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Six years ago I started a business to connect empty chairs in beauty salons and barbershops with stylists needing flexible, affordable space to work. We bootstrapped to start, identified early investors and then relocated to Buffalo after winning a pitch competition run by startup accelerator 43North.
I’ve owned an award-winning salon and barbershop for over two decades. Traditionally, salons operate on either an employee-based commission model or long-term booth rental contracts. However, in 2012, I gave a stylist the opportunity to rent my empty salon suite by the day with a no-term lease agreement. I was the only salon willing to offer that flexibility at that time, and that became my aha moment. Today, we match more than 50,000 small-businesses-of-one with thousands of salons and barbershops in over 900 cities.
Although we have a website, our platform is a mobile-first application. Having Apple and Google app platforms connect us to salon owners, barbershop owners and stylists has been game-changing. salon owners, barbershop owners and stylists has been game-changing. Twenty years ago we would have needed to visit thousands of salons in person and organize spreadsheets that would then be outdated within weeks.
The Google Play and App Store platforms make it much easier to grow the ShearShare community, reach new customers, inform and fix technical problems, ensure privacy and monitor reviews in real time. The value we provide to small businesses around the country is infinite, and big tech has been there every step of the way.
I’ve recently learned that several bills are being considered by Congress that would disrupt how app stores and the mobile ecosystem work. One proposal would change the legal rules for successful digital platforms. No matter what is decided, startups need to have a trusted platform to deliver their products and guarantee that their apps work well with users’ devices. Even by integrating our own ShearShare app with Google Ads, we’re able to highlight local small businesses that do not have promotional budgets and help to advertise their indie products to local customers near them.
In today’s climate, policymakers should consider how startups like ours need the Apples and Googles of the world in order to grow and succeed. I am hopeful that all small businesses – including the ones we’re honored to serve everyday – feel protected and heard by their elected officials.
Tye Caldwell is co-founder and chief strategy officer of ShearShare, the first on-demand salon and barbershop rental app.