition from Day 1.